Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

We're back from our vacation in the Finger Lakes and Southern Adirondacks of NY. We planned to go to Canada, but that plan was thwarted when we realized we'd need to pay duty tax on all of the wine we had bought in the Finger Lakes region. Oh well. We changed plans and spent more time in the wine country.

One highlight of the trip for me was a visit to the famous Cornell Lab or Ornithology. All that I can say is, "WOW!" I need to live at this place. The building, a beautiful piece of architecture, is surrounded by Sapsucker Woods. The building itself sits next to a series of ponds and marshy habitat. The sides of the building facing the ponds are all glass with Swarovski scopes set up for visitors to use. There are also some feeders set up.

When you enter the building, you are greeted with amazing paintings of birds by famous artists like Alexander Wilson, John James Audubon, and Louis Agassiz-Fuertes. Sounds of the outdoors are pumped in through speakers. There's a really well-stocked gift shop sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. They have the full suite of Cornell Lab Audio CD's, tons of bird books, and lots of other great stuff. It was hard not to spend a fortune in there.

A small theater holds a collection of Fuertes artwork that blew me away. He is one of my favorite artists and to see actual paintings in person was memorable. I'm not sure if the ones pictured above are authentic, but there were several others there. They also have an extensive collection of books that Fuertes contributed to. Quite impressive! See below.

On the way upstairs, a glass case caught my eye. It held almost 100 preserved hummingbirds of different species. It was a very old collection from the 1860's that survived many journeys around South America and the US and finally ended up as a donation to the lab. It was something spectacular to see - from the tiny White-bellied Emerald to the Sword-billed Hummingbird to the huge Violet Sabrewing.

The second floor houses many offices and cubicles for people doing work for the good of the birds. Where do I sign up for a job? The second floor also has a humongous ornithological library that I could have spent years browsing through. I walked through it for a few minutes and tried to soak in all of the knowledge and work that had gone into the thousands of books held on those shelves.

And oh yeah... on my way downstairs I saw an Ivory-billed Woodpecker! I even got a picture to prove it. All of those people looking down south are way off!


Larry said...

Looks like you enjoyed your trip.-I wouldn't mind visiting their with my wife some time.-thanks for taking photos.

LauraHinNJ said...

Now THAT'S a dream job!

Glad you had a nice vacation.

Can't get over that display of hummingbirds.

Just how much wine did you buy?


Anonymous said...

Just saw your piece in WildBird, Patrick--well done!

Jochen said...

What, no Fieldfare?

Patrick B. said...

definitely check it out if you get the chance. It's probably worth a visit in the fall for the foliage around the lakes.

Let's just say that if we got pulled over, there may have been some questions. hahaha. We ended up with about 5 cases of all different kinds. The wine there is relatively cheap.

Thanks! It's always fun to see my name in print. I just saw yours in print while reading "Winging It." As always, it's a great publication.

Patrick B. said...


You mean my Ivory-bill sighting wasn't enough?!? :) I tried to turn all of the Robins into Fieldfares with no luck. I saw lots of Redwings though... oh wait... those were Blackbirds.

Beth said...

The hummingbirds were the best!

Anonymous said...

The Finger Lakes have some superb wineries. If you follow the wine trail in the right direction, you'll wind up at Montezuma NWR, though if you spent the day tasting, you might not be able to appreciate the amazing avifauna there!

Patrick B. said...


Actually, we did stop there! I took some pics that I haven't looked at yet. There were Ospreys on nest and hundreds, if not thousands, of Redheads and Canvasbacks. I'll post the pics today or tomorrow. The Montezuma Winery right nearby was superb!

Jochen said...

Oh, I know, it drives me nuts when people here in Michigan write about "Redwings". As a European birder, you get all excited and then it's all about the blackbirds, which I should add have a pretty cool song!
Your IBWO just isn't blurry enough, sorry. With no need for detailed interpretation of the pixels and a detailed analysis of wing - wind speed ratios, you won't make Science Magazine, sorry to break it to you.

slybird said...

Glad you liked the place! I really enjoy working there ;)

Look me up if you ever come back (before I graduate). I'll give you the behind-the-scenes tour.

~ Nick