Audubon New York is spreading the word about how birders help local economies.
The group has launched a campaign that will distribute calling cards for bird watchers to hand out at restaurants and other businesses. The idea is to show businesses and tourism agencies how much money is spent by people traveling to see birds.
The cards feature the slogan, "Birds mean business." On the back, birders are supposed to write their name and contact information.
A robin sits on a tree limb in Gloversville on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/BillTrojan)
Audubon spokesman Sean Mahar says the cards will encourage communities to develop events and programs designed to attract birders.
"Even though this economic impact is happening, we have found that many local businesses and tourism agencies are not aware that people are traveling to, and spending money in, their communities just to watch birds, and are not actively working to promote and enhance those opportunities," Mahar said in a news release. "This is happening at a time when, in this economic downturn, more people are traveling locally and looking for opportunities to recreate closer to home."
Locally, Hamilton?County is aware of how much of a benefit birdwatching enthusiasts can be.
Ann Melious, director of economic development and tourism for Hamilton County, said that birdwatchers make up about 5 percent to 7 percent of the county's tourists.
The county annually hosts the Adirondack Birding Festival - slated for June 8 to 10 - and has targeted marketing funds to promote the initiative online and in birding magazines.
"It is a passionate market niche that is willing to travel during the spring nesting season when business is slow and bugs proliferate," Melious said in a news release. "That is the important piece of the promotional puzzle - finding ways to attract people when people don't generally visit."
Warren?Greene of Gloversville said bird watching is a hobby that seems to be growing.
"I think Fulton?County could be in a nice position for tourism," Greene said.
Greene - who has had numerous wildlife photographs published over the years - said the 44 lakes in the county give it plenty of interesting birds that can draw travelers.
Fulton County also features a good geographic transition from landscape that is reminiscent of the Mohawk Valley to the true Adirondacks, he said. Those different habitats mean a wide variety of birds can be viewed in the area.
Greene noted that birders will travel to the area when birds that are rarely seen locally make an appearance.
As an example, he noted, crowds of people traveled to see a Northern?Hawk-Owl - usually a resident of Canada - when it spent a winter in?Montgomery?County about 5 years ago.
Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, tourism director for the Fulton?County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said outdoor activities in general are promoted for tourism. Bird watching falls right in line with other activities - such as hiking - people can do in the area, she said, and is therefore a group the county is interested in bringing in.
According to information from the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, good places to get a glimpse of birds in the local area include:
Willie Wildlife Marsh - on Willie Road, off Route 29A, south of Caroga Lake. There are opportunities to view waterfowl and take a trip along a nature trail.
Powley Road - located South of Piseco Lake. Birdwatchers can essentially travel a loop between Powley Road/Piseco Road, Route 10 and Route 29A. The area has some of the west branch of the Sacandaga River, as well as marshes and bogs.
Silver?Lake Wilderness - Along?West?River?Road, to the west of Wells, look for Philadelphia Vireos where the road parallels the river.
Sacandaga Pathway - Starts near the Speculator Ball?Field. The pathway traverses a variety of habitats and three types of wetlands.
DaBiere-Gibbs said other local places mentioned online for bird watching include Crystal Grove Diamond Mine & Campground in?St. Johnsville and Stony?Brook?Lake in?Stratford.
Greene - who has taken numerous bird photos at Rogers Family?Orchards in?Johnstown?- said anyone interested in birding can check out the website birdingonthe.net for information.
His advice to anyone looking for a particular bird? Look for the bird's typical habitat first.
"Go to the habitat, sit and be quiet," he said.
For more information about the program, visit the Audubon New York website at ny.audubon.org