Commissioner Says Enjoy Outdoors

Basil Seggos, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, is reminding New Yorkers across the state to recreate locally (#RecreateLocal) and use DEC’s I Bird NY as a resource to enjoy nature and stay connected to the great outdoors.

“While New Yorkers are spending more time close to home during the COVID-19 public health crisis, we can stay healthy by getting outside and enjoying nature,” Seggos said. “Studies show spending time enjoying the outdoors can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve mood, energy, and sleep, and boost the immune system. Birding is a fun recreational activity that can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of all ages and abilities from anywhere in the state.”

New York’s birders are encouraged to practice social distancing and recreate locally while looking for birds. DEC’s I Bird NY program provides information and suggestions on how to start birding. Birders can watch from their windows and identify the feathered friends that visit. For an additional challenge, birders can open their windows and listen for bird calls to identify birds by sound and use the Audubon Guide to North American Birds or merlin.allaboutbirds.org/ to help with visual or audio identification. Early spring is the perfect time of year to start birding because it is easier to spot birds in trees with no leaves and the spring migration is accelerating in the northern U.S. To keep up with real-time bird migration forecasts, check out BirdCast from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Birders can start a life list with eBird to keep track of the more than 450 different species seen in New York and share discoveries with friends on social media using the hashtags #RecreateLocal and #IBirdNY. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities. The I Bird NY website provides resources to learn what species to look for, and where and when to do so.

In addition, New Yorkers are encouraged to contribute to the third New York State Bird Breeding Atlas. Seggos has called for citizen science volunteers to help in the development of a comprehensive, statewide survey that takes place every two decades to detail New York’s breeding bird distribution. As New Yorkers are embarking on the 2020 Census to track human population and trends, DEC and its partners track natural populations to evaluate the effectiveness of New York’s programs and initiatives to promote diverse and healthy wildlife. The Breeding Bird Atlas provides valuable data that helps determine population trends, climate change impacts, habitat loss and other factors on bird populations. To participate, volunteers can make a free eBird account and submit data online through the atlas website or via the eBird mobile app. Simply record the species and any breeding behaviors observed. All sightings can count. As observations are reported, data can be viewed here: https://ebird.org/atlasny/state/US-NY. The last atlas was published in 2008, with information on its results available on DEC’s website.

While enjoying time outdoors, New Yorkers should follow CDC/NYS Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for preventing the spread of disease:

¯ Try to keep at least six feet of distance between you and others;

¯ Avoid close contact such as shaking hands, hugging, or sharing binoculars;

¯ Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available; and

¯ Avoid surfaces that are touched often such as handrails, doorknobs, and playground equipment.

DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.


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