Explore NY: Ithaca's Hidden Gem Connects Nature Lovers with Birds, Other Wildlife
A trip to the Ithaca area usually includes seeing waterfalls, exploring downtown, and of course, two college campuses. But on the outskirts of town, sits the Cornell University Ornithology Lab and Sapsucker Woods. Philip O'Driscoll takes us there in this edition of Explore New York.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- A college town is one way to describe Ithaca, but there's a part of Cornell University not everyone knows about, hidden on the Ithaca-Dryden line. The school operates the Ornithology Lab in the Sapsucker Woods Bird Sanctuary -- started 102 years ago by a former professor.
"The story goes that the lab was founded when he took a piece of paper and stuck it up on his door in the Entemology Department that said Lab of Ornithology," said Lisa Kopp, the visitor experience manager for Cornell University's Ornithology Lab.
It has grown over the century, moving to this space in 2003. And, the trails of Sapsucker Woods are a big reason people come to visit. For others, it's a pleasant surprise once they arrive.
"Plenty of folks who are just in the area for a wine tour or a college visit and check Trip Adviser or something online, and see us a destination. And we love having them come and learn more about what we do here," Kopp said.
"The trails are great, very, very nice walk. We just took one little loop around the pond and didn't go on any of the other trails. I think we're here just a little early to see much birds right now. I mean the geese are here. The finches are here," said David Dearden, a first time visitor.
And those who visit frequent, love to let others in on their secret.
"We would tell them about it and how to get here from Taughannock Falls. And then, we would see them later on, and we would get great feedback about how they enjoyed it. And, then the next day, 'oh, we're off to Sapsucker Woods again," It's very contagious," said Sandra Lynch a frequent visitor and member of the lab.
While hiking the trails is one way to see the birds, there is also a bird feeder that brings them to you, for a better viewing experience.
"Watch season by season who's coming and going and what plumage is changing. So the gold finch is going from sort of their tan to their bright brilliant yellow color this time of year. So it's a nice spot to just sort of observe from the prospective of migration," Kopp said.
Or, spectacular artwork, showcasing the beauty of more than 200 birds.
"And it really provides the visual for the full family of birds. So there are 243 species on the wall representing one bird from each family and their life size true to color," Kopp said.
And, modern technology allows everyone to engage, even from the comfort of your own home.
"The bird cams from Cornell, and that helps me know what's going on at the ponds here. Cause I always tune into the Cornell pond on the bird cam," Lynch said.
But, the best view, is almost always, in person.
Membership at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology is open to anyone across the globe.