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Friends' get in touch with nature

PLATTSBURGH - As part of the event roster for the Friends of Pointe Au Roche State Park, Judy Heintz led a bird walk May 7.

Heinz, who has has been birding "on and off" for more than 30 years, noted Point Au Roche as a "pretty good birding place, for people who like to go look at birds."

Having traversed the area several times already this season, Heinz has seen as many as 76 species.

"I've scouted, so I had an idea where some species are hanging out," she said.

Participants met at the Nature Center on Camp Red Cloud Road and walked Pointe Au Roche for more than two hours.

Although not as bird-dense as Heintz's typical outings, participants enjoyed seeing and listening to several species, including sparrows, robins, wrens, blackbirds, cowbirds, chickadees, warblers, swallows and nuthatches.

Even at the onset of the walk, watchers encountered the Phoebe, distinctive for its bobbing tail.

The highlight of the excursion occurred when Heintz and fellow birder Hal Higden spotted a red-breasted Merganser, which Heintz happily noted as the "coup of the day."

Plattsburgh resident Keitha Farney enjoyed the trip, differentiating it from her own habitual experience "backyard birding."

"It's a whole different thing to finding [birds] in the field," she said.

Recent flooding prevented participants from venturing too far, a condition which Heintz also noted is affecting the wildlife.

"Birds are always an indicator of how the environments going - it's good to keep good records," she said.

Among the birds viewed which seemed affected by the weather conditions were mallards, who participants witnessed swimming in a pond which was formerly a road.

"The mallards are having a hard time with dabbling," Heintz noted, ruefully.

Higden, who Heintz lauded as "much more of a birder, " acknowledged he has been birding for "decades," largely at Pointe Au Roche.

As a park advocate and a birder, Higden is "trying to encourage people to use the park in the best ways" while utilizing "very little support staff."

Participating in the walk, said Heintz, was an important way to raise awareness about the environment and earn support for the Friends of Pointe Au Roche - a non-profit organization formed to "protect, preserve, and promote" the park.

For information on future birding events, or events hosted by Friends of Pointe Au Roche, call 563-0369.

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