NYC Audubon on Governors Island 2017

Through October 29, visit NYC Audubon at our seasonal education center on Governors Island, Nolan Park House #17, right in the heart of New York Harbor.

Activities at Nolan Park House #17 Include: [b]Nolan Park House #17 on Governors Island [/b]

♦    Family-friendly Activities and Book Nook for Kids

♦    Binoculars to Borrow

♦    Opportunities to Meet Avian-inspired Artists at Work

♦    Information on Birds and Habitats throughout NYC's Five Boroughs


[b]Click on Map to Enlarge[/b]Schedule

Open Thursday–Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm
and Monday, September 4 (Labor Day)

Open Friday–Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm
and Monday, October 9 (Columbus Day), 11:00am-4:00pm


Governors Island Bird Walks[b]Common Tern, Listed as a Threatened Species in New York State, on Pier on Governors Island[/b]

Saturdays and Sundays, 2:00pm

Guide: NYC Audubon

Meet at Nolan Park house #17. Join us for a bird walk around beautiful and historic Governors Island, which boasts over 175 species recorded on Learn about the island’s fascinating history and search for waterbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and more. Binoculars are available. No registration necessary. No limit. Free

Artist Installations

Autumn Kioti, artist-in-residence, offers Flight Patterns: illusions of free will; open studio and performative installation. Using scavenged and homemade items, inks, and drawing materials, the artist creates images, installations, interventions, and performances based in ornithology, biology, myth, folklore, social justice, and the ecology of Governors Island. Visit her open studio every weekend, now through October.

Marna Chester presents Paper Ecologies. The artist uses paper and other natural materials to create sculptures that explore the landscape of our natural and psychological worlds. September 16 and 17, October 7 and 8, October 21 and 22.

Jeff Mertz creates a 2-panel video installation exploring the relationship between threatened bird species in NYC and their urban environment. September 30 and October 1, October 7 and 8

Sabine Meyer, photography director for National Audubon Society, has curated an immersive show based on the summer issue of Audubon Magazine with images projected on walls and a complementary bird-call soundtrack featuring Bird Blinds: gorgeous black and white photos of bird blinds by National Audubon Society photographer Tristan Spinski, who spent a year traveling to 30+ locations across the USA; and Baby Birds: photographer and Wild Bird Fund volunteer Andrew Garn's series of baby bird color portraits in a classical “studio” setting. September and October.

Film Review: Flight of The Butterflies

By Glenn Phillips

Monarchs in the Sierra Madre.

Flight of the Butterflies is a remarkable film. Even without the awe-inspiring footage presented in IMAX format, the film would be worth watching for its in-depth and vivid portrayal of monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migrations. This film uses a dramatization of Fred Urquhart’s efforts to understand the migratory behavior of monarch butterflies as a frame for telling the life story of one monarch, hatched among the wildflowers of Texas, and her offspring. Along the way, you’ll learn about one of the most amazing citizen science projects ever conducted--and witness the development of a monarch from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult through advanced MRI and micro CT scans. It is nothing less than magical.

Simon de Granville, 3D Stereographer, observes the monarch butterflies surrounding the crew.No need for a spoiler alert, as we all know that Dr. Urquhart eventually discovered that the remote Sierra Madre mountains of Michoacán, Mexico serve as the principal wintering refuge for eastern monarchs. The details of how Dr. Urquhart finally discovered the proof seems like a fictional, Hollywood ending, but the filmmakers tell us that Catalina Aguado, the last surviving member of the discovery team, was present during the filming to ensure that it was portrayed accurately.

It is a shame that none of the local venues (Liberty Science Center and American Museum of Natural History) are showing the film in 3D. The added sense of immersion from the 3D version, almost perfectly captures what it feels like to be physically present in a monarch hibernation colony, without any risk of disturbance to these extraordinary flyers.

Crew in action filming monarchs in a field of bluebonnets in Texas.I left the theater amazed, with a newfound sense of respect for these extraordinary creatures, and grateful that a portion of the movies proceeds will support monarch butterfly conservation so that my children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the flight of these butterflies. -GP







All images courtesy of Flight of the Butterflies.

Past Trip Reports

Local/Regional Day Trips By Guide


Overnight Trips

Joe Giunta

3-4-12 Winter Birds of Sandy Hook

2-28-12 Winter Birds of Barnegat

10-1-11 Cape May Birding Weekend


Peter Mott

Coming soon


Don Riepe

Coming soon


Gabriel Willow


2-26-12 Winter Seals & Waterbirds EcoCruise



National Trips

10-1-11 Cape May Birding Weekend


International Trips

11-21-12 Northwest Ecuador: Birding the Andean Slopes



Trip Itinerary

****Please Note All specific outings as part of the festivals (eg days 3-5 & 8) Need to be confirmed, as these outings & activities may have changed****


Day One: Friday

Arrive at the Bangor International Airport (or by bus or car if you prefer).  After meeting the other participants and Gabriel, we’ll hop in the van and head to the nearby Orono Bog  Boardwalk to stretch our legs and look for our first sightings of boreal specialties and fascinating carnivorous plants in this unique peat bog habitat.  Nesting specialties include Palm Warbler and Lincoln’s Sparrow.   Then we’ll drive to beautiful Machias, Maine, about two hours to the Northeast and check into the Machias Motor Inn before having dinner at Helen’s Restaurant, home to delicious seafood and nationally famous pies!


Day Two: Saturday

After an early breakfast at Helen’s, we head further “downeast” towards Canada, to the bucolic fishing village of Lubec, the eastern-most town in the US.  There, we’ll check into the  Inn on the Wharf, an inn overlooking the harbor, built in a converted 100-year-old sardine cannery, and above a still-active wharf where lobstermen unload their catch.  There we will fall asleep to the sounds of the sea and wake up to the tranquility of a day beside the bay while a variety of coastal birds and playful seals swim nearby.  We’ll have an early supper and then join the Downeast Bird Festival from 6 pm 10 pm at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge for an exciting Evening Hike in search of Owls, Rails, Wrens, Nighthawks, Woodcock, and Whip-poor-wills.


Day Three: Sunday

We will join the Downeast Bird Festival and expert Maine birder & guide Bob Duchesne (author of the Maine Birding Trail Guide) for a van outing around the beautiful Trescott region in search of local boreal specialties such as Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and more.  Then we’ll join other bird festival participants for dinner and entertainment, followed by an optional evening van excursion to Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in search of nocturnal species, including the amazing mating display of the American Woodcock, an upland shorebird related to the snipe that has an incredible aerial display on Spring evenings in the Northeast.


Days Four: Monday

7 am — Noon: Blueberry Barrens and Addison Marsh with biologist Chris Bartlett.  We will explore the wild blueberry barrens of Washington County in search of nesting Upland Sandpipers, Vesper Sparrows, and other open-country specialties.  These large, sandy plains were created by retreating glaciers and are ideal for cultivating lowbush blueberries, a major agricultural crop in this part of the state.  We’ll be on the lookout for additional species that prefer these open and dramatic landscapes including Palm Warbler, Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, and Northern Harrier, to name a few. 

While we’re in the area, we’ll swing by Addison Marsh to look for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl such as Black-bellied Plover, Red Knot, and Green-winged Teal.  This large salt marsh attracts a variety of waders and dabblers, and offers good viewing opportunities from dry ground.

Monday afternoon we will explore the legendary Lubec mud-flats, home to huge flocks of migrating shorebirds such as Red Knot, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and more.


Day Five: Tuesday

We will take a special chartered boat trip far offshore, to Machias Seal Island, home to Maine's famed Atlantic Puffins, the largest nesting population in the Lower 48.  Every birder should visit Machias Seal Island at least once!  This is one of the very few breeding colonies where visitors are allowed to land on the island and get close to the birds.

We will, weather permitting, have the unique opportunity to land on the island, and join scientists who study these incredible birds in blinds to get unparalleled views of puffins cavorting and feeding their young.  Also present are breeding populations of Razorbills and Murres, the rare Roseate Tern, as well as Common and Arctic Tern and several species of gulls. If the weather is uncooperative, we will circle the island and get wonderful views of these charming and colorful seabirds.   The boat ride out and back will also afford us the opportunity to spot pelagic species such as gannets, phalaropes, kittiwakes, shearwaters, storm-petrels, and fulmars, as well as porpoises, seals, and whales.

Tuesday Afternoon, if we’re not too tired from our boat trip we will visit stunning Quoddy Head, the eastern-most point in the USA and home to Quoddy Head Lighthouse Museum, stunning trails, and a bog boardwalk.


Day Six: Wednesday

Wednesday, after a leisurely breakfast at the Inn On The Wharf, we will pack up and head to Bar Harbor and legendary Acadia National Park.  We will check into the Acacia Inn Bed & Breakfast in downtown Bar Harbor, and then have the afternoon free to explore this scenic seaside town and enjoy dinner at one of its many fine taverns or restaurants.  A recommended activity is a visit to the Wendell Gilley Bird Art Museum in Southwest Harbor.


Day Seven: Thursday

If everyone is up for a very early morning (4AM), we can catch the first rays of the sun from Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast of the US, and the first place to see the sunrise in the country!  Then we will return to our B&B for their famous full breakfast (and maybe a nap!).  We will then go to the delightful waterfront village of Northeast Harbor to join the Acadia Bird Festival and explore the famous Asticou Azalea Gardens, which in addition to being in full bloom this time of year, are home to many migratory warblers and other songbirds.  Thursday evening we will join the Acadia Birding Festival for appetizers, drinks, and a keynote talk from Bill Thompson III, Editor and Publisher of Birdwatcher’s Digest.


Day Eight: Friday

Friday we will have a busy and exciting day: we will take a ferry across from Bar Harbor to Schoodic Peninsula, a rugged and beautiful spit of land with primeval spruce-fir forests and rocky headlands.  There we will join Seth Benz, former Director of the National Audubon Society Camp at Hog Island, for a special look at the bird-banding station at the Schoodic Bird Ecology Lab. Nestled near the southernmost end of Schoodic Peninsula, the Lab is well-situated to provide easy access to a variety of habitats, including alder thickets, beaver-altered birch swales, small ponds, a salt marsh, intertidal areas, world-class rocky shores, and an extensive coniferous forest. This morning field trip will feature a visit to an active bird-banding site, where we will be able to observe and assist scientists and they catch and band songbirds.  Good numbers of migrant land birds can be expected (around the banding station) and a wide variety of water birds are found all along the scenic auto loop. Breeding Pine Siskins and both species of Crossbills have been numerous in previous years.   Friday afternoon, upon returning to Bar Harbor by boat, we will go Canoeing in Northeast Creek and Fresh MeadowNortheast Creek estuary is the largest freshwater outflow off the Mount Desert Range flowing north. Known locally as "Fresh Meadow", this tidal bog ecosystem has raised portions and tidal creeks which can be explored at our leisure while paddling these quiet waters. This trip will allow us an opportunity to become familiar with a variety of marsh species such as Yellow Warbler, and Alder and Great-crested Flycatchers. There is extensive edge habitat throughout the three-mile paddle with diverse wetlands offering opportunities to observe American and Least Bittern, Marsh Wrens, and Nelson’s, Song, and Savannah Sparrows. Peregrine Falcon stealthily forage on migratory birds while Northern Harriers nesting in the upper reaches can be regularly seen gliding over the sedge marsh meadow seeking tidal mammals. Freshwater and tidal waterfowl utilize the variety of salinities found in this watershed, including Red-breasted and Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, and Bufflehead. Great Blue Heron, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Belted Kingfisher all search for feasts of fish and small invertebrates in the creek.  For the last 20 years, Bald Eagles have nested at the mouth of this great estuary, which provides a year-round source of prey.

Finally, Friday evening we will once again enjoy cocktails and appetizers and a keynote talk with Marshall Iliff, Director of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project, about Bird Migration: patterns, strategies, & changes as revealed by eBird.  Then we will return to Bar Harbor for dinner.


Day Nine: Saturday

The tour concludes this morning in Bar Harbor with breakfast and one final outing (time permitting) to beautiful Acadia National Park, after which we will return to Bangor to catch our flights (or buses) back to NYC.

Trip Leaders/Educators

New York City Audubon employs a talented group of professional and volunteer naturalists and photography educators. Whatever the program, you can be sure that your leader will be knowledgable and entertaining. Learn about our principal trip leaders, below.

Gabriel Willow

[b]Gabriel Willow © Gerry McGee[/b]

Gabriel Willow has been a nature enthusiast and birder since he was a small child in rural Maine, roaming the woods and fields in search of frogs and woodcocks. In his teens he traveled to Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to study birds, learning how to use mist nets and band birds. He went on to study ecology in college, his studies taking him to the mountains of Vermont and to southern Mexico, where he traveled, studying and painting the endemic avifauna off and on for five years. In 2003 he moved to New York, hoping to pursue an art school dream, but instead was drawn once again to nature and birds, becoming a teacher-naturalist with the Prospect Park Audubon Center and leading tours for Wave Hill, New York City Audubon, and others.

Gabriel is probably best known for leading NYC Audubon's summer and winter eco-cruise program. He's led the program since its inception in 2004. Working with the Prospect Park Audubon Center, Gabriel developed the eco-cruise program to blend social and natural history with wildlife sightings. He also leads migration walks in Bryant Park, in collaboration with the Bryant Park Corporation. These walks have become a regular fixture in the park, and draw a dependable crowd. Visitors are often surprised by the interesting birds that show up in this tiny park in the middle of Manhattan: Recent sightings have included American woodcock, yellow-breasted chat, ovenbird, and Lincoln’s sparrow. In addition to frequent bird walks throughout the city, Gabriel also leads various canoeing and “biking & birding” tours each year.

Joe Giunta

[b]Joe Giunta[/b]

Joe Giunta, a native New Yorker, has been birding the New York City region for over 20 years. A former math teacher and Program Chairman at Fort Hamilton High School, Joe is the birding instructor for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He has led bird walks for New York City Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, and Brooklyn Bird Club, and regularly gives lectures on birding and leads bird walks for the South Fork Natural History Society (SOFO). Joe is the Bluebird Trail coordinator for SOFO on the South Fork of Long Island, and a captain in the Brooklyn and South Nassau Christmas Counts. He has also participated in breeding bird surveys for New York State.

In addition to his popular spring and fall series of morning migration walks in Central Park, Joe leads many birding trips for NYC Audubon to popular birding destinations in the New York City area and beyond, and also teaches classes on bird song and identification. An enthusiastic traveler, Joe has birded extensively in Central and South America. Joe is the owner of Happy Warblers LLC, a birding and educational travel company.

Nadir Souirgi

Nadir SouirgiBorn to a Haitian mother and a Moroccan father in New York City - where else? - Nadir learned at an early age that nature is where you see it. This was due in large part to the influence and generosity of Oscar Ruiz, a close family friend, who was an avid birder and amateur naturalist himself. When Nadir was five years old, Oscar started taking him to the local hotspots: Jones Beach, Jamaica Bay, Van Cortlandt Park - and even a three-day trip to the Florida Everglades. Oscar was also responsible for giving Nadir his first set of binoculars and field guide. According to Nadir, “That’s probably why I became a teacher - because of Oscar - he didn’t just teach me about the natural world, he taught me to love it… that also has to be taught.”

And so he teaches… as an elementary school art teacher in East Harlem, through the birding and nature study program he created at his school - The Harlem County Bird Club - and now with NYC Audubon.  “The natural world needs allies, and childhood education is one of the surest ways to create them. I, along with a growing number of birders, am actively seeking to bring greater diversity to the birding and science communities. Again, early intervention is key.” Nadir continues to observe, teach, draw, and learn about birds and science as much as possible, which he does in the field, and as a volunteer in the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History.

Don Riepe

[b]Don Riepe[/b]

Having devoted over 30 years to conserving the Jamaica Bay ecosystem where he grew up, Don Riepe has lived a life steeped in nature--and understands how important it is to both enjoy, and actively protect, its wonders. Don worked many years for the National Park Service as a naturalist and manager of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. He now holds the position of Jamaica Bay Guardian, and serves on JFK Airport's Bird Hazard Task Force, the board of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, and as Northeast Chapter Director of the Littoral Society. He has extensive hands-on knowledge of all the diverse flora and fauna of working ecosystems: from butterflies, to orchids, to (of course!) birds. Dons leads regular bird walks and educational programs at Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and also has longtime experience leading tours outside of New York City.

Don has written many articles on natural history subjects and his photographs have been published in many journals including Scientific American, National Wildlife, Audubon, Defenders, Underwater Naturalist, Parade and The New York Times. He has an M.S. in Natural Resources Management from the University of New Hampshire and has taught Wildlife Management at St. John’s University. A long-time member of NYC Audubon, he currently serves on our board as Vice-President of Conservation.

Tod Winston

Tod grew to love birds as a child in rural Pennsylvania, in the company of his nature-loving father. He particularly enjoys bringing new people to the joy of birds via NYC Audubon's Beginning Birding course, and helping birders of all levels improve their ability to "bird by ear": A lover of foreign languages and music, Tod is constantly working to improve his own understanding of the musical language of birds. He is a proponent of "slow birding"—pausing to appreciate the mysterious activity and beauty of even the most common species—and also enjoys focusing on flowers, trees, and related issues of evolution and ecology.

In addition to working as an NYC Audubon birding guide, Tod leads the organization's Harbor Herons Nesting Survey and assists with waterbird banding and other fieldwork. He began his relationship with NYC Audubon in 2007 as a volunteer, writing for The Urban Audubon, and since then has served the organization in a number of roles including program manager, communications manager, and managing editor of The Urban Audubon. Tod continues to wear several different Audubon "hats": He started work at National Audubon in 2016, managing Audubon's Plants for Birds program. There he promotes the restoration and enrichment of the American landscape for birds and wildlife via the wide-scale planting of native plant species.

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