Volunteers of the Week: Frank Kemmer, Mary and Kathryn Resonavich Study the Environment

Frank Kemmer participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count

By Barry Warner

The study of the structure and function of the environment is essential for sustainable development of all living things on earth. Environmental education helps citizens understand how their decisions and actions affect the environment and builds knowledge and skills necessary to address complex issues.

Brianna Rosamilia, Conservation District Technician said, “This year, the Rockland County Soil and Water Conservation District organized their first bird walk program. The program was scheduled on February 15th, to coincide with the Great Backyard Bird Count, a program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Anyone can participate in this program by uploading their bird data to the eBird database or to birdcount.org. Our bird walk took place at Mount Ivy County Park in Pomona. While our staff was excited to organize this bird walk, our bird identification skills were limited. We reached out to Frank Kemmer, who had bird identification abilities. Frank was one of the first volunteers to arrive to the walk and immediately started identifying the birds while we were still in the parking lot! We were impressed by his ability to identify birds in flight. Frank was one of the 9 participants in the bird walk and together he helped identify 15 species of birds and contributed to the total count of 87 birds. After the walk, I uploaded or bird checklist to the ebird database. Our checklist was one of 8,453 in New York State that was reported during the Great Backyard Bird Count.”

Mary and Kathryn Resonavich collected and weighed glass eels.

“The purpose of the Great Backyard Bird Count is to see which birds are flourishing in our area, which birds are declining and which are migrating. The Carolina Wren, state bird of South Carolina has moved all the way up here. Believe it or not, the Cardinal was a Southern bird, but it came up north a while ago. Some people do feeder counts in their back yards. In the wintertime, there is the Titmouse, Chickadees, a lot of Red Belly Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers. A lot of birds are cavity nesters during the wintertime in ht hollows of trees. Wild Turkeys also are flourishing up here. We count the birds around Christmas time, in cooperation with the Audubon Society. I have been a bird watcher all my life. I like to fish, to hike and hunt. I am a native of Rockland County and when I was a kid there were a lot of farms here. The young kids should get out more, as we are losing our younger people, who are involved with video games. For the bird count, we did a walk by the Fire Training Center in Pomona for about 2 hours and we found quite a few species, maybe 60, I believe. We saw the Blue Bird, which is our state bird. We are losing a lot of open fields to development which the blue birds and small Kestrel Falcons, like here at Kennedy-Dells Park there are open fields. I am a citizen scientist or a common person who wants to get involved and help out the environment. I look for distinguishing features of the birds, such as the eyes and colors of the males. It seems that there has been a warming trend of the climate in the last 30 years. Some birds used to migrate, such as Geese, but now they hang around all year. The blue birds stay here in the park all year and they used to migrate down south. Robins can be seen all year and they used o migrate too. This is competition for food and they eat wild berries, such as Rose Hips, Bittersweet and bugs. I volunteer because I like wildlife, being outdoors, the people you meet are very nice and you learn a lot from everybody” Frank Kemmer told the Rockland County Times.

Nicole Laible, Environmental Management Assistant, Rockland County Division of Environmental Resources said, “Mary and Kathryn Resonavich are long-time community scientists with the NYS DEC sponsored American eel project at Minisceongo Creek. The mother-daughter team bring a passion for the environmental sciences to the community projects they serve. In 2018, the duo counted and relocated over 1,000 eels in one day! The 2018 season brought over 40,000 glass eels and elvers through the Minisceongo Creek!”

“The American eel is spawned in the Sargasso Sea and they travel up in the currents all the way up the entire East Coast, migrate into the tributaries and into the Hudson River. Then they find their way into fresh water where they grow. They are called glass eels when they are younger because they are transparent, you can see their organs, so the look like glass. We do our studies in the spring after it stops snowing. When they move on to a later life stage, they mature to elvers and become brownish. The net that we use at the Minisceongo Creek is called a Fyke net. We have been doing this activity for 9 years. There is a big opening with a funnel system and the eels swim upstream get through a tiny ring and can’t swim back out. We open the other end of the net with 2 volunteers. One opens the net and the other scoops them into a bucket. It took us 3-4 hours to count 1,000 glass eels. We use chest waders as the water is cold. An eel ladder occurs when the eels swim upstream and encounter dams. There is a trap that is put at the base of the dam that collects the eels. We then pulled up the trap and place it over the dam, so the eels can continue on their trip upstream. To weigh the glass eels, we take 20, pat them dry because they can stay on land and breathe through their skin. We put them in a cup, zero out the cup and weigh them. An ecosystem is a place where plants and animal interact with each other. This study is being done to see if there are environmental changes that affect the lives of the American eel species over time. We volunteer because we first got started when we saw a flyer, Kathryn loves animals and It seemed like an interesting thing to do. Every year we do it together and it is fun to come back. We love going into the Creek and counting the eels” Mary and Kathryn Resonavich told the Rockland County Times.

For additional information or to volunteer, contact Nicole Laible at LaibleN@co.rockland.ny.us