Bats may not be the first winged creatures that come to mind in the same thought with John James Audubon but they grab the spotlight at an annual outdoor, educational event at Allegany State Park this weekend.
The annual event has been pulling hundreds of attendees from the four corners of the U.S. and beyond for the past 55 years. Co-sponsored by Audubon societies of Buffalo, Rochester (Burroughs Audubon Nature Club), Jamestown and Presque Isle, Pa., this year's gathering features Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Biologist Greg Turner. Turner, whose work with endangered bat species has drawn national attention, will give a talk at 8 p.m. Friday under the "Big Tent" at Camp Allegany in Allegany State Park. After the talk, Turner will lead a walk after dusk in search of the elusive night creatures. Turner's work on threatened bat species has been featured extensively in national media.
On Saturday at 8 p.m. the Audubon societies' program will feature winged creatures of the more conventional variety - Julie Ecklar will present "Birds of the National Aviary." Ecklar, a keeper and registrar with the National Aviary, based in Pittsburgh, Pa., will discuss the work that goes on behind the scenes at the aviary so visitors can enjoy the birds, along with the reasons for the Aviary's location in Pennsylvania. Also during this year's program, one of the annual event's founders, Lincoln P. "Linc" Nutting, will be remembered for his extensive documentation of the area's natural flora and fauna through a program on Tifft Nature Preserve and wildflower photography. Nutting, formerly of Grand Island, died earlier this year at the age of 92 and leaves behind a legacy of his love of the natural world expressed through his photography and documentary films. He was a member of several nature societies, including The Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo Audubon Society. The two main programs will supplement more than 40 walks, talks and field trips taking place throughout Allegany State Park during the weekend. Among the many options are day-long birding and nature hikes, nature origami and nature walks for children; making recycled paper or casts of animal footprints; survival in the woods, wildlife photography, salamander and beaver walks, wild edible walks and exotic animals.
Many shorter workshops are offered twice during the weekend to allow participants to enjoy more offerings, which means more than 90 individual sessions will take place over the three-day event, with most workshops taking place on Saturday.
Presenters include a variety of formal and informal nature subject experts, including entomologist Wayne Gall (formerly of the Buffalo Museum of Science and now with the state Health Department), Buffalo artist and craftsman Daniel Farrell, Jamestown Audubon Society naturalist Mark Carra state park naturalist Adele Wellman and park historian Andy Malicki. Linda Ordiway, Mid-Atlantic/Appalachian Regional Biologist with the Ruffed Grouse Society, will assist with bird banding at the event while Chuck Rosenberg, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wetlands ecologist, will lead sessions on owls Friday and Saturday evenings after the Pilgrimage tent programs.
The weekend event begins Friday at 1 p.m. and continues through 10:30 a.m. with the last programs ending at noon on Sunday and includes a hot dog fundraiser sale on Saturday and a chicken and vegan barbeque dinner Saturday evening, as quantities allow.
Most programs take place in and around Camp Allegany at the park, on ASP 2. However, some require carpooling or driving to a different site and others take place in Camp Allegany's classroom buildings or under tents outdoors.
Lodging for the event within Allegany State Park can be found through reserveamerica.com, although nearby lodging is also available in Ellicottville and Salamanca. Cost for the entire weekend is $40 for adults, $5 for children aged 5-18 and free for children under 5 years old. One-day passes are also available for $25 for adults.
For more information on this event, visit alleganynaturepilgrimage.com/.