August 5, 2016
Birder press release: Johnson State College has always been a hotspot for college students. Now, thanks in large part to 2016 JSC Environmental Science graduate Steven Lamonde, the college is a hotspot with another group, too: birders who log their sightings on the website www.eBird.org. eBird.org is an online birding database launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society to aggregate results from birders’ observations.
Based on Lamonde’s sightings of numerous bird species at JSC – among them red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, common yellowthroats and black-throated green warblers – the eBird.org in June labeled three sites on the JSC campus “eBird hotspots.” The nearby Babcock Nature Preserve, which is owned and managed by the JSC, is a hotspot as well.
The three campus hotspots are:
* The campus quad, surrounding buildings and athletic fields
* The Lower Pond near Bentley Hall, and
* An area made up of about two miles of trails, part of the disc golf course and an access road to the campus water storage tank.
“I had a lot of success birding here during my four years as a student, and I wanted to share these locations with other local birders and inspire students to get involved in birding,” says Lamonde, explaining why he worked to get JSC on the eBird map. Hotspot data — available to anyone but mostly used by researchers, conservation groups and avid birders around the world — indicate how many of each species are present, when they are sighted, and whether their population is decreasing or increasing. Birders can file photos, recordings, videos and text descriptions of birds.
Vermont has 972 eBird hotspots around the state. The University of Vermont and Green Mountain College have hotspots too, but JSC is alone among the five Vermont state colleges to have designated hotspots identified on eBird.org, Lamonde says.
One of Lamonde’s birding highlights during his time at Johnson was following a pair of nesting merlins for four years. Among his other memorable sightings at JSC were the common nighthawk, which he notes is endangered in Vermont, and 300 bohemian waxwings in a single flock. Another highlight, Lamonde is quick to note, has been sharing his love of birding with fellow JSC students. He has been birding in 13 states, and his birding ability is well-known on campus. During his time at JSC, he earned the nickname “Bird Nerd” — a moniker he embraces.
Since graduating summa cum laude in May, Lamonde has been working as a research assistant in JSC’s Department of Environmental & Health Sciences. This fall, he will pursue his passion for birding and the environment when he starts a master’s program in conservation biology at Antioch University of New England.