Friday, May 6, 2016

Celebrating the Arts, History and Oswego County's Bicentennial...

As Oswego County celebrates its bicentennial in 2016, the Richardson-Bates House Museum welcomes visitors to come in and learn more about local Victorian-era culture.

Richardson-Bates House Museum in Oswego, N.Y.

The beautiful Italianate Villa-style home was built between 1867 and 1890 for Maxwell Richardson; local attorney, real estate developer, and two-time mayor of Oswego. It remained in the family until 1946 when it was donated to the Oswego County Historical Society. Today, it features period rooms with 95 percent of the home’s original furnishings, much of it preserved as the family knew it. The exotic and opulent furniture and decorative arts provide a unique glimpse at Victorian America’s fascination with history, arts and culture, education, and travel.

The museum also houses the society’s collection of nearly 25,000 artifacts, documents and photographs that trace the history of the area and also displays permanent and changing exhibits. One such exhibit highlights the Richardson Theater in Oswego and includes photos, props, lighting, floor plans and architectural blueprints, various memorabilia and a scenic theater drop.

In the early 1800s, there were limited theater opportunities available to the Oswego community. As cultural activity increased, professional productions were held in various halls around the city. In September 1875, the completely re-modeled Doolittle Hall opened as the Academy of Music and, for nearly 20 years, featured many significant stars of the day in various productions.

Richardson Theatre as it looked in 1909.
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.
Then, in January 1895, the Richardson Theatre opened at the corner of East First and Oneida streets in Oswego. It was a state-of-the-art facility, equipped with all of the latest innovations of the time. The four-story brick building featured a domed ceiling, was lit with gas and electric lights, equipped with 25 permanent sets and provided seating for 1,400 people before its massive stage.

The opera “Robin Hood” launched the theatre with a sold-out show and, over the next 50 years, more than 5,000 performances featuring the most popular performers, musicians, orchestras and bands graced its stage. In 1897, the first silent movie was shown, followed by the first “talkie” in July 1912. In the 1920s, film began to overtake theatre as a means of entertainment and professional performances at the theatre declined, leading to its darkened stage from May 1930 to January 1931. The theatre re-opened from January to December of 1931 thanks to a contract with Warner Brothers to present a series of first-run movies. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to save the theatre and, for a variety of reasons, it closed in 1932, never to re-open. Oswego’s premiere theatre was finally demolished in 1945.

At the turn of the 20th century, a new art theatre movement taking place in Europe crossed over to the U.S. and community theatre was born. In 1938, Frances Marion Brown and fellow thespians founded the Oswego Players, making it now one of the oldest continuously-run theatre programs in the country. A testament to true community theatre, the Players attract cast and crew from around the county for a variety of productions run throughout the year.

Oswego Players' cast prepares for "Way Down East" production.
Image courtesy of Rick Sivers.

For the next two weekends, the Oswego Players will mark the county's bicentennial with their premiere of “Way Down East,” a melodrama written by Oswego native Lottie Parker.

Lottie Blair Parker.
Image courtesy of the Oswego County Historical Society.

Parker was born Charlotte M. Blair in 1858 to Captain George and Emily Blair of Oswego. She graduated from Oswego High School in 1870 and the newly-formed Oswego State Normal School in 1872. She began her career as a teacher; however, the lure of the spotlight drew her to the stage. She married Henry Parker and the pair toured the Northeast with various theatre companies. In the 1890s, they returned to Oswego where Lottie penned the play which would go on to become one of the most successful and popular shows of its day.

One of producer William Brady's original advertisements for "Way Down East."
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.

The story follows the arrival of a young woman, Anna Moore, on the doorstep of a New England family, disrupting their lives and casting doubt upon their future. Filled with love, mystery, chaos and humor, the production provides a fun and entertaining theatrical experience.

Inside cover of souvenir booklet from original 1898 production.
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.

The production played in Oswego’s Richardson Theatre nine times as did D.W. Griffith’s silent film adaptation starring Lillian Gish. Now, audiences can see the original play on stage in the Frances Marion Brown Theater at the Fort Ontario Park Complex on East Fourth Street in Oswego. It will run on Fridays and Saturdays, May 6, 7, 13, 14 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. For tickets, reservations and details, call the box office at 315-343-5138.

Alfred E. Rickert once wrote, “The role of the theatre, its traditions, its experiments and probes, its vitality and contributions, in Oswego as in so many communities across these United States is kept alive by community theatres.”

Memorabilia associated with “Way Down East” is included in the Richardson Theatre exhibit now on display at the Richardson-Bates House Museum, 135 East Third Street, Oswego. The exhibit will run through the remainder of the year. Museum hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from April to December or by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. For more information about the museum and its exhibits, call 315-343-1342.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Celebrate Local, Shop Local…

Show Us CNY 2015 has arrived in Oswego County! The annual community photo project showcases the art and nature all around us and gives viewers the opportunity to pause and reflect on the beautiful region in which we live.

The project began in 2013 to commemorate Social Media Day. It was launched by Social Media Breakfast Syracuse, a group of social media practitioners and enthusiasts, with the help of nearly two dozen regional organizations.

The concept was simple. People were invited to share their activities or favorite things about Central New York on various social media platforms using the hashtag #ShowUsCNY. Since that time, the movement has grown significantly; from just a little over 300 shares in 2013 to nearly 1,100 images submitted this year.

From this, a traveling juried photography exhibit has evolved to honor the talented artists and showcase the many wonderful communities throughout Central New York. The forty pictures featured in this show were selected by a panel of judges and include both color and black-and-white images in seven categories.

The exhibit includes five photographs that were taken in Oswego County. The selected pieces include the bridge in Minetto and railroad bridge arches in Pulaski, both by Laurel Haller; the lighthouse and break-wall in Oswego by Joe Falcetti; a re-enactment at Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego by Michael Byrne; and Oswego Harborfest fireworks by Michele C. Wood.
Laurel Haller's photograph of the Minetto bridge won first place in the "Best of Structure" category.
Photograph of the Oswego Lighthouse and break-wall by Joe Falcetti.
Other artists in the show are Brian Byrnes, Kathryn Cartini, Tara Charles, Kate Collins, Andrea Elliott, Kathleen Paice Froio, Jim Gibbons, Julie Janusz, Dan King, Laura McCord, Adrian Mitchell, Kevin Morrow, Tim Mulcahy, Tim O’Connor, Molly Saunders, Tony Shi, John Szozda, Michael Tracy, and Whitney Wagner.

Photographer Joe Falcetti at the Canal Commons exhibit with his winning entry in #ShowUsCNY15.

The Oswego County Tourism Office and its partners worked together to promote the project and host the exhibit. It opened in Canal Commons on West First Street in Oswego last Friday and will run through Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

The photography exhibit #ShowUsCNY15 lines the halls of Canal Commons in Oswego.

Several winning entries are posted outside the Good Guys Barber Shop.

Friends gather outside Taste the World where more photos are hung.
Be sure to visit Canal Commons to see the entire exhibit while you enjoy local holiday shopping!
Visit Lakeside Artisans this holiday shopping season.
Lakeside Artisans features a variety of gift ideas crafted by local artisans.
Local artist Kathy Fenlon welcomes visitors to Lakeside Artisans.
Shoppers browse Sensibility Outfitters.
Man in the Moon Candies prepares for this year's holiday season.

For more information about #ShowUsCNY or to see the complete collage, visit



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Modern Renaissance

Dreams can come true again; when everything old is new again. ~ Peter Allen

The golden age of entertainment has returned to the Kallet Theater in the village of Pulaski, N.Y. Fully restored and dressed in retro chic, the theatre rolls out the red carpet to welcome patrons back into its fold. Step back in time to enjoy a variety of programming, from films to fundraisers to live entertainment.

The restoration of the Kallet Theater, once the cornerstone attraction in the community, was near and dear to this writer, a native of the quaint little village. We had the opportunity to return home and explore this vibrant gem as it resumes its prominent position and marks its first anniversary.

A Scorched History
The history of this local landmark goes back more than a century. In October 1881, a major fire destroyed the entire business district of the village, from the Salmon River to the North Park and Broad Street. Dr. James N. Betts was said to have experienced the most significant losses, which inspired him to give back to the community by building the Betts Opera House in 1883.

Francis Hohman took over in 1908 and the venue became the Hohman Opera House; changed again to the Pulaski Opera House, and later to the Pulaski Theater when the facility made its transition to a movie house.

In 1924, the Pulaski Lodge International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) acquired the vacant lot next door and built the Temple Theater, launching a decade-long entertainment rivalry before the Hohman venue was destroyed by fire in January 1934.

Fire at Betts Opera House
photo courtesy of the Pulaski Historical Society

The following year, Myron J. “Mike” Kallet assumed the lease on the Temple Theater, re-modeling and re-opening it as the New Temple Theater, until it, too, succumbed to fire in January 1939.

Fire at Temple Theater
photo courtesy of the Pulaski Historical Society

By this time, Kallet had also acquired the rights to the neighboring Hohman property and began building a new theater on the two lots. Designed in art deco style by architect Milo Folley, the Kallet Theater opened on Wednesday, June 7, 1939 as a cinema and meeting house.

The Kallet Theater: Gala Opening
photo courtesy of the Pulaski Historical Society

The Kallet Theater circa 1940s
 photo courtesy of the Half-Shire Historical Society

The venue entertained residents of the village and its environs for nearly 50 years before closing its doors in the early 1980s. A variety of other businesses moved into the building before it finally went dark. Then, in 2011, local entrepreneurs Vince Lobdell and his son Vince Jr. acquired the dilapidated property and took on the monumental task of its restoration. With local, county and state grants to match their own contributions, the Lobdells completed a multi-million dollar upgrade to the theater and re-opened it to the public in November 2013 as a community and events center.

A New Beginning
photo courtesy of the Kallet Theater

A Modern Renaissance
The venue now features a stage with exquisitely carved woodwork; a state-of-the-art entertainment system; a retro lobby and concession stand with a modern twist; and a museum room dedicated to the preservation of the theater’s long history. Two barrel staircases lead to the second floor balconies and reception area which is highlighted by glass tile windows.


The building’s façade was restored to resemble its original design, including double red doors, a ticket book, old movie posters and an updated marquee; which now projects events and community information on a bright LED screen.

Overlooking the iconic Salmon River, the building now also features a rear deck to showcase these scenic views. With a seating capacity of over 400, the Kallet Theater is an excellent venue for events small and large; weddings and banquets; and, of course, movies and live entertainment.

Ring in the Holiday Season
Come to the Kallet Theater on Friday, December 5 for a one-of-a-kind experience as the SUNY Oswego Theater Department presents, “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” Enjoy this timeless classic in a whole new way; observing the production of a 1940s radio broadcast. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. For tickets, visit

Don’t miss these special events!
Throughout the month of December, enjoy these holiday movies with the whole family at the Kallet Theater, 4842 N. Jefferson St., Pulaski, N.Y.:

Sun., Dec. 7:
6 p.m. Elf

Sat., Dec. 13:
2 p.m. Elf; 5 p.m. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol; 7 p.m. The Nativity Story

Sun., Dec. 14:
2 p.m. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol; 5 p.m. The Santa Clause

Sat. Dec. 20:
11 a.m. The Santa Clause; 2 p.m. Miracle on 34th Street; 4 p.m. The Nativity Story

Sun. Dec. 21:
2 p.m. The Nativity Story; 5 p.m. Miracle on 34th Street; 8 p.m. The Santa Clause

Sat. Dec. 27:
2 and 5 p.m. How to Train Your Dragon

For more information about the Kallet Theater and its events schedule, call 315/298-0007 or visit For more holiday fun in Oswego County, go to our Web site at

Wising you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Re-telling a Local Legend…

Fort Ontario State Historic Site
Oswego, N.Y.
When last we gathered, walking through the parade grounds of Fort Ontario State Historic Site, we remembered the bicentennial of the Battle of Oswego, which saw the loss of the fort to British forces. Before the battle, American troops were able to hide or remove a store of naval supplies, the real prize of the battle. What transpired next is the making of a true local legend.

A Most Important Mission
Two years in, the War of 1812 had become a shipbuilding race with both British and American forces vying for control of Lake Ontario. Cannon, ropes, rigging, munitions, and anchor cables were saved by American troops in the Battle of Oswego; however, unless these naval materials reached the U.S. Navy shipyard at Sackets Harbor, N.Y., the four ships under construction there would likely not be finished, and the British would win control of Lake Ontario, the main theatre of action in the war.

On May 28, 1814, 19 flat-bottomed bateaux left Oswego Falls, now known as Fulton, rode the Oswego River to the port city and headed out along the lakeshore in the cover of darkness to avoid detection by British patrols. During the night, heavy rain separated one bateau from the party and it was captured by the enemy. Upon learning of the mission from its crew, the British gave chase to the remainder of the convoy.

Meanwhile, the flotilla, which had intended to rendezvous with 130 Oneida Indians at the mouth of the Salmon River, realized it had lost a bateau and feared the mission was compromised. They changed course and pushed on toward Big Sandy Creek instead, where they received confirmation that British boats were indeed in pursuit. Reinforcements were called in to aid the Americans and Oneidas in defense of the convoy and its precious cargo.

The Battle of Big Sandy
At sunrise on May 30, 1814, the British arrived at the mouth of Big Sandy Creek. Despite orders not to enter the waterway for fear of an ambush, the troops rowed up the winding creek, blasting into trees and brush along the way. At 10 a.m., the party rounded a bend and spotted the American flotilla at anchor. The order was given to advance on the banks, where a carefully prepared ambush awaited British troops.

Three hundred American riflemen, Oneida warriors and local militiamen rose from cover, firing rifles and muskets, catching the surprised enemy in the open and pressing forward to surround them. In 15 minutes, the British lost 17 men and had another 47 wounded, some of whom died in the days and weeks following the battle. American casualties were light comparatively; one rifleman and one Oneida Indian were lost. The Battle of Big Sandy was a devastating defeat for the British as they not only lost the battle, but 220 marines and experienced sailors who were either killed or captured.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site Superintendent Paul Lear (left) traveled up Big Sandy Creek to join in the Henderson Historical Society's bicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Big Sandy and the Great Cable Carry. Pictured with him are Peter Sterbak (middle) of Fort Ontario and Chris Rotunno (right) of the Oswego Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Sandy Creek Town Historian Charlene Cole.
A Local Legend: The Great Cable Carry
After the battle, the Americans returned to their mission. With British naval forces now alerted, the decision was made to complete the journey by land. Most of the cannon and cables were transported by wagon and ox carts to Sackets Harbor; however, the anchor cable for the U.S.S. Superior, weighing 9,600 lbs. and measuring 7” thick and 600’ long, was too large and heavy for the one remaining ox cart.
About 200 men of the 55th New York State Militia Regiment were then ordered to move the cable to Sackets Harbor. With one section on the ox cart and the rest on their shoulders, “The Great Rope” was carried the remaining 20 miles of the expedition.

The serpentine line of cable carriers passed from village to village during the arduous journey. It took two days, with the men resting every mile and civilians pitching in to relieve them. Mats of woven grass were fashioned to protect their shoulders, but still many were left with large bruises. Excitement grew along the route as people turned out to encourage and help the men. Finally, when “The Great Rope” reached Sackets Harbor, the cable carriers were greeted with cheers, patriotic music, whiskey and other refreshments.

Former Fort Ontario State Historic Site and AmeriCorps volunteer Ian Mumpton demonstrates the Great Cable Carry of 1814. The original anchor cable would have been four times as thick and heavy as the one pictured here.
In The End
Just two months later, the U.S.S. Superior and three other ships were completed and the U.S. Navy once again ruled Lake Ontario. If the War of 1812 had continued into the spring of 1815, the Americans would have launched the U.S.S. New Orleans and the “War of Shipbuilders” would have continued to escalate.

The Battle of Big Sandy was one of few decisive American victories of the War of 1812, and the story of “The Great Rope” or “The Great Cable Carry” is a true legend of the North Country. The individual burden of the cable was estimated at 120 pounds, and it is said that some of the men walked with a limp the rest of their lives and many more proudly pointed out their permanent callouses or scars as evidence of their participation in the great event.

And Now…
Bring the whole family to Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, for the one-and-only performance of “The Great Rope” at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2. Originally written and performed around 1976, Rosemary Nesbitt’s award-winning children’s play tells the story of the huge anchor cable being carried from Big Sandy Creek to Sackets Harbor.

Cast, crew and sponsors of "The Great Rope" hoist a replica of the anchor cable featured in the story. The model was crafted by Mary Kay Stone, production manager of the play. Photo courtesy of Jen Marriner Photography.
Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for teens and free for those aged 12 and younger. Advance tickets can be purchased at Fort Ontario State Historic Site, E. Fourth St., Oswego; H. Lee White Marine Museum, West First Street Pier, Oswego; Arts in the HeART Gallery, S. First St., Fulton; river’s end bookstore, W. Bridge St., Oswego; and Man in the Moon Candies, W. First St., Oswego.

Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to watch the performance on the parade grounds of the fort. In the event of rain, the show will be re-scheduled to Sunday, Aug. 3.

For more information, call Fort Ontario State Historic Site at (315) 343-4711 or visit, or
Here are some previews from play rehearsal:

For more information about Oswego County’s fascinating heritage and events, visit our Web site at


Friday, May 9, 2014

Walking Through History…

"Attack on Fort Oswego, Lake Ontario, North America." May 6, 1814, Noon. By Captain John Hewett, 2nd Battalion Royal Marines. Etched by Robert Havell, London, England, 1 May 1815. From the Collection of the Public Archives of Canada.

This week marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Oswego in the War of 1812. Fort Ontario State Historic Site Superintendent Paul Lear helps us commemorate this historic event with the following passage:

During the War of 1812, Oswego, N.Y. was a crucial forwarding point on the waterborne supply route and for army campaigns along northern frontier. Fort Ontario, crumbling and un-garrisoned since 1804, was situated on a steep bluff on the Oswego River to guard warehouses, shipping and a small village of inhabitants. By 1814, the war had become a shipbuilding race with both sides vying for control of Lake Ontario. In April of that year, the Royal Navy was in command of the lake and Oswego was defenseless.

Lt. Colonel George Mitchell and five companies of the 3rd U.S. and Light Artillery Regiments arrived at the fort on April 30 after spies reported the threat of an imminent attack either on Oswego or Sackets Harbor. They were ordered to guard supplies and stores, send what they could upriver to safety and hide what couldn’t be transported in the woods.

It all started when…
Shortly after sunrise on May 5, lookouts at Fort Ontario spotted seven ships belonging to the Royal Navy. Although Mitchell had completed most of his orders and stood little chance of victory against overwhelming numbers, he and his officers resolved to resist an attack as long as possible. Mitchell would fight with 290 artillerymen armed with muskets, 200 militiamen and 5 light cannon. The British ships carried 1,000 Royal Marines and troops, 1,000 sailors and 222 heavy cannon. Villagers packed up what belongings they could and fled to the countryside as the fort sounded warnings and the militia came in from the sparsely settled countryside.

Around 1:30 p.m., the British reached Oswego. U.S. Navy Captain Melancthon Woolsey organized the militia to dump cannon and munitions in the river to avoid capture. The British moved in to draw American fire and determine the number and location of their cannons. Around 4 p.m., the weather changed and British troops were ordered back on board ship. As the last men returned aboard, a violent storm struck and the ships scrambled to get away from the treacherous shore. The weather cleared during the night and the fleet returned the next morning.

The battle resumes…
On the morning of May 6, three ships returned to the harbor. Despite the disadvantage in numbers, the Americans gave as good as they got. Around 10 a.m., the H.M.S. Prince Regent and Princess Charlotte moved in to cover the troop landings with their massive broadsides. Mitchell gave final orders to his men not to quit their posts until driven away at bayonet point. 

About 11 a.m., 200 seamen, 350 Royal Marines, 58 men of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencible Regiment and 160 Swiss troops of the DeWatteville Regiment approached the shoreline. The naval bombardment that began hours earlier reached a crescendo, with acrid white smoke covering the fort and the sounds of ear-shattering rolling broadsides reaching Kingston, Sackets Harbor, and Syracuse.

As the main landing force grounded east of the fort by Flat Rock, near what is now known as the Fitzgibbons Boilerworks property, men jumped out of boats into cold lake water. When cannon fire from the ships and gunboats slackened as the marines and troops waded ashore, the American militia moved to the edge of the wooded shoreline to pepper them with musketry.

Once on shore, Lt. Colonel Victor Fischer ordered “Forward!” at 11:50 a.m. Outnumbered six to one, Mitchell’s blue line of soldiers and sailors was driven back and slowly retreated up the slope towards the fort, turning and firing as they went. Two British lines with fixed bayonets drove forward, cheering, yelling and firing ragged volleys with many wet and unreliable muskets. Soon, the slope between the fort and present post cemetery was filled with bleeding dead, dying, and wounded men of both sides. 

The Royal Marine column charged into the ditch and up the ramparts, taking withering musket fire from the Americans on top. Other marines swept across the parade grounds, driving Americans before them. When Mitchell received word that the enemy was in the fort, he ordered a retreat and his men reluctantly ran from the ditch with the enemy on their heels, escaping capture by mere seconds. As Mitchell halted south of the fort to re-organize, a bugle sounded and the Union Jack was run up the flagpole; it was 12:06 p.m. In exactly sixteen minutes nearly 40 Americans and 90 British officers and men lost their lives or were wounded.

In the aftermath…
Retreating south, burning bridges to impede the enemy, the Americans fell back to Oswego Falls, now known as Fulton, to join militia gathering there. The British did not follow and busied themselves raising scuttled schooners, salvaging sunken cannon, loading barrels of food, munitions, and other valuable supplies and stores onto their ships. Finally, they left and sailed for Kingston around 4 a.m. on Saturday, May 7.

For the British, the prize was not worth the cost but another victory helped strengthen their position at the bargaining table in treaty negotiations. In the end, neither side won the War of 1812, which was fought for different reasons by both sides, but the young United States earned worldwide respect as a nation; one that would stand up for its rights, even if it meant taking on the most powerful military in the world.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site, located at 1 E. 4th St. in Oswego, is preserved as a memorial to those who served and continue to serve our great nation, in times of war and of peace, from the French and Indian War to the War in Afghanistan. On Saturday, May 10, at 1:30 p.m., Paul Lear will lead a free walking tour of the site of the 1814 Battle of Oswego beginning in the fort’s tunnel entrance. For details, call Lear at (315) 343-4711 or visit

Here are views from the historic site:

For more information about Oswego County’s fascinating heritage and events, visit our Web site at


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Welcome Back, Spring!

Derby Hill Hawk Watching by Derby Hill

As we anticipate the first blossoms of spring, we also welcome back our feathered friends. Visit the Derby Hill Bird Observatory, a sanctuary of the Onondaga Audubon Society, to join this seasonal celebration.

Derby Hill is known as one of the best spring hawk-watch areas in the Northeastern U.S. due to its strategic location on the southeast corner of Great Lake Ontario. At this time of year, it is not unusual to see more than 2,000 raptors in a day. Indeed, the spring of 1995 saw a record number of Red-tailed Hawks sweeping through Derby Hill, (19,531 to be exact), and 4,591 of them were sighted in just one day – April 11.

In the 1950s, Scheider and VanBeurden recognized Derby Hill as a prime vantage point for viewing the spring migration. Then, in May 1997, the National Audubon Society officially designated Derby Hill as an “Important Bird Area.”

Bird movement is largely weather dependent and snow, heavy rain and strong northerly winds can reduce the number of migrating hawks moving through the area. Strong southerly wind-flows create the best conditions; however, some raptor families will fly even in “poor” conditions. Peak flights usually occur during the end of April.

Hawk counting began at Derby Hill in 1954 and daily counts started in 1979. Data are provided to the Hawk Migration Association of North America and used by state and federal agencies. Since then, a number of other significant sightings have been reported as well. They include a Swallow-tailed Kite in April 1976 and again in 2013, a Mississippi Kite in May 1990 and in 2008, and three Gyrfalcons, the latest spotted in February 1994. On October 7, 1979, a record number of mostly Parasitic Jaegers were counted and, in 1993, several spotters witnessed an immature White-tailed Eagle, a very rare sight south of Alaska.

A wide variety of hawks and migrant land birds from the tropics are regularly spotted in substantial numbers at Derby Hill. Other regulars include Bald and Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Eastern Bluebirds, Sandhill Cranes, Common Loons and Ravens, Blue Jays and American Robins. Occasionally, spotters will see arctic species such as the Northern Shrike and Short-eared Owl as they head north to their breeding grounds.

Check out these sightings…

Cooper's Hawk by Steve Kolbe

Red-shouldered Hawk by Steve Kolbe

 …and views from the picturesque birding site:

Derby Hill Bluff Overlook
Sage Creek Marsh at Derby Hill

Derby Hill North Lookout

Derby Hill Counting Board

 Here are some things to remember when visiting Derby Hill:

Ø  Seeing the flights of the birds is very dependent on favorable weather conditions. The largest groups of birds pass over Derby Hill when there is a low-pressure system from the west with a high pressure producing strong southerly winds.

Ø  Don’t expect to see hawks before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.

Ø  Expect to have great conversation with out-of-state visitors. Derby Hill regularly receives visitors from out of New York State.

Ø  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Birders are a very friendly and enthusiastic bunch, and love to share their extensive knowledge of identification with you.

Ø  If you plan to stay a while, bring a folding chair. Derby Hill has extras, but on a busy day, you take the chance of not getting one.

Ø  Bring lunch, binoculars, sunscreen and a hat or visor.

Ø  Dress warmly and in layers. Derby Hill is located on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario and it can be more windy and chilly than neighboring inland areas.

Additional things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Derby Hill:

Ø  Leashed dogs are the only pets permitted

Ø  No camping, radios, ATVs or bikes are allowed

Ø  Smoking is permitted only when downwind of all other visitors.

Ø  Please remember to carry-in, carry-out your trash.

Come to Derby Hill for the 2014 Bird Festival! From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday May10, enjoy a full day of family fun including live hawk identification, birding and nature walks, kids’ activities, drawings, arts and crafts and a silent auction. Chomppers’ Smokin’ Barbeque will also be at hand with many succulent selections. Admission and parking are free.

The Derby Hill Bird Observatory is located on Sage Creek Road, just off NYS Route 104B in the town of Mexico. The observatory is made of up 90 acres and includes North and South Lookouts as well as Sage Creek Marsh. For more information about Derby Hill or the festival, visit                                                                                                            

For more springtime fun, go to