Birds and Weddings

More Gazette stories…

Hawk Migration in Scotia

It’s nature come full circle. A doting mother red-tailed hawk builds a nest, sits on her eggs, and cares for her newly hatched chick while the male circles the area and hunts. Then, when the chick is old enough, the mother teaches it to hunt and fly, all while repairing her nest for her next clutch of eggs.

Will Aubrey, a Niskayuna native, watched all of this unfold right before his eyes through a telescope behind Jumpin’ Jacks Drive-In in Scotia. “It’s the best nest I know for the general public to come see,” said Aubrey.

The nest is about a third of the way down the high tension tower on the island behind Jumpin’ Jacks on the Mohawk River. According to Aubrey, the hawks have been nesting here every summer for the past 20 years.

Aubrey has set up a telescope behind the restaurant for the public to view the birds, and so he can study them. “There was a male, but I haven’t seen him since the baby was born,” he said. “The baby learned to fly 2 days ago and now the mother is teaching him to hunt and repairing the nest.”

Aubrey who was a special education teacher with Capital Region BOCES for 35 years and is an active member of the Hawk Migration Society of North America, has spent much of his life educating his students and the public about these wild birds. “I can’t tell if the chick is a male or a female,” Aubrey mused. “It’s easier to tell if you see them together and they are adult. The female is usually a bit bigger.”

The Red-tailed Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey. It’s native to most of North America, from western Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies. It is one of the most common birds of prey in the region. It large population and ability to be easily trained as hunters makes red-tailed hawks the most captured falconry birds in the United States.

Red-tailed Hawks, like the ones in Scotia, make up a large percentage of the Hawk migration in North America, which Aubrey tabulates in Thacher Park every September. He’s been doing it officially for 8 years and unofficially for 22. Last September Aubrey counted 15,000 hawks in one day, usually only 2,000 fly though in one September. “For some reason September 15 is the main day for hawk migration,” said Aubrey, who has plans to count hawks in the park again this year.

The best way to see the hawks is to look to your right when traveling from Scotia to Schenectady while you’re driving over the bridge that crosses the Mohawk, or stop by Jumpin’ Jacks and peer through Aubrey’s telescope. According to Aubrey, so far hundreds of people have come over to view the majestic animals. “It’s been a wonderful response,” he said.

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A Wedding to Remember

When Karl Meehan and Kristin Kirk of Albany finally become man and wife in October they are going to astound friends and family when they glide across the floor to Edwin McCain’s “I’ll be” with a Viennese Waltz choreographed specifically for them. “It’ll be a moment to remember,” Meehan said.

Meehan and Kirk are taking a first dance wedding workshop offered through the Continuing Education Department at Schenectady County Community College on Tuesdays in June from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The cost is $110 per couple.

The class is run by Rafael Rojas, who has been teaching dance at SCCC since the spring of 2002. He has been dancing professionally and teaching dance for 20 years. “I’ve been choreographing wedding dances for 8 years now and I love it,” Rojas said.

This June’s class has at least six couples already signed up and more are expected to join in the second session on June 9 .

The couples are asked to bring their wedding song on a CD. The women should wear shoes with comfortable heels, preferably ones comparable the what they will be wearing at their wedding, and men should wear leather soled shoes.

Rojas, with his two assistants will choreograph and teach each couple a dance specifically made for their wedding and song. “Each dance will look very professional,” Rojas said. “There will be lifts, and theatrics. A dance is like a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

According to Rojas, the class is for everyone, no dance experience necessary. “I always tell my students that dance is 50 percent steps and 50 percent enthusiasm and attitude, it’s not all about the steps,” Rojas said. He first splits the class into groups based on the kind of dance they are going to be learning and teaches them the basic steps. Then, each couple goes off to learn their individual dance with instruction by the two assistants, and individual attention from Rojas.

“Group classes are popular,” Rojas said. “Everyone has so much fun.”

The best part about the class? According to Meehan it’s the individual attention. He said, “We’re getting a dance made specifically for us for our day. How cool is that?”

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