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Rivertowns Daily Voice serves Dobbs Ferry, Hastings & Irvington
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Dobbs Ferry Resident Leads the Way for Audubon

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. – David Yarnold has been the President and CEO of the National Audubon Society since 2010, but he had started out in a much different career before making the switch. Yarnold worked in journalism and was an editor at the San Jose Mercury News, where he won a Pulitzer Prize with his staff before making the change.

“After 27 years I felt like I had told the coolest story on earth, which was the life of Silicon Valley, and I was ready to do something different,” he said.

Yarnold began the transition seven years ago when he moved to Dobbs Ferry to work for the Environment Defense Fund before joining the Audubon. 

“What I love about Audubon is that we actually make a difference on the ground, whether that’s restoring wetlands, teaching kids about nature or monitoring birds through the Christmas bird count or restoring a habitat,” he said.

Yarnold said the annual Christmas bird count is extremely important.

“The bigger context for the Christmas bird count is really quite simple,” he said.  “It is the largest, longest-running wildlife census on the planet.  When you do it for 112 years, some years there’s going to be fewer birds than other years and it’s important to have those years so that you see trends over time.”

With 115 different species and fewer than 30,000 total birds seen, Yarnold said the count was lower than usual this year. The average bird count for the Westchester-Bronx area is 42,000 according to Yarnold. There was, however, a record eight Bald Eagles counted, up from the previous high of four in 2009. 

“It had kind of a split personality,” he said of the count.  “There were nine high new counts out of the different species and then there were 12 kinds of species with low numbers, almost record low numbers.”

Yarnold said the lower count this year was due to the warmer weather the area has been experiencing.  Even though the warmer weather would presumably mean fewer migrating for the birds, Yarnold said the majority of birds he typically counts migrate from colder areas up north. Add in the fact that the group utilizes feeders to count the birds, which only rely on feeders in the cold and snowy weather, not having the normal cold winter affected the count.

“When there’s not a lot of snow and not a lot of cold, birds can find food from more natural sources and don’t need to come to feeders,” Yarnold said.

Aside from being the national census on bird counts, it’s also a way for people to bond over one of the most popular activities in the country, Yarnold said.

“People connect to nature personally,” he said.  “It’s a way for people to share something with their kids, their grandkids and their friends.”

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