July 2023 Volunteer of the Month

July 02, 2023

The July 2023 Volunteer of the Month is Michael Heneka.

By Beth MacCallum, Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator

Mike has been participating in the preserve naturalist program sin 2020. Volunteer Naturalists are unofficial ambassadors for the Albany Pine Bush. They are preserve staff’s eyes and ears on the trails. Every month they file dozens of trail reports from various locations within the preserve to report on how visitors are using the trails, recording noteworthy encounters had with visitors, and plants and animals they have observed and general conditions of the dozen preserve trailheads. 

Mike also is an avid participant in the preserve community science program. He has participated in the Buckmoth survey, Whip-poor-will and Woodcock surveying, as well as snowpack monitoring.  The data he has collected has been invaluable to our conservation department.

Mike is originally a central New York growing up in Utica, New York. His love for nature began early and his interest was heightened by coast-to-coast family vacations in his teen years that culminated in the visit to many national parks. He has many friends and family who served in New York State and National Park Service and has spent years fishing, hiking, and studying nature.  He retired in 2018 from years of education and counseling service.

The best part of volunteering at Pine Bush for Mike has been the ability to continue his lifelong study of nature through trail reporting, walks with colleagues and reading and sharing what he has learned. One of his most cherished memories in the preserve was while attending a presentation with fisherman at Rensselaer Lake, an Osprey dove into the lake, caught a fish and dropped it’s quarry while being harassed by two smaller birds. Mike loves to photograph his finds in the preserve, he loves the pitch pine and his favorite area in the preserve is the Rapp Barrens and Rensselaer Lake.

Mike was nominated by Preserve Naturalist and Educator Pammi Price. Of Mike, Pammi said, “Mike is always out on the trails making note of what's happening and interacting with visitors. Between October 2022 and May 2023, he reported on 26 trailhead visits! Mike also participates in Community Science at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. He is often a participant in our Volunteer Naturalist monthly gatherings and shares his experiences with other naturalists.”

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