Volunteer Spotlight: Allon Wildgust–Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

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Volunteer Allon Wildgust marks a Forest Bird Monitoring station at Sugar Hollow Preserve.

Volunteer Allon Wildgust marks a Forest Bird Monitoring station at Sugar Hollow Preserve.

Sometimes volunteers do more than what is expected of them for a given project.  Allon Wildgust is a case in point.  Since 2010, Allon has been surveying our Forest Bird Monitoring Program (FBMP) route at The Nature Conservancy’s Sugar Hollow Preserve in Pittsford.  Recently, he let me know that one of the five survey points was either located just off the TNC parcel on private property that was criss-crossed with sugaring lines, or the neighboring landowner had trespassed and was sugaring on TNC land.  This week I met Allon at Sugar Hollow to investigate.

Although we had not met before, I quickly learned that Allon, a retired high school teacher, is agile and fit, having hiked all 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks.  Clearly a keen observer and skilled naturalist, Allon is also an accomplished photographer and astronomer, and has already planned a trip to Wyoming next summer where he will have the best chance to get an unobstructed view (and photographs) of the total solar eclipse.

Residents of Brandon, he and his wife Marianne are well-traveled. A retired physical therapist, Marianne arranged her work schedule to match Allon’s so they could travel during the summers, often volunteering with faith-based aid projects that help communities in need.  They continue to travel extensively in retirement, but now instead of tenting, they travel and sleep in the comfort of their new camper van.

One of Allon's handmade aluminum treetags permanently mark a point count station.

One of Allon’s handmade aluminum tree tags permanently mark a point count station.

Prior to his career teaching industrial arts, Allon was a skilled tool and die maker working in a variety of industrial settings.  He decided to put those skills to work for the FBMP by creating new aluminum tree tags to replace the old, unreadable ones that permanently mark the location of our five survey points.

Using heavy gauge aluminum, Allon hand-stamped each tag using machinist stencils, ensuring that the new tags will be clearly visible and easy to read for many decades to come.

As we hiked to all five survey stations, replacing the old, disintegrating tree tags with Allon’s new and improved versions, we swapped stories about our travels to Alaska, Algonquin, Yellowstone, Newfoundland, and other wild places. And sure enough, when we arrived at point 4 it was clearly located about 20 feet on the wrong side of the property line.  It’s not surprising really, since the survey points were established in 1989, well before GPS was available. We moved the point about 50 feet west so that it is now properly located on the Sugar Hollow parcel.

In addition to participating with the FBMP, Allon also volunteers with VCE’s Loon project, monitoring nesting loons on three lakes near Brandon. He also participates in Christmas Bird Counts and other conservation projects with Rutland County Audubon.  Thanks Allon, VCE is lucky to have dedicated volunteers like you that go beyond the call of duty!

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