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September eBirder of the Month Challenge

Red-tailed Hawk in Flight by J. Dingel, PGC

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, will keep your binoculars pointed towards the sky. As the seasons turn over in September, the movement of birds begins perhaps the best part of a birder’s year: migration. Whether you’re north of the equator for fall, or enjoying an austral spring, things are happening! Migratory restlessness may result in local movements of tens of kilometers, or something as drastic as undertaking herculean journeys that take shorebirds from the Arctic to the edge of the southern continents. The most amazing part of all of this is that you can witness it, wherever you are. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 15 or more eligible checklists in September containing at least one “Flyover” code. Checklists must be for observations during this month; not historical checklists entered during September. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

Pennsylvania birders have a special stake in flyover observation. Flyovers can provide the highlight of the birding trip and some surprises. Just this summer I was conducting a Golden-winged Warbler survey and was treated to a honking flyover of a Sandhill Crane. Not what I was anticipating in mountaintop forest cutting. Our state is home to many hawk watches with the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary as not only a premier world hawk watch site but a pioneer in raptor conservation and education. And, there are many others including Jacks Mountain and a new one near Williamsport. Raptor flyovers are part of many September field trips. Aerial insectivores also are prominent in the skies of our state and very popular with state birders. Flocks of Common Nighthawks are a treat for anyone scanning the skies and symbolic of the whole suite of aerial insectivores that have declined in recent years. Chimney Swifts and swallows also are particularly fun to watch and tally as they twitter overhead. Identifying and counting swallows is a worthy challenge for birders. So, all of these examples are worth documenting in eBird to put your field observations on the map of the great fall bird migration we witness every year.

Explore and share your birding with eBird Profile Pages!

Courtesy of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology eBird Team.

320,000 eBirders and growing… You’ve looked through eBird checklists and seen their names: kindred birding spirits whose sightings you may have glimpsed only once, or followed regularly over months and years. Now, you can find out who the people are behind these names by exploring eBird’s new Profile Pages! Whether you’re a backyard birder or a globe-trotting world lister, eBird Profile Pages allow you to share your birding story with friends and the entire eBird community. This first version of your public eBird dashboard focuses on showcasing your eBird/Macaulay Library activity with tools that visualize all your sightings and highlight your recent media contributions—all updated with each new eBird contribution. We hope these Profile Pages provide a fun new way to visualize the contributions you’ve made to eBird and the Macaulay Library, inspire you to ‘fill in the gaps’ in your profile maps, and allow you to get to know other eBirders by exploring their Profile Pages. Enjoy meeting the global eBird community, and set up your eBird Profile Page today!

Pennsylvania is one of the best-represented states in eBird. Our very active birding community spans from Philadelphia to Erie and includes many local bird clubs and Audubon chapters. The eBird profile pages will allow you to learn more about your fellow Pennsylvania birders that you might run into at a birding hotspot or at a Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology or Audubon Pennsylvania event. You can learn not only what they look like but also where they have been in our state and around the world.

Explore the New Birds of North America!

Male Hooded Warbler by Jake Dingel

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is pleased to announce that the new updated and upgraded version of the Birds of North America is available for free preview! Check out brand new rich media and information from your submissions to eBird and the Macaulay Library augmenting every species account. The Birds of North America is the preeminent source of life history information for the more than 750 species of birds that breed in the United States and Canada. Maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with The American Ornithologists’ Union, this comprehensive resource is authored by experts on each species. Each species account includes information on systematics, distribution, identification, behavior, breeding biology, and conservation. Each species account also includes a comprehensive bibliography of research conducted on the species. The accompanying multimedia includes photos of various plumages, examples of sounds, and videos of interesting behaviors. Check out the new BNA today!
This free preview is only available for a short time, until September 6! The new format is more attractive and includes a tangible connection with eBird data, demonstrating very strongly the value of those bird sightings all across the range of a species. A few Pennsylvanians have been involved with this bird reference for the 21st century.

World Shorebirds Day Gives Good Reason to Count Them for eBird

Greater Yellowlegs by Jacob Dingel, PGC

In that magical period between summer and fall, we have great opportunities to witness and document the great show of world-wide bird migration. One event that celebrates this migration is the World Shorebird Day. This Global Shorebird Counting event of World Shorebirds Day is already here and its map with the registered counting locations is already looking pretty good. This event’s counts have to be carried out between September 2 – 6, 2016 at any preferred locations and local paths. Take as much time as needed to count the local shorebird community. eBird is a perfectly good way to participate in the event. We cannot encourage you enough to make a very easy registration and show support for this special day and for these incredible migrants. Most of us go out for birdwatching in on weekends so why don’t you just count all the shorebirds present on your favorite birding site(s). All you have to do is to share your data with us. I’m sure this would make a big difference. Please think about being a part of the Global Shorebird Counting as it costs nothing especially if you go birding anyway. And you will go anyway, won’t you?

August eBirder of the Month Challenge: Media Entry

Female Northern Harrier in Flight by J. Dingel, PA Game Commission

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, is a photography and recording contest! Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy camera or microphone to win. Minimum entry requirements are an appreciation for birds, your optics of choice, and anything that takes a picture or makes a recording: phone, camera, voice recorder—whatever works! It is amazing how many good bird sightings are verified by photographs, even one taken with minimal equipment. Pennsylvania’s eBird web page is full of really good images of birds reported during eBird trips. We have a good tradition that just needs a boost. We always want more! The next time you’re in the field, take a few seconds to immortalize some of the birds you’re encountering through image or sound, and add those media to your checklists. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from all complete, no-X checklists submitted in August that include at least three photos and/or 1 audio recording. This means that each checklist you enter with at least three photos or one audio recording counts as one chance to win. The more eligible checklists, the better chance to win! NOTE: the photos and recordings must be your own, and of the actual individual bird you observed in the field—shared checklists with media from your friend don’t count towards your total, but you can always add your media to a shared list to qualify! Checklists must be for observations during this month; not historical checklists entered during August. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

PA Game Commission Requests Wild Turkey Sightings in August

Displaying Gobbler by J. Dingel, PGC

The inaugural Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey begins Aug. 1, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission encourages the public to assist by reporting online the turkeys they see throughout the month of August. It is fitting to ask for wide participation since the Wild Turkey is an American original and an eminently popular bird in our state. Turkeys only occur naturally on this continent and have provided food and sport for humans ever since they were first discovered. This was noted by Ben Franklin who wrote that it is “a true original Native of America” and “much more respectable Bird” than the Bald Eagle, which he thought a cowardly and lazy bird. The restoration of Wild Turkey in Pennsylvania is considered one of the state’s best achievements in wildlife management. Although turkeys are now a fairly common sight, they were once rare due to over-hunting and destruction of forests by timbering and agricultural development. They are enjoyed by hunters and non-hunting wildlife-watchers alike.

Information submitted to https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey will help in analyzing spring turkey production. Participants are requested to report the wild turkeys they see, along with the general location, date, and contact information to be used if there are any questions. Of course, we welcome birders to include sightings of Wild Turkey in their regular eBird field trip entries including the appropriate breeding code during the appropriate season. Seeing some Wild Turkeys caps off a good birding day in Pennsylvania.

Wanted: Blackpoll Warbler and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Reports

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher female on nest, Pennsylvania, by Doug Gross

As part of a long-term project to monitor and protect the breeding habitat of two PA Endangered species, I have been conducting surveys of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Blackpoll Warbler. Northeastern Pennsylvania is the southern outpost for the breeding range of both species at the moment. Both species are considered state Endangered in Pennsylvania because of their very small populations and limited breeding range. This project has resulted in some publications about these birds and the forest habitats that supports them. For the last two years Eric Zawatski, a Penn State biology student, has been assisting this project and contributing significantly to these challenging surveys. Last summer, we found only two territories of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, but we found at least 21 territories of Blackpoll Warbler. All of these were in boreal conifer swamps of Dutch Mountain in SGL 57, dominated by red and black spruce. It is good news that the Blackpoll Warbler population may be expanding into more conifer-dominated and headwater swamps. There are several conifer stands and wetlands in northern Pennsylvania that could support these species but are not visited by birders. Almost all recent reports of these species nesting in the state are above 1900 feet. Both of these species are well-described in the Endangered species section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission website under Wildlife.

Osprey and Bald Eagle Nest Reports Are Still Welcome

Osprey Pair on Nest by Jake Dingel, PGC

The Game Commission is performing an extensive state-wide survey of osprey nests this year. It is an initiative that’s not possible without the help of volunteers. We very much appreciate the contribution of the many people who have sent in Osprey nest reports. Those who are interested in taking part can find out more at the Game Commission’s website,(www.pgc.pa.gov). Information on the nest survey is available on the Birding page in the Birding section under the Wildlife tab. We also provide a comprehensive description of the species and its history in the state as another page in the Endangered species section. Just download the Osprey Nest Survey Form along with the Nest Observation Protocol, and submit it osprey@pa.gov or to Doug Gross, the project coordinator.

The survey seeks to determine the location of each active Osprey nest. If you know about a pair of Ospreys, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Please do not assume that a nest that you know about is covered by somebody else. One of our biggest fears is that several nests will go unreported due to this factor. Please make sure that the Osprey nest that you know about gets into our annual survey. If you do not know the results of the Osprey nest, please do not hesitate to report what you know of the activity of the nests. So far, the Bald Eagle nest tally is lower in 2016 than in the recent past years because of a reduction in staff that work on eagle nest surveys. Reports of Bald Eagle nests are appreciated.

State of the Birds 2016 Pennsylvania Style

Magnolia Warbler is strongly associated with hemlocks and other conifers, A Neotropical migrant that links Pennsylvania to Mexico.  by Jake Dingel

The State of the Birds (SOTB) report for 2016 has been released and is building bridges between countries for which birds are dependent. Significantly, the SOTB 2016 summary concerning the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) was announced at a meeting of the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management in Ottawa, Canada. This meeting includes Mexico, United States, and Canada that share the lives of millions of migratory birds.
There are dire warnings in the report. More than a third (37%) of our North American bird species are listed as high conservation concern. Without significant conservation action, several are at risk of extinction. Yet, the report is a wonderful acclamation of the power of birds to span national boundaries and embrace peoples across the boundaries and over many miles. With their amazing ability to migrant long distances and also appeal of peoples of all kinds, birds unite us and demonstrate to us the need to take better care of our environment. Most of what is known about bird populations, ranges, and trends is derived from “citizen science” ornithological records such as eBird, Christmas Bird Counts, and wildlife agency projects. For that we are extremely grateful to the legions of citizen scientists that contribute to various monitoring programs and share their own passion for birds and nature. Please check out the new report and the related stories at www.stateofthebirds.org.

The Third Annual PSO Breeding Bird Blitz

Belted Kingfisher male emerging from nest burrow by J. Dingel, PGC

The third annual Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Blitz (PAB3) will be taking place Friday, June 17th through Monday, June 20th. This is another opportunity to add some great Pennsylvania Breeding Bird data to eBird and to win prizes for yourself!
One eBird Checklist per contestant per category can be entered daily. This means you can enter up to 4 checklists daily for a chance to win a prize which are described below. This contest really brings everyone out there in the field in June when most of our birds are in nesting phase. As we found out in the breeding bird atlas, finding evidence of a breeding population of birds is a lot like fun and adds an extra dimension to your birding experience, especially if you are doing it either on your turf or discovering new areas. This is a chance to really change the map of where breeding species live in the state while having a good time of it. Follow the story for the categories of the contest.