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Northern Goshawk: Reports Needed for “the Ultimate Forest Raptor”

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Goshawk Project, which is run by a subcommittee of the Ornithological Technical Committee (OTC) of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey (PABS), we invite birders to contribute goshawk sightings to our research and conservation efforts. The Game Commission is cooperating with this project and protecting goshawk nests on its properties. The Northern Goshawk is one of the rarest nesting raptors in the state and a notably elusive and secretive species. It is a flagship species of the big woods and the wildest parts of the state, sometimes called the “ultimate forest raptor” due to its size, wildness, and fierceness. So, we always wish for more information about the goshawk nests and territories. It currently is considered “Near Threatened” in the state. The state’s birders have contributed a great deal to our knowledge of Northern Goshawk primarily through their reports to the two breeding bird atlas projects and privately to agency staff. The maps of the two Atlas projects, separated by 25 years, seem to indicate that there is a smaller nesting population occupying less of the state than previously. For more information about the PABS goshawk committee’s research, visit www.pabiologicalsurvey.org/goshawk. There you can find images and audio to aid identification as well as forms, instructions, and contact information. Goshawk reports can be e-mailed to goshawk@psu.edu. Any goshawk observations during the breeding season, from late March to June, on game lands should be sent to pgcgoshawk@pa.gov. Reports to either the Pennsylvania Goshawk Project or the Game Commission will be treated as confidential.

Festival of the Birds Coming May 5 thru 7, 2017

The Festival of the Birds is timed to showcase the peak of songbird migration through Presque Isle State Park in Erie. This event is timed well with spring songbird migration on May 5, 6, and 7, 2017. The event offers desirable migrant species without large crowds of spectators. This year’s keynote speaker is Scott Weidensaul. Every full-weekend registrant will receive a copy of Weidensaul’s book, Return To Wild America. The festival offers field trips, workshops, dinner, and Weidensaul’s keynote address: The Story of Project SNOWstorm, a venture that uses cutting-edge tracking technology to study Snowy Owls. Many Pennsylvanians have been involved with the Snowy Owl project, which is based at the Ned Smith Center and involves many ornithologists and organizations on a continental scale. Although rare winter visitors, Snowy Owls visit Presque Isle as often as any place in the state. This is an intimate festival limited to 150 attendees. The park offers multiple and distinct habitats, all hosting a wide assortment of avian life. It is certainly one of the best birding spots in the state, offering a bit of the Lake Erie shore, wetlands, woods, and scrub. You never know what you will see at Presque Isle! Register and pay online for the festival. Details about the schedule and leaders as well as registration information can be found at http://www.presqueisleaudubon.org/festival.html.

2017 Working Together for Wildlife Patch Supports Wildlife Diversity

The 2017 Working Together for Wildlife patch features the charming and popular Eastern Chipmunk. The “chippy” is a popular mammal of the eastern deciduous forest and widespread in our state. They can be found in almost any visit to a state game land, a state park, or a state forest. We have several in our own backyard raiding our garden and our feeders. They may be in hibernation now in the cold winter months but expect to see some poke their head out of their den hole in late February or March. When they do emerge from hibernation, chipmunks are very comical and fun to watch but they really are very territorial animals, fighting off intruders to their territories. Unlike many mammals, chipmunks are diurnal with most of their activity in mid-day. They have an extensive vocal repertoire that any birder should get to know to avoid misidentifying this rodent as a bird. Of course, they “chip” as their name suggests but they also utter a low “chuck” call frequently misidentified by anyone outdoors as some songbird. Its “chip-trill” call is often given with a tail twitch when it is disturbed by a hawk, cat, or perambulating human. Broad-winged Hawks, accipiters, owls, foxes, and cats often prey on chipmunks. On the other hand (or paw), chipmunks have a varied diet that includes many nuts, fruits, mushrooms, insects, earthworms, salamanders, and small snakes as well as the contents of bird nests. Despite some of their predatory habits, it is hard not to like chipmunks.
Your purchase of a Working Together for Wildlife patch supports the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Diversity program and its many projects.

February eBirder of the Month Challenge: Sharing Checklists

Sharing is caring. This month’s eBirder of the Month Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, is all about birding with others. This could be a day in the field with a long-time birding friend that you’ve been checking the local lake with for 30 years, or someone who is just starting. They could be an eBirder already, or somebody who like birds but hasn’t started eBirding yet. Many bird clubs hold field trips with a list of commonly observed birds. Rare transient species often congregate birders in one spot leading to shared observations and discoveries. The Ross’s Gull at Tupper Lake, New York, the Snowy Owl in Bradford County, the Townsend’s Warbler in Bloomsburg, the Black-backed Oriole in Berks County, and the Slaty-backed Gull at Lake Erie are just some examples of rare bird magnets. The eBirder of the Month will be chosen from all eligible shared checklists submitted during February. Each shared checklist that you’re a part of gives you one chance to win. These lists could be shared with you from another person, or shared from you to someone else—the only requirement is that all people on the shared checklist were a part of the birding event. These checklists must be entered, shared, and accepted by the last day of the month in order to qualify for the drawing. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

2017 Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology Field Trips and Events

The Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (PSO) is planning several events and field trips for 2017. It invites everyone interested in birds to participate. This is a great way to learn new birds, see new places, and make new friends. The PSO is a leading birding organization of the state, publishing the PSO Pileated Newsletter and Pennsylvania Birds, a quarterly journal about the state’s birds. It also is a partner with the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, PA eBird, and various monitoring projects of the Pennsylvania Game Commission including monitoring Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon eyries, Osprey nests, and the colonial waterbird surveys. Many members also belong to Audubon Society Chapters and contribute to those projects. Contributing data to eBird also supports the conservation programs of several organizations. These PSO field trips and other events directly lead to more eBird reports. And, PSO members also just have a great time going out birding on trips together in the state and outside it. Members lead field trips to birding hotspots, acting as guides and mentors to new birders or birders who are new to a special place. The calendar of events follows:

Pennsylvania Vies for Top Spot in Great Backyard Bird Count, February 17-20

Is this the year Pennsylvania finally breaks out of the “runner up” position and takes over as the number ONE contributor to the Great Backyard Bird Count?? Well, that’s really up to you! As birders, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed your experience with the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) and recognize the importance your data has to this snapshot of global bird populations. Why not recruit a “newbie” to participate this year? Maybe they weren’t ready for the tundra-like conditions of the Christmas Bird Count. No excuses with the GBBC…they can bird from the indoors! It provides a great introduction to those who until now, have only enjoyed birding vicariously through tales of your Central American adventures and bird-chasing escapades. Our state was second last year among the 50 states contributing checklists to the GBBC. Let’s be first!
Pennsylvania needs about 3,000 new checklists (that just 750 new people submitting a checklist for each of the count’s four days Feb 17-20) to put us over the top and overtake the count’s top state participant, California. Yes, this is an east-west rivalry and we’re fired up! Not since the 2001 Sixers-Lakers battle or the recent classic Rose Bowl game between Penn State and the University of South California have we witnessed anything like this!
The 2017 event will be the twentieth for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Let’s make it a big one.

2017 Checklist-a-day Challenge

In 2016, eBird received more than 3.75 million complete checklists from your birding efforts. eBird thrives on the enthusiasm and engagement of tens of thousands of loyal participants worldwide who reliably enter their birding forays in eBird. Our most loyal eBirders go a step beyond, putting in checklists from short yard counts, lunchtime walks, or a quick stop to scan their favorite local patch. Our challenge to you in 2017 is to see if you can submit at least one checklist a day—for the entire year. At the end of the year we will draw three winners from among those who submitted at least 365 eligible checklists in 2017. Pennsylvania has truly been a leader in eBird records. Our state’s birders contribute more trips than some countries do. In 2016, eBird gathered 2,079,729 observations in Pennsylvania, on 158,460 checklists submitted by 6,229 eBirders. With a little more activity at places where few checklists are submitted, this contribution could be even greater. Even relatively rare species like Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier can be picked up with a well-timed visit to good habitat.
Read more below.

January eBirder of the Month Challenge for Pennsylvania Birders

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, give you an excuse to get out there at the start of 2017 and see what you can find! In order to qualify as the first eBirder of the Month in 2017, all you have to do one eBird checklist for each day in January. The more eyes looking, the merrier. This is a perfect way to wrap winning free binoculars into a New Year’s Resolution! The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 31 eligible checklists in January. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.
We encourage Pennsylvania birders to explore counties that they have not yet contributed eBird reports. The Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology has been publishing great county birding reports in the PSO Pileated Newsletter and Pennsylvania Birds. They should give you good tips on “under-birded” places! Documenting rarities and cool birds is even easier with eBird. It makes it easier to get those rare bird sightings accepted. Check the website of Audubon Pennsylvania for local chapter field trips to join and add to the eBird lists there.

New Year’s Resolution 2017: more eBirding!

The New Year is a time for fresh beginnings. As you think about your personal goals for 2017, consider stepping up your eBird use. If you visit eBird primarily to learn about sightings from others, then make 2017 the year you start contributing your own sightings. You’ll be glad that you do, because each time you enter data into eBird, its tools get better and more informative for you personally! If you are already an active eBirder, then set a new personal 2017 eBirding goal. Can you use eBird to help you find 10 new birds in 2017? What year list will you focus on? Can you visit your favorite birding spot every week of the year? Are there counties or locations in the state that you could visit in 2017 that are new to you? With eBird and the PSO county reports and PSO Pileated Newsletter county summaries, it is even easier to develop reasonable targets of discovery. Are you ready to try the 2017 eBird Checklist-a-Day” challenge? Read more for some ideas for eBird Resolutions and how to make birding and eBird even more fun in 2017.

eBird 2016 — Pennsylvania Year in review

2017 will mark the 15 year anniversary of eBird. In just a decade-and-a-half, the bird checklists that you have shared have helped make eBird the largest citizen science biodiversity project in the world. More than 1/3 million eBirders have submitted 370 million bird sightings, representing 10,312 species from every country in the world. We are continually humbled by the amazing power and passion of the birding community, and have nothing but excitement as we look to the future of what we can do together. As we compile this list of eBird’s achievements in 2016, we are reminded that these are all truly your achievements. It is your contributions that power this knowledge engine. Every time you go out and keep a list of birds you see, you’re making a real contribution to our understanding of the world’s ever-changing avian biodiversity.

Pennsylvania continues to be one of the leaders in eBird. In 2016, eBird gathered 2,079,729 observations in Pennsylvania, on 158,460 checklists submitted by 6,229 eBirders. This is the same number of sightings that came from all of Australia this year! The Pennsylvania eBird portal posted 36 stories thus far. These news stories included several specific to Pennsylvania including the state-wide Osprey nest survey, the PSO annual meeting at Somerset, the annual Sandhill Crane fall survey, Evening Grosbeaks, Snowy Owls, cold weather hummingbirds, and the results of continental bird projects. The additional multimedia features of eBird allow Pennsylvania bird photographers and rare bird documenters to share their images of interesting birds with the entire state birding community. The Pennsylvania Game Commission continues to support this eBird portal and welcomes the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology and Audubon Pennsylvania and its chapters as partners. We look forward to another great eBird year in 2017.