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Pennsylvania Game Commission Conducts Heron Colony Survey

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is responsible for protecting heron populations and tracking their distribution in the state. For 2017 we are conducting a comprehensive survey of heron colonies. The goal is to count all the nests of each species, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-herons, at each site creating a “snapshot” of the distribution of nesting herons statewide. The Great Egret and the two night-heron species are considered Pennsylvania Endangered.
If you know where herons are nesting, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Please do not assume that someone else will report local nests.

With such widely distributed species and limited resources, we rely on the help of volunteers like you to improve our understanding of their distribution and numbers. Even though many heron colonies are documented across the Commonwealth, you may know about colonies that we don’t. Heron colonies can be occupied for several years, but they are sometimes abandoned and new colonies appear elsewhere. We may not know about these newer colonies. Your contributions are critical to improving our information and developing the most complete picture possible of the current status of Pennsylvania’s heron populations. The information will be used to update the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program database and provide protection for colonies.

eBird data support conservation actions in Pennsylvania

Every observation you submit to eBird is valuable, and with roughly 400 million records gathered so far, eBird has grown into one of the premier information sources on bird occurrence and abundance around the world. Importantly, eBird data are curated, managed, and made freely available for education, research, and conservation use, and tens of thousands of people download eBird data each year. But how are these data actually being used out there in the real world? A recently published paper in the journal Biological Conservation examines this question, and highlights how eBird data are being used in a broad array of conservation applications around the world. The effort you put into collecting data on birds is truly making a difference! Thank you. Read on to find out more, or jump straight to the article here.
The journal Biological Conservation has given open access to this article until 18 May 2017. To read the full article visit this URL, and please share it broadly!
https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Unus1R~e3CLv
After 18 May 2017, the article can be found at this DOI:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.04.031

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.