This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, focuses on the mobile world. As of December 2015, eBird Mobile is available for FREE on both iOS and Android devices. eBird Mobile makes in-the-field data entry just a few taps away, no matter where you are in the world. Increased use of mobile provides greatly improved accuracy in counting, precise location selection, and overall birding effort information. And, no more data entry when you get home at the end of the day! The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 15 complete no-X checklists using eBird Mobile in February. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.
One of state’s biggest birding events is the Festival of Birds held at Presque Isle State Park on a very birdy weekend, May 6 to 8. Organized and hosted by Presque Isle Audubon and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Festival of the Birds is a three-day festival that is timed to showcase the peak of songbird migration through Presque Isle State Park in Erie Pennsylvania. The festival offers the desirable migrant species you may be looking for without large crowds. This year’s special guest and keynote speaker is David Allen Sibley, author and illustrator of the wildly popular The Sibley Guide to Birds. Every full-weekend registrant will receive a copy of the second edition of his field guide. The festival offers field trips led by experienced birders; workshops in bird identification, beginning birding, and more; a casual festival reception; and David Sibley’s keynote address: The Psychology of Bird Identification. This is a perfect festival choice for those seeking an intimate birding experience with small groups because the festival is limited to 150 attendees and field trips are limited to 12 to 15 people. The park offers multiple and distinct habitats including mature and young forests, lagoons, sand plains, and more, all hosting a wide assortment of avian life. It is simply one of the very best birding spots in the state. People with all birding skill levels are welcome.
The Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology is celebrating 25 years together by organizing several birding events in 2016. This organization is tops for doing field surveys in the state and contributing quality citizen-science data. It organizes an annual Winter Raptor Survey that starts January 14. Many members engage in the Pennsylvania Migration Count that is scheduled for May 14 in 2016. The Annual Meeting will be held May 22 – 24 in Somerset County. That will be followed by the annual Breeding Bird Blitz on the third weekend of June. In the meantime, the society will hold several field trips to hot birding spots in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, starting with a trip to New Jersey February 20 and 21. A summary of these events follows.
eBird is making its eBirder recognition program even stronger in 2016. In 2015, Pennsylvania had one featured “eBirder of the Month” in the person of David Brown, Lycoming County. This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, encourages you to get out there in this new year and see what you can find! In order to qualify as the first eBirder of the month in 2016, all you have to do is submit an average of one qualifying eBird checklist for each day in January. Our goal is to motivate people to go out at the beginning of the year (perhaps as part of a New Year’s Resolution!) and eBird what you find. The more eyes looking, the merrier. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 31 complete no-X checklists in January. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.
The 2016 wildlife year started with a bang with the great participation in the annual Christmas Bird Count across the state. Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s most active birding and hunting traditions. The Pennsylvania Game Commission decided to celebrate this a bit more by offering a calendar featuring “The Birds of Pennsylvania” for the first time in 2016. This purchase helps support wildlife conservation in the state. For many years, the state’s wildlife agency has offered a popular Pennsylvania Wildlife Calendar that adorns the walls of many outdoors people. Like the wildlife calendar, the Birds of Pennsylvania calendar contains striking full-color photos and is chock-full of useful information. The calendar gives tips on the best times to view birds or listen for their calls, advises on when to think about readying nest boxes or planting trees or shrubs that benefit birds, and contains a plethora of dates for bird-themed events and festivals. Both calendars are a bargain at $9.25, plus shipping, plus sales tax for Pennsylvania residents. The agency also offers a Working Together for Wildlife print of a Great Blue Heron. Funds from the sale of Working Together for Wildlife directly funds Wildlife Diversity projects. These calendars, books, patches, and wildlife are prints are among many gifts available either through The Outdoor Shop at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us, or by calling toll free to 1-888-888-3459.
One of the highlights of the 2015 Pennsylvania birding scene, was the designation of our own David Brown of Montoursville, Lycoming County, as “eBirder of the Month.” He was winner of the September 2015 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. His name was drawn from among those who submitted at least 30 complete checklists containing one or more flyover codes in September. David’s name was drawn randomly from the 70 eBirders who achieved the September challenge threshold. David received a pair of Zeiss Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. Not only has David deserved this award but has acted as a local leader in the birding community of Lycoming County including the local Audubon Society. He has led many bird walks, hawk watches, and runs Facebook pages about the county’s birds including its raptors. A gifted photographer, David also has graced his social media pages with excellent images of birds. David is really making good things happen in the state’s largest county. For that we thank him for his contributions and join in congratulating him on this award.
Pennsylvania has played a key role in the growing popularity of birding, citizen science, and the growing network of eBird and its partners. With the holiday season upon us, many of the state’s birders are celebrating the season by participating in the Christmas Bird Count—over 70 circles in our state. eBird began in 2002, 14 years ago. In that time, eBird has grown in leaps and bounds from version 1.0, thanks to efforts of eBirders everywhere. Our state is one of the biggest contributors to eBird. We hear from thousands of people each year who tell us how eBird has changed their birding habits for the better, has taught them about bird occurrence in their area and when traveling, has helped them learn more about birds, and has made their birding more fun. We also hear from many who say that they want to submit to eBird more often or that they “keep meaning to get started” but have yet to “take the plunge.” Together, let’s make 2016 the year without regret! For 2016, make your New Year’s Resolution to use eBird! With the advent of new mobile technology and a continually refined data entry process, eBird is easier to use than ever. Give it a try today, for yourself, for birders everywhere, and for the birds we all care about. The Pennsylvania eBird portal pledges to keep news coming in the year ahead for the state’s birding community.
The internet is buzzing with predictions for and observations of “winter finches” and other cold weather migrants. The announcements of Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast has been out for a few weeks, but mostly it pertains to southern Canada not Pennsylvania or the Mid-Atlantic region. Although the winter of 2012 – 2013 was an “epic finch flight,” last winter was much more subdued and this winter may also be a bit subdued. Pennsylvania birders did enjoy a mini-flight of Pine Siskins that delighted many backyard birders at feeders across the state. Siskins flew far south in the state and were just as likely to be spotted in Lancaster or another southern county as in the northern tier. Some of those siskins lingered into spring and nested. Many of the predictions and discussions of winter finches better pertain to states and provinces north of Pennsylvania but we are interested in all of these birds. Here I add some notes about potential winter bird invasions that supplement the general predictions. Snow Buntings, Northern Shrikes, Short-eared Owls, and Snowy Owls are among the many birds that lend some excitement to the winter scene. Perhaps they are not colorful when it comes to feather color, but they add some “salt and pepper” to the flavor of the winter scenes. Already some Snowflakes and butcher birds have been reported in the state and more may be coming soon. Here are some highlights from the Ron Pittaway forecast with a Pennsylvania twist.
Is it that time already? Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is upon us again! The CBC is an extremely popular outdoor activity for hundreds of the state’s birders. Not only is this a great citizen science project but also a wonderful opportunity to mentor beginners and for friends to join together during the holiday season over a day of birds. Pennsylvania is not only the cradle of ornithology but also a super hot-spot for the Christmas Bird Count. A full 76 CBC count circles are listed in the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology’s latest newsletter! The CBC is truly a big time in the keystone state! The count period has already begun and the first weekend is a very popular time to do a CBC.
Just west of Bald Eagle Creek at Mill Hall in Clinton County can be found two wetlands that should be on birders must visit list. Until recently these sites were little known and under appreciated except to local birdwatchers. They are the wetlands at Central Mountain High School and the nearby wetlands locally named and now known as the Mill Hall Wetlands. Both sites are easily found, readily accessible, and less than one mile from each other.
Both wetlands are constructed. The Mill Hall Wetlands were built around 1997 as mitigation wetlands for two local industries. Although they are privately owned, public access is allowed for birdwatching and hiking, as well as hunting – primarily waterfowl hunting. The wetlands at Central Mountain High School were constructed in 2008 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Partners for Fish and Wildlife project for an outdoor classroom resource for the school. Birders are encouraged to visit these and other wetlands and submit observations to eBird.