News & Features

American Birding Expo Hits Pennsylvania, September 29 – October 1

Philadelphia can claim to be the birthplace not only of the nation but also of American ornithology and the birding tradition. This is where Alexander Wilson, the first American ornithologist, lived and worked on his seminal “American Ornithology.” Anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors watching birds and spending time indoors learning more about them and meeting others with the same interest will feel welcome at the American Birding Expo. For an abundance of information about this event, please see its website: There will be an exciting offering of speakers and presentations touching on many aspects of birding ranging from the backyard to the tropics. There also will be many opportunities to meet other birders of all levels of experience and interest and visit many interesting birding equipment and art venders. The event will be staged at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania, from September 29 to October 1, but includes events elsewhere in the Greater Philadelphia area. Pennsylvanians like George Armistead, Scott Weidensaul, Carrie Barron of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove are featured at this exciting event.

eBird Science: Distribution predictions using eBird data are comparable to those from satellite transmitters

Ever since satellite technology has been small enough to put on a bird, researchers have been using transmitters to ask questions about birds that were previously unanswerable. Although some questions still can’t be answered with anything aside from satellites (e.g., precise paths of migrating birds throughout their entire annual cycle), a paper published this week in Global Ecology and Conservation shows that eBird data can be comparable to satellite data when creating species distribution models. The authors of the open-access paper “Species distribution models for a migratory bird based on citizen science and satellite tracking data” have written a great account of their research on Band-tailed Pigeons (below). Thanks to Chris Coxen, Jennifer Frey, Scott Carleton, and Dan Collins for taking the time to share their work with the eBird community.

September eBirder of the Month Challenge

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, will keep your eyes and ears trained upwards. 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 enjoying a northern autumn or an austral spring, things are happening! Migratory restlessness may result in local movements of 10s of kilometers, or 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 Society for Ornithology 2017 Annual Meeting in Cumberland County

Birders from all over the state are invited September 15 through 17 to Carlisle, Cumberland County for a time of great birding, making and renewing friendships, and an opportunity to increase their knowledge about the birds they find so fascinating! There is something for everyone!
Although the meetings usually occur in spring, great birding meetings can also be held in the fall months. There is a rich variety of field trips to introduce everyone to the great birding spots in the Cumberland County region. Saturday and Sunday field trips will include birding the migrant-rich Blue and Kittatinny ridges of the Michaux and Tuscarora state forests, exploring the grounds of the former State Hospital and Wildwood Lake Park in Harrisburg, venturing to Miller’s Gap and Lamb’s Gap, Little Buffalo State Park, and state game lands 169 and 230, along with a mix of history and birds on the battlefields of Gettysburg and the ever-popular Audubon Hawk Watch at Wagoner’s Gap at the height of Broad-winged Hawk migration. The meeting location will be the Comfort Suites, 10 South Hanover St., Carlisle, PA 17013.

The meeting also will feature excellent speakers and some awards. The speakers include Ian Gardner, Andy Wilson, Art McMorris, and Ted Floyd. Scott Weidensaul will be recognized for his significant contributions to Pennsylvania ornithology as the winner of the 2017 Earl Poole Award. The Conservation Award will be given to the Audubon Hawkwatch at Waggoner’s Gap in Cumberland County.

August eBirder of the Month Challenge

This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, encourages you to get our birding every day in one of the least-eBirded months of the year. The eBirder of the Month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 31 eligible checklists during August.  Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month. August is an interesting time in much of the world, when the boreal breeding season is ending and spring is beginning to think about returning to the southern reaches of our planet. Many birds are wandering from their normal habitats, and there’s a lot for us to learn about where and when birds occur. Shorebird migration is in full swing across the northern hemisphere and many passerines begin their migration in August too. Let’s get out and see what we can find in August!

Get it Right – How to Change Species on your Checklists

Have you ever uploaded a photo or audio recording to an eBird checklist, only to realize after the fact that it’s under the wrong species? Then you had to delete the photo from eBird, go back to your photo archive, and re-upload to the new species. Or if a reviewer notified you about an error on a checklist, just changing an observation could be a bit tricky as well—especially if you had notes, breeding codes, and age/sex information to move over to the new species. This all got a lot easier today: we are excited to announce a new and easy way to edit your checklists with the Change Species button on the checklist editing page. Go to “Manage My Checklists” and choose “Edit Species List” while viewing one of your eBird checklists to change any of your species.

The Elusive and Mysterious Sedge Wren

The little Sedge Wren is a most peculiar species of songbird. Formerly known as the Short-billed Marsh Wren, it has a broad distribution throughout much of the Americas. In North America, it is a nomadic bird that opportunistically nests in wet areas with fine vegetation — grass and sedge meadows, wetlands, and fields. With the wet summer, there is the potential for Sedge Wrens to colonize places in Pennsylvania that meet their criteria. Some nesting activity has been found in the Southeast, but perhaps there are other nesting events going unnoticed. Now would be a good time to look for this elusive and fascinating tiny songbird, and study its chattering song and plumage characteristics that distinguish it from other little wrens. We also remind birders that good birding etiquette should be part of any rare bird search. Avoid interrupting any breeding activity or nesting potential of Sedge Wrens and refrain from damaging its fragile habitat. Please respect the wishes of any private landowner and avoid trespassing on private property. Keep to the trail and keep an eye on the wrens for a great experience. Go looking for Sedge Wrens this August for an added challenge in Pennsylvania birding. Here is information gleaned about the fascinating Sedge Wren from the Pennsylvania Game Commission website, updated for 2017.

eBird Illustrated Checklists are here!

You can now view a digital bird guide for any hotspot or region in the world: an Illustrated Checklist. The best part? It’s all using sightings that you contributed! We take the highest-rated photo and sound from the Macaulay Library, combine with eBird data to show seasonal occurrence, and include the last date when a species was seen in that place. The result: a quick overview for the region that gives the most relevant information. Want your photo to be the best image for that region? Add them to your eBird checklists! To check out Illustrated Checklists, search for any region or search for any hotspot. At the top of the species list you’ll see a new tab titled “Illustrated Checklist”. Here’s an example.

Focus on the Scarlet Tanager

The Scarlet Tanager is a vibrant symbol of Pennsylvania’s forest. Indeed it has been used as part of the logo for the State’s Wildlife Action Plan because is so characteristic of the state’s principal wildlife habitat – the forest. It has been estimated that our state may contain a whopping 17% of the world’s population of this colorful migratory songbird. Did we mention that the Scarlet Tanager really is scarlet? At least the males on their breeding ground are a very bright red and one of the most stunning birds on the continent. However, it is often hard to see that bright red in the dappled darkness of a forest. If you do not see it, you can also hear a male Scarlet Tanager’s burry warbling song which starts in the pre-dawn and can continue even in the afternoon and evening hours. Scarlet Tanagers prefer forests with trees over 50 feet high and high canopy cover, but can thrive where there are small gaps in the forest from tree fall, rocks, and natural or artificial disturbances. The Scarlet Tanager is emblematic of the state’s expansive forest and its links with exotic locations through the miracle of migration.

Whither Golden-winged Warblers? A Golden Opportunity to Help Out!

Birder contributions to eBird and other projects have a direct positive impact on Golden-winged Warbler monitoring and management. Your data really do count! It is well-known that the Golden-winged Warbler is a steady decline especially in the Northeastern United States. The very positive factor in Pennsylvania is that there is concerted young forest management being conducted that certainly is creating opportunities for Golden-wings to expand their populations. Recent salvage and shelterwood cuts have created habitat blocks in places like Delaware State Forest and various game lands. And, prescribed burn projects are rejuvenating oak forests and scrub oak barrens at a variety of places. Active aspen management also is a standard silviculture technique often used for regeneration of that tree that benefits a variety of wildlife species including Ruffed Grouse and Golden-winged Warblers. Golden-wings benefit from disturbance activities in a forested landscape. So, their habitat is dynamic by nature. It just keeps moving around even if the birds or our eyes can keep track.