News & Features

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.

Snowy Owls Could Stage Minor Incursion This Winter

We may never see a Snowy Owl “storm” of migration like the incursion we enjoyed in the winter of 2013 – 14, but it does look like a few Snowies will visit us this winter. Already, there have been Snowy Owls reported across the Canadian prairies, the Great Lakes region, New England, and New York. A very few have been found in Pennsylvania including at Presque Isle State Park in Erie County, Lancaster County, York County, and Lycoming County. Others may be on the way or not yet reported.
Pennsylvania is deeply involved with Snowy Owls. Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, Millersburg, is home of the Snowy Owl project called “Project SNOWstorm.” One of the key members of Project SNOWstorm, the American research group, is Jean-François (J.F.) Therrien, senior research biologist at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. J. F. and colleagues at Laval University I Quebec have been studying Snowy Owls and other raptors in northern Canada for several years. In this last breeding season, he worked with Laval University colleagues on Bylot Island in Nunavut. Research is conducted by this team on Gyrfalcons, Peregrine Falcons, Rough-legged Hawks as well as Snowy Owls. Of course, another Pennsylvanian, Scott Weidensaul, is a key member of the project and author of the recently published “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. For more information about the Snowy Owl research, we recommend checking out the Project SNOWstorm website and J. F. Therrien’s blog about the Bylot Island research: http://www.projectsnowstorm.org/ The Pennsylvania Game Commission is proud to be a part of this research group and recommends your participation in Snowy Owl research and conservation. Many Pennsylvanians already are on the team!

eBirding your Pennsylvania Christmas Bird Count

Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is upon us again! Pennsylvania is a very important contributor to the CBC effort with many Audubon Chapters and bird clubs organizing a local CBC circle’s count. This is a great time to join others and cooperate in a massive effort across the Western Hemisphere to take a snapshot of bird occurrence around the holidays. For three weeks each year (14 December to 5 January) tens of thousands of birders head out to conduct the Audubon CBC. These counts are cooperative efforts to get the best count of birds in a single 15-mile diameter circle. They depend upon the efforts of multiple parties of observers each checking different parts of the count circle. Compilers add the efforts of the various teams together and assemble a final count total, which can be compared to totals for the past 117 years to understand changes in bird populations. eBird collects data at a finer scale and from single parties of birders, and eBird Mobile makes it easy to keep your tallies through the day. We invite each group to submit their single-party lists to eBird. For guidance on best practices for submitting your CBC to eBird, see these links:
• Submitting your CBC list to eBird
• How to use eBird Mobile to tally your Christmas Bird Count
• Find a CBC near you
The Pennsylvania Game Commission recommends that bird observers participate in the Christmas Bird Count. A webinar presentation was given by Doug Gross to explain the Christmas Bird Count that is now on YouTube.

December eBirder of the Month Challenge

This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, highlights the value of splitting your day of birding into multiple lists. By keeping multiple lists throughout a morning or day of birding, the information that you’re collecting is much more valuable—both for your own personal records and for researchers and conservationists! Sound too difficult? Give it a try—it’s easier than you think, especially when you use eBird Mobile! If you’re out on a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) this month, or just out on the weekend with a few friends, this is a perfect chance to take your eBirding up a notch. The eBirder of the Month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 3 or more eligible checklists in a single day in December. Each day that you submit 3 eligible checklists gives you one chance to win. Checklists must be for observations during this month, not historical checklists entered during December. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission recommends that bird watchers participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count . This is a an easy way to get people involved with “citizen science” bird projects. By making your CBC records also available on eBird as smaller hot-spots they can contribute to what we know about local bird populations and also stimulate observations those locations through the whole year.

2nd Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania On Sale for Holidays!

One of the very best Pennsylvania bird books is still available for sale! The 2nd Atlas is a masterpiece and a “must-own” reference book for any Pennsylvania birder or ornithologist. With the holidays coming up, it is time to consider getting a copy of this invaluable book for a friend, a library, or yourself. The 2nd Atlas was published 20 years after the first Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas. It brought our knowledge of the state’s bird populations up to date, documented current breeding distribution, abundance, and changes since the previous project. This publication has been given very favorable reviews including in the June 2014 edition of the Wilson Journal of Ornithology which stated that “Any birder visiting Pennsylvania should be sure to have a copy of this book at home or in the car.” It is called a “masterful and successful example” of a breeding bird atlas. There also was a great review of the book in the Journal of Field Ornithology. A remarkable feature of this project was its strong support from citizen scientists with 2000 dedicated birders contributing to the project. That kind of passion and dedication also extends to eBird and projects promoted by the PA Game Commission and its partners. The result of this dedication was a fine book published by Penn State Press and also a coalition of volunteers eager to do more field work and conservation. This valuable resource is still available for purchase at; http://www.psupress.org at the reduced price of $47.57, you save 30% . The exact page of the offer is at the following: http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-05630-2.html

Evening Grosbeaks Visiting Here This Winter?

Few birds are as synonymous with winter as the nomadic Evening Grosbeak. Colorful and noisy, almost like parrots, they may be the ultimate feeder bird of the Northeast. Many thousands of dollars are spent each year to fill up bird feeders in hope of attracting ravenous hordes of Evening Grosbeaks. Sunflower and safflower seeds are favorite foods, which they consume with great enthusiasm. Sometimes they can completely cover a feeder in their eagerness to gorge on free food, occasionally breaking feeders under their weight. A few Evening Grosbeaks have been reported in Pennsylvania and New York. Might more be on their way?
Although most birders associate Evening Grosbeaks with backyard artificial feeders, they regularly forage on a wide variety of wild seeds and fruits. They forage on the leftover seeds of ashes and maples, especially the persistent keys of boxelders, also known as ash-leaved maple. I have also watched them feed on the berries of staghorn sumacs, dogwoods, viburnums, pokeberries, as well as the dried up grapes in arboreal grape arbors. In summer, Evening Grosbeaks also feast on wild cherries, and they probably devour dried cherries where they can find them. Some feel that the expansion of Evening Grosbeaks eastward was related in part to expansion of boxelders in the Plains. Although birders mostly think about grosbeaks as feeder birds, they primarily forage on caterpillars during the summer including tree pests such as spruce budworm. The expansion may also have been influenced by past spruce budworm and other caterpillar outbreaks as well as the proliferation of artificial bird feeding stations.

Pennsylvania’s Autumn Jewels

Although only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests in Pennsylvania, birders and ornithologists over the past two decades have documented an increasing number of western hummingbird species showing up here, primarily from August through December. Most are Rufous Hummingbirds, a species which nests in the Pacific Northwest and southern Alaska. There is also small wintering population in the Gulf area of the U. S., including Florida. Calliope Hummingbirds, a Rocky Mountain species and the smallest North American bird, have been found in southern Pennsylvania. Black-chinned, Allen’s, and Anna’s Hummingbirds, three other western species, have appeared in recent years in the state.

Our knowledge of hummingbird migration patterns has really benefitted from citizen science. With eBird’s powerful tools, it is very easy to report an unusual hummingbird and provide digital evidence of your discovery. If the particular site is sensitive in some way, delayed data submission may be an easy way to contribute the observation to eBird without compromising personal privacy. Follow the story to the next page to find a list of Pennsylvania hummingbird banders and two hummingbird contests.