News & Features

Sheryl Johnson, September eBirder of the Month, is a Pennsylvanian

Sheryl Johnson, September eBirder of the Month

Please join us in congratulating Sheryl Johnson of Haverford, Pennsylvania, winner of the September 2016 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our September winner was drawn from eBirders who submitted at least 15 eligible eBird checklists in September that contained Flyover codes. Sheryl’s name was drawn randomly from the 287 eBirders who achieved the September challenge threshold. Sheryl will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for her eBirding efforts. Pennsylvania birders are especially pleased for Sheryl’s recognition by eBird and here contributions to eBird. It is particularly significant that she has been counting common nighthawks migrating over Haverford College, Montgomery County. Common Nighthawks are a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan so a monitoring effort like this one is potentially important. Her example of establishing an eBird hotspot and data entry is an example that could be followed by other efforts to count nighthawks or other aerial insectivores that fly over the state. We asked Sheryl to tell us a little more about herself, her use of eBird, and her love of birds – read on for more.

Osprey 2016 Survey Was a Big Success: Recovered Species

Osprey pair at Pennsylvania nest, by Jake Dingel, PGC

With considerable support from the birding community, we have successfully conducted a state-wide survey of Osprey nests in the state for the first time since 2010. At least 148 active nests were counted this year. The tally includes at least 10 nests in six different sub-watersheds (HUC6 areas). This is certainly an underestimation of the total active number of Osprey nests. The Osprey now meets all criteria for upgrading (down-listing) from Threatened to Protected (Secure) as a recovered species. Osprey no longer meets the definition of Threatened. Not only is it fairly widespread and common for a raptor of its size, but the Osprey is demonstrating a great deal of tolerance for human activities. More than 90 percent of the nests in the state are built on human-made structures like nest towers, communication towers, power structures, docks, buoys, grain elevators, old factories, and almost anything sturdy enough to support a nest. They are utilizing industrial areas around Pittsburgh and busy docks of Philadelphia. Ospreys also are seeking out remote bodies of water and building at waterfowl ponds or along rivers near reservoirs, branching out from established clusters. For information on making comments to the agency about listing please see below.

Partners in Flight Conservation Plan 2016 Revision

Cover of the 2016 revision of the Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan.

Partners in Flight is a long-established coalition of diverse partners who collaborate “to protect landbirds through strategic monitoring and assessment tools, and development of priority species lists, conservation plans, maps, and databases that facilitate cross-border cooperation among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.” It has published several documents that have advanced progress in bird conservation and cooperation across the continent. Partners in Flight has just released its latest revision of its Landbird Conservation Plan. Each plan is an improvement on the past, building on a solid foundation of information and strategic planning. Its website also has been greatly revised and can be found at the following: There you can download the plan and other documents. One of the many fine features of this Plan is that it includes a full page of digital resources that you can link to directly in the digital document.

Big Red-breasted Nuthatch Irruption Year

Red-breasted Nuthatch hanging from a Norway spruce cone by Jake Dingel, PGC

It looks like a big irruption by Red-breasted Nuthatch is happening now in fall 2016. Sounding like a tiny tinhorn, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is not large in size but very big in personality. Red-breasted Nuthatches often irrupt south when their conifer seed sources decline, often in alternative years reflecting cone production (or lack of it) by northern spruces and firs. These diminutive fellows will forage not only on our native conifers but also planted exotics like Norway spruce and Scots Pine. I find them in stands of eastern hemlock, red spruce, black spruce, eastern tamarack, and eastern white pine usually at higher elevations, but also in a variety of ornamental, wind-break, or erosion-control conifer plantations comprised of Norway spruce, white fir, and scots pine. Some of the best islands of tall conifers are old Civil Conservation Corps plantings or old timber towns. Cemeteries and parks also are places with the ornamental and erosion-control conifer planting that attracts these and other northern birds. They regularly nest in an old Christmas tree planting behind my house comprised of scots pine and a variety of firs, spruces, and Douglas-fir. This helps explain how they can be found in a variety of locations far from their northern homes.

September eBirder of the Month Challenge

Red-tailed Hawk in Flight by J. Dingel, PGC

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, will keep your binoculars pointed towards the sky. 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 north of the equator for fall, or enjoying an austral spring, things are happening! Migratory restlessness may result in local movements of tens of kilometers, or something as drastic as undertaking 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 birders have a special stake in flyover observation. Flyovers can provide the highlight of the birding trip and some surprises. Just this summer I was conducting a Golden-winged Warbler survey and was treated to a honking flyover of a Sandhill Crane. Not what I was anticipating in mountaintop forest cutting. Our state is home to many hawk watches with the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary as not only a premier world hawk watch site but a pioneer in raptor conservation and education. And, there are many others including Jacks Mountain and a new one near Williamsport. Raptor flyovers are part of many September field trips. Aerial insectivores also are prominent in the skies of our state and very popular with state birders. Flocks of Common Nighthawks are a treat for anyone scanning the skies and symbolic of the whole suite of aerial insectivores that have declined in recent years. Chimney Swifts and swallows also are particularly fun to watch and tally as they twitter overhead. Identifying and counting swallows is a worthy challenge for birders. So, all of these examples are worth documenting in eBird to put your field observations on the map of the great fall bird migration we witness every year.

Explore and share your birding with eBird Profile Pages!

Courtesy of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology eBird Team.

320,000 eBirders and growing… You’ve looked through eBird checklists and seen their names: kindred birding spirits whose sightings you may have glimpsed only once, or followed regularly over months and years. Now, you can find out who the people are behind these names by exploring eBird’s new Profile Pages! Whether you’re a backyard birder or a globe-trotting world lister, eBird Profile Pages allow you to share your birding story with friends and the entire eBird community. This first version of your public eBird dashboard focuses on showcasing your eBird/Macaulay Library activity with tools that visualize all your sightings and highlight your recent media contributions—all updated with each new eBird contribution. We hope these Profile Pages provide a fun new way to visualize the contributions you’ve made to eBird and the Macaulay Library, inspire you to ‘fill in the gaps’ in your profile maps, and allow you to get to know other eBirders by exploring their Profile Pages. Enjoy meeting the global eBird community, and set up your eBird Profile Page today!

Pennsylvania is one of the best-represented states in eBird. Our very active birding community spans from Philadelphia to Erie and includes many local bird clubs and Audubon chapters. The eBird profile pages will allow you to learn more about your fellow Pennsylvania birders that you might run into at a birding hotspot or at a Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology or Audubon Pennsylvania event. You can learn not only what they look like but also where they have been in our state and around the world.

Explore the New Birds of North America!

Male Hooded Warbler by Jake Dingel

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is pleased to announce that the new updated and upgraded version of the Birds of North America is available for free preview! Check out brand new rich media and information from your submissions to eBird and the Macaulay Library augmenting every species account. The Birds of North America is the preeminent source of life history information for the more than 750 species of birds that breed in the United States and Canada. Maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with The American Ornithologists’ Union, this comprehensive resource is authored by experts on each species. Each species account includes information on systematics, distribution, identification, behavior, breeding biology, and conservation. Each species account also includes a comprehensive bibliography of research conducted on the species. The accompanying multimedia includes photos of various plumages, examples of sounds, and videos of interesting behaviors. Check out the new BNA today!
This free preview is only available for a short time, until September 6! The new format is more attractive and includes a tangible connection with eBird data, demonstrating very strongly the value of those bird sightings all across the range of a species. A few Pennsylvanians have been involved with this bird reference for the 21st century.

World Shorebirds Day Gives Good Reason to Count Them for eBird

Greater Yellowlegs by Jacob Dingel, PGC

In that magical period between summer and fall, we have great opportunities to witness and document the great show of world-wide bird migration. One event that celebrates this migration is the World Shorebird Day. This Global Shorebird Counting event of World Shorebirds Day is already here and its map with the registered counting locations is already looking pretty good. This event’s counts have to be carried out between September 2 – 6, 2016 at any preferred locations and local paths. Take as much time as needed to count the local shorebird community. eBird is a perfectly good way to participate in the event. We cannot encourage you enough to make a very easy registration and show support for this special day and for these incredible migrants. Most of us go out for birdwatching in on weekends so why don’t you just count all the shorebirds present on your favorite birding site(s). All you have to do is to share your data with us. I’m sure this would make a big difference. Please think about being a part of the Global Shorebird Counting as it costs nothing especially if you go birding anyway. And you will go anyway, won’t you?

August eBirder of the Month Challenge: Media Entry

Female Northern Harrier in Flight by J. Dingel, PA Game Commission

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, is a photography and recording contest! Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy camera or microphone to win. Minimum entry requirements are an appreciation for birds, your optics of choice, and anything that takes a picture or makes a recording: phone, camera, voice recorder—whatever works! It is amazing how many good bird sightings are verified by photographs, even one taken with minimal equipment. Pennsylvania’s eBird web page is full of really good images of birds reported during eBird trips. We have a good tradition that just needs a boost. We always want more! The next time you’re in the field, take a few seconds to immortalize some of the birds you’re encountering through image or sound, and add those media to your checklists. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from all complete, no-X checklists submitted in August that include at least three photos and/or 1 audio recording. This means that each checklist you enter with at least three photos or one audio recording counts as one chance to win. The more eligible checklists, the better chance to win! NOTE: the photos and recordings must be your own, and of the actual individual bird you observed in the field—shared checklists with media from your friend don’t count towards your total, but you can always add your media to a shared list to qualify! Checklists must be for observations during this month; not historical checklists entered during August. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

PA Game Commission Requests Wild Turkey Sightings in August

Displaying Gobbler by J. Dingel, PGC

The inaugural Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey begins Aug. 1, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission encourages the public to assist by reporting online the turkeys they see throughout the month of August. It is fitting to ask for wide participation since the Wild Turkey is an American original and an eminently popular bird in our state. Turkeys only occur naturally on this continent and have provided food and sport for humans ever since they were first discovered. This was noted by Ben Franklin who wrote that it is “a true original Native of America” and “much more respectable Bird” than the Bald Eagle, which he thought a cowardly and lazy bird. The restoration of Wild Turkey in Pennsylvania is considered one of the state’s best achievements in wildlife management. Although turkeys are now a fairly common sight, they were once rare due to over-hunting and destruction of forests by timbering and agricultural development. They are enjoyed by hunters and non-hunting wildlife-watchers alike.

Information submitted to will help in analyzing spring turkey production. Participants are requested to report the wild turkeys they see, along with the general location, date, and contact information to be used if there are any questions. Of course, we welcome birders to include sightings of Wild Turkey in their regular eBird field trip entries including the appropriate breeding code during the appropriate season. Seeing some Wild Turkeys caps off a good birding day in Pennsylvania.