News & Features

New Year’s Resolution 2018: eBird

Let 2018 be the year to step up your eBird use. If you have enjoyed tapping into eBird reports from others, set a goal to start contributing your own sightings in 2018. Submit a sighting online or via eBird Mobile to see just how easy it is to join the eBird community. If you have been participating in eBird for a long time, maybe you can add a few more checklists from your home  or by submit a few more photos and audio recordings? Have you been meaning to  enter some old records that you’d like to have in eBird? And eBird is a great way to contribute to bird monitoring projects and to add to our knowledge of species and places of conservation concern in Pennsylvania. Every piece of data has value. New Year’s Resolutions are a way to set fun challenges and personal goals. Read on for some ideas for eBird Resolutions and how to make birding and eBird even more fun in 2018.

January eBirder of the Month Challenge

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, gives you an excuse to get out there at the start of 2018 and see what you can find! In order to qualify as the first eBirder of the Month in 2018, all you have to do is submit one eBird checklist for each day in January.

eBird 2017–Year in review

This month closes out eBird’s 15th year. In just a decade-and-a-half, your contributions have made eBird one of the largest community-driven biodiversity projects in the world. More than 360,000 eBirders have submitted 472 million bird sightings, representing 10,364 species across every country in the world. This year alone, you helped gather a total of more than 100 million observations. We are constantly inspired by the power and passion of this world of interconnected birders, and we are excited as we look to the future of what we can achieve. Don’t forget: these are all your achievements. It is your information that powers the eBird engine. Every time you go out and keep a list of birds, you’re making a real contribution to our understanding of the world’s ever-changing avian biodiversity. Thank you.

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.

Another “Snowy Winter?”

Everyone remembers the great Snowy Owl irruption of 2013-2014. It was one of the most fabulous birding events in anyone’s memory — and a highlight in the state’s birding history. There are few birds more charismatic and appealing than the “big white owl.” There were so many popping up in many places that winter! That was the biggest Snowy Owl irruption in memory that may never be duplicated. But, it does look like the winter of 2017 – 2018 might also be a “Snowy Winter” with lots of opportunities to see these northern visitors. With many birders having fond memories of viewing Snowies or “just misses” that winter, the stage is set for a lot of Snowy Owl viewing this winter. They already are being reported at a variety of locations in the Northeast as well as the Mid-west and Great Plains. It looks like there was a pretty good breeding season at a few locations to the north, so many Snowy Owls may be headed this way.
For up-to-date news about Snowy Owls and researchers studying this species, check out the Project SNOWstorm website at: There you will find opportunities to contribute sightings, photos, and donations to the project.

New Report: Wildlife-Associated Recreation is Very Big Business

A report on the preliminary findings of the 2016 National Survey on wildlife-associated recreation provide evidence that wildlife-watching is an increasing economic force in America. Birding is a big part of this. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife report released in September is called the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation: National Overview. A more comprehensive report will be released in December. This report has been published every 5 years since 1955. With so many questions about public support of wildlife habitat and programs, it is very heartening to see that various forms of wildlife recreation are going strong. In 2016, over 101 million Americans, about 40 percent of the population, participated in a form of outdoor recreation that involved wildlife. This includes not only the traditional “consumptive” hunting, fishing but also “non-consumptive” wildlife enjoyment such as birding and nature photography. Check it out at:
Wildlife watching is growing in popularity. If we compare participation in the 2016 survey results with the two previous surveys, there are significant increases of 21 percent and 20 percent respectively. The biggest difference between these time periods is the number of participants who enjoyed wildlife near their homes, an 18 percent increase from 2011 to 2016.

November eBirder of the Month Challenge

This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, encourages precise eBirding. When you go out, try keeping a few lists for your birding. If you get in the car, stop that checklist and start a new one when you get out at the next location. Check several locations to cover more […]

Bumper Red Spruce Cone Crop May Attract Conifer Birds

This has been an extraordinary year for spruce cones in the Northeast. This may be the best cone crop in more than a decade in the Northeast. There may not be a huge irruption year for any bird species, but the cones are ready for the taking in northern Pennsylvania! Our own native spruces—red and black spruce—did very well this year. The exotic Norway spruces also have produced many cones. In addition, some birders are finding large numbers of hemlock cones that also may be a factor for fall and winter bird populations. There also are many ripe mountain ash berries in the mountains that are attractive to several boreal birds.
With this big cone crop, we could see conifer birds taking advantage of this temporarily abundant food source. Both Red and White-winged Crossbills, as well as Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, and many finches may take advantage of these cone crops. These red spruce forests are mostly in the Northeast region including North Mountain and the Poconos. Some areas for birders to focus on are the forests around Ricketts and Lopez on North Mountain and the Poconos around Blakeslee, Long Pond, Gouldsboro, Thornhurst, and Promised Land. Many birds forage on the smaller cones produced by hemlocks. This may translate into more chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, siskins, and other finches anywhere that hemlocks produce seeds.

October eBirder of the Month Challenge

This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, will keep get you snapping photos and recording bird sounds. Every time you take a photo or hold out a microphone, you’re creating an incredibly powerful piece of data. Media help document records, provide resources for learning and education, and also pave the way for future eBird and birding tools like Merlin Photo ID. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 15 or more eligible checklists in September containing at least one photo or sound with a rating. 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.

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.