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.
Each fall, the Pennsylvania Game Commission requests assistance from experienced birders with the annual Fall Sandhill Crane Survey. We again ask the state’s birders to help out with this survey. It is also an occasion to thank the birding community for registering Sandhill Crane observations in eBird so all of us can better understand the expansion of this species in the East and how cranes use Pennsylvania habitats.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Division of Migratory Birds has once again asked Pennsylvania to participate in the Fall Sandhill Crane Survey. This year the survey will be conducted on November 9. If November 9 is not possible, then the survey should fall within the period Nov. 9-13. Last year, more than 120 cranes were observed in 7 counties! That is an uptick from 2013 in both number of birds and number of counties. We are once again inviting experienced birders to join this statewide monitoring effort. Counts are best conducted within 30 minutes after sunrise or 30 minutes before sunset. If dawn/dusk surveys are not possible, cranes can be tallied during the day as they forage in small groups. Information about the surveys follow below and can be found on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website in the Birding and Bird Conservation web page section.
The Golden-winged Warbler is one the most threatened songbirds of North America. Researchers feel that the quality and quantity of its young forest and early succession habitat is one of the limiting factors for the population of this species. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has been working with many partners to monitor, manage, and conserve this migratory songbird. Fortunately, we have found many eager partners. Many of the threats to Golden-winged Warblers also are shared with other species of conservation concern and popular game species due to the lack of regular disturbance to and appropriate management of forests. Among the partners in Golden-winged Warbler conservation are the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry, the American Bird Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Indeed, this team of partners has made Pennsylvania a leader in Golden-winged Warbler conservation in the Appalachian Mountain region. By collecting data on Golden-winged Warbler occupancy, birders assist our joint efforts by allowing us to see where there are active populations. Monitoring shows where any management would be more effective at attracting Golden-winged Warblers. Birders are urged to enter their Golden-winged Warbler observations into eBird as well as the closely related Blue-winged Warbler and other young forest species such as Willow Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Towhee, and Field Sparrow. Breeding Bird Atlas, Cornell Laboratory, Audubon Important Bird Area, and Game Commission data already are working on behalf of this species. This is happening on private as well as public lands!
The Red Knot has been designated as “shorebird of the year” and is one of the species being counted and celebrated as birders and conservationists mark World Shorebirds Day on September 6, a celebration of these extreme migrants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rufa subspecies of the Red Knot as Threatened, giving it protection under the Endangered Species Act. This designation means that the population is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or part of its range. For more about this Federal listing and what it means for Red Knot, please see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/redknot/. For more about World Shorebirds Day: https://worldshorebirdsday.wordpress.com/.
Pennsylvania is one of the states that knots visit in passage in their vast migration. Birders can really assist the fate of the Red Knot by making observations of knots found and entering their observations into eBird where any wildlife management agency, conservation organization, or researcher can see those records. Red Knots are observed in very few locations in the state, primarily Presque Isle and Conojehola Flats, with some flyovers at other spots, but that does not stop the state’s birders from enjoying them where they are found in the state and at the shore in other states. Another way to assist is to participate in the innovative bandedbirds project (http://bandedbirds.org/). More about that later. The Red Knot is one of several shorebirds that have declined or are imperiled due to their vulnerability to the loss of coastal habitat all along their long migratory routes and issues on their fragile breeding grounds.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are seeking public input through Sept. 11 on the draft 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan. The purpose of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan is “to conserve Pennsylvania’s native wildlife, maintain viable habitat, and protect and enhance Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” First developed in 2005, the plan has been the Commonwealth’s blueprint for managing and protecting imperiled species. As required by Congress, State Wildlife Action Plans must be revised no less than every 10 years. For the past 10 years the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan and associated funding from State and Tribal Wildlife Grants have been crucial for protecting and recovering imperiled species and their habitats. It has worked well and the new plan will refocus efforts on behalf of these species. The draft plan and comment forms can be found at: http://fishandboat.com/swap2015.htm. Questions can be directed to the Game Commission at WildlifePlanCmnts@pa.gov or to the Fish and Boat Commission at RA-FBSWAP@pa.gov. Please use “SWAP” in the subject line. Comments are accepted through September 11th.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public input on its draft osprey recovery and management plan, which can be reviewed at the agency’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Public comments on the plan will be accepted through Aug. 29, and can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Osprey Recovery and Management Plan, Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg PA 17110-9797. The plan can be accessed at both the Birding and Bird Conservation page and the Threatened and Endangered Species page on the Game Commission’s website. Both pages can be found under the Wildlife tab on the website’s homepage. From the pages, click on the link titled Osprey Recovery and Management Plan, which is found near the top of each page.
Developed by biologists within the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Division in cooperation with East Stroudsburg University, the Osprey Recovery and Management Plan sets management goals through 2025 to establish and maintain a stable population of breeding ospreys in Pennsylvania for current and future generations to enjoy. The plan sets a recovery goal of at least 50 nesting pairs with at least four watershed-based population clusters of 10 pairs or more. However, the wildlife agency anticipates that the state should be able to support several more pairs because this species has adjusted well to the human landscape. Birders have assisted in Osprey management by providing information about nesting pairs and will continue to be essential to monitoring of this species.
Seven species of one of the more mysterious and, at times, misunderstood group of birds, the owls, make Pennsylvania their home as breeding birds. An eighth species is a nearly annual vagrant from the Arctic. Most are nocturnal- active at night. These are among the most appealing birds in the state and an inspiration to explore Penn’s Woods and learn more about birds. A wonderful way for people to connect to nature. Birders can challenge themselves by adding more owl reports to eBird and other surveys. These charismatic birds of the night inspire a great deal of interest by the public in birds and nature. Birders of Pennsylvania are fortunate that our state has so many owl species and many opportunities to enjoy them. Owls can be found even after their nesting season since the young can be vocal and some species announce themselves once the brooding season is over.
Two of the most unusual birds in the state are the two cuckoos, the Yellow-billed and the Black-billed cuckoos. Cuckoos are just really odd birds. They are stealthy and reptilian in their movements, yet graceful fliers and elegantly plumaged birds. This year may be a particularly crazy one for cuckoos with the increase in gypsy moth infestations. I’ve noticed hillsides of barren trees from gypsy moth caterpillar damage and the summer is still young.
Cuckoos really respond to these outbreaks because they feed on hairy caterpillars. We have also experienced how they respond to cicada outbreaks with the same resounding flurry of activity. They not only gobble up gypsy moth caterpillars but also tent caterpillars and fall webworms, avoided by most other birds. As such, they really provide an ecological service as well as an economical one. This might be a bad year for tree foliage but a great year to experience the crazy cuckoos.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not conduct statewide Osprey nest surveys every year, but always cares about Ospreys. This year is one of the “off years” so the agency is not doing a full-scale survey. However, this charismatic fish-eating raptor is a state Threatened species and nest information is always appreciated. Many of the currently known nests were submitted to the agency by the general public. Ospreys often nest in areas with many other species so eBird reports for Osprey nesting locations are always good to add. Many Ospreys are nesting at impoundments including Army Corps and state park dams, but also along rivers especially near people. There is an Osprey nest survey web page on the Game Commission website that has more information about this survey, including a link to the survey form. Please see:
There also is a comprehensive description of the species in the state in the agency’s Wildlife Section: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=621014&mode=2
Birders are invited to participate in the Second Annual Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Blitz (PAB3). What is the PA Breeding Bird Blitz? The PAB3 is a great time to get out during the peak of the breeding season. This event is a fun means of gathering data on an annual basis of the breeding bird population in Pennsylvania. This event is being organized by the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology with the approval of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. When is the PAB3? It runs from Friday June 19 through Monday June 22. This is a great excuse to go out and find interesting birds and records during the nesting season. Of course, there are great scientific and conservation reasons to do bird surveys during the breeding season, but it also can be a lot of fun. There are three ways to participate, listed below in the story. So, what’s in it for you? The chance to have a lot of birding fun in the summer and the ability to compete for birdy prizes. Follow the story or visit the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology website for more details.
Remember to DO THE BLITZ!