News & Features

The Fourth Annual Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Blitz

Canada Warbler, a bird of mountain forests, by Jake Dingel, PGC

The fourth annual PA Breeding Bird Blitz will be taking place on Friday, June 16th through Monday, June 19th, 2017. The Breeding Bird Blitz is a project of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology with the intent of promoting summer time birding and breeding bird records for eBird.  This is another opportunity to add some great PA Breeding Bird data to eBird! What will be different this year is NO PRIZES.  Having fun “doing the Blitz” is its own reward!

Just like the Migration Count or a Christmas Bird Count the Blitz is something to do for the sheer enjoyment of it, AND knowing the data you submit to eBird will be helping out the birds we find so fascinating. To steal a little historical thunder from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what the birds can do for you but what you can do for the birds!” Follow the story for some suggested approaches to making the most of the Blitz including seeking out the “neglected eBird counties.”

Female Northern Harrier by Jake Dingel, PGC

Here are some suggested approaches to the Blitz listed below:

Bird your local patch – You might be surprised how rewarding it is to track down the local breeders. Many of those species that you know are in the area, but have not checked could be your bird of the day just down the road from a regularly traveled hotspot. It is much easier it is to get a good look at warblers when they are on breeding territory rather than migrating through? Take the time to explore your local area and try local nearby spot you don’t spend much time at birding or just haven’t got around to before. Find a patch of wetlands, a conifer grove, a little field that may provide more species to the area by offering good habitat.

Male Hooded Warbler is often found in game lands and forest lands of the state. Photo by Jake Dingel

Go birding in a neglected county or two – Plan a Breeding Bird Blitz Road Trip with some friends in one of the Pennsylvania counties that does get as much attention from eBird participants. Just because they get fewer visits does not mean that they have fewer birds. In fact, many of the more rural counties with few birders are rich in bird life especially in the summer when the breeding bird list favors forest, thicket, and wetland species. Below is a list of the counties from the least to most and the number of eBird checklists submitted all time for each county.

Blue-headed Vireo is often found in conifers even along streams. Photo by Jake Dingel

Create a Competition – If birding competitively is your thing then create a competition for you and some birding friends or the local bird club over one or more day of the Blitz. Maybe the competitions could be held in the neglected counties to make them even more helpful?

Northern Saw-whet Owl.  Photo by Joe Kosack.

Use of Breeding Codes – Now that you can include Breeding Codes on the mobile app this task has become a lot easier. Choose one day to include highest breeding codes on all your checklists or maybe a checklist or two each day over the course of the four days. Indeed with the breeding codes, it seems as if there is the potential for an “eternal breeding bird atlas” for willing participants.

The Counties with fewest eBird field trips

Here is the list of the state’s counties that are poorly represented in eBird with the number of field trips listed:

  1. Cameron – 698
  2. Sullivan – 1,205
  3. Elk – 1,241
  4. Jefferson – 1,389
  5. Wyoming – 1,448
  6. Venango – 1,537
  7. Snyder – 1,642
  8. Warren – 1,708
  9. Fulton – 1,886
  10. Forest – 1,982
  11. Columbia – 2,045
  12. Union – 2,060
  13. Green – 2,116
  14. Potter – 2,145
  15. McKean – 2,168

Please remember that Pennsylvania was a pioneer in eBird breeding data by staging a Breeding Bird Atlas using Cornell Laboratory’s on-line data entry system with the codes now used by eBird. To learn more about using breeding codes, please check this out:  http://help.ebird.org/customer/en/portal/articles/1006850-breeding-codes-behavior-codes?b_id=1928

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