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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, invites you to look at birds through what might not be your usual lens: a camera. November marks one year since we released the ability to add photos and audio directly to your eBird checklists, archiving your media in the Macaulay Library. In this first year, we have been humbled to see more than 1.5 million photos added to the collection by eBirders, documenting more than 8,250 species of birds from 226 countries. If you haven’t uploaded a photo yet—this is your chance! An added bonus is that your photos help make your eBird Profile Page look fantastic. The eBirder of the Month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 15 or more eligible checklists with at least one photo or audio recording in November. Checklists must be for observations during this month, not historical checklists entered during November. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.
The USFWS Division of Migratory Birds has once again asked PA 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, 151 Sandhill Cranes were observed during the November survey. This is 25 more cranes observed than in 2014 and 53 more than in 2013. Cranes were observed in six counties: Bradford, Crawford, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Mercer and Sullivan.
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. If you know of a well-established site where cranes routinely roost at night, USFWS asks for an early survey during the period Oct 28 – Nov 4, followed by an additional survey during Nov 9-13. This is to assess changes in migration timing from historic dates. Of course, eBird records also are welcome outside of the official survey.
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.
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 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: http://www.partnersinflight.org/ 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.