Since 2012, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania has been partnering with Pennsylvania landowners and farmers to help conserve four species of grassland raptors in decline across the state: American Kestrel, Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier. The Pennsylvania Game Commission recommends that people participate in this worthy project. All participation is voluntary and because farmland raptors benefit farmers by consuming rodents and insects, many farmland owners are happy to participate and enjoy seeing raptors flying above their fields. The Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier are listed as Endangered and Threatened, respectfully, in Pennsylvania, so, sightings of these species in the breeding season help the Pennsylvania Game Commission and its partners conserve these species better. Not only do we encourage people to participate in the Farmland Raptor Project but also to add their grassland bird data to eBird.
We are asking for some special assistance from the birding community this nesting season. In the past two years we have had no records of Short-eared Owls nesting in Pennsylvania, and over the past few years we have had few reports overall. We want to focus our attention on this species this year and try to determine if there are any nest sites left. We are seeking your assistance to check on historical sites where owls used to nest (we can provide those locations) or checking large grasslands at dusk to see if they might be nesting. Observations of these species on reclaimed strip mines also are welcome.
It’s that time of year again! In only a few days we will celebrate and participate in Global Big Day. Your contributions to the past two Global Big Days have set back-to-back world records for the most bird species seen in a single day. As devout local and world birders, Pennsylvanians play a big part in Global Big Day. Last year’s Global Big Day featured more than 60% of the world’s bird species in a single day, with sightings coming in from more than 17,500 eBirders spread across 154 countries. Thank you for making this possible. Want to be a part of the fun again? If you need an excuse to go enjoy birds on a lovely weekend day in May, we’ve got you covered. Read more for some tips on maximizing your Global Big Day experience.
Pennsylvania is one of the best-represented states in the Union for eBird. And, our state sends many birders to the Neotropics for birding adventures. Tour companies and NGOs with international birding and conservation focus are based in our state. So, this Global Big Day is a real nature for the state’s birders. And, this day reminds us of how our birds connect our state with the rest of the world. Prairie Warblers singing now in our state were in Jamaica only a few weeks ago. Wood Thrushes from Pennsylvania migrate to and from Honduras and Nicaragua. There, these birds mix with the locals including motmots, todies, trogons, and a host of other tropicals. So, visit your favorite hot spots or adopt new ones to add to the Global Big Day totals.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is responsible for protecting heron populations and tracking their distribution in the state. For 2017 we are conducting a comprehensive survey of heron colonies. The goal is to count all the nests of each species, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-herons, at each site creating a “snapshot” of the distribution of nesting herons statewide. The Great Egret and the two night-heron species are considered Pennsylvania Endangered.
If you know where herons are nesting, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Please do not assume that someone else will report local nests.
With such widely distributed species and limited resources, we rely on the help of volunteers like you to improve our understanding of their distribution and numbers. Even though many heron colonies are documented across the Commonwealth, you may know about colonies that we don’t. Heron colonies can be occupied for several years, but they are sometimes abandoned and new colonies appear elsewhere. We may not know about these newer colonies. Your contributions are critical to improving our information and developing the most complete picture possible of the current status of Pennsylvania’s heron populations. The information will be used to update the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program database and provide protection for colonies.
Every observation you submit to eBird is valuable, and with roughly 400 million records gathered so far, eBird has grown into one of the premier information sources on bird occurrence and abundance around the world. Importantly, eBird data are curated, managed, and made freely available for education, research, and conservation use, and tens of thousands of people download eBird data each year. But how are these data actually being used out there in the real world? A recently published paper in the journal Biological Conservation examines this question, and highlights how eBird data are being used in a broad array of conservation applications around the world. The effort you put into collecting data on birds is truly making a difference! Thank you. Read on to find out more, or jump straight to the article here.
The journal Biological Conservation has given open access to this article until 18 May 2017. To read the full article visit this URL, and please share it broadly!
After 18 May 2017, the article can be found at this DOI:
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Goshawk Project, which is run by a subcommittee of the Ornithological Technical Committee (OTC) of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey (PABS), we invite birders to contribute goshawk sightings to our research and conservation efforts. The Game Commission is cooperating with this project and protecting goshawk nests on its properties. The Northern Goshawk is one of the rarest nesting raptors in the state and a notably elusive and secretive species. It is a flagship species of the big woods and the wildest parts of the state, sometimes called the “ultimate forest raptor” due to its size, wildness, and fierceness. So, we always wish for more information about the goshawk nests and territories. It currently is considered “Near Threatened” in the state. The state’s birders have contributed a great deal to our knowledge of Northern Goshawk primarily through their reports to the two breeding bird atlas projects and privately to agency staff. The maps of the two Atlas projects, separated by 25 years, seem to indicate that there is a smaller nesting population occupying less of the state than previously. For more information about the PABS goshawk committee’s research, visit www.pabiologicalsurvey.org/goshawk. There you can find images and audio to aid identification as well as forms, instructions, and contact information. Goshawk reports can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any goshawk observations during the breeding season, from late March to June, on game lands should be sent to email@example.com. Reports to either the Pennsylvania Goshawk Project or the Game Commission will be treated as confidential.
The Festival of the Birds is timed to showcase the peak of songbird migration through Presque Isle State Park in Erie. This event is timed well with spring songbird migration on May 5, 6, and 7, 2017. The event offers desirable migrant species without large crowds of spectators. This year’s keynote speaker is Scott Weidensaul. Every full-weekend registrant will receive a copy of Weidensaul’s book, Return To Wild America. The festival offers field trips, workshops, dinner, and Weidensaul’s keynote address: The Story of Project SNOWstorm, a venture that uses cutting-edge tracking technology to study Snowy Owls. Many Pennsylvanians have been involved with the Snowy Owl project, which is based at the Ned Smith Center and involves many ornithologists and organizations on a continental scale. Although rare winter visitors, Snowy Owls visit Presque Isle as often as any place in the state. This is an intimate festival limited to 150 attendees. The park offers multiple and distinct habitats, all hosting a wide assortment of avian life. It is certainly one of the best birding spots in the state, offering a bit of the Lake Erie shore, wetlands, woods, and scrub. You never know what you will see at Presque Isle! Register and pay online for the festival. Details about the schedule and leaders as well as registration information can be found at http://www.presqueisleaudubon.org/festival.html.
The 2017 Working Together for Wildlife patch features the charming and popular Eastern Chipmunk. The “chippy” is a popular mammal of the eastern deciduous forest and widespread in our state. They can be found in almost any visit to a state game land, a state park, or a state forest. We have several in our own backyard raiding our garden and our feeders. They may be in hibernation now in the cold winter months but expect to see some poke their head out of their den hole in late February or March. When they do emerge from hibernation, chipmunks are very comical and fun to watch but they really are very territorial animals, fighting off intruders to their territories. Unlike many mammals, chipmunks are diurnal with most of their activity in mid-day. They have an extensive vocal repertoire that any birder should get to know to avoid misidentifying this rodent as a bird. Of course, they “chip” as their name suggests but they also utter a low “chuck” call frequently misidentified by anyone outdoors as some songbird. Its “chip-trill” call is often given with a tail twitch when it is disturbed by a hawk, cat, or perambulating human. Broad-winged Hawks, accipiters, owls, foxes, and cats often prey on chipmunks. On the other hand (or paw), chipmunks have a varied diet that includes many nuts, fruits, mushrooms, insects, earthworms, salamanders, and small snakes as well as the contents of bird nests. Despite some of their predatory habits, it is hard not to like chipmunks.
Your purchase of a Working Together for Wildlife patch supports the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Diversity program and its many projects.
Sharing is caring. This month’s eBirder of the Month Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, is all about birding with others. This could be a day in the field with a long-time birding friend that you’ve been checking the local lake with for 30 years, or someone who is just starting. They could be an eBirder already, or somebody who like birds but hasn’t started eBirding yet. Many bird clubs hold field trips with a list of commonly observed birds. Rare transient species often congregate birders in one spot leading to shared observations and discoveries. The Ross’s Gull at Tupper Lake, New York, the Snowy Owl in Bradford County, the Townsend’s Warbler in Bloomsburg, the Black-backed Oriole in Berks County, and the Slaty-backed Gull at Lake Erie are just some examples of rare bird magnets. The eBirder of the Month will be chosen from all eligible shared checklists submitted during February. Each shared checklist that you’re a part of gives you one chance to win. These lists could be shared with you from another person, or shared from you to someone else—the only requirement is that all people on the shared checklist were a part of the birding event. These checklists must be entered, shared, and accepted by the last day of the month in order to qualify for the drawing. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.
The Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (PSO) is planning several events and field trips for 2017. It invites everyone interested in birds to participate. This is a great way to learn new birds, see new places, and make new friends. The PSO is a leading birding organization of the state, publishing the PSO Pileated Newsletter and Pennsylvania Birds, a quarterly journal about the state’s birds. It also is a partner with the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, PA eBird, and various monitoring projects of the Pennsylvania Game Commission including monitoring Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon eyries, Osprey nests, and the colonial waterbird surveys. Many members also belong to Audubon Society Chapters and contribute to those projects. Contributing data to eBird also supports the conservation programs of several organizations. These PSO field trips and other events directly lead to more eBird reports. And, PSO members also just have a great time going out birding on trips together in the state and outside it. Members lead field trips to birding hotspots, acting as guides and mentors to new birders or birders who are new to a special place. The calendar of events follows:
Is this the year Pennsylvania finally breaks out of the “runner up” position and takes over as the number ONE contributor to the Great Backyard Bird Count?? Well, that’s really up to you! As birders, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed your experience with the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) and recognize the importance your data has to this snapshot of global bird populations. Why not recruit a “newbie” to participate this year? Maybe they weren’t ready for the tundra-like conditions of the Christmas Bird Count. No excuses with the GBBC…they can bird from the indoors! It provides a great introduction to those who until now, have only enjoyed birding vicariously through tales of your Central American adventures and bird-chasing escapades. Our state was second last year among the 50 states contributing checklists to the GBBC. Let’s be first!
Pennsylvania needs about 3,000 new checklists (that just 750 new people submitting a checklist for each of the count’s four days Feb 17-20) to put us over the top and overtake the count’s top state participant, California. Yes, this is an east-west rivalry and we’re fired up! Not since the 2001 Sixers-Lakers battle or the recent classic Rose Bowl game between Penn State and the University of South California have we witnessed anything like this!
The 2017 event will be the twentieth for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Let’s make it a big one.