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The Nature Conservancy’s Protected Lands and Waters Birding Challenge, May 10th

By dgross May 8, 2017
Long Pond

Long Pond, Monroe County, by G. Gress

The Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy is joining in its first Birding Blitz this year and we would like you to join us! The goal of the challenge is to count as many species of birds possible in one day on lands and waters protected by The Nature Conservancy. The challenge is a Conservancy-wide event and we will be competing against other chapters for the coveted “Golden Binoculars”. We are encouraging all staff, trustees, donors, volunteers, and partners to participate and help the Pennsylvania Chapter win. The 2017 event will take place on Wednesday, May 10th.

The Nature Conservancy Birding Blitz is targeting some very birdy locations in the state. In the Southeast, these include John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Philadelphia; Bristol Marsh Preserve, Bucks County; Woolman Preserve at Great Marsh, Chester County; Serpentine Barrens Preserve, Lancaster and Chester counties. In the Northeast, these include Woodbourne Preserve, Florence Shelly Preserve, and Salt Springs State Park in Susquehanna County; Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain, Lackawanna County; Thomas Darling Preserve, Long Pond Preserve, and Tannersville Cranberry Bog Preserve in Monroe County. Several of these locations are listed as Pennsylvania Important Bird Areas.

The rules for the event will follow those developed by the Virginia Chapter (see below). Prizes will be awarded for the following categories:

  1. To the single preserve or other protected property with the highest number of species seen on their count day.
  2. To the state, province or country program turning in the highest total number of species seen during the count period, across all preserves or properties surveyed.
  3. To the state, province or country program turning in the highest percentage of birds seen on the “official bird list” (excluding hypothetical and extinct birds) of the state, province or country in which the count occurred

We will be offering a variety of locations and options for experienced birders and novice birders alike. These will include Guided Hikes, which will be led by an experienced birder at a specific time and location, an Open House, which will have a staff or volunteer from The Nature Conservancy located at a property to help suggest where to look and what you might find, and a Self-Guided option where birders are welcome to explore and look for birds at any of the designated locations. All bird counts should be submitted to a designated lead counter for that location and, if possible, entered in eBird ( or through the Pennsylvania eBird portal).

Southeast Pennsylvania Locations

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge – Philadelphia – Guided Hike

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is America’s first urban refuge and was established in 1972 for the purpose of preserving, restoring, and developing the natural area known as Tinicum Marsh, to promote environmental education, and to afford visitors an opportunity to study wildlife in its natural habitat. Originally protected by The Nature Conservancy and transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Details to come…

Map and brochure

Bristol Marsh Preserve – Bucks County – Open House

Bristol Marsh is the best remaining freshwater tidal marshes in the mid-Atlantic region, occurring mainly along the banks of large rivers such as the Delaware and its tributaries. The marsh is also an isolated haven for wildlife, including many migratory waterfowl. In 1986 The Nature Conservancy started protection efforts in the marsh and recently transferred the preserve to Heritage Conservancy to continue local stewardship of the property.

More details to come…

Map and brochure

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, by Brian Byrnes

Woolman Preserve at Great Marsh – Chester County – Guided Hike

Great Marsh is located in the upper reaches of both the Brandywine and French Creek watersheds, and remains geologically unchanged since the last ice age, over 10,000 years ago. It features mature woodlands, a rare freshwater marsh and is home to many native birds, including pileated woodpeckers, and rare game birds. Originally protected by The Nature Conservancy it was recently transferred to French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust to continue local stewardship of the property.

More details to come…

Willow Flycatcher, a bird identification challenge, singing in thicket by Chuck Musitano

Serpentine Barrens Preserves – Lancaster/Chester County – Open House

Located along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, the State Line Serpentine Barrens contains some of the last major remnants of serpentine grassland in eastern North America. The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect these rare barrens habitat since 1979. With the help of several partners we have protected over 2,000 acres several sites such as; Goat Hill, Chrome, Nottingham, and Rock Springs properties.

More details to come…

Path at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, by Brian Byrnes

Northeast Pennsylvania Locations

Woodbourne Preserve – Susquehanna County – Guided Hike

Donated by the conservation-minded family of Francis R. Cope, Jr. in 1956, the property represents The Nature Conservancy’s first preserve in the state of Pennsylvania. At the Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Preserve, open fields, wildflower meadows, winding creeks, mossy bogs and historic stone walls complete a scene. The varied terrain makes the Woodbourne a hotspot for more than 180 species of birds, including pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls and winter wrens that nest within this forest that has endured for more than three centuries. In fact, Woodbourne is listed as one of Pennsylvania’s 100 best birding locations by the state Game Commission.

More details to come…

Magnolia Warbler is strongly associated with hemlocks and other conifers, A Neotropical migrant that links Pennsylvania to Mexico. by Jake Dingel

Bird watching in Susquehanna County

Florence Shelly Preserve – Susquehanna County – Open House

Located in rural Susquehanna County, the Florence Shelly Preserve boasts fields, woodlands, a stream and a glacial pond surrounded by a floating bog. The Shelley family donated the property to The Nature Conservancy in the early 1980s. The Conservancy’s acquisition of nearby Plew’s Swamp in the late 1990s completed the preserve. Florence Shelly and local volunteers identified other species at the preserve, including insectivorous sundew and pitcher plants, black bears, otters, hummingbirds and great-horned owls.

More details to come…

Bird watching in Susquehanna County

Salt Springs State Park – Susquehanna County – Open House

The 405-acre Salt Springs State Park has towering old growth hemlock trees, many estimated to be over 300 years old, and the rocky gorge cut by Fall Brook with its three waterfalls. This unique habitat and the rich diversity of natural habitats found elsewhere in the park, including mixed hardwood forests, grasslands, overgrown meadows, streams and wetlands, attract a wide variety of birds and wildlife. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded at the park.

More details to come…

Black-throated Blue Warbler male by Jake Dingel

Bird watching in Susquehanna County

Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain – Lackawanna County – Open House

In addition to providing sweeping views of Pennsylvania’s northeastern corner, the Dick & Nancy Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain represents one of the best examples of ridge-top heath barrens in the northeastern U.S. Contrary to the name, these “barrens” comprise a healthy mosaic of stunted pitch pine and scrub oak forest dominated by huckleberry, blueberry, rhodora and other low-lying shrubs. The preserve harbors an array of birds, butterflies and moths.

Dick and Nancy Eales Reserve at Moosic Mountain, Lackawanna County, by R. Rogers

Documented breeding birds include prairie warbler, black-and-white warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, hermit thrush, northern harrier and broad-winged hawk. In 2001, The Nature Conservancy purchased 1,200 acres in the heart of Moosic Mountain and since then has increased it to 2,250 acres. This would be a great place to find Golden-winged Warblers that are found in other oak barrens in the state.

More details to come…

Trail map of Moosic Mountain

Prairie Warbler by Chuck Musitano

Thomas Darling Preserve – Monroe County – Guided Hike

The preserve is comprised of a landscape evoking the area’s glacial past. That includes boreal wetlands with native black spruce, balsam fir and tamarack surrounded by a forest of northern hardwoods such as eastern hemlock and red spruce. Flowering shrubs and rare plants like bog sedge, thread rush and creeping snowberry can be found throughout the understory. The area also teems with wildlife typical of the Pocono Plateau, including black bears, eastern coyotes, snowshoe hares, beavers and a variety of breeding birds (especially boreal forest specialists) such as Canada Warbler, Osprey, Barred Owl, Black-billed Cuckoo, Alder Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Waterthrush, Nashville Warbler, Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler,  White-throated Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Purple Finch,  and Dark-eyed Junco.  Since 1990, the Conservancy has managed the 2,500 acres.

More details to come…

Trail map of the preserve

Tom Darling Preserve (Two Mile Run wetland), Monroe County, by G. Gress

Long Pond Preserve – Monroe County – Open House/Tour

The mesic till barrens at Long Pond are comprised of swamps, bogs, marshes and shallow ponds surrounded by woodlands of scrub oak, pitch pine, red spruce, balsam fir, eastern hemlock covered with a heath understory of rhodora, sheep-laurel, highbush blueberry and huckleberry bushes. This exceptionally diverse habitat attracts many species of boreal plants, insects, birds, and mammals and features rocks with glacial signatures more typical of Canada and New England. Specifically, the landscape hosts rare butterflies and moths, and birds that are declining throughout most of Pennsylvania such as Osprey, Northern Harrier, Eastern Towhee,  Eastern Whip-poor-will, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Magnolia, and Blackburnian warblers, White-throated Sparrow, and Purple Finch.  The area also hosts American Bittern and Northern Harrier—bird species not commonly observed in other parts of the region.

More details to come…

Long Pond, Monroe County, by G. Gress

Tannersville Cranberry Bog Preserve – Monroe County – Guided Hike

Birding at the Bog a guided hike at 7:00am to meet at the parking lot at 522 Cherry Lane Road, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301. While open to anyone, registration is required and limited. Call (570) 629-3061 to register. The cost of this walks is: $6/non-members; $4/Nature Conservancy, E.E. Center members and children under 12.

Standing out in vivid contrast to the surrounding Pocono Mountains landscape, Tannersville Cranberry Bog provides a snapshot of colder times when, thousands of years ago, a large glacial lake occupied the space of what has since become a thick soup of peat moss. Today, while the ice and lake have long receded, the unique ecosystem that remains serves as the southernmost low elevation boreal bog along the eastern seaboard. It would be impossible to replace if destroyed. One of The Nature Conservancy’s first preserves in Pennsylvania. The 1,000-acre property continues to serve as a conservation priority and is treasured by the local community.

Newly treated pine oak barrens at Long Pond, by Doug Gross

Here are the rules:



Protected Lands and Waters Birding Challenge Rules of the Challenge

 Objective: To count as many species of birds as possible in one day on lands and waters protected by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The count is a learning opportunity and birders of all abilities are encouraged to participate.

Area Covered: Birds may be counted on lands and waters protected by TNC in a particular state, province, country or other designated area (however no count area shall be comprised of lands or waters of more than one state, province or country). These lands and waters can include TNC preserves, land encumbered by conservation easements held by TNC or assisted by TNC but held by another entity, and “assist” or cooperatively protected lands or waters (defined as lands or waters protected with TNC’s assistance and identified as such in the Conservation Land System). Birds seen or heard from any of these lands or waters are countable. If TNC protected or assisted in the protection of a portion of a larger protected area, only birds identified on, or within one mile of, the portion protected by TNC (but still within the larger protected area) may be counted.

Time: All birds must be counted in a single calendar day (beginning at 12:00 a.m. local time and running for twenty-four (24) continuous hours). Time-outs are not permitted. Each state, provincial, or country program will choose a single day for participation in the Challenge.

Date: The count must be conducted during one day during the period Saturday, May 6, 2017, to Sunday, May 14, 2017.

Participants: Participants must be: a current or former employee of TNC; a TNC volunteer, cooperator, or donor; or a current employee of a state, provincial, federal or national conservation agency or organization that has participated in a cooperative project with TNC. Non-participating companions may accompany a participant, but shall not identify or assist in locating any birds for a participant. Each state, provincial, or country program is encouraged to use best judgement in assigning teams to certain properties and to ensure TNC SOP’s regarding volunteer participation and auto safety are followed.

Counting: Only full species recognized by the 7th edition of the American Ornithologists’ Union Checklist of North and Middle American Birds (, updated as of the 57th Supplement (July 2016), may be counted. For counts conducted in South America, only full species as recognized by the current Checklist of South American Birds ( may be counted. For species or areas outside of North, Middle, and South America, only those full species as recognized in the most current published edition of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World ( or other authority recognized by TNC Science staff may be counted. Birds may be identified by sight or sound; all birds must be identified beyond reasonable doubt. Birds identified by only one member of a party may be counted. All participants are expected to exhibit integrity beyond reproach! A species identified to genus or other group may be counted if no other species in that group have been identified (i.e., Accipiter sp., Empidonax sp.). Birds must be wild and unrestrained in order to be counted.

Audio playback: Audio playback or recordings of bird songs or calls shall not be used to attract or identify birds, either during scouting or the count day itself. Means of travel: Travel may be by any means designated by a particular count.

Information from others: Participants may scout areas prior to commencement of the count, and may use information obtained in any manner prior to the count. During the count, participants shall neither solicit nor receive assistance in locating or identifying birds from persons not participating in the count, and shall make reasonable efforts to avoid receiving such information.

Compiler: Each count shall be organized and overseen by a compiler who shall be responsible for assembling the species list, ensuring accuracy of the records, and verifying compliance with these rules. The compiler may request written details, photographs or other information from any participant who reports a species known to be rare in the count area, or out of range or season. Compilers and participants are encouraged to enter their data in eBird ( if at all possible. Upon conclusion of the count, the compiler shall submit the final species list to David Mehlman,, for the final tally.

Prizes: A total of three of the coveted “Golden Binocular” prizes will be awarded as follows.

  1. To the single preserve or other protected property with the highest number of species seen on their count day.
  2. To the state, province or country program turning in the highest total number of species seen during the count period, across all preserves or properties surveyed.
  3. To the state, province or country program turning in the highest percentage of birds seen on the “official bird list” (excluding hypothetical and extinct birds) of the state, province or country in which the count occurred. This shall be determined by dividing the number of species identified during the count period by the number of species on the official bird list. The official bird list for such state, province or country shall be the official published list of birds as determined by such area’s ornithological or birding organization, or if none, by a recognized scientific, ornithological or birding organization or conservation agency. In the U.S. and Canada, the official bird list shall be the total maintained by (

Eastern Whip-poor-will is among the aerial insectivors and young forests species in decline. Photo by Jake Dingel