blue-gray gnatcatcher with its mouth openThe latest issue of the Gnatcatcher, the newsletter of Juniata Valley Audubon, is available for download and online viewing. (If you receive the paper edition, it should be arriving in mailboxes soon.) Articles in this issue include a message from the president, Laura Jackson, about saving the owls and other raptors on Amherst Island from industrial wind development; a profile of v-p Mark Bonta and his community conservation work; photos from recent JVAS field trips; reviews of two nature-related novels, Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash and Martin Marten by Brian Doyle, which sound as if they would make fine Christmas presents; information on how to take part in our annual Christmas Bird Count; and much more. Check it out!

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Resplendent Quetzal
Resplendent Quetzal (photo: Honduran Conservation Coalition)

Dates: Feb. 17 - 28, 2016

Cost: $1,500 + airfare

Are you a birder eager to explore one of Latin America’s hottest emerging destinations, but also interested in helping ensure that the birds and habitats you visit will be around for others to enjoy in the future? Do you also want to learn about other aspects of Honduran nature, and experience Honduran culture? And, would you like to travel comfortably, yet save big over other birding/natural history tours? The Honduran Conservation Coalition offers you an ethical, affordable alternative.

Participants should see over 300 species of birds, a variety of habitats from coast to mid-altitude rain forests, and will visit some outstanding efforts by Hondurans to protect the environment and educate their citizens on birds and conservation.

Trip leaders: JVAS vice president Dr. Mark Bonta, a Penn State Altoona geography professor and recognized authority on Honduran culture and nature, with 25 years’ experience in Honduras; and Gilberto Flores-Walter, bilingual Honduran birder and coffee farmer, as well as vice-president of the Honduran Ornithological Association.

The tour is limited to 10 paying participants, so email Mark right away if you are interested:

Additional information: Birding for Conservation: Honduras 2016 [PDF]
Registration form [PDF]

And don't miss our October program, Honduras: Wildlife, Parks, and People (Tuesday, Oct 20, 7:00 pm in the Bellwood-Antis Public Library). Mark Bonta, Ian McGregor, and John Dibert will describe their trips to some of Honduras’s most important protected areas.

Superb Bird of Paradise
The Superb Bird of Paradise. Its breast feathers were used in headdresses.

The Juniata Valley Audubon Society's September meeting will feature a program on Collecting and Conservation in Papua New Guinea. Join us at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at the Bellwood-Antis Public Library for gorgeous photos and captivating stories of adventure. Ron Johnson will describe his three expeditions to the second largest island in the world — home to more than 700 species of birds, including 33 birds of paradise. Johnson will explain the importance of the expeditions, tribal culture diversity and the urgency to preserve the world’s third largest rainforest.

Ron Johnson was Curator of Birds at Jacksonville, Minnesota and Miami Zoos. He recently retired from the University of Wisconsin as an Aquaculture Outreach Specialist. He now lives in Pennsylvania and is a member of JVAS.

As an added bonus, Papua New Guinea regional "treats" will be offered at the meeting. JVAS Programs, designed for a general audience, are free and open to the public.

Directions: Take I-99 to the Bellwood/Route 865 Exit (Exit 41). Follow Rt. 865 through the Sheetz/Martin intersection. Proceed about four blocks and turn right at the “Business District” sign just before the railroad overpass. Turn left at the dead end and travel to the stop sign. Continue a short distance; the library will be on your right.

red maple leafIt may be another month until the autumn equinox, but the fall season is already officially underway at JVAS. The September-October issue of the Gnatcatcher is available for download, along with a separate brochure that includes descriptions of all the programs and field trips through December. Those events are also all now listed on the website, and include a number of interesting offerings, such as a presentation on collecting and conservation in Papua New Guinea, a demonstration of Appalachian Trail hiking strategies followed by a trip to the movie theater to watch A Walk in the Woods, and a workshop on how to use eBird at Canoe Creek State Park. We're also listing the Bedford County Christmas Bird Count this year as well as the one we've traditionally organized in Blair County, for all of you who can't get enough of CBC festivities. We hope to see you at our monthly program meetings at the Bellwood-Antis Public Library as well as out in the woods, to share what we hope will be a fun-filled and beautiful autumn in central Pennsylvania.

Gone Piching group photo
(l-r) Ian McGregor, Mark Bonta, and Catherine Kilgus

Congratulations are in order to Mark Bonta (JVAS Vice President and Education Chair), Ian McGregor (Conservation Chair) and Catherine Kilgus. Their team, Gone Pishing, braved the elements last weekend and nabbed 100 bird species in 24 hours to win the Potter Mug at the Shaver's Creek 2015 Birding Cup. The Potter Mug is awarded to a team with a majority of members who have only been birding for less than a year.

We've just released the May-June 2015 Gnatcatcher (Vol XLVII, No. 3). Download the PDF or read it at Issuu. You'll find stories about a six-year project to preserve open space and to recognize a historic agricultural area at Dutch Corner, a field trip through periglacial and proglacial landscapes of central PA, the bluebird trail at Fort Roberdeau County Park, a new book called Welcome to Subirdia, upcoming activities and programs, and more. How well do you know your spring wildflowers? Test your knowledge with a photographic quiz! There's information about our new Golden-winged Warbler t-shirt, our exhibition at the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators Conference, and a proposed change in our bylaws. Find out who our National Audubon Society "veterans" are. View art and photos by JVAS' talented members.

It's worth pointing out that all the articles in this issue were contributed by JVAS members—this is information you won't get anywhere else. Interested in adding your voice? Contact Laura Jackson, or 814-652-9268. We're always looking for new content about nature in central Pennsylvania.

Thanks once again to Alan and Terri Swann for putting the issue together. Read back issues of the Gnatcatcher at our website.

Call or email JVAS Hospitality Chair Marcia Bonta to make reservations for the April 21, 2014 JVAS Spring Banquet: 814-684-3113 or Also, even if you can't attend, please consider donating new or gently used nature-related items to the silent auction: books, artwork, crafts, bird boxes, native plants, clothing, jewelry... anything that might appeal to someone who loves nature and the outdoors. Contact JVAS President Laura Jackson if you have something to donate: 814-652-9268 or

The dinner is at Hoss's Steak & Sea House in Duncansville, whose all-you-can-eat buffet includes vegetarian options. The silent auction begins at 5:30 PM and dinner is at 6:00, followed by the presentation of our annual conservation award and a multimedia presentation on Golden-Winged Warblers. The featured speaker is ecologist Jeff Larkin, accompanied by his student D.J. McNeil, and they'll be talking about their research on monitoring the response of Golden-winged Warblers to habitat management. See the event description for more information, including a map and directions.

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The field trip to Dunning's Creek Wetlands, originally scheduled for March 14, has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 28.

The ice is slow to thaw at Dunning’s Creek Wetlands and the waterfowl are elsewhere, so we are postponing the field trip. Even the March 28 date is tentative; if the spring thaw is too fast, then flooding will be a big problem. We may have to cancel the March 28 trip, if flooding occurs.

We still plan to meet at Eat 2 Live Bistro at 8:30 AM on Saturday, March 28 and will carpool to Dunning's Creek Wetlands. Lunch at Eat 2 Live Bistro is optional. Eat 2 Live Bistro is located along Rt. 56 at the former location of Apple Bin Restaurant. (Directions here.)

Killdeer have been reported on the farm fields, ring-billed gulls are migrating through to the Great Lakes, and red-winged blackbirds are arriving!!! Spring is in the air.

Please let Laura know if you plan to attend the March 28 field trip (

The March-April 2015 Gnatcatcher has just been published to the web. Thanks to editors Alan and Terri Swann and content-wrangler Laura Jackson for all their work. There are three downloads this month: the issue itself and two supplements:

March-April 2015 Gnatcatcher
Golden-winged Warbler Weekend agenda and registration
JVAS Membership Reminder

Alternatively, here's the issue in an online reader, via

Highlights of the issue include descriptions of upcoming programs, field trips, and the banquet; an article on how to inculcate a life-long appreciation of raptors in kids; two book reviews; a report on the 2014 Christmas Bird Count; and the President's message. Think spring! Trout lilies and warblers will be here before you know it.


Male Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged Warblers are one of Pennsylvania's most beautiful songbirds, but this secretive warbler is in trouble, partly due to habitat loss in its breeding range right here in Pennsylvania.

We know that many people are interested in knowing more about Golden-winged Warblers, so Juniata Valley Audubon Society has partnered with Audubon PA and Penn State Altoona to do a two-day workshop on the identification, biology, and conservation of these beautiful birds. The free workshop, which we are calling the Golden-winged Warbler Weekend, will be held on Friday and Saturday, April 10 – 11, 2015 at the Penn State Altoona campus.

Our speakers will share their research on the biology and habitat needs of Golden-winged Warblers in Pennsylvania, as well as in Honduras, where many Golden-winged Warblers spend their winter. On Saturday afternoon we will have interactive sessions so participants can choose between programs that address conservation work in Pennsylvania or conservation programs in Honduras.

The Vice-President of Juniata Valley Audubon Society, Dr. Mark Bonta, is active in bird conservation programs in Honduras. He has connections with researchers in Honduras, as well as Honduran conservationists, who need our help in protecting Golden-winged Warblers on their winter range. We hope to form a coalition of volunteers who are willing to promote conservation projects in Honduras. Saturday's afternoon session will provide details on how we can take those critical steps toward forging international connections. Private forest landowners are also encouraged to attend the conference, as details will be share on funding that is available for habitat conservation work on private lands using WHIP funding through NRCS.

You can attend the free programs on just one, or both days. The only charge will be for the Golden-winged Warbler Dinner Party, which is a buffet held at Marzoni's Brick Oven & Brewing Company near the campus. More details are on the agenda.

Young Golden-winged Warblers on nestThe registration form is located at the bottom of the PDF version of the agenda. Please return the registration portion of the agenda, if you are interested in attending, as well as payment for the dinner party, if you plan to join us for dinner. Please mail the registration form and dinner payment to Laura Jackson as soon as possible:

We look forward to meeting you at the workshop. It should be a great opportunity to learn more about Golden-winged Warblers and how we can help keep them off the Endangered Species List.