Browse the events page on our website to see what's on tap through June. JVAS programs, field trips, our annual banquet and our annual picnic are all open to the public. If you want a paper copy of the schedule and don't subscribe to the Gnatcatcher, you might print out and save the relevant pages from the PDF of the latest issue. The web descriptions link to location pages with maps and, in some cases, driving directions.

We think we have a great line-up this year, including two driving tours, a special focus on Golden-winged Warblers, and a wide geographical spread — all the way from Everett to Milheim. Whether you're a fan of birds, wildflowers, herps, rocks, trees, views, or conservation issues, there's something in the calendar that ought to appeal.

The field trips listed in the Gnatcatcher and on the website are our "official" field trips, but a number of other, impromptu hikes and outings also take place throughout the year in response to weather events, fickle wildflower blooming dates, and other things that favor more last-minute planning. To learn about these, we encourage everyone to "like" the Juniata Valley Audubon Society Facebook page and check it at least once a week.

The January-February 2015 Gnatcatcher (Vol XLVII, No. 1) has just been published to the web. You can download the PDF or read it via

Subscribers to the print edition should be getting it in their mailboxes in a few days, and if you've signed up for the electronic edition (thank you!), look for an email containing the PDF link.

Highlights of this issue include news about an exciting event upcoming in April, the Golden-winged Warbler Weekend; a review of Berndt Heinrich's book Winter World; Golden Eagle migration reports from Jacks and Stone Mountains; news about a research team in Honduras that JVAS Vice-President Mark Bonta is involved with, and their success in radio-tagging a rare species of bellbird; and descriptions of JVAS winter and spring field trips and programs.

Thanks to Alan and Terri Swann for all their work on putting the issue out, Charlie Hoyer for assistance with mailing, and JVAS President Laura Jackson for helping to round up articles and other content.

Marzoni's logoReservation and payment are due by Tuesday, Nov. 18 if you'd like to join us for the Christmas Bird Count supper on December 20. We'll be meeting at 5:30 at Marzoni's Brick Oven & Brewing Co. at Pinecroft, 1830 E. Pleasant Valley Blvd, Altoona. (Here's a map.)

You don't have to participate in the count to join us for dinner!

The meal will be buffet style with three delicious Italian entrées from the Banquet Menu:

  • Eggplant Parmigiana (Meatless)
  • Beef Tips Marsala with mashed potatoes and vegetables
  • Chicken Alfredo

Also included:

  • Fresh Garden Salad
  • Unlimited Bread Sticks
  • Soft drinks, Juice, Coffee, and Tea (Free Refills)

Marzoni's own, hand-crafted beer is available at an additional cost.

Only $18 per person (includes gratuity). Make check payable to Laura Jackson and mail to:
8621 Black Valley Road
Everett, PA 15537
or pay at the Nov. 18 JVAS program meeting.

For more information on the Christmas Bird Count, see the event description, and be sure to read CBC compiler Steve Bonta's article on the front page of the Gnatcatcher.

cover of Second ATlas of BReeding Birds of PennsylvaniaThe Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania is available at a special discount of 25% off the list price of $64.95, particularly to Audubon Chapters, until December 15.

This beautiful book presents stunning photographs, detailed maps, and compelling descriptions for nearly 200 nesting bird species. Two thousand dedicated birdwatchers – including many Audubon members – contributed the data which provides a comprehensive understanding of the distribution of each species and shows in detail the changes in distribution since the first Atlas.

This beautiful book may be ordered by:

  • Phone: Call 800-326-9180 and pay with credit card between 8:00 am and 4:30pm, Monday-Friday.
  • Mail a check to:
    Penn State University Press
    University Support Bldg. 1, Suite C
    University Park, PA 16802-1003
    In amount of: $56.63 (tax and shipping included for 1 book)
  • Or go to the Penn State Press website, add to cart, and enter the discount code WS14 upon check-out.

For each of these methods, reference the "WS14" discount code for 25% off and reduced shipping.

1 Comment

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We’d like to recognize Terri and Alan Swann as the new editors of The Gnatcatcher. They are JVAS members who have graciously donated their time and talents to produce a top quality newsletter. We really appreciate their efforts!

This issue introduces a couple of exciting new features, in addition to the usual mix of conservation and club news. Laura Jackson, JVAS President, is encouraging members to submit book reviews, original poetry, and nature articles for future issues of the newsletter. Please send your submissions to Laura at

UPDATE: Despite opposition from fishermen, birders, and conservationists, HB 1565 was signed into law by Governor Corbett during the last days of the 2014 legislative session.

A letter published in the Oct. 4, 2014 Altoona Mirror.

Juniata Valley Audubon urges our state legislators to oppose House Bill 1565 which eliminates the requirement to have forested buffers along streams designated as High Quality or Exceptional Value. HB 1565 would be a step backward and would unnecessarily jeopardize the Commonwealth’s most sensitive waters.

Riparian buffers are an essential component of watershed management, providing numerous physical, chemical, and biological benefits that include reduction of non-point source runoff, attenuation of flood flows, and maintenance of stream water temperatures and aquatic habitat.

By their very nature as being designated the “best of the best,” the High Quality and Exceptional Value streams for which buffers currently are required represent a minority of waters. Further limiting its scope, the existing requirement applies only to new development and includes a number of exceptions. Thus, the current scale of required buffers is already relatively minimal statewide.

Riparian buffers are the least expensive, most effective, and lowest maintenance approach to sustaining water quality and reducing the harmful impacts of erosion, sedimentation, and flooding.

By opposing HB 1565 our lawmakers will contribute to the long-term health and maintenance of Pennsylvania’s water resources, the recreational and ecological functions they support, and the downstream communities they serve.


Laura Jackson
Juniata Valley Audubon


Edward Henry Wehner engravaing of the albatross from Rime of the Ancient MarinerWhat???? It's true, we are spending thousands of dollars each year to print and mail The Gnatcatcher. It has become a significant financial burden for JVAS, just as the dead albatross became a burden to the sailor in Coleridge's poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

If you currently receive the print edition as a chapter-only or a National Audubon member, we need your help so we can keep The Gnatcatcher.

Email me, Laura Jackson, at and just state that you will accept the digital version of The Gnatcatcher. When each issue comes out, we'll simply email you the download link.

Your email will be a wonderful conservation donation that won't cost you a dime and it will let us keep The Gnatcatcher!

There are a number of advantages with the digital version:

  • The photos will be in color.
  • You will get The Gnatcatcher sooner.
  • You will feel good that you are helping to preserve the financial stability of JVAS.

We pledge to keep your email address confidential. We will not share it with other organizations or companies.

front page of GnatcatcherThe September/October issue of JVAS' newsletter the Gnatcatcher includes an original nature essay by Marcia Bonta as well as a full explanation for why everyone who attends our September program meeting will receive a roll of toilet paper. You can read it on Issuu or download the PDF from our online Gnatcatcher archive.

The issue includes a full schedule of programs and field trips through December, which are also now here on the website. (The web descriptions link to the field trip locations on Google maps, may may be of use in finding some of the more obscure places.)

UPDATE: We have new editors: Terri and Alan Swann. Thanks to everyone who expressed interest.

Finally, we desperately need a new volunteer to edit the Gnatcatcher. Our previous editor, Ruby Becker, has had to step back due to other commitments, and her predecessor Charlie Hoyer was able to take over for the Sept/Oct issue (thanks, Charlie!) but now we do need a new editor. If you have decent copy-editing and organizational skills and are handy with word-processing software, we'd love to hear from you. Both Ruby and Charlie are perfectionists with intimidatingly good design skills, but we'd be satisfied with a much more basic approach, as long as the content is good and the issues are ready in time. The newsletter is published 4 - 6 times a year. The editor does not have to provide content, as members will provide articles and information for each issue. Anyone interested should email JVAS President Laura Jackson: mljackson2 [at] for more details.

Laura Jackson, incoming JVAS President, presents the 2014 Conservation Award to Ron Singer, founder of the Jacks Mountain Hawk Watch
Laura Jackson, incoming JVAS President, presents the 2014 Conservation Award to Ron Singer, founder of the Jacks Mountain Hawk Watch

The Juniata Valley Audubon Society 2014 Conservation Award was presented to Ron Singer, the founder of the Jacks Mountain Hawk Watch, at our Annual Banquet in April. Ron started watching migrating birds on Jacks Mountain in Mifflin Co. almost 40 years ago, before many people knew that the mountains in the ridge and valley province in Pennsylvania were critical flyways for thousands of birds. Ron's particular interest was documenting the hawks and eagles that migrate over Jacks each year. Ron is still very active today, as he is the main facilitator and compiler of the Hawk Watch. Ron organizes a fall hawk watch each year, and all data is sent to the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). You can access this data on the Jacks Mountain page at

Because of his love of the mountains that surround him, Ron has helped with Mid-State Trail 
maintenance and he was instrumental in organizing a large-scale clean-up project along the sides of the Jacks Mountain Overlook which removed huge amount of trash that had been dumped there for decades.

Ron spends innumerable hours on top of Jacks sharing his love of migrating raptors and his expert identification skills with everyone who stops during the migration season. His leadership and dedication to the Jacks Mountain Hawk Watch has also ignited a larger group of people to form known as Friends of Jacks Mountain. This new organization is a community action group that was formed because the Jacks Mountain Hawk watch is threatened by industrial wind turbine development on Jacks Mountain.

The Juniata Valley Audubon Society 2014 Conservation Award honors Ron’s dedication to observing and documenting raptor migration, as well as founding and maintaining the Hawk Watch at Jacks Mountain.


Jacks Mountain commemorative patch featuring a broadwinged hawk
Jacks Mountain commemorative patch

The Jacks Mountain Hawk Watch has a commemorative patch for sale. Email Ron Singer at if you would like to purchase one for $5.70, which includes shipping. The patch features a Broad-winged Hawk, since thousands of them migrate over Jacks each fall.

You can learn more about the Jacks Mountain Hawk Watch at their webpage.

Pink lady's-slipper orchids at Rocky Ridge
Pink lady's-slipper orchids at Rocky Ridge (photo by Stan Kotala)

It's been a cold spring, but the warblers are returning on schedule, and the wildflowers are slowly beginning to catch up. By Mother's Day weekend, the woods and meadows should be bursting with activity, and I don't imagine very many readers of this post will be willing to remain indoors, even if it's raining. So plan to join us for the annual Terry Wentz Memorial Hike on the Lower Trail led by Alice Kotala. It will be an easy, five-mile hike from Mount Etna to Alfarata along our area's premiere rail-trail through an outstanding example of a Ridge and Valley riparian forest.

More than 150 species of birds have been identified along the Lower Trail, and if you go on the hike, be sure to take note of everything you see and hear, because the second Saturday in May is also Pennsylvania Annual Migration Count (PAMC) and International Migratory Bird Day. This is a more informal count than the Christmas Bird Count, but the data is still of great use to ornithologists and ecologists tracking the movements and numbers of neotropical migrants, especially as climate change takes hold. There's a compiler for each county; the complete list is on the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology website. As Blair County compiler Michael David explains,

This is a fairly unstructured event – simply go birding anywhere in the state on the 10th and, to the best of your ability, identify and count every bird you see. Record the time you started and stopped and how far you walked and drove and that’s it!

The Lower Trail hike doesn't begin until 1:00, so you have all morning to go birding in your neighborhood or back forty.

The eponymous Rocky Ridge
The eponymous Rocky Ridge (photo by Stan Kotala)

Finally, on Mother's Day itself, I'm leading a wildflower ramble with my mother, naturalist-writer Marcia Bonta, through one of central Pennsylvania’s best spots for spring wildflowers — not to mention the Oriskany sandstone rock formations that give this state forest natural area its name. It will be fun to see what's in bloom this year. Photographers are welcome (but be very careful to stay on trail and not trample anything). We meet there at 10:00. Go to the event listing for full details and a good map.

To whet your appetite, read Stan Kotala’s “On the Trail” column about the place.