After suspending field trips last year because of COVID-19, we have cautiously reinstated them, along with our first, tentative in-person program meeting in October at the Bellwood library. As it says in the latest issue of The Gnatcatcher, this latter event is subject to change. If you would like to be notified about that, and we don't already have your email on our mailing list, let us know at [email protected]. For the field trips, we ask that you wear a mask if you're unvaccinated, and please follow any other CDC/PA guidelines that may be in effect.
The Earth Week Birding Classic will be held from April 15 to 25, 2021. Registration is free. The goal is for teams in seven different categories to count as many species of birds as possible over a 24-hour period any time during the week beginning on Apr 15 at noon and ending at noon on April 25. This non-profit event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona and Juniata Valley Audubon Society. Pledges that team members garner will support bird conservation and education in central Pennsylvania. Teams of 3 or more (2 or more for Senior citizens) will count birds in Blair and surrounding counties, and prizes will be awarded during the closing ceremony on Zoom immediately following the event. Registration deadline is April 11. For more information, please contact Catherine Farr at [email protected]
RULES & GUIDELINES
Date and Time. Tallying of species may commence at 12:00 PM on April 15 and concludes at 11:59:59:59 AM on April 25. Teams may tally during any 24-hour period beginning at any time prior to 12 PM on April 25. Teams pick a start day and time when they register; they may change this no later than April 11th, the deadline for registration. Pre-registration is required, and free.
The closing event will occur on the Zoom beginning at 1:00 PM on April 25. An email link will be provided to teams at the time of registration. Please contact the organizer, Catherine Farr ([email protected])
All teams competing for prizes must arrive and submit their checklists and pledge forms no later than 1:30 PM (otherwise, submit electronically to the organizers by the end of the day). Winners will be announced, and prizes awarded at 2:00 PM. Prizes will be mailed to team captains. Please note that certain species may require additional documentation to be considered valid (see Checklist). This may mean a descriptive species report, and if possible, photo evidence or sound recording.
Teams are HIGHLY ENCOURAGED but not required to utilize eBird to report their records. They may do this on their phones as they go from place to place, and data can be temporarily hidden if desired (though checking others’ eBird lists is not allowed during the event). For this reason, it is necessary to keep track of numbers of individual birds seen for each species.
Count Area: The geographic area covered by this Birding Classic is Blair County and all counties that border it: Centre, Clearfield, Cambria, Bedford, and Huntingdon. All wild bird species recorded from within the county borders are valid. Counters, as well as birds, must be physically located within one of the counties. It is helpful to have a smartphone to track exact location, in case your team is at the edge of the count area.
Count area for Penn State Altoona campuses: a separate map will be provided to teams covering only the campuses, which include all contiguous (connected) land owned by Penn State on the Ivyside Campus and on the Downtown Campus, as well as in the Seminar Forest. Teams restricting their counting to the campuses can only count birds seen from within the physical boundaries of the campuses, but these may include species perched or flying outside campuses. Teams may not count birds seen when teams are travelling between campuses. Study maps are available at http://www.altoona.psu.edu/aboutus/maps.php.
Team Categories: Prizes will be awarded to the highest number of species counted and verified in each category. Teams can compete in only one category other than Ruffed Grouse, which they are automatically entered to win (teams can choose to enter ONLY Ruffed Grouse category, if they wish—see below).
- COOT. Senior Citizens (65 and over) only
- OSPREY. Penn State students only
- TOWHEE. Limited to a single county
- MALLARD. Limited to the grounds of Penn State Altoona, including the Seminar Forest
- PIPIT. On foot only – team members may not use any other form of transportation while counting
- PHOEBE. Families only. Must include at least one adult.
- RUFFED GROUSE. Most species recorded anywhere in the region; winner receives Grand Prize for the Classic
All teams must register for one category only and can win only one category.
If the team winning the RUFFED GROUSE grand prize was registered for another category, the prize for its originally registered category will go to the second place team registered in that category.
A team registered originally only in the RUFFED GROUSE category that does NOT win that category will not be considered eligible to win another category. Strategically, then, COOTs and OSPREYs, who are not limited to a single county, should register for these categories to be automatically considered for the RUFFED GROUSE prize as well, and not the other way around.
All teams must stay together at all times (within earshot and sight of each other) during the 24-hour period or during the periods that they are counting species (breaks may be taken for sleep or other non-Classic activities, and participants may go to different locations before meeting again later). No species may be counted or scouted during any off periods when the team splits up. If the team does not split up, then all species encountered during the 24-hour period can be counted. Teams may count for as little time or as much time as they wish within their chosen 24-hour period.
The original conformation of the team (at the start of the 24-hour period) is the only one valid for counting species, unless members leave the team and do not rejoin, and the team number stays above the required minimum. Thus, NEW members may not join the team after the beginning of the event, BUT the team remains valid if its numbers are reduced during the course of the Classic, down to the minimum of two or three members.
Teams must consist of at least three members, of any age (except the COOTS and PHOEBES; see below). 75% of team members must ID each species. With three members, all three must ID each species for that species to count, though not necessarily at the same time during the 24-hour period. With four members, 3 of the four must record each species for it to be valid; for 5 members, four must ID; etc.
COOT category: Seniors teams may have two or more members. All members must be 65 years of age or older by the 15th of April. 75% or more of members must ID all species, as above. Coots may bird anywhere in the 6-county area.
OSPREY category: Must consist only of Penn State students, who must be currently enrolled full-time at any campus, including World Campus. Ospreys may bird anywhere in the 6-county area.
MALLARD category: the campus teams can be comprised of anyone, not just students.
PIPIT category: for the on-foot teams, no non-foot (or non-wheelchair) transportation may be used at all during the counting period/s. This includes horse, bicycle, canoe, etc. If the team breaks up for non-Classic activities, members must return to the exact spot they ended at before the break, and begin counting on foot from that spot. Pipits may bird anywhere in the 6-county area.
TOWHEE category: for the single-county teams, any county in the Count Area is valid. All birds recorded in or from the chosen county are valid.
PHOEBE category: At least one family member must be an adult (18 or over) and at least one family member must be a child (under 18). Phoebes may bird anywhere in the 6-county area.
ETHICS: Please follow the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics if in doubt. In general, do not unduly disturb birds, though “pishing” is allowed. No playing of tape to coax out birds is allowed, though calls may be identified using online resources. Calling for owls or other birds using solely team member’s vocal chords is allowed.
DO NOT enter private property except with explicit permission. Birds on private property seen from public rights-of-way are valid.
Be very careful on highways; use flashers if necessary, and do not block traffic.
Birds must be seen or heard to be considered valid.
Domestic species do not count.
It is not permissible during the count period to solicit information on species locations from non-team members.
It is not permissible to track others’ records on eBird, or to access rare bird alerts or other means of finding out where species have been found. This should be done only during scouting periods prior to the 10-day Classic event, and may be done up until just prior to the start of the event at noon on April 15.
It is not permissible to scout for birds during the night rest period (if the group takes one) or any other non-counting break during the 24-hour counting period, and it is not allowable to count birds recorded during that period (an owl, for example), unless the group has stayed together as per the rules.
It is expected that teams will garner as many pledges as possible to make this event a success. Pledges are a flat rate. Event organizers, in coordination with Team Captains, will follow up with each pledged donor after the event is concluded, so be sure to include correct information so that organizers may contact the donors. All money pledged will go to support bird conservation and bird education in central Pennsylvania.
Validity of Reports
Contestants accept, on the registration form, that the judges of the Classic may rule impartially on species reports that require validation, and that they are fully qualified to do so. This will be done after checklists are turned in and prior to deciding of winners, in the case that decisions on validity would affect the outcome.
The judges pick the species that require further validation, based on accumulated frequency data and other data in eBird. It is necessary to fill out a Rare Bird Report for each record and to have these reports prepared prior to turning in the checklist. Accompanying documentation such as digital photos can be shown to the organizers.
Tip for Beginners
While we highly encourage birders with little experience to take part in this Classic, we urge them to consult with organizers ahead of time if they are unclear about the basics of eBird that will allow them to have a good idea of species to expect in certain habitats. We have no way of checking misidentification of common species not needing validation, so we hope that first-time birders will be slow and careful in their identifications.
The JVAS Blair County Christmas Bird Count (CBC), centered on Culp, will be held on Saturday, December 19, 2020 with a Tally Count to be held via Zoom on Tuesday, Dec. 22. All are invited to attend the Zoom tally – even if you aren’t a counter. Details here.
Participation is free, but you must count within the established circle, which is located within 7.5 miles of Culp in Sinking Valley. If you live inside the circle, you could count birds at your feeder and on your property, but please sign up so we know your property is covered. Counters will receive a map, a species checklist, and pointers on any hotspots that might be in your part of the circle. We hope you will spend most of the day counting birds in your area of the circle or observing the birds at your feeder if you live in the circle.
If you have a favorite part of the circle, then don’t wait to call as the “early birders” get first pick of the count area. Below are the historic count areas, but anyone who lives in the circle can cover their property, just be sure to sign up so we don’t overlap count areas.
- Northern Altoona
- Sinking Valley
- Canoe Creek State Park
- Canoe Valley
- Park Forest/Watts Road
- Tyrone Treatment Plant
- Brush Mountain (NE end)
- Juniata River Corridor
There are 3 other Christmas Bird Counts that need counters:
Bedford County CBC is on Saturday, January 2, 2021 and is centered at Manns Choice, Pa. Contact compilers Mike & Laura Jackson: 814-652-9268 or [email protected]
Huntingdon County CBC is on Sunday, December 20 and is centered at Donation, Pa. If you’d like to help, contact compiler Deb Grove: 814-643-3295 or [email protected]
Raystown CBC: Historically occurs near the end of December. If you’d like to help, contact compiler Jon Kauffman: [email protected]
Due to the Cornonavirus pandemic, we have been forced to cancel our annual banquet. If you've already signed up, Laura Jackson will be returning your registration fee shortly.
Our other events in March and April have also been cancelled, with the exception (so far) of the Earth Week Birding Classic, which may still go ahead in some form if social distancing protocols can be maintained. Check back here for updates. And don't stop going outside! As the Associate Editor of Audubon magazine, Andy McGlashen, recently pointed out, Birding Is the Perfect Activity While Practicing Social Distancing.
Some final food for thought: This pandemic does illustrate the ecological perils of global trade. Our native forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other habitats are being overwhelmed by invaders every bit as deadly and insidious to other creatures as the Cornonavirus is to us, whether you're talking about native ladybird beetles displaced by the harlequin ladybird, spring beauties smothered by Japanese stiltgrass, or natural forest openings filling with Ailanthus. Bringing back American manufacturing, if done in a cleaner, greener way, would not only shorten supply chains, help workers, and protect the public, but it might also provide some relief for natural ecosystems already stressed by climate change, habitat fragmentation, pesticides, and so many other assaults.
The Juniata Valley Audubon Society is cancelling our upcoming field trips in April. This includes the Greenwood Furnace Adventure on April 4 and the Trillium Hike on April 18.
We feel this is necessary for the safety of our membership and the general public with regards to the coronavirus pandemic.
Please check the JVAS website for future updates.
~ Susan Braun, Field Trips Chair
Bald Eagle Mountain is the western-most ridge in the Ridge and Valley physiographic province, part of a ridge system that continues to the southwest with Brush Mountain, then Canoe Mountain, Lock Mountain, Dunning Mountain, Evitts Mountain, and Wills Mountain in Pennsylvania, continuing down through the Appalachians as far as northern Georgia. Historical part-time hawk counts on Bald Eagle Mountain indicate its promise as a raptor migration pathway, particularly for golden eagles and red-tailed hawks. Based upon those historical counts, Bald Eagle Mountain was named a Pennsylvania Important Bird Area, but we don’t really know the full extent of its value to raptor migration.
High counts of these species in the fall at the Franklin Mountain (NY) hawk watch on northwest winds are often followed by high counts of these species several days later at Allegheny Front hawkwatch near Central City if the wind turns to be out of the east or southeast. We think that many of these birds are using Bald Eagle Mountain or the Allegheny Front to get there. Further, we suspect that the Allegheny Front hawkwatch tallies only a fraction of the migrant raptors that may use this migration pathway, because that site is highly dependent upon E/SE winds.
To assess the raptor migration on Bald Eagle Mountain, the project will conduct a single full-season fall hawkwatch from September through December 2019. To assist with full-time coverage, Juniata Valley Audubon has formed a partnership with the State College Bird Club and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center to support a paid full-time hawk counter. We anticipate that this project will document the considerable importance of Bald Eagle Mountain as a raptor migration pathway.
You can help support this effort by signing up to participate in our Earth Week Birding Classic, which will be held from April 21 to 28, 2019. Registration is free. The goal is for teams in seven different categories to count as many species of birds as possible over a 24-hour period any time during the week beginning on April 21 at 12 noon and ending at 12 noon on April 28. This non-profit event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona and Juniata Valley Audubon Society. Pledges that team members garner this year will support the Bald Eagle Mountain Fall Hawkwatch project. Teams of three or more (two or more for Senior citizens) will count birds in Blair and surrounding counties, and prizes will be awarded during the closing ceremony at the Slep Center on the Penn State Altoona campus immediately following the event at 1 pm. Registration deadline is April 14. To register and for more information, please contact Catie Farr at [email protected]
Check the events section of the website for a freshly updated listing of all our upcoming programs and field trips, including birding hikes, wildflower rambles, and more. The banquet this year will include a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of JVAS's founding in 1969! And don't miss the 4th annual Earth Week Birding Classic, our major fundraiser for conservation, held in cooperation with the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona.
There will be at least one other event which we don't have a firm date for yet. If you missed seeing the film Cathedral: The Fight to Save the Ancient Hemlocks of Cook Forest at our December meeting, we plan to offer another screening in March. Stay tuned.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society will be 50 years old in 2019, so I guess it's understandable why we're not always an early adopter of the hot new trends. But more and more of our members, especially the younger ones, have been agitating for the ability to join and renew online with a credit card, so at long last we have complied. Go to the Join or Renew page and scroll down for the membership options.
Your security is paramount, so we've had an SSL certificate installed on our server (thanks, Nittany Web Works!) and we're using Paypal as our payment gateway. But you don't need a Paypal account, just a major credit or debit card.
We've tried to keep things as simple as possible, so instead of asking you to fill out a separate form, we will simply gather your email and postal address from Paypal, and will assume that you prefer to receive the paper edition of the Gnatcatcher unless you follow up with an email requesting otherwise.
The one big advantage of joining or renewing online, aside from the obvious convenience of saving on postage and avoiding the hassle of writing out a check, is that you won't have to worry about forgetting to renew next year: it will automatically renew unless you cancel it. Better for you, better for us.
We assume that, as a member of JVAS, you'd like to receive occasional emails about club activities and conservation issues, but there will be opt-out links in those emails so you can remove yourself from the list if it becomes too much. (We're planning a complete revamp of our email communications system in the New Year.) Please be assured, however, that we will not share your data with anyone else for any reason.
There are, of course, limits to our embrace of modernity: we have no plans to accept Bitcoin payments at this time. Sorry, nerds.
Thanks to Program Chair Laura Jackson and Field Trip Chair Susan Braun, we have a full and varied list of exciting events on tap for the fall. Browse the complete listing on the website.
The first field trip is on September 8, when Nick Kerlin will present a talk and demonstration about bird banding at the Arboretum at Penn State, H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens.
September's program at the Bellwood Antis Public Library on Tuesday the 18th will feature Nate Nagle talking about the Ruffed Grouse West Nile Virus study conducted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Nate will also discuss what the results could mean for other wildlife species, the environment, and humans.
Note that the program meetings now begin 15 minutes earlier, at 6:45 PM, following an optional free supper at 6:00.
There are also some special events on the calendar: a free workshop on bird feeding at Tyrone Milling on September 25, and on the first three Mondays in October, a series of interactive programs for gardeners emphasizing how native plants, water features, and cover are critical for pollinators and birds. Learn how to turn your own yard into a healthy habitat. Attend just one, or all three. $10 per program. For more details and to register, see the Penn State Extension website. You need to register by Thursday, September 27, 2018 for the Oct. 1 program.
The weather forecast for Tuesday night is calling for snow and bitter cold, so the JVAS Board has decided to cancel the Jan. 16 Members’ Night meeting. While regrettable, this is precisely why we don't schedule a speaker in January — so that we can cancel if we have to. The forecast sounds especially dire for Bedford County late tomorrow afternoon.
We hope to see everyone in February: at the Musser Gap hike on Saturday the 17th, and then at the program meeting in Bellwood on the 20th, when wildlife rehabilitator Robyn Graboski of Centre Wildlife Care will be talking about her work, accompanied by a live peregrine falcon, big brown bat, screech owl, and skunk!