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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.

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

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 Issuu.com.

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.

Reservation 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.

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.

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

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.

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We’d like to recognize Terri and Alan Swann as the new editors of The Gnatcatcher. This issue introduces a couple of exciting new features, in addition to the usual mix of conservation and club news.

Download the PDF

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 [email protected]

The Sept/Oct issue of the Gnatcatcher is out, including a schedule of the fall programs and field trips. But now we need a new editor.

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] embarqmail.com for more details.

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.

Please join us in welcoming our new secretary, Kristin Joivell; treasurer, George Mahon; vice president, Mark Bonta; and president, Laura Jackson.

At our annual spring banquet yesterday, the outgoing president (that's me) oversaw the installation of the four new officers elected at the program meeting in March. We can never remember precisely what the installation of new officers entails, so we had to improvise. I considered stepping down in a blaze of glory: shouting "HAIL GAIA!" and removing my still-beating heart from my chest with an obsidian blade and feeding it to a flock of migrating gnatcatchers. But that seemed a little messy, so I settled instead for sharing brief biographical sketches of JVAS' benevolent new overlords. Please join me in welcoming our new secretary, Kristin Joivell; treasurer, George Mahon; vice president, Mark Bonta; and president, Laura Jackson.

Kristin JoivellKristin Joivell, shown here on a recent JVAS hike examining a promethean moth cocoon, is our new secretary. Kristin teaches kindergarten at the Juniata Valley Elementary School, lives in the Huntingdon area, and brings an infectious enthusiasm and a wealth of knowledge about nature to the JVAS board, being both well-read and widely traveled. Stick close to Kristin on a nature hike if you want to learn the i.d.s of critters and wildflowers — or to generally just have a good time.

 

George MahonDespite his regular attendance on field trips and thus his frequent run-ins with Stan Kotala's camera, JVAS treasurer George Mahon is almost always seen with his eyes turned to the ground or the sky, displaying the same restless curiosity that led him to teach junior high science in Altoona for many years, and to first become involved in JVAS activities way back in the late 1970s. I have also grown to appreciate George's endless patience and attention to detail over the past year as he's eased into the treasurer position — surely one of the most thankless and time-consuming posts in any organization.

Mark BontaYou'd think I'd have a better photo of my own brother, but he got off Facebook last year, so what can I do? Mark Bonta agreed to step in as vice president, which mainly means he'll be the programs chair. He's been attending programs pretty regularly since he started teaching geography at Penn State Altoona last fall. He and his wife will be moving to the area permanently in August, after a couple of years in Philadelphia and many years in Mississippi before that. Mark was a member of JVAS as a kid, which helped to spark an interest in birding and nature that now makes its way into his classes and research. He's currently leading an expedition in the mountains of Honduras to document a possible new species of ant-shrike.

Laura Jackson with hickory horned devilLaura Jackson, our new president, hardly needs an introduction. She and her husband Mike (also a member of the board) have been among our most active members for years, attending numerous township meetings, writing letters, agitating, advocating, giving slideshows and workshops, and putting their own time and money where their mouths are on their mountainside property near Everett — a conservation showcase. Laura's always-pleasant demeanor masks a steely resolve, as many developers and politicians have learned to their sorrow. We are deeply fortunate that her work with SOAR has finally slowed down enough to permit Laura to take over as JVAS president. And oh yes, that's a hickory horned devil on her shirt.

Thanks to all four new officers for stepping up to the plate. The future of the chapter looks very bright.

The latest issue of the JVAS newsletter, the Gnatcatcher, is out and will be on its way to members' mailboxes shortly. In the meantime, you can download and read the PDF version in full color.

Gnatcatcher 2014 March-AprilThe latest issue of the JVAS newsletter, the Gnatcatcher, is out and will be on its way to members' mailboxes shortly. In the meantime, you can download and read the PDF version in full color. This is especially useful for a full appreciation of the feature story on outdoor painting by JVAS member Sam Dietz. Also included is a full description of, and sign-up information for, our spring banquet, with a program by Trish Miller on Golden Eagle Migration, plus some exciting news about a sizable addition to State Gamelands 147 in Blair County. Check it out!

The January-February 2014 issue of the JVAS newsletter, the Gnatcatcher, is now out [PDF]. Members should be getting the paper edition in their mailboxes today or tomorrow.

Speaking of which, it's time to renew your membership in JVAS. If you're not already a member, you can print out the form in the PDF version of the newsletter. This year, for the first time, we are offering the option to not receive the paper version, and just read the Gnatcatcher online. While this is undoubtedly a somewhat more environmentally friendly choice, we do understand why some will prefer to read it the old-fashioned way. And if you have a physical bulletin board, you may want to tack up the Spring 2014 field trips and programs brochure [PDF].

Speaking of which, it's interesting to note that there is now no single, canonical source for information about JVAS events. The brochure includes all of the monthly program meetings and those field trips that are planned well in advance, but there are often fuller descriptions here on the website — not to mention embedded Google maps. And many more impromptu outings are only advertised on the JVAS Facebook page, so we encourage people to like our page on Facebook if they want to keep abreast of absolutely everything we're doing.

At any rate, the latest issue of the Gnatcatcher includes articles on the snowy owl irruption, Fort Roberdeau County Park in winter, and the importance of early successional forests. Check it out.