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Michael with bluebird boxes

I am thrilled and honored to have been installed as the new President of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society. As a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation, I want you to know that I am motivated to lead our organization in making a positive impact in our community. Above all, I am excited to work with our dedicated members and volunteers to protect and preserve the natural beauty of our region for future generations. To do that, I also intend on bringing younger membership into the group to ensure JVAS longevity into the future.

As your President, I plan to increase our presence as an organization on social media to engage with a wider, more diverse community. I think regularly posting JVAS content online will attract a wider audience to our cause. By leveraging platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, we can share our mission, events, and conservation efforts with a broader (and at times, younger) audience. It is my belief that this will enable us to strengthen our group with a diverse, inclusive community of nature enthusiasts and conservationists.

I would like to also welcome my friends as newly elected Officers for JVAS.

As newly elected Vice President, we have Catie Farr - who is also our Hospitality Chair.  Catie’s dedication to bringing delicious meals to our JVAS meetings extends beyond what is expected. I’ve had in-depth conversations about how much happiness that brings her, which speaks of her character. I know I, as well as many other members, appreciate all of her efforts and bringing top-notch meals to our meetings. Catie is also responsible for the fun and exciting Earth Week Birding Classic, which we are working on together, to ensure growth for 2025.

Our Treasurer, with 17 years of service to JVAS, is George Mahon. George is on my team for the Christmas Bird Count, and I always enjoy spending time with him.  We are lucky to have such a kind, and trustworthy person managing the books for JVAS. 

I’m very excited about our newly elected Secretary Conner Schmitt.  Conner is young, enthusiastic, and a new member to JVAS as of this year.  Conner has stepped up to bat to fill in for field trips and is eager to help whenever needed.  Having him officiated as Secretary is exciting, because I know he is reliable, and passionate about birding and bird conservation.  Most recently Conner has joined me in the Louisiana Waterthrush Survey which we do to help Moshannon Creek Watershed Association to gain eligibility for various grants to fight acid mine drainage in this waterway.  This survey requires a 4 AM rise, almost 80 minutes drive (round trip) and four miles of hiking to survey birds. And yet, Conner shows up on time, with a smile, ready to work. 

Red-winged Blackbird
As your Field Trip Chair, I have recognized that some of our members may have physical limitations that prevent them from attending field trips or hikes. When leading field trips, it always saddens me to hear someone can’t participate despite wanting to enjoy nature. So, one of my goals is to remedy this situation so that people do not feel left out. And so, to ensure inclusivity, I plan to create videos and photo essays that will showcase our events, conservation efforts, local wildlife appearances, and share them online with members who want to be outdoors but cannot be. By bringing a summary of these events to your computer screen, everyone can experience and appreciate our wild Pennsylvania, regardless of physical abilities. As the new Publicity Chair, I have already begun this process on our Facebook page. If you enjoy simply reading about JVAS, and the outdoor experiences in our area, you can simply go to:
facebook.com/juniatavalleyaudubon. If you do not have a Facebook account, I do not believe you will be able to interact with the posts, but you should be able to scroll down our page and enjoy local photos, writing, events, and perhaps learn a thing or two along the way. I try to post new content daily, so feel free to enjoy it while enjoying your coffee or tea.

Once we begin making videos, we will upload them to YouTube, and they can simply be emailed to members and posted to the website for you all to view. In this scenario, there is no need to leave the comfort of your home to enjoy a bit of nature.

The future is bright for the Juniata Valley Audubon Society. In conclusion, I’d like to say this new position as President is not one I take lightly. My dedication to birds, wildlife, and their habitats will remain unwavering for the duration of my tenure for this amazing group. I look forward to building on the strong foundation our previous Presidents, board members, and long-time members have created as we move forward into this next phase.

May the road rise to meet our every step in this next chapter together.

Warm regards,
Michael Kensinger

We would like to thank everyone who attended the 2024 JVAS Banquet on April 16th. Thank you to Hospitality Chair and new Vice President Catie Farr, as well as Laura and Mike Jackson for the work they put into organizing this event. We would also like to thank everyone who donated an item to our raffle. We ended up raising $525, which is much more than in previous years. There was a myriad of unique items to bid on, including original artworks, crafts, games, foods, and even a bird-themed Lego set!

Amber Weiwel, organizer of the Third Pennsylvania Bird Atlas, was our banquet speaker. Amber presented ways in which we could all get involved with the next PA Breeding Bird Atlas and spoke a bit about a new Winter Bird Atlas that would be coming soon. Attendees were shown imagery and given instructions on the process involved with making accurate decisions on bird breeding behaviors and when to record them. Additionally, we were able to view range variations in a species such as the Carolina Wren, and how Pennsylvania’s ground-breaking atlas has reflected the spread of Carolina Wrens since the first atlas in the late 80’s.

If you would like to participate in the 5-year Atlas project to document breeding birds, check out the information on the Hawk Mountain website.

Angie Spagnoli, JVAS Conservation Awardee (left) accepts her Conservation Certificate from out-going JVAS President Mark Bonta and Conservation Chair Laura Jackson (right).

As per tradition, we give a JVAS Conservation Award to a deserving person, decided on by our board. This year’s awardee was Angie Spagnoli, who was nominated due to her tireless efforts to protect wetland habitats and the wildlife that call them home. While birds are an interest of Angie, her passion for amphibians, vernal pools, native wetland fauna and the like have earned her a reputation in our local community. She educates, inspires, and includes volunteers from a variety of backgrounds to get involved with hands-on activities such as tree plantings and invasive plant removal. Such activities do well to inspire new generations of conservationists and offer new perspectives for older generations who have not taken part in such activities before. It is important to note that such efforts are far from glamorous, but special people like Angie are willing to lead the charge.

Wetlands are important habitats for many creatures, including the spotted salamander

In a world where many people are willing to talk about conservation, Angie ‘walks the walk’. Where many people will share newsbytes on social media, Angie is out there in the mud and in the dirt working to make our planet a better place. As a woman of science, she serves also as the only woman on the board of Directors of the Little Juniata River Association. An advocate for protecting wild spaces, Spagnoli has helped lead the charge in the Coalition to Save old Crow Wetland. Currently, Angie is leading the charge as the battle ensues against Rutter’s senseless development up against this vital Huntingdon habitat.

Angie’s work resonates through many conservation groups including The Little Juniata River Association, The Coalition to Save Old Crow Wetland, Friends of Tipton Wetlands, and more. Aside from her talents as a scientist and conservationist, Angie involves people of all backgrounds in her projects spreading awareness of native habitats and ecosystems, and why we must protect them. Congratulations Angie! And thank you for all you have done and will continue to do!

wood turtle (all photos by Michael Kensinger)