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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]

INSTRUCTIONS

Please fill out this form and submit electronically to Catherine Farr, [email protected] or print and mail to her at: 6435 State Route 42, Unityville, PA 17774

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.

DETECTION

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.

PLEDGES

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 at Culp, will be held on Saturday, December 19, 2020 with a Tally Count to be held via Zoom on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

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.

Sign up soon to be a counter! Call or email Laura Jackson by Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Phone: 814-652-9268 Email: [email protected] or email John Carter: [email protected]

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.

Download the Culp Circle map [PDF], and/or find the count circle on National Audubon's interactive map by searching for "Culp, Tyrone Twp, PA, USA".

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
  • Bellwood
  • Canoe Creek State Park
  • Tyrone-Tipton
  • 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]

To assess the raptor migration on Bald Eagle Mountain, the project will conduct a single full-season fall hawkwatch from September through December 2019.
Bald Eagle Mountain attracts soaring of all types. (Photo: Dhaluza at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0])

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]

The JVAS Blair County Christmas Bird Count (CBC), centered at Culp in Sinking Valley, will be held on Saturday, December 15, 2018 with a Tally Dinner to be held at Schraff’s Restaurant starting at 5:00 PM.

snowman covered with winter birdsThe JVAS Blair County Christmas Bird Count (CBC), centered at Culp in Sinking Valley, will be held on Saturday, December 15, 2018 with a Tally Dinner to be held at Schraff’s Restaurant starting at 5:00 PM. The meal will be family-style and will include baked chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, mixed veggies, salad, dinner roll, and dessert: all for just $16.55, which includes tax and tip.

All are invited to attend – even if you aren’t a counter. Schraff’s is located at 421 Grandview Rd., Altoona, PA 16601. Directions: Take Juniata Gap Road toward Penn State Altoona campus, but turn Right onto East Wopsononock Ave. before reaching the campus. Continue straight through Ivyside and Broadway intersections, where it becomes Grandview Road. Drive past Gwin Road on the Left, then turn Left at the Schraff’s sign into Pennview Suites. Schraff’s is at the far back right corner of the complex. Call Catie Farr if you need help with directions: 570-651-3839.

map showing the location of Schraff's
map showing the location of Schraff's

Send your check for $16.55 payable to Laura Jackson no later than Monday, Dec. 3. Mail payment to Laura Jackson 8621 Black Valley Road, Everett, PA 15537.

We hope you will be a counter this year. Participation is free, but you must count within the established circle [PDF], which is located within 7.5 miles of Culp. If you live inside the circle, you could count birds at your feeder and on your property.

Counters will be assigned a section of the circle, so counts don’t overlap. Register by calling or emailing Laura Jackson: 814-652-9268 or [email protected]. You will receive a map, a species checklist, and pointers on any hotspots that might be in your part of the circle. Please try to contact Laura by December 10.

There are 3 other Christmas Bird Counts in our area that also need participants:

  • Huntingdon County CBC is centered at Donation, Pa.
    Contact compiler Deb Grove: 814-643-3295 or [email protected]
  • Bedford County CBC is centered at Manns Choice, Pa.Contact compilers Mike & Laura Jackson: 814-652-9268 or [email protected]
  • Raystown CBC: Contact compiler Greg Grove: [email protected]

The JVAS Blair County Christmas Bird Count (CBC), centered on Culp, will be held on Saturday, December 16, 2017 with a Tally Dinner (aka “tally rally”) to be held at The Dream Restaurant.

cartoon of Christmas-y birds with stockings

The JVAS Blair County Christmas Bird Count (CBC), centered on Culp, will be held on Saturday, December 16, 2017 with a Tally Dinner (aka “tally rally”) to be held at The Dream Restaurant, starting at 5 P.M. The pay-your-own dinner is open to all, so you can attend even if you can’t help with the CBC. The Dream is located at 1500 Allegheny St., Hollidaysburg, PA.

Please contact Christmas Bird Count Coordinator Laura Jackson no later than Saturday, Dec. 9 to reserve your place at the Tally Dinner. Call 814-652-9268 or email [email protected]

We hope YOU will be a counter this year! We are always in need of more participants, so check with birder friends and invite them to participate, too. Participation is free. In addition to field surveys, we need feeder watchers. If you live in the count circle (within 7.5 miles of Culp), you are encouraged to record the birds you see on your property or at your feeder.

Counters will be assigned a section of the circle to cover, so if you have a favorite area, be sure to sign up early. Register by calling Laura Jackson. You will receive a map showing which part of the circle to cover, a species checklist, and pointers on any bird hot spots that might be in your part of the circle. We will assign the count areas in early December, so if you have a favorite area that you want to cover, contact Laura before December 10.

Also, we hope you will attend the Sunday, Dec. 3 Pre-CBC Workshop to help us organize the event. We will meet at 2:00 pm in Penn State Altoona's Hawthorn Building. Call Laura if you plan to attend.

There are 3 other Christmas Bird Counts in our area that need participants:
Huntingdon Co. CBC is centered on Donation, PA.
Contact compiler Deb Grove: 814-643-3295 or [email protected]
Bedford Co. CBC on Saturday, December 30, is centered on Manns Choice, PA.
Contact compilers Mike and Laura Jackson: 814-652-9268 or [email protected]
Raystown CBC: Contact compiler Greg Grove for more details: [email protected]

The 1st annual Earth Day Birding Classic at Penn State Altoona will be held on April 22 and 23, 2016. Registration is free. The goal is for teams in six different categories to count as many species of birds as possible in the 24-hour-period beginning at noon on April 22.

The 1st annual Earth Day Birding Classic at Penn State Altoona will be held on April 22 and 23, 2016. Registration is free. The goal is for teams in six different categories to count as many species of birds as possible in the 24-hour-period beginning at noon on April 22. 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. The opening and closing ceremonies will take place at the Slep Center on the Penn State Altoona campus immediately prior to and following the event. Registration deadline is April 15 – to register and for more information, please contact Catherine Kilgus at [email protected]

→ Download the Registration Form

→ Download the Pledge Sheet

→ Download the Rules & Guidelines — or see below.
...continue reading "Announcing the 1st annual Earth Day Birding Classic at Penn State Altoona"

Birders converged on the Culp Christmas Bird Count Circle in Blair County on a cold and windy December 19, 2015 to participate in the 47th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) sponsored by Juniata Valley Audubon Society, under the direction of National Audubon.

Tufted Titmouse
Many song birds, such as this Tufted Titmouse, prefer black oil sunflowers. These seeds are high in fat, providing much-needed energy during the winter.

Birders converged on the Culp Christmas Bird Count Circle in Blair County on a cold and windy December 19, 2015 to participate in the 47th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) sponsored by Juniata Valley Audubon Society, under the direction of National Audubon. The first CBC ever was in 1900 - an alternative activity to count birds ALIVE, since prior to 1900 the tools of choice were not binoculars, but were guns, with participants competing to see how many birds they could KILL.

Some key counters were sorely missed as they could not participate this year due to illness, but the 18 people who did participate on December 19 counted a total of 5,082 birds, representing 67 different species. JVAS President and CBC Compiler Laura Jackson would like to thank the following counters who braved a cold and windy day: Susan Braun, Michael David, JP Dibert, Carl Engstrom, Kurt Engstrom, Stephanie Gallagher, Debra Grim, Charlie Hoyer, Mike Jackson, Kristin Joivell, George Mahon, Stephen Martynuska, Ian McGregor, John Orr, Mark Shields, and Jody Wallace. JVAS VP Mark Bonta helped to organize the counters and contributed the sighting of a Horned Grebe that was recorded as a “count week bird,” making 68 the total number of species recorded during the count week.

Mild fall weather meant that there was plenty of open water, but waterfowl were surprisingly scarce. Canoe Lake is a good location to observe waterfowl, but no Canada geese were to be found. Observers did find 10 Buffleheads, one Common Goldeneye, seven Hooded Mergansers, and one Common Merganser, as well as a few Mallards, at Canoe Lake. Elsewhere in the count circle, 143 Canada Geese were found, just two Wood Ducks, one American Black Duck, and over 200 Mallards. Fortunately, the 10 American Coots spotted at Canoe Lake were alive - last year approximately 12 were found dead floating in the lake. The reason for their death remains a mystery.

Bald eagle in flight
Counters spotted 5 Bald Eagles this year - a record high for the Culp CBC Circle; Bald Eagles were rarely seen during the Christmas Bird Count until recently. Reintroduction efforts by the Pennsylvania Game Commission are so successful that Bald Eagles are actually nesting in Blair County.

It was a good day for raptors: 5 Bald Eagles and 1 Golden Eagle were counted, as well as 1 Merlin, 3 Northern Harriers, 7 American Kestrels, 4 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and 6 Cooper’s Hawks. As expected, Red-tailed Hawks were the most common - 28 were found. The highlight of the raptor survey was finding a Northern Goshawk. Sinking Valley, with its broad vistas and farm fields, is a good habitat for birds of prey, as well as for the gallinaceous birds like Wild turkey (48), Ring-necked Pheasant (16), and some exotic Chukar (7) - a partridge native to Eurasia that has been introduced as a game bird. Sadly, our state bird, the Ruffed Grouse, is in decline, and only one was found. Another species that frequents Sinking Valley in the winter is the Horned Lark - 70 were counted.

All species of woodpeckers were observed, except the Red-headed Woodpecker; European Starlings are responsible for their absence. In fact, the Starling was the most common species counted in the circle, with observers reporting a total of 1,714 birds. Brown-headed Cowbirds were the second most common bird with 550 reported. A few Red-winged Blackbirds (8) and just one rusty Blackbird were found in some of the Cowbird flocks.

Many common “winter birds” were seen: Winter Wrens (2), Golden-crowned Kinglets (16), American Tree Sparrows (40), Dark-eyed Juncos (265), White-throated Sparrows (120), Purple Finches (7) and a few Pine Siskins (7), to name a few.

The relatively mild winter meant that many birds which might be scarce during cold winters were still in abundance: 53 Eastern Bluebirds, 50 American Robins, 7 Northern Mockingbirds, and 24 Killdeer.

Observers at feeders and along wooded trails also reported good numbers of our common backyard birds: 76 Black-capped Chickadees, 81 Tufted Titmouse, 50 White-breasted Nuthatches, and 7 Carolina Wrens.

It is a challenge to thoroughly cover the count circle, centered at Culp - a crossroads in Sinking Valley. The circle is 15 miles in diameter, so the effort includes observations while driving the roads, hiking the fields and forests, or counting birds at backyard feeders. This year, 18 birders counted throughout the day, from dawn to dark - and even after dark for owls, for a cumulative effort of 75 hours looking for birds.

The Culp CBC is usually held the Saturday before Christmas, so if you might like to participate next year, call JVAS President Laura Jackson (814-652-9268) and get your name added to the list of potential participants. If you live in the count circle, you could count birds at your feeder. Otherwise, expect to spend part of a day on an exciting adventure exploring parts of Blair County.

A Christmas Bird Count Dinner was held immediately following the count when most of the birders enjoyed an evening at Marzoni’s - after a great meal each group reported their findings at the “tally rally.” A good day was had by all!

A complete list of all the bird species counted for the Culp CBC can be found on the National Audubon website.

Please let me know what area you plan to cover for the CBC. We will have a planning meeting at The Dream Restaurant on Dec. 6th at 5:15 pm to assign areas. If we don't hear from you before then, we won't know what area you want to bird.

Here is the link to an interactive circle for our CBC on Dec. 19th. Search Culp, PA and you'll see our circle with Tyrone Twp near the center. Zoom in and out to see details, as well as other CBC circles. You can also change the maps, which is a cool feature.

Please let me know what area you plan to cover for the CBC. We will have a planning meeting at The Dream Restaurant on Dec. 6th at 5:15 pm to assign areas. If we don't hear from you before then, we won't know what area you want to bird. We can meet there for free as long as people buy dinner. Ask for the meeting room under Laura Jackson's reservation.

Also, we will have the tally rally dinner at Marzoni's on Dec. 19th. Reservations need to be sent no later than Dec. 11 and cost $20.00. See more details in the last issue of The Gnatcatcher. Send your check payable to JVAS to Laura Jackson 8621 Black Valley Road, Everett, PA 15537. We encourage you to attend, even if you can't help with the CBC.

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.

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 hawkcount.org.

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 [email protected] 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.

After weeks of waiting for the right weather, my husband Bruce, always the designated driver, a new young birder in our area, Michael David, and I headed down to Sinking Valley to do our annual Winter Raptor Survey. It was a perfect day—fifteen degrees, still, and blue-skied.

We had a slow start, but finally Michael and I started seeing white spots sitting in trees. They all turned out to be red-tailed hawks. Sometimes we thought they might be something else and Bruce set up our scope. Nope! Only red-tails. This went on for most of the morning.

Since Michael was working on his county list, we noted other birds too. Robins eating staghorn sumac fruit. Twenty-six horned larks in the fields along Crawford Road so close we could almost touch them. A great blue heron sitting under a tree near the stream at the Arch Spring homestead. A pileated woodpecker clinging to a sapling near the road.

Ah! But I’ve saved the best for the last. After counting 26 red-tails and not even seeing a kestrel, we drove beneath what might be a kestrel. “Stop!” I yelled to Bruce and found I had made the same mistake as last year at the same place. A flock of mourning doves took off.

Then Michael started studying a flock of what he thought were starlings, but they turned out to be brown-headed cowbirds.

“I think I see a rusty,” he said and was out the car and down the road to study the flock more carefully. After all, my sons Steve and Mark had spotted a rusty blackbird in a flock of cowbirds during Christmas Bird Count, perhaps in this very same place.

I followed Michael at a slower pace and stood waiting for him to decide if he had found a rusty. Just as he had concluded that whatever he had seen had flown, I glanced idly across the barren, snow-covered field at a huge old tree standing by itself and saw two spots of white. I looked through my binoculars, expecting to see more red-tails and instead saw a pair of mature bald eagles, one sitting on the branch directly above the other.

Finally, raptors to get excited about! Michael wondered if they were a pair and perhaps nesting in the area. After all, this is the time of year when they begin building a nest. I certainly hope folks living in Sinking Valley keep an eye on this pair.

To cap the day, just after we saw the great blue heron, a golden eagle flew low over our car. Perhaps it was the same eagle Bruce and I had seen fly low over us while we walked on our Far Field Road several days ago.

Altogether, it was one of the more exciting Winter Raptor Surveys we have done over the years.

—Marcia Bonta

The Winter Raptor Survey is a state-wide citizen science program coordinated by JVAS member Greg Grove with the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology. See their website for information on how to take part.