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Before the age of the Internet, we would straggle in oblivious to each other’s finds. Indeed, half the fun was the unveiling of the best species during the tally after every count supper.

December 28, 1969: ‘Twas a clear day, low of 22, high of 31. Eight intrepid souls, led by the late John Orr, ventured into the woods and fields of Sinking Valley for the first ever Christmas Bird Count in the recently established Culp circle. After 24 hours of team effort, the counters tallied 32 species. That year was the 70th annual CBC nationwide; it would take the Culp count all the way to year #123, on December 17, 2022, to reach 72 species. Along the way, effort, species numbers, and weather have had their ups and downs, but enthusiasm has never flagged. In celebration of surpassing the long-sought 70-species goal, we present a brief history of the Culp Count.

My family, up in Plummer’s Hollow, first got involved in CBC #79, in 1978. I was nine years old. Since then, I participate every year I am in town. In my family, it is safe to say, Christmas Bird Count is bigger than Christmas!

In those early years, the count supper, as we called it, was strictly potluck, at the old Sinking Valley Grange. Before the age of the Internet, we would straggle in oblivious to each other’s finds. Indeed, half the fun was the unveiling of the best species during the tally after every count supper. If you had something good, you kept mum until then. Nowadays, via a Whatsapp group chat, we announce the top finds as we get them.

Back in the day, many frustrations resulted from lack of a good photograph. After all, it was going to take you quite a while to get the film developed, and telephoto lenses were scarce. Now, of course, we share photos instantly. And we have eBird. And Merlin. And so forth—but the spirit of the thing hasn’t changed, even if potluck count suppers are long forgotten, and we meet in the private room of a local restaurant. We still swap war stories (of the birding variety) and do a read-out tally of every species.

It does look like hi-tech has helped us get to 70 species, though. How else would we have known that this year’s putative Yellow-rumped Warbler was actually, on closer examination of digital evidence, a Cape May Warbler? How else to keep track of who is getting what, and thus refocus and calibrate team efforts during the course of the day?

Effort—number of total hours logged by teams—doesn’t necessarily correlate to number of species. In 1993, 138.5 hours were spent for a total of only 50 species. Compare that to 2012, where only six counters, the smallest group ever, spent 40 hours but got 58 species. The most counters, 45, were in 1983, but they only logged 56 species.

These small songbirds are often counted at feeders if shrubs and other cover are nearby. L to R: White-throated sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch. Photo by Mike Jackson

The weather of course is a huge factor. Birds that remain in central Pennsylvania in late December move around quite a lot: waterfowl, particularly. They have to, as their waterholes freeze over and they head to bigger lakes or rivers outside the count circle. What about holding it later, after Christmas? Wouldn’t we get more winter species? This tactic has never worked for Culp. The first five counts were all after Christmas, but otherwise, only Jan 2, ’93; Dec. 27, ’97; and Jan. 3, ‘17 have been later; in none of these have species been higher. Mid-December works best!

Now for the suffering. One can reliably predict most of the species that will be gotten, but the weather conditions? Never! Our coldest count ever was December 16, 1989: a low of 0 and a high of only 14.

At the other end of the spectrum, just five years earlier, December 15, 1984, the low was 46 degrees and the high reached 66!

As for the birds themselves, over the years, Culp has gotten a total of 121 species on count day, and another three only on count week (the three days before and after). Some of these, like this year’s Savannah Sparrow and Cape May Warbler, have been gotten only once. Others, like this year’s Lapland Longspur and Golden Eagle, and many more, have been recorded only a handful of times. Then there are the frustrating misses: when the tallier reads out an expected species and no one raises their hand. No Red-breasted Nuthatches??? How can that be?!?!

At least, there are those old dependables, the ones you get on every count. We have 15 species in that category. If you live in the area, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the most common of these is the European Starling. It’s had some low years, but never less than 100, and the most-ever of a single species was 2,160 in 2016.

Of course, there are a lot of other trends of interest. Ruffed Grouse, PA’s state bird, used to be easy to locate, with a count high of 31 in 1988. A few are still in the area, but we haven’t gotten any on count day since 2016. You can thank the West Nile Virus for that population crash. On the other side of things, we didn’t get the first Bald Eagle until 2002, but now we get up to five every year. Raptors in general have remained stable or gone up in numbers, with the sad exception of the Northern Goshawk, which has vanished from the area and indeed from most of the state.

December 17, 2022: So, what WAS this year’s magic formula for hitting 72? I can honestly say we have schemed and plotted and scouted for several counts in the past. In the mid 2010s, I put together a Google Map of the count circle with every accessible road and birding spot highlighted and applied a technique I had seen in other count circles: drawing birding zones so that we could match teams to areas and avoid overlap and missed opportunities. Still, we couldn’t top the record of 67 species set in back-to-back years (’07/’08).

Then came all the bird identification tech and just the right combination of motivated (some would say obsessed) counters, just waiting for perfect weather conditions. Here are some choice snippets from the group chat:

John Carter, 4:53 AM: “Good morning and happy Culp CBC day! Hope you all have fun and see lots of birds! Thank you for being part of the count. On the board with a Screech Owl.”

John again at 7:21 AM: “Grackle!”

Me at 7:30 AM: “5 male common mergs”

Michael Kensinger at 7:31 AM: “50 Red-winged Blackbirds”

And on it went. People hit the best spots in the morning, cognizant of looming snow showers in the afternoon, and a general lull in bird activity. At around 9:30 AM, we began to wonder about waterfowl.

John: “Any update from Canoe Lake, Jacksons? Hoping there is some open H20 there.” Nothing to report. But a few minutes later, John clocked in with a Green-winged Teal and Laura Jackson reported 3 Northern Pintails.

The adventure continued. Michael Kensinger at 10:01 AM: “100 Horned Larks being hunted by an immature Sharpie.”

Carl Engstrom at 10:33 AM: “Good stuff – kestrels and Bald Eagle if those haven’t been recorded yet.”

At 10:55 AM, John reminded folks to keep their eyes on the sky in case of Golden Eagles; Carl delivered one at 12:36 PM. Sign of the times: a Red-headed Woodpecker returned after a 24-year absence (Michael Kensinger reported from Ft. Roberdeau).

At 11:39 AM, I messaged John: “Looks like we are headed for an all-time high. Easily break 70.” This was after my Savannah Sparrow, hanging with some Northern Cardinals at the edge of our field. But the kicker, or so we thought, was Carl’s 2:06 PM Lapland Longspur. After that, as it usually does, numbers of new species dropped off and heavy snow showers kicked in. I had already walked eight miles and decided to scrap a final push for Ruffed Grouse in the thickest, thorniest, invasive thickets of Brush Mountain. No Barred Owl was to be found, no Red-breasted Nuthatch; no one had gotten a Merlin or a Rusty Blackbird, either: granted, not easy or common species, but when your totals are already high, as all birders know, you tend to get a little greedy. John announced he was headed to Sinking Valley in the fading light to make a try for a possible Short-eared Owl reported by Michael Kensinger, but no luck.

And then it was over. I joked that had the total been 69 species, folks were invited to scrabble through two miles of icy slush to make a try for the Plummer’s Hollow Barred Owl. Owling, as it’s called, is about the only option left if you want to make use of the 5 hours remaining in the count. But we stayed with Great-horned Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl and went home happy (some prepping for another CBC somewhere else the next day).

The biggest surprise for this CBC was the Cape May Warbler on a feeder in Sinking Valley! Photo by Joe Glass

How many bird species were in the Culp Circle on December 17, 2022? The surprises weren’t over yet. A Peregrine Falcon sailed over my head in Tyrone the next morning, hunting Rock Pigeons, but I doubt it had been there the day before. Nevertheless, it became a count week bird, or “cw.” Though several feeder counters didn’t turn in new species, Michael delivered the biggest surprise of the season when announced on the evening of the 18th that his team’s Yellow-rumped Warbler was a Cape May Warbler, with a photo to back them up. This was only the 9th-ever of this species for Pennsylvania in December and the second from central PA.

Due to the icy conditions, most ponds were frozen, but a few had open water that attracted ducks and other waterfowl. This Northern Pintail was a handsome duck among the many Mallards at a small pond in Sinking Valley. Photo by Joe Glass

For more of Mark's birding adventures, check out his Bird Mountain newsletter.

Help tally eagles on migration from a private deck in Tyrone with a sweeping view of Bald Eagle/Brush Mountain and the gap between them.
golden eagle in flight
golden eagle (photo by Mike Lanzone)

Not the team but the bird! Up to 29 Golden Eagles have been sighted along Brush Mountain in the Tyrone area in a single day in early December! A very small number of people will be able to access a private deck in Tyrone with a sweeping view of the Tyrone Gap, to tally eagles — weather permitting.   

When: weekends between November 19 and December 11.

Exact days and times depend on the weather and the host’s availability, so it is important to be flexible. If you are signed up, you will be contacted for confirmation; preferred dates will be considered.

Where to meet: Park and Ride, East 10th St, Tyrone, PA 16686.

What to bring: Spotting scope, binoculars, folding deck chair. Bathroom, kitchen, and inside space (warm) available. Must be able to climb steep stairs to the second floor.

If you would like to sign up for a chance to view the “Tyrone Golden Eagles,” contact Mark Bonta at 814-600-8394, email [email protected]

JVAS is having a sticker design contest and we want you to submit your best effort that resembles the mission of our amazing Audubon chapter!

JVAS is having a sticker design contest and we want you to submit your best effort that resembles the mission of our amazing Audubon chapter!

Contest Deadline: Entries must be received no later than December 31, 2022.

Subject Matter: Read and understand all the contest rules before creating a design. The design must be the artist’s original creation and shall not be copied or duplicated.

  • Design must be the same size and shape as circle below (4 in. x 4 in.).
  • MUST USE: JVAS.ORG within the design.
  • All colors must be flat and solid, with no shading, blending or halftones.
  • Do not use a signature.

Entries may be submitted in one of two ways:

  1. Send in via regular mail. The completed contest entry form must be included, and design sent to: Juniata Valley Audubon Society -- PO Box 1031 -- Altoona, PA 16603
  1. Save design file electronically (PNG or JPG). Electronic signatures are accepted on the entry form. Attach both the design file and the contest entry form to an email and send to: [email protected]

In either case, you'll need to download this Word document: https://www.jvas.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/JVAS-Sticker-Design-Contest.docx

Todd McGrain is an artist who strives to recognize the heartbreak of bird extinction by artistically developing North American extinct birds in sculpture.

Dear JVAS Community,

I hope Spring Migration is treating you well. Birds that have not been here for months have started to find their way back to our beloved backyards and birding hotspots. I was enthusiastic to come across a pair of White-winged Scoters floating at the Bellwood Reservoir, Blair County, and I observed two American Golden Plovers preening at a flooded field in Centre County in the month of April.

BBC broadcaster David Attenborough said, “Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”

How do we feel when a bird becomes extinct, having no living members, no longer in existence? This truly is a very sad and dark day. As individuals and as a group we can continue to elevate our voices to protect our feathered friends through conservation actions, education and outreach, and advocacy.

The Great Auk, extinct partly because of the feather trade, looks over the Reflecting Pond at the Penn State Altoona campus.

Other JVAS members and I were fortunate to partake in several of The Lost Bird Project events hosted by Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, one of which JVAS helped to co-host: a screening of “The Lost Bird Project” at the Penn State Altoona Campus. The events provided educational programs to highlight avian conservation issues in central PA. Here's a film trailer for The Lost Bird Project:

Todd McGrain is an artist who strives to recognize the heartbreak of bird extinction by artistically developing North American extinct birds in sculpture. The mission – “raising awareness in hopes that each of us will hear and respond to our own unique calling to engage with the shift toward a better relationship with the earth.”

Communities in central Pennsylvania are privileged to have five of his fascinating sculptures, the Great Auk, Labrador Duck, Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, and Heath Hen spread out on display through August 2022 at various locations. Information about each of the sculptures can be found on the Shaver's Creek website.

The Passenger Pigeon sculpture resides at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. At one time, Passenger Pigeons were the most abundant bird in North America and possibly the world. Todd’s memorial is a stark reminder that human impact (in this case over-hunting and loss of habitat), can wipe out an entire species.
Sculptor Todd McGrain and John Carter with The Lost Bird Project book that John just purchased.

Baltimore Oriole

Join John Carter on the Bells Gap Trail every first Tuesday of the month from 10 am-12 noon while enjoying outstanding views of eastern ridges, the Tuckahoe Valley, and the Bellwood Reservoir. We will stroll 2 miles of the trail that consist of fresh crushed limestone surface. Let’s track what different bird species we see each month and have an enjoyable walk.

What to bring: binoculars, comfortable walking shoes, drink and snack as desired.

Directions to Bells Gap Trailhead: GPS coordinates 40.613171, -78.362070.

Parking and Trail Access to Bellwood trailhead: 163 Igou Road, Tyrone, PA 16686. Let’s meet at the pavilion in the parking lot.

If you have any questions or need more information please contact trip leader, John Carter, at 814-933-7426 or email [email protected]

At the end of each calendar year, I take time to reflect on how the birding world enriched my life and how I was able to give back to the birds.

Dear JVAS Community,

Happy New Year to you and your family!

At the end of each calendar year, I take time to reflect on how the birding world enriched my life and how I was able to give back to the birds. As many of us do, we participate in citizen science initiatives and programs such as the JVAS Earth Week Birding Classic, Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup, Christmas Bird Counts, The Great Backyard Bird Count, attend Hawk Watches, or just create lists of the variety of bird species that we have seen or heard for the first time, or maybe for the thousandth time. Either way we are fascinated by our feathered creatures.

Thinking back on 2021, a sequence of bird watching events I would love to share with you all happened during mid-April, a time in which migration is increasing and a great opportunity to observe vagrant birds. For three consecutive days I was privileged to see and appreciate three new lifetime Pennsylvania birds. Spotting a rare vagrant is an unanticipated delight so when this occurred, I was beyond ecstatic.

Neotropic Cormorant with Double-crested Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant (r) with Double-crested Cormorant

4/12/21: I made a trip to Lycoming Co. to visit the Williamsport Dam in which the first PA state record Neotropic Cormorant (NECO) was discovered the day before. It was a dreary day, but seeing this bird perched next to the more common Double-crested Cormorant of our area, was a treasure and a wonderful learning experience to see the differences. The NECO is typically found on waters of southern U.S. states, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

American White Pelican
American White Pelican

4/13/21: After work on this day, I did not have to contemplate at all after receiving a notification about a species I have only observed in North Carolina, an American White Pelican (AWPE). I arrived at the beautiful Shawnee State Park, Bedford Co. and was greeted by a thick orange billed all-white pelican drifting on the lake. One thing I learned about this species from reading in a field guide is that groups of AWPE will work together in order to herd fish into shallow waters for easy feeding.

King Rail
King Rail

4/14/21: Could lightning strike a 3rd time, you betcha! At a residential backyard in State College, Centre Co., of all places, I was able to enjoy alongside many other local birders the 4th Co. record of a King Rail. This was my #295th lifetime PA bird species, and I enjoyed watching as it was consuming earthworms in the yard. King Rail numbers have declined 90% in the last half-century, placing it as a species of high concern in the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan.

I want to thank each of you for your continued efforts supporting the birds and environment that we adore. Our mission cannot be accomplished without your help and dedication for conservation and restoration of our natural ecosystems.

I am also extremely grateful to work with amazing JVAS board members, who volunteer their own time to help with planning for new initiatives, programs, field trips, conservation, and financial efforts and much more. Thank you, Laura and Mike Jackson, George Mahon, Schawnne Kilgus, Matt Karabinos, Laura Palmer, Denice Rodaniche, Allison Cornell, Dave Bonta, Susan Braun, Michael Kensinger, Warren Baker, Sharon Clewell, and Catie Farr.

Here’s to a stellar 2022 together and good birding!

John Carter

We have cautiously reinstated field trips this fall, along with our first, tentative in-person program meeting in October at the Bellwood library.

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.

Here's the full listing of events for the autumn.

JVAS has developed a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Statement.

Dear JVAS Community,

I hope this message finds you and your family healthy.

It has been quite the summer with the mystery illness of the Songbird Mortality Event which is still being investigated to its cause. I do applaud all of you who acted during this time to keep your feeders down and cleaned. I do have some positive news as we flit into our Fall season and the growth of our JVAS community.

After reviewing the current JVAS boundaries we had the opportunity to add adjacent zip codes that do not have a local Audubon Chapter associated with it and are within the current counties we serve. The following zip codes which include Mifflin, Centre, and Huntingdon Counties: 16668, 16627, 15753, 16616, 16656, 16866, 16844, 16823, 16865, 16803, 16801, 16827, 16828, 17063, 17084, 17004, 17009, 17044, 17029, 17002, 17051, 17060 were thoughtfully discussed by our board and we feel it would help serve adjacent communities near the current boundaries of JVAS to help contribute to the mission and goals.

A few of the initiatives that are outside of our normal year-to-year plans, such as involving members in field trips and educational programs, is to increase diversity and education to our members. The pandemic has helped teach us that we can communicate in so many new creative methods.

If you are not getting emails from JVAS and would like to help conserve paper by receiving a digital copy of the Gnatcatcher Newsletter, please send us your email address so we can communicate with you more effectively. We will not share your email. Please Email: [email protected]

Increasing membership will also lead to stronger efforts in communicating conservation efforts and having more people voice their thoughts to the government and local authorities on important issues that impact our environment. As the saying goes, "Strength in numbers," and if we continue to build our JVAS foundation with voices that are within counties we already serve, it will help the overall mission of Audubon.

Having folks that are not currently part of a local chapter will also help create affinity within those Audubon members and would develop a local connection.

As we continue to work together towards our mission, JVAS developed a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Statement:

The Juniata Valley Audubon Society is committed to welcoming and encouraging birdwatchers and nature lovers from all walks of life. We believe we are able to grow and learn better when we are committed to inclusivity. We respect the individuality of each member, and we want to continue to engage a diverse membership; we encourage people of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientation, physical abilities, religions and beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds to embrace conservation, birding, and nature. Without a diverse perspective and a commitment to conservation, JVAS cannot move forward. Together we can work towards our goals of protecting birds and the environments they need to survive.

Thank you for being a continued valued member of JVAS and I look forward to continuing serving as your chapter’s president. I am enthusiastic in what we can accomplish to make a difference in our communities.

You might be thinking to yourself, “What can I do to help support the birds even more?” And I would say, “Consider planting some native plants!”

Dear JVAS Community,

Spring is here, friends, with new birds passing through our yards, flowers of different varieties emerging from the ground, bees buzzing, butterflies floating by... and the temperature is rising. You might be thinking to yourself, “What can I do to help support the birds even more?” And I would say, “Consider planting some native plants!”

According to Audubon, “In the United States, a native plant is defined as one that was naturally found in a particular area before European colonization. Native plants are the foundation of a region’s biodiversity, providing essential food sources and shelter for birds, especially those threatened by the changing climate. Since native plants are adapted to local precipitation and soil conditions, they generally require less upkeep, therefore helping the environment and saving you time, water, and money.”

Plants that are native to the areas where you live have the greatest number of benefits. They support birds and other wildlife through many stages of their lifecycle. They provide food in the form of seeds, nectar, berries, and nuts. Native plants play an important role in supporting insect species that are critical to the survival of nestlings and migrating birds. Native plants also contribute to healthier, more resilient human communities by more sustainably adding shade, storing carbon, and absorbing storm water to help reduce flooding and polluted run-off after storms than non-native plants.

black-eyed Susans
black-eyed Susans
One of my favorite native plants that I enjoy each year is the black-eyed Susan. This is an herbaceous annual which grows one to two feet tall in full sun in moist to dry, well-drained soil. The daisy-like flowers are yellow with a brownish-purple center, and bloom on rough stalks from June to October. Black-eyed Susan attracts birds such as wood warblers, cardinals, grosbeaks and wrens for its seeds and pollinating insects for its nectar, and is resistant to browsing by deer.

Here are some helpful resources from the National Audubon website to help understand Native Plants and improving your backyard habitat for wildlife:

Thanks for continuing to help our birds and other wildlife!

spicebush swallowtail on swamp milkweed
spicebush swallowtail on swamp milkweed

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.