It’s been a hot summer, so aren’t you interested in finding out how to capture all that solar power? We are proud to announce that JVAS is sponsoring a solar rooftop co-op called Solar United Neighbors (SUN)! One of our members who lives in Cambria County is already part of SUN with 28 solar panels on her roof. We also applaud other members who have solar. You may wonder why a bird group like JVAS is sponsoring solar, but just remember that rooftop solar helps to preserve important bird habitat since it reduces the demand for fossil fuels.
We are working with Henry McKay, SUN’s program director in Pennsylvania. Henry writes,
Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights. We'd like to bring together individuals and organizations in and around Blair County who are interested in helping to launch and promote a local solar co-op.
Solar co-ops are nonprofit programs that make it easier for homeowners and small businesses to go solar. People interested in going solar join the solar co-op, learn about solar technology and incentives, receive unbiased technical guidance from Solar United Neighbors, and pool their collective buying power to get a better deal on a solar installation. Solar co-ops are a powerful tool to increase solar adoption and build a stronger movement of solar advocates.
Solar co-ops are administered by Solar United Neighbors but require the assistance of motivated individuals and local partners to spread the word in the target communities and drive sign-ups. Right now, we are trying to determine if there is enough interest and support from local organizations in the Blair County area to launch a successful solar co-op.
Watch for a planning meeting announcement later this fall.
Bald Eagle Mountain is the western-most ridge in the Ridge and Valley physiographic province, part of a ridge system that continues to the southwest with Brush Mountain, then Canoe Mountain, Lock Mountain, Dunning Mountain, Evitts Mountain, and Wills Mountain in Pennsylvania, continuing down through the Appalachians as far as northern Georgia. Historical part-time hawk counts on Bald Eagle Mountain indicate its promise as a raptor migration pathway, particularly for golden eagles and red-tailed hawks. Based upon those historical counts, Bald Eagle Mountain was named a Pennsylvania Important Bird Area, but we don’t really know the full extent of its value to raptor migration.
High counts of these species in the fall at the Franklin Mountain (NY) hawk watch on northwest winds are often followed by high counts of these species several days later at Allegheny Front hawkwatch near Central City if the wind turns to be out of the east or southeast. We think that many of these birds are using Bald Eagle Mountain or the Allegheny Front to get there. Further, we suspect that the Allegheny Front hawkwatch tallies only a fraction of the migrant raptors that may use this migration pathway, because that site is highly dependent upon E/SE winds.
To assess the raptor migration on Bald Eagle Mountain, the project will conduct a single full-season fall hawkwatch from September through December 2019. To assist with full-time coverage, Juniata Valley Audubon has formed a partnership with the State College Bird Club and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center to support a paid full-time hawk counter. We anticipate that this project will document the considerable importance of Bald Eagle Mountain as a raptor migration pathway.
You can help support this effort by signing up to participate in our Earth Week Birding Classic, which will be held from April 21 to 28, 2019. Registration is free. The goal is for teams in seven different categories to count as many species of birds as possible over a 24-hour period any time during the week beginning on April 21 at 12 noon and ending at 12 noon on April 28. This non-profit event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona and Juniata Valley Audubon Society. Pledges that team members garner this year will support the Bald Eagle Mountain Fall Hawkwatch project. Teams of three or more (two or more for Senior citizens) will count birds in Blair and surrounding counties, and prizes will be awarded during the closing ceremony at the Slep Center on the Penn State Altoona campus immediately following the event at 1 pm. Registration deadline is April 14. To register and for more information, please contact Catie Farr at [email protected]
Check the events section of the website for a freshly updated listing of all our upcoming programs and field trips, including birding hikes, wildflower rambles, and more. The banquet this year will include a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of JVAS's founding in 1969! And don't miss the 4th annual Earth Week Birding Classic, our major fundraiser for conservation, held in cooperation with the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona.
There will be at least one other event which we don't have a firm date for yet. If you missed seeing the film Cathedral: The Fight to Save the Ancient Hemlocks of Cook Forest at our December meeting, we plan to offer another screening in March. Stay tuned.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society will be 50 years old in 2019, so I guess it's understandable why we're not always an early adopter of the hot new trends. But more and more of our members, especially the younger ones, have been agitating for the ability to join and renew online with a credit card, so at long last we have complied. Go to the Join or Renew page and scroll down for the membership options.
Your security is paramount, so we've had an SSL certificate installed on our server (thanks, Nittany Web Works!) and we're using Paypal as our payment gateway. But you don't need a Paypal account, just a major credit or debit card.
We've tried to keep things as simple as possible, so instead of asking you to fill out a separate form, we will simply gather your email and postal address from Paypal, and will assume that you prefer to receive the paper edition of the Gnatcatcher unless you follow up with an email requesting otherwise.
The one big advantage of joining or renewing online, aside from the obvious convenience of saving on postage and avoiding the hassle of writing out a check, is that you won't have to worry about forgetting to renew next year: it will automatically renew unless you cancel it. Better for you, better for us.
We assume that, as a member of JVAS, you'd like to receive occasional emails about club activities and conservation issues, but there will be opt-out links in those emails so you can remove yourself from the list if it becomes too much. (We're planning a complete revamp of our email communications system in the New Year.) Please be assured, however, that we will not share your data with anyone else for any reason.
There are, of course, limits to our embrace of modernity: we have no plans to accept Bitcoin payments at this time. Sorry, nerds.
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.
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. 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.
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]
We lost one of our longtime members recently. Sadly, Charlie Hoyer passed away on September 13, 2018. Charlie was a member of National Audubon since 1968 and an active advocate for our chapter, Juniata Valley Audubon Society, for many years. He served as the newspaper editor for ten years, as well as chapter president and membership chair. He also served as a board member for Pennsylvania Audubon.
Charlie and his wife, Marge, also hosted many wonderful dinners on Christmas Bird Count day. They also enjoyed feeding the birds, so Charlie volunteered as one of the feeder watchers for Count Day.
The beautiful floral centerpieces that decorated the tables at our Spring Banquet were often donated by the Hoyers. I often think of Charlie and Marge when I see Martha Washington geraniums.
Charlie was willing to take time to correct grammar, typos, and formatting for JVAS publications. We will miss his expertise and commitment to not only our chapter, but to conservation.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society has partnered with Lenca Farms to bring you the highest quality shade-grown coffee direct from Honduras. The farms support many species of native birds, as well as wintering Neotropical migrants.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society has partnered with Lenca Farms to bring you the highest quality shade-grown coffee direct from Honduras. The coffee farmers retain the forest canopy above the small coffee trees and use organic practices so the farms support many species of native birds, as well as wintering Neotropical migrants. Research by Cornell University shows that this type of coffee farm provides important habitat and food for many birds.
Lenca Farms Coffee is a medium roast with flavors of chocolate and cardamom. Because it is high elevation, it is low in caffeine. You will find the coffee to be very rich and smooth.
Lenca Farms is small group of coffee farmers in the high mountainous region of Marcala, in southwest Honduras. The farmers produce shade-grown coffee using organic practices, thus producing specialty coffee of the highest quality. Many species of Neotropical songbirds spend part of the winter in these shade coffee farms, as JVAS members have been able to verify for themselves.
One of the farmers, Emilio Garcia, is a fourth generation coffee grower who started importing the Lenca Farms coffee into the US in 2013. Lenca Farms offers direct trade with US roasters and guarantees that their specialty-grade coffee comes "From Our Farms to Your Door." Since the coffee harvest is from January to March, the green coffee is brought to the US in early summer, ensuring high-quality fresh coffee.
About the Roasters
Emilio Garcia is a partner with Jeff Myers, who started Abednego Coffee Roasters in 2008 in Chambersburg with the purpose that "we would make the world a better place." Emilio Garcia and Jeff Myers offer the highest quality coffee that is air roasted in small batches, ensuring our customers get freshly roasted coffee. They support sustainable coffee production through direct trade from small coffee growers. They also donate supplies and food to schools in Honduras, since they know that learning empowers children to rise above poverty.
Note that the program meetings now begin 15 minutes earlier, at 6:45 PM, following an optional free supper at 6:00.
There are also some special events on the calendar: a free workshop on bird feeding at Tyrone Milling on September 25, and on the first three Mondays in October, a series of interactive programs for gardeners emphasizing how native plants, water features, and cover are critical for pollinators and birds. Learn how to turn your own yard into a healthy habitat. Attend just one, or all three. $10 per program. For more details and to register, see the Penn State Extension website. You need to register by Thursday, September 27, 2018 for the Oct. 1 program.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society's Policy regarding wind development states that,
Industrial wind development on forested ridges creates a suite of ecological problems that outweigh the benefits of a renewable energy source. Since many birds and bats use our ridges as migratory pathways, tall towers with spinning blades cause almost certain mortality. In addition, large clearings for turbines and an extensive network of roads through forests create forest fragmentation, which is also a negative impact on forest birds and bats. For these reasons, as well as many more, the Juniata Valley Audubon Society opposes industrial wind development on forested ridges.
Specifically, if the first of two wind turbine applications proposed by Atlantic Wind, LLC are approved, up to 37 industrial wind turbines would be constructed, impacting three forested mountains in the Wild Creek Watershed: Stony, Pohopoco, and Call Mountains. These turbines, with their associated turbine pads and wide road clearings, will cause extensive forest fragmentation resulting in up to 292 acres of cleared forest.
If the second application is approved, the project will contain 28 turbines in linear rows impacting Pohopoco and Call Mountains, with up to 203 acres of forest being cleared. We know that roads and clearings through forests invite invasive plant species, more avian predators, and more ATVs. None of these are beneficial to forests and their inhabitants.
Wild Creek Watershed produces some of the cleanest water in the nation and is designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as an Exceptional Value Watershed. It is the undeveloped forest that makes this water so clean. Additionally, this water sustains thousands of people and businesses in the Bethlehem area.
Not only do the extensive tracts of forests provide clean water, they also provide homes and sustenance to a number of birds that are species of special concern in Pennsylvania: the Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Whip-poor-will, Brown Creeper, Wood Thrush, and Golden-winged Warbler breed in the Wild Creek Watershed. Birds that depend on vast forested acreage are also found in this watershed. In addition to the Wood Thrush, Pennsylvania has a global responsibility to provide large areas of unfragmented forest for the Scarlet Tanager since more than 19% of the population breeds in Pennsylvania.
The Wild Creek Watershed is located in the Appalachian Raptor Migration Corridor and partly within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Migration Corridor. Raptors use the watershed as stopover sites during migration.
The forests found in the Wild Creek Watershed are some of the most rare and unique habitats in the world. The habitat areas are called Yellow Run Barrens, Pitch Pine Barrens, Hell Creek Barrens, and Pine Run Woods. The term, "barrens," is often misleading as people think it is an area bare of trees and other vegetation. These barrens are actually lush with vegetation, but the trees are stunted and don't grow as tall as in other forests. Yellow Run Barrens contains a scrub oak-heath-pitch pine natural community that is unique in Pennsylvania and should be maintained through prescribed fire. Pitch Pine Barrens is also unique and rare in the state. Hell Creek Barrens contains a Pennsylvania endangered and globally rare plant species of concern, while Pine Run Woods is a maple, oak forest and scrub oak Shrubland Natural Community.
In 2005, when The Nature Conservancy completed a Natural Areas Inventory of Carbon County [PDF], they noted that no threats or disturbances were present in the Wild Creek Watershed because the Bethlehem Authority protected almost the entire watershed.
The Nature Conservancy recommended,
Continued protection will not only serve to protect these important municipal water supplies into the future, but also provide critical open space and wildlife habitat. It will serve to benefit the bird species of special concern [Osprey] and, perhaps, attract additional nesting pairs to the lake. The plant species of concern would be harmed by a loss of overstory and reduction in water quality at this site.
Sadly, in 2013, the Bethlehem Authority leased thousands of acres in the Wild Creek Watershed to Atlantic Wind, LLC. If the project is built, most of the watershed will become an industrial zone for energy production.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society supports properly sited wind projects, but an industrial wind project in the Wild Creek Watershed is clearly inappropriate. We urge the Bethlehem Authority to focus on the generation of clean water and the protection of special habitats and species by protecting the forest.
A recent study, "Return on Environment," which was partly funded by Audubon Pennsylvania, shows the importance of undeveloped forests in Carbon County. To quote:
WE CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO PROTECT CARBON COUNTY’S OPEN SPACE
The first rule of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else. Whatever we do to natural habitats— good or bad, big or small—ripples through the economy. Simply stated, the loss of open space costs more than we know. Losing natural resources, like trees and good water quality, is a significant strategic choice. Natural systems provide a form of insurance or risk management. They work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and have been doing so for the last 10,000 years, free of charge.
Catie Farr, President
Juniata Valley Audubon Society
Juniata Valley Audubon Society supports the protection of the eastern shore of Raystown Lake, specifically the endangered shale barrens which include the one located on Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We request that Hawn's Bridge Peninsula be reclassified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area and that Terrace Mountain remain as a Low Density Recreation Area in the new Master Plan.
Submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers by Laura Jackson, Vice President, on behalf of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society.
To Whom it May Concern:
Please accept this letter as a formal comment submitted by the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, with over 300 members residing in Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon, Mifflin, and Centre Counties in central Pennsylvania. We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments to be considered in the development of the Raystown Lake Master Plan Revision.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) recognizes the diverse recreational resources offered by the Raystown Lake, its economic development potential, the importance of the flood control, and its clean hydropower. More importantly, however, we value the significant amount of relatively undisturbed habitat: approximately 18,000 acres (84%) of the Raystown Lake Project is forested. Since Terrace Mountain provides a forested backdrop to much of the eastern lake shore, we know that sustainable forest management is key to maintaining not only the viewscape, but the quality of water in Raystown Lake. We commend the US Army Corps of Engineers on their work to maintain this important habitat, so vital to maintaining clean water and healthy fish and wildlife.
Furthermore, we applaud the Corps' efforts to establish a Bat Conservation Area on Terrace Mountain in the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula area to maintain roosting and foraging habitat for northern long-eared bats and Indiana bats, as well as other forest dwelling bat species. JVAS supports managing these areas to mimic old growth conditions, which will create better habitat for roosting bats.
Another type of habitat quite different from the forested expanses are the rare shale barrens that occur in the Raystown Lake Project Area. We understand that the shale barren communities in Bedford and Huntingdon counties are one of the most unusual, and also most endangered, ecosystems in Pennsylvania. They are few in number and small in acreage, but contain endemic plant species found only in this habitat. The eleven shale barrens in the Raystown Lake Project are each significantly important since they vary in geographical and environmental features, as well as types of flora and fauna. We appreciate the Corps' dedication to protecting them by designating them as "Natural Areas," which will be preserved in their natural state.
We ask that the Corps continue to protect the shale barrens as designated Natural Areas by placing total restriction of any development in the area, and protecting the steep slopes and fragile environment of the barrens areas from disturbance, except for scientific investigation. Especially important is the restriction of foot travel on the slope and prohibition of watercraft docking at the base of the cliffs.
We are concerned, however, that the 9-acre shale barrens on the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is under threat from future development. In the 1994 Master Plan, the Corps pledged complete protection and did not agree to any development on the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We know that the current Master Plan update is considering changing the use of this area. In keeping with the Corp's pledge to protect one of Pennsylvania's rarest and most endangered habitats, we would like to emphasize that this complete protection will only occur if the entire Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is protected from development. The 1994 master plan emphasized protection of the eastern shore, which includes the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We feel the eastern shore and Terrace Mountain should remain protected.
The Shale Barrens are also designated as part of the Raystown Biological Diversity Area (BDA), a Natural Heritage Area documented by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the Huntingdon County Natural Heritage Inventory. Within the strata of BDAs, Huntingdon County recognizes Hawn's Bridge Peninsula to be the highest ranking: an "Exceptional Biological Diversity Area." See map at end of letter.
Our request to protect Hawn's Bridge Peninsula from development is supported by many local residents, including the Coalition to Protect Hawn's Peninsula. It is important to note that our request to protect Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is also aligned with the Huntingdon County Comprehensive Plan, 2007 Supplement. Sadly, the businesses and organizations that are promoting development of Hawn's Bridge Peninsula are at odds with the Comprehensive Plan.
Although it is not regulatory, the Comprehensive Plan is an important guiding document for Huntingdon County as it contains, "A Vision for the 21st Century." The Elements of the Vision include, "protection of farmland, forest land, natural resources, and the environment," while emphasizing new development "in and around existing boroughs and villages." It further emphasizes developing "greenways along rivers and ridges."
This vision is further detailed in this excerpt, " The vast majority of land in the County will remain in productive private rural land uses such as agriculture, forestry, and recreation. A system of “Greenways” will be established along mountain ridges, streams, and rivers to protect water quality, to provide habitat for wildlife, to enhance recreational opportunities, and to protect scenic beauty. "
One policy supported in this Vision does include, "the development of a year-round, full-service resort at Raystown Lake." However, we ask that such development should not be along mountain ridges such as Terrace Mountain, or impact rare habitats like shale barrens. Such a resort at Raystown Lake should be on Army Corps property where development already occurs, not in an exceptional Biological Diversity Area like Hawn's Bridge Peninsula.
In conclusion, Juniata Valley Audubon Society supports the protection of the eastern shore of Raystown Lake, specifically the endangered shale barrens which include the one located on Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We request that Hawn's Bridge Peninsula be reclassified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area and that Terrace Mountain remain as a Low Density Recreation Area in the new Master Plan.