Of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, Blair, at the core of our Audubon chapter’s area, is ranked 46 all-time in number of bird species recorded. We’ve logged 259 species so far, 38 above Sullivan County, Pennsylvania’s lowest, but 96 less than Lancaster County, number one in the state.
This year, I set out to see if it was possible to detect at least 200 species in a single hotspot – in this case, Plummer’s Hollow, at the northern end of Blair County. I used every means at my disposal, including a nocturnal flight call recorder, and managed to count 202 species (pending continuing flight call analysis that may swell the total). One of the things I learned was that knowing how to detect birds (I call it “intercepting” them) is a large part of what we think of as “species richness.” Location, habitat quality and diversity, and observer effort are also critically important, but it’s amazing how many species are missed just because someone isn’t in the right place at the right time. We probably missed Sandhill Crane, or Swallow-tailed Kite, or you-name-it this year because someone didn’t glance up at just the right moment in just the right location.
While I like to think that Plummer’s Hollow is special, I suspect that virtually every Pennsylvania natural area with varied habitat and a few hundred acres of woods and fields could turn up similar hotspot top-ten numbers on a yearly basis. The problem is how hard it is to detect some birds unless someone is onsite 24/7. I can’t imagine how many rarities escape notice on our many local ponds and lakes, or even muddy fields, for example. Often, waterfowl and waders land in the night, spend a few hours in the morning, and they’re off again. How many of these completely escape detection? How many of the rarities that non-birders see ever get noted or reported to birders?
WE ARE! (#20)
In 2023, Blair County cracked the top 20 in the state, in a five-way county tie of 223 species for the year. This is a substantially higher county rank than in the past and based on far less eBird checklists than the counties occupying one through 19. This 253-and-counting list is probably still dozens shy of the “true number” (total species present in the skies and/or on the ground at some point during the year) but is nevertheless a testament to the couple dozen casual and, well, fanatical birders who have focused more effort on Blair this year than ever before.
Blair added six species to its all-time list in 2023. They were the Painted Bunting on April 22, photographed at a feeder near the Juniata Valley Church, and five nocturnal migrants over Plummer’s Hollow: Common Gallinule (4/15); Whimbrel (5/22 and after); Ruddy Turnstone (5/27); Short-billed Dowitcher (7/1 and after); Upland Sandpiper (8/9). Now, there are naysayers who may doubt the importance of birds that fly over at night, but I think nocturnal migrants are equally as important as those that fly over during the day, such as raptors. Whether they land here or not, nest here or not—they are still within our territory. We don’t own them, for sure, but we are their stewards as long as they are here. And whether we know it or not, they—particularly the night-flying ones—face some pretty large obstacles. Take the tens of thousands of Swainson’s Thrushes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Hermit Thrushes, and Veeries that stream north in the spring and south in the fall. On certain September dawns, I sit in a field on top of Plummer’s Hollow, awash in the overlapping peeps of thousands of thrushes as they descend to the forests all around to rest and feed for the day. One day, it occurred to me that, minutes earlier, they may have had to thread the massive wind towers of Sandy Ridge, directly to the north, as they exited the Appalachian Plateau airspace and entered the Ridge and Valley Province. (Or, perhaps, they’ve learned to avoid those obstacles?) I’m happy that we’ve kept much of our part of their flyway free of obstacles, and also that we entice them and hundreds of other species with ample opportunities to spend a day, a week, or a season.
To paraphrase the great Eddie Kendricks, KEEP ON BIRDIN’!
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.
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).
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.
For more of Mark's birding adventures, check out his Bird Mountain newsletter.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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!
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].
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Canoe Creek State Park
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]
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]
We planned to spend three weeks this past January in Honduras on a research expedition to two locations in the remote eastern portion of the country. Our goals were to work with local conservation pioneers and preserves to survey and promote the wide diversity of bird life in these special yet threatened regions.
Note: Ian Gardner was inspired to organize the CACAO 2017 Expedition after participating in our Birding for Conservation trip to Honduras in February, 2016. This initiative is the first research project under the auspices of the newest JVAS Committee: Partners in Neotropical Bird Conservation. Contact Laura Jackson if you would like to get involved in conservation and education projects focusing on migratory birds.
Cacao is the Honduran colloquial name for the threatened Red-throated Caracara, a species of raptor that has nearly disappeared from Central America in the past few decades. It is also the acronym for a small but passionate cooperative of multi-national conservationists. We planned to spend three weeks this past January in Honduras on a research expedition to two locations in the remote eastern portion of the country, Reserva Biologica Rus Rus in Gracias a Dios and Parque Nacional Botaderos in Olancho. Our goals were to work with local conservation pioneers and preserves to survey and promote the wide diversity of bird life in these special yet threatened regions. We were able to meet our funding goal for the trip thanks to the support of many individuals and several Audubon Society chapters like JVAS.
We knew beforehand that these federal lands, Reserva Biologica Rus Rus and Parque Nacional Botaderos, were protected by title alone. During our expedition we learned why. Both areas are remote, at least a very rough 4 hour drive from the closest ICF facility (Instituto de Conservacion Forestal). But they also host an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, particularly birds.
We recorded over 280 bird species in the dimorphic landscape of Rus Rus. This area is comprised of two distinct ecosystems: expansive pine savanna and dense gallery* forest. Each contains a unique suite of species that is constantly evolving, so researchers are recording more species with each visit. Our expedition recorded range expansions for over 20 species and found such notables as Harpy Eagle, Crane Hawk, Jabiru, Black Rail, Green Ibis, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Scaled Pigeon, Northern Potoo, Yellow Tyrannulet, Aplomado Falcon, and Snowy Cotinga.
In Olancho, we surveyed miles of mountain trails in the central highlands and recorded over 200 species. Our top target was the pine forest denizen Red-throated Caracara, which we missed, but we were told of many recent encounters. We did see several other target birds such as Ocellated Quail, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Golden-winged Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and Red Crossbill. We also surveyed the lowland portion of Isidro Zuniga’s Las Orquideas Nature Preserve, where we documented a Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, a hummingbird with an isolated population that can only be found in this small region of Honduras.
Protected forests in eastern Honduras also face serious threats from natural resource extraction companies and cattle ranchers. Mining and Hydropower projects destroy hundreds of hectares and divert miles of rivers in Olancho. Cattle ranchers are recent migrants to the Rus Rus region and are illegally grabbing land to clearcut for cattle pastures. However, a determined community of environmentalists is standing up. These activists are literally risking life and limb to protect the forests, as you read in last year’s article about the late Berta Caceres. Fortunately we never faced any threats during this expedition and were able to talk with local communities and learn about these pressing conservation issues from their perspectives.
* Gallery forests are forests that form as corridors along rivers or wetlands and project into landscapes that have fewer trees, such as grasslands or deserts.
The PGC has done some remarkable work to help birds like the Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Sandhill Crane, Golden-winged Warbler, and many others increase their populations in Pennsylvania. Join us as we celebrate another year of commitment to bird conservation by both the PGC and Juniata Valley Audubon Society.
A "silent auction" also will be held to raise funds for conservation efforts supported by the JVAS. Members are asked to bring new or gently used nature-related items to donate for the silent auction. Please bring the items before 5:00 PM at the banquet. Books, artwork, pottery, native plants — anything related to nature will be auctioned. Bring your checkbook or cash to support this important fund-raiser!
We will order off the menu, so payment in advance is not required. However, we ask that you email or call JVAS Hospitality Chair Marcia Bonta by April 12, as we need to let Hoss’s know how many plan to attend. Please call Marcia at 814-684-3113 or email: [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].