State College Bird Club

March 23, 2016

State College Bird Club
Membership Meeting Minutes
March 23 2016
Diane Bierly presided.
Approximately 33 attendees.

Three volunteers are needed for the nominating committee. Posts are opening for Treasurer, Field Trips, and At Large.

Checklist reported 110 species including European Wigeon, Marsh Wren, and the continuing Western Tanager.


Next meeting’s speaker will be Susan Braun on “Getting to Know New Areas through Birding Festivals—SE Arizona.”

Plans call for Toftrees Resort Golf Club to pursue certification through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Will this make them more friendly to birders?

Field trips: Joe Verica not available. There will be a woodcock walk in April, a trip to Bald Eagle State Park April 17, and a Detweiler Run hike in May.

Bird banding: Arboretum starts March 39.

Shaver’s Creek bird walks start April 16, and Millbrook Marsh April 19.

Annual Breeding Bird Blitz will take place the third weekend of June.


"Red Eye Flight: New Techniques for Exploring the Brain of the Migrating Bird."

Dr. Paul A. Bartell, Dept. of Animal Sciences at Penn State

Seasonal cycles of birds are regulated by bio clocks, which direct the birds to rest, put on fat and molt in preparation for migration. The genes that maintain these clocks are triggered by day length, temperature, food supplies, and social interactions. These behaviors are innate and persist in caged birds, who switch activity from daytime to nighttime, and begin flapping their wings and orienting their bodies in the direction of migration.

Dr. Bartell traveled to Alaska to study Northern Wheatears. These songbirds breed at high altitudes and migrate to East Africa. He used spring traps baited with mealworms to trap 40 Wheatears and brought the birds back with him to State College. The birds are studied for their changes in physiology, biochemistry and activity throughout the annual cycle. They are rendered unconscious, strapped into specially designed holders, and subjected to MRI whole brain image scans. They have remarkable regenerative powers in their brains; for example, the areas in the brain responsible for birdsong shrink in the fall and grow again in spring. The MRIs are taken at different times to compare the seasonal changes in nerve fibers and blood vessels in the same birds.

Dr. Bartell also worked with White-throated Sparrows, inspecting the genes in various tissue samples at different times of day and during migratory and non-migratory condition. Since there is no genome mapped for these birds, his team is constructing one from RNA analysis.

The Office of Naval Research is very interested in these studies, which may suggest ways to keep sailors awake and alert all night.