State College Bird Club Meeting
January 25, 2017

Presiding: Diane Bierly

Recording: Debra Grim

Attendees: 52

Checklist: 94 species reported


Treasurer report:

Field trips: Many are coming in March and April

Laura Jackson has bird-friendly coffee for sale, grown by Honduran coffee farmer Emilio Garcia.

Interviews are underway for the Tussey Mountain Hawk Watch. Donations are appreciated.

Next meeting: February 22: Clay Lutz from the PA Game Commission, “Barn Owl Conservation in Pennsylvania”.


December Speaker: Pam & Doug Ford, The Layered Landscape: Creating Habitats that Support Natural Systems

Pam and Doug are Penn State Extension Master Gardeners in Centre County. Pam is responsible for the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden in Tudek Park and its many satellite gardens (website: has a wealth of information). Doug is coordinating implementation of the new Healing Garden at the Centre Community Hospital.

Pam is dedicated to carrying on the mission of her mentor, “Butterfly” Bob Snetsinger in maintaining the butterfly garden at Tudek Park, a cooperative effort between Master Gardeners, Centre Parks and Rec, Frost Entomology Museum and community volunteers. They have recorded more than 36 species of butterflies and 80 species of birds in the habitat. As explained by Doug Tallamy in his book Bringing Nature Home, insects are the rivets that hold life together. Our “natural” areas tend to contain 30% invasive species, which means 30% fewer plants maintaining the ecosystem. Gardeners play a vital role in reclaiming more natural habitat by creating it in their own landscapes. We can’t afford to have nature be “out there”—it needs to be in our backyards. Replace lawn and shrubs and trees from Asia with native species.

A serious challenge to this kind of gardening is to leave it alone in the winter. Wait until tax day to clean up the dead material. This will help preserve the insects and other creatures that overwinter in that cover, such as the spicebush swallowtail chrysalis that Pam had us pass around the room.

Another challenge is weed ordinances and the attitudes of neighbors toward natural landscaping.

Insects like butterflies and moths shelter and feed in a variety ways, making it important to create layers of different heights, from ground covers to trees. Even a small space can usually support a small tree or a shrub. A higher habitat diversity benefits wildlife by providing food, water, and shelter, as well as adding beauty and interest to the garden. Native plant species are far more attractive to native insects than imported plants. Native oaks are especially productive, supporting more than 500 species of Lepidoptera alone, and goldenrods support at least 115 species. Plants like these can feed a lot of chickadee chicks.

The National Wildlife Federation hosts a database at that gives lists of suitable native plants with high wildlife value, based on your zip code. Gardening for insects is also gardening for birds, as most birds feed insects to their young. Keep in mind when selecting plants that both host plants and nectar plants are needed for Lepidoptera, and two thirds of those host plants are woody species. Another helpful website is by Pennsylvania DCNR.

Lawn doesn’t have to be the central feature of your yard. Plan your landscape by laying out the walking areas first—these can be turf. The design process can be aided by a Google Earth view of your yard and tracing paper to create a bubble diagram. Implement the plan a little at a time. Consider the setting—it’s much easier to move a tree on paper than in your landscape. Get acquainted with the many wonderful native species and find just the right ones for your home. If everyone in the neighborhood does this, in time a wildlife corridor will be formed, alive with birds and insects.

Minutes by Debra Grim