State College Bird Club

April 26, 2017

State College Bird Club Meeting, April 26, 2017

Presiding: Diane Bierly

Recording: Debra Grim, who forgot to bring the minutes from March to read.

Attendees: 35

Checklist: 178 species reported, including Western Tanager, Marsh Wren, White-winged Scoter.


Treasurer report (Jean Miller): no activity this month

Field trips: Jon Kauffman not present. Sunday, April 30 will be a leisurely 4-mile float from the Petersburg Fire Station to the Hydro Dam and back.

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

Tussey Mountain Hawk Watch update (Nick Bolgiano). Total of 188 Golden Eagles with only a few days left. The peak is usually around March 10, but this spring March 20 was the peak.

Spring banding season at the Arboretum ends May 10.

Migration morning walks at Shaver’s Creek end May 10.

The Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup is May 5-6.

The Arboretum at Penn State Thursday morning bird walks continue through May 11—note that the final walk will be at Scotia Barrens.

Greg Grove extolled the benefits of membership in the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology, which include 4 journals and 4 newsletters each year, plus field trips, a listserv service, and the annual meeting, which will take place in Carlisle this fall.

Deb Grove reminded us that Clearwater Conservancy sells bird-friendly coffee. Clearwater is fundraising for the Slab Cabin initiative. Myer Dairy and Everhart Farm (with the right-of-way to Musser Gap) are part of this watershed.

Election of officers: Thank you to Jim Curtis, Roana Fuller, and Greg Grove for serving on the nominating committee. Diane Bierly, Alyssia Church, and Deb Grove are stepping down.

New slate of officers:
President: Doug Wentzel.
Vice President for Programs: Joe Gyekis
Vice President for Field Trips: Jon Kauffman
Secretary: Debra Grim
Treasurer: Jean Miller
Board Members at Large: Nick Bolgiano, Susan Braun, Greg Grove, Bob Fowles

Next meeting: Picnic, May 24 at Millbrook Marsh.


April Speaker: Mark Bonta, I am that bird: reflections on ethno-ornithology and the sciences

Mark Bonta teaches geography and philosophy at Penn State Altoona. He was raised in a hollow outside Tyrone and has been watching and hand-feeding birds since the age of two. His degrees, all in geography, are from Penn State, University of Texas, and Louisiana State University. Mark has been a life-long Audubon member and is currently vice-president of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society. He has birded intensively in Honduras, starting with his Peace Corps service there in 1991, and he has birded lightly in several other countries. He has followed his book, Seven Names for the Bellbird: Conservation Geography in Honduras with several other philosophical and research-based articles and books on birds from an ethno-ornithological standpoint. In addition to his Australia work that he will talk about tonight, he is involved in ethnobotanical research on cycads in Mesoamerica, and spends as much time as possible in Mexico.

Mark mused on the ways science and human communities perceive birds. Humans have evolved unique and ancient relationships with birds. For example, Masai whistle to summon Honeyguides, who respond with a special call before leading them to a honey source.

He is particularly interested in Australian Aboriginal traditions about raptors who intentionally spread fire. According to hearsay, the birds will pick up burning twigs and drop them in new areas to spread the fire, presumably to flush prey. There has been little to no scientific documentation of this behavior. The Aboriginal ceremonies and protected knowledge about these occurrences makes it a delicate matter to study the phenomenon. Fires are part of the landscape in Australia that Aborigines have incorporated into an elaborate, secret spiritual practice. Researchers have to request permission to investigate. Perhaps they must also learn how to “be the bird."

Minutes by Debra Grim