State College Bird Club Meeting
November 20, 2019
Foxdale Village

Presiding: Doug Wentzel

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito
Attendance: 26

Checklist, Oct 23-Nov 20, 2019:   Species Total: 109
(Birds seen by members of the audience within a 25-mile radius since the last meeting).

Treasurer report (Jean Miller): Deposited: $150; Paid out:  $2260 (for the Hawk Watches). Membership dues are still being accepted.

Old Business: 

The call for volunteers to help with the May Meeting potluck was made. Roana Fuller and Diane Bierly generously volunteered to help coordinate logistics and activities associated with the potluck. More help is welcome; if interested please contact Doug Wentzel.
Joe Gyekis has volunteered to coordinate a member survey and provided suggestions of topics that could be considered on the survey:

•    Member attitudes about the reading of the checklist: Given that ebird exists and already provides more in-depth information about bird sightings from the region than our checklist, Joe was wondering if there may be other options for members to briefly share interesting bird sightings at the beginning of each meeting in lieu of the checklist.
•    Possible update of club bylaws: Joe suggested we may want to update the bylaws to reflect more current inclusion/non-discrimination clauses than we presently have. He also suggested that we include statements about welcoming non-members as well as all skill/knowledge levels to all bird club activities.
•    Ideas to serve the community more broadly: Monthly meetings and field trips are attended by a limited number of the 300 people signed up on the listserv. Perhaps there are other options for serving and expanding this community.

Joe welcomes any thoughts or suggestions about these or any other topics that could be addressed in a member survey. Contact Joe.

Doug suggested that perhaps some of our members would be interested in leading bird walks (Tuesdays in April, 8:00-9:30 AM) at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. If anyone is interested, but does not feel completely comfortable/qualified to be a leader, Doug Wentzel and Jon Kauffman would be happy to be mentors; providing tips and insights they have gathered from their own experiences. Contact Doug or Jon.

Hawk Watches: Although the season will soon be winding down, the grand finale with golden eagles has been gratifying. At our Bald Eagle hawk watch, 240 golden eagles have been seen to date during this fall migration, placing this watch historically among the top 5 eastern US hawk watches. Bald Eagle Mountain is known to be a major flyway for adult golden eagles heading south to their wintering grounds. Our data from this special one-time opportunity to count at this site has certainly shown that. Thanks go to Kaitlin McGee for her tireless dedication to keeping an accurate accounting of all the raptor migrants passing along this ridge.

New Business/Announcements:

Come join a Christmas Bird Count (see general information on the Audubon website.

Both the State College and Huntingdon Christmas Bird Counts are on Sunday December 15. For more information, contact Bob Fowles (State College), Deb Grove (Huntingdon), Jon Kauffman (Raystown), or Doug Wentzel (Shaver’s Creek).

A couple of issues related to Bird Friendly Building Design were discussed at the meeting:

•    Nick Kerlin reminded us that design work for the new Art Museum to be located at the Arboretum at Penn State has begun. All interested bird club members who wish to express their desire for bird-friendly design/construction can contact:
Palmer Museum of Art, Erin Coe , Director 814-865-7673,
OPP Project Manager, Monica Reed , 814-863-5765
Your emails and phone calls could really make a difference. More information about bird-friendly design can be found at:

•    Joe Gyekis discussed his outreach efforts to Penn State OPP(Office of Physical Plant) advocating bird-friendly glass for PSU campus buildings. Joe found an ally at OPP in Bill (Butch) Rittleman, Facilities Mechanical Engineer who is interested in pursuing such design elements. Joe indicated that bird-friendly design standards have been adopted campus-wide by Cleveland State University and that PSU may be interested in doing something similar. Joe also mentioned networking with Hiedi Trudell, a bird collision specialist who could be a valuable resource on bird-friendly design. For more information contact Contact Joe.

Speaker: David Toews, “Mistakes Happen! Hybridization in Wood Warblers”

David Toews, a Nova Scotia native who studied at University of British Columbia, has recently joined the Department of Biology at Penn State as an assistant professor after studying North American wood warbler evolution and hybridization as a post-doc at Cornell.

David discussed his work to look for genetic markers that distinguish Golden-winged from Blue-winged Warblers. These two species, that look so distinctly different, interbreed producing well know hybrids such as Lawrence’s and Brewster’s Warblers. As far back as 1835 John James Audubon speculated that perhaps Golden-winged (GWWA) and Blue-winged (BWWA) Warblers were in fact the same species. Through the years attempts to find genetic differences between the two species were completely unsuccessful, even when as many as 16,000 sites within the genome were sequenced. David discussed his work to sequence the entire genome of these two species using blood samples from 10 individuals of each species that had been briefly captured using mist nets. Of the 11 million regions throughout the genome that were sequenced, only 6 spots were found that showed fixed differences between GWWA and BWWA. A single recessive gene was identified as being responsible for the presence of the throat patch as seen in GWWA. David also discussed on-going efforts to identify genes associated with different migratory patterns in the two species.

Although these two species diverged 1.5 million years ago, they have probably been interbreeding periodically throughout time. Studies over the past 4 decades show that, where their ranges overlap, GWWA populations declined, BWWA numbers increased and hybrids as a proportion of the combined population stayed steady. There appears to be genetic swamping by BWWA over GWWA. So the question remains, are these different species or actually plumage variants of the same species?