State College Bird Club Meeting
December 11, 2019
Foxdale Village

Presiding: Doug Wentzel

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito
Attendance: 28

Checklist, Nov 21-Dec 11, 2019:   Species Total: 84
(Birds seen by members of the audience within a 25-mile radius since the last meeting).

Treasurer report (Jean Miller): Deposited: $135; Paid out:  $50. Membership dues are always welcome.

Old Business: 

Regarding the New Art Museum to be constructed at the Arboretum at Penn State, Nick Kerlin indicated that our emails and phone calls have made the architects very aware of the community interest for bird friendly design. All future correspondence regarding bird friendly design comments/information should be directed to Shari Edelson.  She will collate all information we provide and present this to the architects.

Several Christmas Bird Counts in the State College area will be conducted during the weekend of Dec 14-15. If you miss these, consider joining the Bedford Co. CBC (Mike and Laura Jackson) or Lake Raystown CBC ( Jon Kauffman ) later in December. 

Hawk Watches:

Bald Eagle Mountain: We have learned a lot about migration along this ridge from this single season, which officially ended on Dec 11, 2019. Bald Eagle Mountain now holds the record high count for Golden Eagles (343) among all Eastern Flyway count sites for all years. High numbers of other species were also tallied; 1641 Turkey Vultures (180% higher than 2019 Stone Mnt count) and 271 Bald Eagles (50% higher than 2019 Stone Mnt count). Nick Bolgiano is currently writing a summary from this hawk watch for publication in Hawk Migration Studies.

Stone Mountain is winding down its 25th fall migration season. Record high numbers of Broad-winged Hawks (3806) and Bald Eagles (178) were tallied along with the 3rd highest number of Golden Eagles (161) over the 25 years of observation at this site. On the other hand, 2019 was among the lowest 3-4 years for counts of common migrants such as Kestrels, Coopers Hawks and Northern Harriers. Thanks to Zoe Greenburg for stepping in to assist with counting in the latter half of the season.

Also, a big thanks to Jon Kauffman, Nick Bolgiano and Greg Grove for organizing, coordinating and counting at these hawk watches.

Anyone wishing to donate bird/nature books to Shaver’s Creek can give them to Doug Wentzel at any SCBC meeting. Proceeds from the sale of these books go to support the Hawk Watches.

Thanks to Bob Fowles for doing a good job of keeping the State College Bird Club website up-to-date.

New Business/Announcements:

After her meeting with the Arboretum’s Avian Education Advisory Committee, Diane Bierly gave us an update on the prospects for the SCBC to make a donation to the new Bird and Pollinator Garden at the Arboretum at Penn State.  For a permanent plaque with our name displayed on something like a bench or tree, a minimum donation of $5000 to the PSU endowment fund would be required. Since this amount seems a bit beyond the reach of the Bird Club, other options are being considered. A contribution toward a Little Free Library located within the Garden Bird Blind structure, stocked and coordinated in perpetuity by PSU Arboretum staff is one possibility.  Discussions are still underway to determine the cost and other logistics of the library.

During this coming spring, a Chimney Swift Tower, using the design described by speaker Brian Shema at the April 2019 SCBC meeting, will be constructed at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center by an eagle scout candidate, Tynan Butler.

Speaker: Carolyn Mahan, “Use of Electric Transmission Line Rights-of-Way by breeding birds in central Pennsylvania: species richness and nest productivity”

Dr. Mahan, a professor of Biology at Penn State Altoona, discussed her research on the influence of various land management practices used under and around electric transmission towers and power lines on bird populations. The study area, initially established in the 1950’s is in a forested area of State Game Lands 33 near Phillipsburg and is part of a larger 60 year-long study of plants and wildlife within power line rights-of-way (ROW). More information about all of this research can be found at:
The ROW is maintained in an early successional vegetative stage with two zones:
•    Wire Zone (75-105ft wide), directly under the towers and wires, has very short vegetation (forbs, low shrubs and grasses)
•    Border Zone (30-50ft wide) on either side of the wire zone has low to medium-sized shrubby vegetation and is adjacent to natural forest.
Vegetation management treatments included:
•    mechanical (no herbicide - mowing, hand cutting)
•    herbicide (high and low volume used once every 4-5 years). 

Birds found in early successional habitats such as Field Sparrows, Towhee, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Catbirds and Indigo Buntings were the most abundant species within the ROW. The Border Zone with its taller shrubby vegetation (especially where the zone is 50ft wide) is very important to supporting larger numbers of birds, greater species diversity and higher nesting success as compared to the Wire Zone regardless of management treatment (mechanical or herbicide).

The fact that chemical vegetation control (herbicides) did not appear to effect birds negatively in this study may seem to be a surprising result. However, small quantities were used and spraying was done only every 4-5 years. No other pesticides such as insecticides, which are known to disrupt many levels within ecosystems, were used.

Integrated vegetation management (IVM) used to maintain early successional vegetation has been shown to be compatible and even beneficial to plants and animals, including birds within the ROW. This vegetation management technique involves the use of herbicides and/or mechanical treatments to initially control unwanted tall-statured trees such as white oak and red maple, allowing establishment of desirable native species, such as goldenrod, mountain laurel and blueberries. Once established, these lower growing, early successional species are able to prevent invasion of unwanted trees providing a cost, as well as ecological, benefit over the long term.