State College Bird Club Meeting
February 26, 2020
Foxdale Village

Presiding: Doug Wentze

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito
Attendance: 30

Checklist, Jan 23 -Feb 26, 2020:   Species Total: 90
(Birds seen by members of the audience within a 25-mile radius since the last meeting).

Treasurer report (Jean Miller): Deposited: $40; Paid out:  $200 (Hawk Watch). Membership dues are still welcome; we are running a bit behind last year’s deposits.

Upcoming Field Trips:

•    Sunday, March 22, 2020 (8am – 11am): Exploring Bald Eagle State Park, Spring Migrants.
•    Saturday, April 11, 2020 (7am-10am) : Birdwatching at Prince Gallitzin State Park
•    Saturday, April 18, 2020 (7:30am-10:00am): Walk at Rhoneymeade, Centre Hall, Pa
•    Saturday, April 25, 2020 (8am-10am): James Cleveland Memorial Trail
•    Sunday, May 17 (7:30am-9:30am): State Game Lands 33 Powerline right-of-way (ROW) Walk

More details can be found on our website, on facebook and in Jon Kauffman’s Feb 24 email on the listserv. A big thanks to the individuals who have offered to lead these trips.

Old Business

A survey with a few questions about the Bird Club meetings and activities was sent on Feb 26 by Joe Gyekis to the email listserv and is posted on our website. We encourage everyone, (members, nonmembers, anyone who reads our emails) to take a few minutes to respond.

Save the date; May 27 is our last Bird Club meeting of the season and will be held at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. Doug Wentzel is coordinating the potluck.

Donate field guides/nature books to Shaver’s Creek gently used Book Sale. Proceeds support the Hawk Watches. Last year, $250 was raised.

This is the 20th year of the Tussey Mountain spring hawk watch. Everyone is welcome to join Zoey Greenberg, our official counter and veteran of last fall’s Stone Mt watch.  Dress warmly, as it’s always colder on the mountain than in the valley.

Greg Grove gave an update on the status of the gas station/convenience store proposed for an area just uphill from Old Crow Wetland, an important bird habitat. At the moment the proposal is with PennDot. For more information, contact Greg.

New Business

Sunday March 1: Millbrook Marsh Nature Center hosts
Birds and Bagels 9:00-10:30AM.

Migration Morning Bird Walks at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center begin Wednesday April 1, 7:00-8:30am and occur each Wed in April and early May.

Native Plant Sale: Saturday April 25 begins 10AM at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. The sale will continue throughout the week during Shaver’s Creek’s regular hours (10AM– 5PM) for as long as plants last.

Elections for several Bird Club positions will take place during the April 22 Bird Club meeting.  We need a volunteer for VP of Field Trips. The responsibilities are to schedule/coordinate field trips and to publicize trips on the website. The VP is not the person who actually leads the trips, though he/she may do so for some trips. If you wish to volunteer or get more information please contact Greg Grove.

Speaker: Julian Avery, “It’s a noisy world! Experimental effects of industrial noise on cavity-nesting birds”

Julian, a conservation biologist at Penn State University in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, described a research project he conducted in collaboration with Margaret Brittingham to begin to understand how noise associated with natural gas extraction impacts nesting success of cavity nesting Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. As is widely known, development of Marcellus shale gas extraction impacts landscapes, particularly in the northeastern and southwestern regions of PA. Habitat fragmentation and noise pollution are among many issues that can have immediate negative impacts on wildlife.

Compressor stations, where natural gas from surrounding wells is pressurized for transport, are a major source of chronic (24/7) noise, much of it at low frequencies which can travel up to 6-7 km from the source. Noise, especially low frequency, from diverse sources such as road traffic, wind turbines and ocean shipping have been shown to influence animal behavior in a number of ways including avoidance, reduced feeding and hyper vigilance.

To assess the impact of compressor noise on Bluebird and Tree Swallow nesting activity and success, nest boxes were placed in suitable habitat at Ag Progress Days. Twenty “noisy” nest boxes were adjacent to speakers which continuously played, March-August, noise that had been recorded 100 meters from an operating natural gas compressor station. Twenty “quite” nest boxes were paired with the noisy boxes and placed a sufficient distance from the “noisy” boxes so as not to be exposed to the recorded compressor sounds.

A number of nesting activities were monitored throughout the breeding season to determine differences between noisy and quiet nest boxes. During the first year of this study, no preference was seen in nest box selection regardless of age of parent birds; noisy and quiet boxes were selected equally. This may be due to the fact that cavity nesters often have limited choices with cavities being typically scarce in the landscape. When they find a suitable cavity they take it.

Number of eggs laid, begging frequency and body condition of nestlings did not appear to be impacted by noisy vs. quiet nest boxes. However, differences in other nesting activities were seen. In noisy boxes, bluebirds incubated less and tree swallow parents flushed from the nest more quickly when the nest box was approached by researchers. Also swallows in noisy boxes who may have been more vigilant/agitated/active fed their nestlings more frequently than in quiet boxes.

In noisy boxes, hatching success was reduced in both species and brood size trended smaller though not statistically different between noisy and quiet boxes. Although there was no significant statistical difference in fledging rate (number of young leaving the nest) between quiet and noisy nest boxes, 15% fewer tree swallow young were fledged from noisy boxes.

In the second year of the study, new nesters, inexperienced with the noise, chose noisy and quiet boxes equally, just as all the birds had, during the first year of the study. However, experienced birds had a marked preference for quiet nests. Many of the birds that had nested in noisy nest boxes during the first year, chose quiet boxes in the second year. More quiet nest boxes were occupied than noisy nest boxes, indicating that once birds have experience in the noisy nest environment, they avoid the noise. This could have implications for nesting in landscapes impacted by compressor station noise.

Julian would like to follow up with more studies of impacts of gas compressor noise in natural forested areas and on other species. For instance, initial observations indicate that there is 100% mortality among wood frog tadpoles exposed to compressor station sounds perhaps due to low frequency vibrations impacting their pond environment.