State College Bird Club Meeting
April 22, 2020
Foxdale Village

Presiding: Doug Wentze

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito
Attendance: 30

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, we again held our online-only Bird Club meeting using Zoom Technology. Thanks to Joe Gyekis for working with our speaker to make this happen. View the entire meeting (some quick announcements, interesting bird sightings and the speaker’s presentation).

Checklist: To streamline this online meeting, the Checklist was not read but Greg Grove gave us some highlights of birds that have been seen in the area during April.  There was a good “fallout” of ducks and shorebirds around April 18, early records of whip-poor-wills and warbler returns.
Bird Club Elections:

By a unanimous voice vote four candidates were elected:
•    VP of Field Trips – Susan Smith
•    Treasurer: Jean Miller (returning)
•    2 Board members: Bob Fowles and Jon Kauffman

Thanks to the nominating committee headed by Greg Grove and thanks also to Greg for his year of service on our Board of Directors.


Dr. Julian Avery (our February 2020 speaker) announced that his student, Chyvonne Jessick, has secured a research grant to quantify where birds strike buildings on PSU campus and to look at the characteristics of those buildings such as aspect, height and lighting at night. With the absence of students on campus due to COVID-19 they are hoping to enlist any volunteers who regularly walk on campus to check for bird strikes. Contact Julian if you would be interested in helping.

May 9 is Global Big Day (GBD). Although PSO is no longer supporting PA Migration Count as part of GBD because it is now part of ebird, Doug would like to help coordinate coverage of as many different habitats in Huntingdon and Centre counties as possible. Last year Centre county posted the greatest number of species of any county in the state during the PA Migration Count.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center’s Migration Morning Walk and Birding Cup are occurring on Zoom. Check their website to join these activities:

The PSU Student Farm Native Plant Sale is still occurring albeit online. Doug will pass along more information when available.

May 27 was to be our annual potluck picnic. This year it will be “online” using Zoom where photographers will still be able to share their photos. More information to come on the listserv.

For those interested in learning more about using ebird Doug will conduct a Q and A session on Zoom, Wednesday April 29 at 7:00 pm. More information to come on the listserv.

Tussey Mountain Hawk Watch

The official count ends on this Saturday, April 25 with tallies to date of 128 golden eagles, 251 red-tailed and 295 broad-winged hawks. Thanks to Zoey Greenberg, this season’s official counter, for her interesting daily updates on the listserv and her enthusiasm to share all of her knowledge of the natural world with anyone visiting the hawk watch over this season. Best of luck to Zoey in her pursuits at grad school in Missoula Montana and beyond.

Speaker: Nick Bolgiano: “Evidence for West Nile Virus-Related Declines in Pennsylvania Birds”

Nick, a board member of the State College Bird Club, citizen scientist/data analyst and regular contributor to scientific bird journals, presented a fascinating look at the various ways West Nile Virus is impacting our local bird species. West Nile Virus (WNV), with a mosquito-bird life cycle, was first detected in PA in 2000 after initially being discovered a year earlier in New York City, probably as a result of accidental introduction from Israel. When an infected mosquito bites a bird one of four outcomes can occur. The bird can:

•    sicken and die (as appears to be happening in American Crows, Great Horned Owls and Ruffed Grouse)
•    sicken and recover
•    be unaffected
•    sufficiently replicate the virus so as to infect new mosquitoes that bite the bird, referred to as “competent species”. These include Eastern Bluebirds, House Sparrows and American Robins as well as species that have exhibited population declines for a variety of reasons; House Finches, Mallard, Mockingbirds and Killdeer.

Levels of WNV vary from year to year, depending on the amount of rainfall. Wet years such as 2001-2003 and especially 2018 (the wettest recorded year in PA) exhibited high mosquito populations and greater prevalence of WNV. The response to WNV of various bird species is particularly noticeable around metropolitan areas along the eastern seaboard and Great Lakes.

Populations of Great Horned Owl and Ruffed Grouse have been especially hard hit with declines of up to 76% since the arrival of WNV. Other species closely track WNV levels, with population declines during and shortly after high virus levels but then rebound during years of low WNV presence. These include American Crow, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse and until the most recent decline, Black Capped Chickadee.

Some species (Eastern Bluebird, House Wrens and American Robins) compensated for WNV-related population declines by increasing reproduction resulting in higher populations when WNV levels were low.

Nick also discussed impacts of WNV on raptor populations. He suspects that some of the decline in raptor numbers seen since 2000 at hawk watches may be a result of WNV impacts.  Other factors such as “short stopping”, raptors remaining further north due to recent milder winter temperatures, are also influencing hawk counts. However raptors could become infected with WNV by consuming infected prey. This is particularly true in Accipiter species that prey almost exclusively on bird species. And in the case of Goshawks, they may be doubly impacted by the drastic decline in prey species such as Ruffed Grouse. More in depth research is needed to determine the impacts of WNV on raptor species.