State College Bird Club Zoom Meeting
December 9, 2020

Presiding: Doug Wentzel

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito

Attendance: 31

Treasurer’s report (Jean Miller): $50 spent on last month’s presenter; $80 received in dues. (To send your annual dues by mail, see our website)


Susan Smith, VP of Field Trips, is working on plans for a spring schedule with Covid-conscious activities.

Thanks to Julia Plummer and Joe Gyekis for volunteering to lead some of Millbrook Marsh Nature Center’s socially distanced weekly bird walks next spring along with Doug Wentzel and Jon Kauffman.

Jen Lee has updated the Bird Checklist which is almost ready for printing. It will be available in paper as well as electronic form.

Christmas Bird Counts are coming up this month; the first one is on December 19, Penns Creek. For a complete listing see our website and more information is on Audubon’s website.

Access to the Duck Pond (near intersection of Rt 26 and Porter Road) is currently under construction and will probably be unavailable for up to a year.

Best wishes to Debra Grim, our former Bird Club secretary who is moving to Arkansas. Many thanks for her contributions to the bird club, participation in birding cup and involvement in the Native Plant Society; she is a true advocate for the natural world.

Interesting Bird Sightings: Greg Grove’s Summary
(Nov 19-Dec 9, 2020)

Some uncommon sightings in the area among waterfowl included Black Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and a Red-throated Loon. As is typical in the fall, migrating Common Loons were seen from the hawk watches on favorable days, flying high, heading south. A Rufous Hummingbird continues to be reported in Clearfield County. The hawk watches have ended for the season. Stone and Jacks Mountains reported 138 and 155 Golden Eagles respectively, average numbers for these locations. Record numbers of Bald Eagles were seen at both hawk watches this year with more than 220 at each. Rough-legged Hawks, Merlins and Peregrines have all been seen in the area and a few sightings of Short-eared Owls were reported in Clearfiled County. Birds more commonly seen in winter are making an appearance such as Horned Larks as well as a few Lapland Longspurs on PA Furnace Road. A good number of American Pipits have been moving through. Tree Sparrows are being seen in higher numbers this year than have been seen in the recent past. And as has been reported earlier, the winter finches are making a good showing this year, including Evening Grosbeaks, Purple Finches and Pine Siskins. On the ridge tops, Redpolls are being seen and Red Crossbillls in Rothrock State Park.

Speaker: Lauren Pharr: “Bird Banding: an Effective Way to Monitor Avian Populations”
This zoom presentation can be viewed here.

Lauren, a masters student at North Carolina State University, College of Natural Resources, discussed in detail the value of and techniques used in bird banding as a means of studying many aspects of avian biology. Specially designed mist nets, of mesh with pockets, are used to safely capture birds. Each bird is quickly and carefully extracted from the net and placed into a cloth bag where, in the darkness, birds settle down and become less stressed. In the field, close to the mist nets, a banding station is set up where each bird is fitted with the appropriately sized, uniquely numbered, lightweight steel band. While the bird is being handled additional information, such as morphology (body mass, wing chord, tarsus length etc), physiology and genetics (from tissue, feathers and/or blood samples), can be obtained before the bird is released.

All information gathered from each captured bird is carefully recorded during banding and sampling. The MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program coordinates data from all North American banding stations to improve our understanding of bird movements, longevity, migration, population health and can contribute to conservation efforts.

To become a certified and permitted bird bander requires intensive training. Permits, issued by the USGS Bird Banding Lab, require a multi-step process before an individual can become a “master bander” with the ability and knowledge to run a banding station. Lauren has qualified to be a subpermitee working under the guidance of a master bander. She trained at Powdermill Nature Reserve east of Pittsburgh where there is a large and long established banding station with highly trained banders. Certificates for various levels of expertise are issued by the North American Banding Council (NABC) only after passing a rigorous test.

Lauren has used her bird banding expertise to encourage curiosity about the natural world among youth and especially underrepresented minority communities. By allowing people to see a wild bird up close, or to even hold a bird in their hands as it is released, is a transformative experience. Bird banding is the perfect tool to unite science with public outreach to help increase interest in conservation.

Until the Corona virus pandemic hit, Lauren had planned to use her skills as a bander in her masters research analyzing urbanization effects, specifically urban noise and light pollution, on avian physiology. Her goal was to net, sample and release Northern Cardinals, a year-round resident, found in a gradient from urban to rural backyard habitats.  Unfortunately, the need to socially distance did not allow Lauren to interact with her research assistants or with the residents whose back yards she had planned on accessing for her study. Instead, Lauren is now studying the effects of light and noise pollution on survivorship among 7 common species (cardinal, robin, catbird, Carolina and house wrens, Carolina chickadee and song sparrow). For this research, she is using an existing 20-year data set from Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch, which studies reproductive success and annual survival over an urban to rural gradient in the Washington DC/Maryland area.

Lauren provided many resources for those interested in bird banding. For more information contact
Lauren or check her website.