College Bird Club
26 October 2011
The State College Bird Club met at Foxdale Village on 26 October
2011. Forty-three members and guests attended; Nick Kerlin
- Nan Butkovich read the minutes
from the previous meeting. As an experiment, those minutes were
posted for comment on the listserv immediately after the September
meeting. Members seemed to like this, so we will use this method
in the future and dispense with the reading of minutes at our
meetings. A few paper copies of the minutes will be available at
each meeting so that members who do not have an internet connection
will be able to comment. The minutes will also continue to be
posted on our website.
- Dorothy Bordner presented the Treasurer’s report and the checklist.
- Species of note observed
within 25 miles of the Penn State campus since 28 Sept. 2011 included a
number of ducks, such as American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Surf
Scoter, and Ruddy Duck, which continue to move into our region.
Hawkwatchers continue to delight in the array of raptors heading south
along the ridgetops. Notable species include Bald Eagle, Northern
Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and the occasional
Golden Eagle. Stone Mountain produced a real gem: an
Anhinga. Shorebirds continued in abundance, allowing birders to
get some practice separating Black-bellied Plovers from American
Golden-plovers. Dunlin, a Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe,
and American Woodcock were also observed. Gray-cheeked Thrush and
American Pipit represented the middle of the checklist, while a nice
variety of warblers were noted, with lucky birders reporting
Orange-crowned Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Mourning Warbler.
Several notable sparrows lingered into the mid-autumn: Vesper
Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow’s Sparrow, and Lincoln’s Sparrow
were reported. Rusty Blackbirds have also begun to migrate
through the area.
- Diane Bierly volunteered to
tackle the updating of the by-laws. When the revisions are
completed, they will be presented to the membership for a vote.
- Alex Lamoreaux set up a Facebook page for the club.
- Bob Fowles put a 70th anniversary banner on the club website.
- Nobody’s volunteered to help with the t-shirts… yet.
- Alex Lamoreaux reported on a
winter hummingbird contest in Lycoming County that is sponsored by
Lycoming Audubon. The goal is to encourage local residents to
keep their hummingbird feeders up through December in the hope of
attracting late and/or out-of-territory hummingbirds.
They’ve had three reported so far. Even though it’s late to start
something similar the membership present voted to develop a similar
program and give it a try here.
- Nan Butkovich prepared a draft
checklist for the Julian Wetlands/Governor Tom Ridge Wetlands
Preserve. It will be sent to Wildlife for Everyone.
- Wildlife for Everyone has a
large number of nest boxes available. Nick Kerlin’s going to set
up a date in November for interested members to help install them at
Julian and Tom Ridge.
- The season’s banding has ended
at the PSU Arboretum. A total of 295 birds of 41 species were
handled. The three most common species were Gray Catbird,
American Goldfinch, and White-throated Sparrow.
- 6 Nov.: Bald Eagle State Park field trip – more details to come.
- 16 Nov.: Our next speaker will be Mark Henry, who will discuss birding in Panama.
Our speaker this month was Margaret
Brittingham, who gave a presentation on the effects of Marcellus Shale
drilling on forest bird habitat. The number of permits
issued and wells drilled has increased at an exponential pace since
2008; approximately 3000 wells have been drilled so far. Many of
these are located in the north-central and the extreme south-west part
of the state.
The former area is of particular
concern, since much of Pennsylvania’s core forests are there. The
core forests are areas with very low levels of forest fragmentation and
are key breeding areas for a variety of neotropical migrant
songbirds. They also have the highest levels of mammal diversity
in the state.
Gas and oil drilling have a long
history in the state; however, the shallow wells have a fairly low
footprint in the forest. Well pads are small, and the roads are
narrow. On the other hand, Marcellus Shale pads are much larger
and more massively constructed, with a mean size of about 5 acres and
most in the 5-10 acre range. Larger pads tend to have on-site
water storage, while the smaller ones are generally for test
wells. Although the larger pads are capable of holding multiple
wells, 77% have only 1-2 wells per pad.
Of even greater concern are the
linear corridors created by new roads and pipelines. These tend
to be wider than those created to support shallow drilling, and because
the roads are supporting heavier traffic and loads, they are much more
substantial than the older roads. Both greatly increase the risk
of habitat fragmentation. Primary areas of concern caused by
these features include a spread of invasive species into new areas,
core forest fragmentation due to an increase in edge (boundaries
between core forest and other habitats), disturbance of sensitive
habitats such as vernal pools and seeps, and creating barriers to
dispersal of some species.
Other concerns involve seismic
testing, and an increase in light and noise pollution. Some
sources of these are of relatively short duration, being related to
exploration and drilling operations. However, others are
long-term, such as the noise levels caused by pipeline compressor
As a result of all of these factors,
many species are considered to be at risk. These tend to fall
into three categories: those that are intolerant of disturbance, such
as Northern Goshawk and Broadwing Hawk; those with limited abilities to
disperse, such as frogs and salamanders; and species with small
populations or that have a limited distribution, such as Timber
Brittingham and her students have
been studying the effects of drilling on avian species in core forests
that are being impacted by Marcellus Shale drilling. Baseline
data include data collected by the first and second Pennsylvania
Breeding Bird Atlas projects and are being compared with data collected
after drilling began. So far they show a 4% decline in core
forest habitat, and 84% of the drill pads have not undergone
reclamation. Much of the remaining 16% of reclaimed pads have
been planted in a grassy cover rather than something closer to the
Preliminary results of their research
show that 10 avian species are more abundant in the core forests away
from the drilling pads than near them. These include Ovenbird and
Blue-headed Vireo. American Robins were more abundant near the
drilling pads. A few species, such as Mourning Dove, Common
Grackle, and Indigo Bunting, were not found in the core forests but
were present only around the well pads. Other species, such as
Wood Thrush and Magnolia Warbler, were absent near the drill pads and
were only located in the core forests. Their initial data suggest
that local changes are occurring, but they don’t know yet if these will
translate into large-scale changes.
Minutes taken by Nan Butkovich, Secretary