State College Bird Club Zoom Meeting
February 24, 2021

Presiding: Doug Wentzel

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito

Attendance: 42

Treasurer’s report (Jean Miller): Spent $50 on last month’s presenter and $760 to support Tussey Mountain Hawkwatch.  Deposited $690. (To send your annual dues by mail, see our website)

New Business / Announcements:

Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup will take place this year on May 1, 2021 in a socially distanced manner similar to 2020. Like last year, it is open to everyone no matter what part of the world you inhabit. Most awards will not be offered, but this year two awards will be given; The Birding Boot (where team members remain outside not using any motorized transport) and the Micro Cup (two individuals from the same household or pod birding within a one mile radius). All donations generated by the Birding Cup will support the Lost Bird Project.

The Tussey Mountain hawkwatcher, Sean McLaughlin, has just begun the season and has already, after only two days of observation, seen 7 Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and a Northern Harrier.

We will have SCBC elections for 5 positions in April; President, Vice President, Secretary and two Board members. Doug called for three volunteers to be on the nominating committee; if interested contact Doug

This year’s topic for the Avian Education Seminar at The Arboretum at Penn State will be: “The California Condor: Twenty Years of Species Recovery – What to do with what we have learned” presented by Chris Parish, director of The Peregrine Fund. This will be a Zoom presentation on April 8 and requires preregistration; see:

Interesting Bird Sightings: Greg Grove’s Summary
(Jan 27- Feb 24, 2021; Centre and its contiguous counties)

Early signs of spring are just beginning to appear with a few sightings of Tundra Swans and even 60 Snow Geese (which tend to migrate more to the east of our region). Rough-legged Hawks have been reported from around a dozen locations in our area. Peregrines and Merlins seem to be more regularly seen over the winter now as compared to 10 years ago, when they were a rarity. Short-eared Owls made an appearance this past month in several locations including the airport, Bald Eagle State Park and Sinking Valley. Winter finches have had a modest eruption this year with localized groups of Evening Grosbeaks, a few Red Crossbills and more widespread Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins. The Hoary Redpoll in Park Forest has continued to the present, providing locals and travelers alike an opportunity to view it. Some sightings of Snow Bunting and a couple of Lapland Longspurs have been reported.

There have been a number of interesting sightings of either very early migrants or “half-hearty” birds (species that typically go south for the winter, but a few individuals may stay around). These include a few Eastern Phoebes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets (mainly south of State College), Catbirds, Brown Thrashers and the Northern Shrike at BESP. Also, Towhee, Chipping, Savannah and recently Fox Sparrows have been reported. A few unusual winter sightings of warblers have been reported, primarily south of State College; including Black-and-White and Palm. On the other hand, Yellow-rumped Warblers, that usually include a few individuals who remain in our area during winter, have been rarely reported this year.

Speaker: Holly Merker: “Ornitherapy: For Your Body, Mind and Soul”
This zoom presentation can be viewed here.

As an environmental educator and birding guide, Holly has been involved with many organizations devoted to birds and conservation as well as therapy based on the benefits of birds and nature. Along with Richard and Sophie Crossley, Holly has co-authored the book Ornitherapy: For Your Body, Mind and Soul, available early spring 2021. She described physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of “Ornitherapy”, the mindful observation of birds. “Bird watching is not only fun, but good for you”.

Birds are everywhere, accessible to everyone. Watching them for even a few minutes can redirect our mind, distracting us from the stress of daily life, having a tranquilizing effect. Supportive communities and human connections can be built around our shared love of birds and nature.

These benefits have been known for millennia by many cultures. Today, the therapeutic value of immersing oneself in the natural world is practiced in many places around the world. For example in the UK, doctors prescribe Nature as a drug-free wellness plan and Forest Bathing, done in Japan is expanding elsewhere. Especially now with the pandemic, people are rediscovering the benefits of nature and the outdoors.

Research shows that exposure to nature actively reduces stress, depression, and anxiety, while helping build a stronger heart and immune system. The benefits of exposure to nature through bird watching or other outdoor activities include lower heart rate, reduced stress hormone levels such as cortisol and adrenaline, increased production of blood cells, reduced negative thinking patterns, improved cognition, creativity and mental concentration. Hearing bird song has been shown to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Mindfully observing birds helps us slow down to be aware of the moment, intentionally focusing and noticing the little things, all to benefit the soul.

Through observation, we can learn not only about birds, but gain insight into our own lives while exploring our connection to the world around us. Watching birds is the perfect gateway to a greater appreciation of nature, its stewardship and conservation.

Holly provided examples of individuals who shared their own stories about how immersion in nature and ornitherapy benefited their lives and helped them through difficult times, including Holly’s own experience with defeating breast cancer, restoring her health, mentally and physically.