State College Bird Club Zoom Meeting
March 24, 2021

Presiding: Doug Wentzel

Recording: Peggy Wagoner Saporito

Attendance: 49

Treasurer’s report (Jean Miller): Spent $50 on last month’s presenter and deposited $230 in dues. We are still accepting donations for the Hawkwatch. (To send your donations by mail, see website;

SCBC Field Trips (socially distanced and masks required):

Sunday March 28:  8AM – 11:30AM
Bald Eagle State Park: Join Bob Snyder to explore spring migrants and returning locals on the lake and surrounding environment at BESP. [This was later canceled due to rain]

Saturday April 17: 8AM-10AM
Bald Eagle SF - Greens Valley Rd: Join Julia Plummer for an easy 1.5 mile forest walk on the James Cleveland Trail.

All field trips are open to members and non-members. For more details, see website;

Additional Activities:

Millbrook Marsh Nature Center socially distanced, weekly bird walks; Tuesdays 8:00-9:30AM, began March 23 and will continue through April 26.

Arboretum Bird Walks hosted by Margaret Brittingham will begin April 21. More information will be sent by email on the listserv.

Migration Morning Bird Walks at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, modified for Covid19, will take place each Wednesday, 7:00-8:30AM beginning April 14 through May 12. More information will be sent by email on the listserv.

New Business / Announcements:

Funding for the Spring Creek Education Building project at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center has reached 70%; this expansion project is slated to begin in 2022.

SCBC elections: Jon Kauffman is chair of the nominating committee along with Larry Miles and Roana Fuller. Voting will occur during the April club meeting for 5 positions; President, Vice President, Secretary and two Board members. Contact Jon with any nomination ideas.

Sean McLaughlin, our official counter at the Tussey Mountain  Hawkwatch, updated us on the season. The spring hawk migration is considerably shorter than fall migration. Many migrant species including eagles, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered hawks, Kestrel, Merlin and Turkey Vultures have already been seen, including yesterday, the first Osprey, a sure harbinger of spring. This season is on track to be among the highest counts of Golden Eagles with 171 having been recorded since the last week of February.

Because of Covid 19, we will not have the typical May picnic again this year, but Roana Fuller has volunteered to organize the May Bird Club Zoom meeting where we can share photos similar to last year. More information will be coming by email on the listserv.

Doug reminded us how the listerv is a good way to share birding information that can be useful to everyone in the birding community within our area.
Interesting Bird Sightings: Greg Grove’s Summary
(Feb 24- March 24, 2021; Centre and its contiguous counties)

March is waterfowl migration month. This year 21 species have been reported, including a total of around 6500 Tundra Swans whose migration route passes over our region. After being delayed by bad weather in late February, American Woodcock are back, especially in Scotia. Flights of migrants moving through during the night are being recorded by Julia Plummer and Joe Gyekis. Some interesting species included a Barn Owl and Red-headed Woodpecker. Saw-whet owls are beginning to migrate through the area. The first spring sightings of Phoebes, Tree Swallows and Rusty Blackbirds are being noted. Winter finches continue to be seen including Redpolls, mostly on ridge tops, Red and White-winged Crossbill, especially recently in Scotia and this year has been the greatest invasion of Evening Grosbeaks of the 21st century. Warbler sightings have included Yellow-rumped which may be wintering birds and two returning migrant species; Pine warblers and an unusually early return of a Louisiana Waterthrush on its normal breeding ground.

Speaker: Eric Zawatski: “Determinants of Wood Thrush Nest Survival in Central Pennsylvania Contiguous Forest”
This zoom presentation can be viewed at:

Eric, a Penn State master’s student in Wildlife Science discussed his research to determine the main ecological factors influencing Wood Thrush nesting success in large tracts PA forests. Though Wood Thrushes are rather shy birds spending their time in thickets, usually not much higher than 6 feet off the ground, feeding in the leaf litter, they are a charismatic, well loved part of the PA spring and summer forest thanks to their ethereal flutelike song familiar to birders and non birders alike. These thrushes winter in Central America, fly across the Gulf of Mexico and arrive in mature deciduous forests throughout the eastern half of North America to establish breeding territories.

During the past 50 years, populations of Wood Thrush have declined 60% throughout its range and up to 70% in PA. During the past 15 years that decline appears to have slowed, giving us an opportunity to understand and address this decline. Though habitat loss and degradation on both wintering and breeding grounds are the primary cause of decline, breeding habitat degradation has been shown to be 3-6 times more important to species decline than comparable degradation of wintering habitat.

Pennsylvania, with its 17 million acres of forested land, supports 10-12% of all breeding Wood Thrush, the largest percentage of any state.  Most studies looking at Wood Thrush nesting success have been conducted in fragmented forests or small woodlots where nesting success tends to be low, probably due to easy access to nests by a large variety of predators as well as human caused disturbances. Eric focused his research on understanding what ecological factors impact nesting success in large contiguous forests away from influences of human activity such as agriculture or human built environments such as roads and buildings.

During a 3 year period, 2018-2020, Eric studied 248 Wood Thrush nests located in 5 separate PA State Game Lands and 2 PSU experimental forest tracts where there was at least 85% forest cover within 5 km around each nest. Nests were located primarily on horizontal branches of shade tolerant understory trees such as witch hazel and striped maples in areas of rich forest habitats with adequate moisture.  To access nest survival, nests were monitored every 2-3 days during the 12-15 day nestling period. Failure of nests to produce any fledglings was due almost exclusively to predation. In this study, Eric found an overall 37% nest survival probability (NSP), the probability that a nest will fledge at least one chick. This compares favorably to the 15-28% NSP found by other studies in more fragmented forest landscapes.

No significant differences were found in overall nest survival among the 7 forested tracts Eric studied and no differences were shown among the years, even between 2018, a very wet breeding season and 2020, a very dry season. However, nesting success was greatly influenced by the proximity of human built (developed) cover such as roads or buildings. In areas with no human developed cover within 5 km around the nest, nesting success was close to 60%. In areas with as little as 4-5% developed cover, nesting success dropped precipitously to only 30% or less. Even a small amount of human altered habitat negatively impacted Wood Thrush nesting success probably due to easier access along roads and other openings in forested areas by generalist predators such as crows, blue jays, squirrels and chipmunks.

Nest proximity to early successional habitats such as those created in forest by timber cuts or to encourage species such as Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse or Golden-winged warblers did not negatively impact nest survival. In fact, these habitats can be beneficial to Wood Thrush fledglings that feed on berries found in these areas. Nesting success did not appear to be influenced by invertebrate biomass near the nest based on the information gleaned from one year of limited sampling.

It appears that the greatest impacts to Wood Thrush nesting success are related to landscape scale factors; proximity to human developed features, such as roads, buildings and agriculture. These results have implications for managing and improving prospects for the future of Wood Thrush populations. The fact that 70% of PA forested land is privately held, means landowners should be enlisted to manage their land to the benefit of this beloved woodland species which will ultimately benefit many other forest dwellers.