Newsletter of the State College Bird Club, Inc.



Volume 11 Summer 1997


September 21, 1997 (Sunday)

Field Trip - Walnut Spring Park (migrant land birds)
7:30 a.m. ‘til noon
Leader: Harry Henderson
Meet at end of Easterly Parkway in the Park
  • September 24, 1997 (Wednesday)

    Regular Meeting
    7:30 p.m. - Schlow Library

    Program: "Birds of the World Trivia-Part II," by Tim O’Connell

    October 4, 1997 (Saturday)

    Field Trip - Tussey Mountain
    (hawk migration)
    9:00 a.m. ‘til 1:00 p.m.
    Leader: Harry Henderson
    Meet at SE corner of K-Mart parking lot

    October 22, 1997 (Wednesday)

    Regular Meeting
    7:30 p.m. - Schlow Library

    Program: "The Endangered Species Act: Recovery or Extinction," by Mark Henry

    November 2, 1997 (Sunday)

    Field Trip - Bald Eagle State Park
    (waterfowl, Snow Buntings)
    8:00 a.m. ‘til noon
    Leader: Harry Henderson
    Meet at SE corner of K-Mart parking lot

    November 12, 1997 (Wednesday)

    Regular Meeting
    7:30 p.m. - Senior Citizens Center

    Program: "Landscaping to Attract Birds," by Bob Snyder

    December 10, 1997 (Wednesday)

    Regular Meeting
    7:30 p.m. - Senior Citizens Center

    Program: Christmas Count Planning

    December 21, 1997 (Sunday)

    State College Christmas Count
    compiler: John Peplinski

    January 1, 1998 (Thursday)

    Bald Eagle State Park Christmas Count (tentative)

    compilers: Harry Henderson and Eugene Zielinski

    January 17, 1998 (Saturday)

    Field Trip - Manure Chase!
    (Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, longspurs?, hawks . . .)
    Leader: Harry Henderson
    9:00 a.m. ‘til noon

    meet at SE corner of K-Mart parking lot

    January 28, 1998 (Wednesday)

    Regular Meeting
    7:30 p.m. - Schlow Library

    Program - to be announced



  • Greetings from the President . . .


     Greetings fellow birders. My name is Tim O’Connell and I’m just beginning a two-year term as your newly elected president. I want to personally thank our out-going president, Jonathan Jones, for a job well done over these past two years.

     For those of you who don’t know me, I am originally from the Mohawk Valley in central New York. I lived in Virginia for several years after graduation, and came to State College in 1994 to work on a Ph.D. in Ecology at Penn State. I’ve been birding for as long as I can remember, and I’ve had the good fortune to bird most of the eastern U.S., central California, and even Bermuda.

     Although I begin my term with no specific agenda for the Bird Club, you will hear me speak from time to time on the importance of public outreach. Recent estimates place the number of people in the U.S. who at least feed birds around 65 million, with annual expenditures on "bird stuff" over $5 billion! These figures are staggering, and it sounds impressive that a quarter of the U.S. population can identify Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, chickadees, and House Finches. But then it hits me: Does that mean that THREE quarters of the U.S. population CAN’T identify these common feeder birds?

     Sadly, most of the people in the world’s most technologically advanced society live out their lives in complete ignorance of the natural world around them. I think we can do better. EVERY American should be able to identify a chickadee when they see one, and it’s time we helped those feeder-watchers out there to experience some new challenges.

    I suggest we start right here in our own community. Over the next two years, I will be looking for new and exciting ways to publicize birding and our Bird Club. I hope you will bring me your ideas to increase awareness about the birds in our lives. I can’t wait to see the day that when people think of State College, they think of the "Town and Gown," "grilled stickies," "O. W. Houts," and the "State College Bird Club"! Then the Bird Club will not only be a vehicle for people to see more birds, but for more people to see birds.

    Yours in the love of birds,




    State College Bird Club

    1997-98 Officers

     Tim O’Connell - President
    Paul Rodewald - Vice President
    Eugene Zielinski - Recording Secretary
    JohnPeplinski - Corresponding Secretary
    Dorothy Bordner - Treasurer



    Opportunity for Birders who Garden for Wildlife

    Ursula Sherrill, a Penn State student working with Dr. Margaret Brittingham, wants to interview anyone who has planted shrubs and trees in their yard to provide food and cover for birds. Ursula is working on a project to determine whether wildlife plantings really work to draw birds into the yard. Your participation is welcomed! If you would like to help, call Ursula at 234-2069.



    Avian Anecdotes

     On September 8, 1997, the Bird Club e-mail list serve had an interesting exchange of information regarding hummingbird feeders. . . . here are a few of the responses:

     Hummingbird Feeders . . . "Could someone tell me when is the best time to take down the hummingbird feeder?

     from Tim O’Connell

    Not yet. Some of those records for western hummingbirds in the east come from folks who keep their feeders open until the nectar freezes! Granted, most of those records are from areas closer to the coast, but you never know . . .

     According to the Annotated List of the Birds of Pennsylvania, Ruby-throats become much less abundant in Pennsylvania by the end of September, but we do have records that extend until the end of October. The five records mentioned for Rufous Hummingbird in Pennsylvania were documented in October, November, and December. So the short answer is, you can probably take your feeders down at the end of the month (September) without significantly affecting the Pennsylvania hummingbird population. But if you want to be an angel of mercy for any late or lost birds who happen through your neighborhood, you can keep them up for a while longer.

     (I usually put nectar out until Halloween.)


     from Paul and Glenna Schwalbe

    Yes, DON’T take it down! At least not until you know for sure that it will freeze.


    1. Don’t worry about keeping the Ruby-throats here too long, it won’t happen, they will leave when they are ready.

     2. The real reason to leave them up after the Ruby-throats leave is that if any "Selasphorus" hummers (Rufous or Allen’s) come around, a) they will have something to eat, and b) you will be able to enjoy them and spread the word to others.





    Thanks, Dorothy Bordner, for the drawing.



    If you have an Avian Anecdote for an upcoming issue, please send to Becky Peplinski (rlp1@psu.edu or mail to return address on back).




    Special Edition of Bird Notes


     In early May, a Sandhill Crane visited Centre County and was enjoyed by many birders during its month-long stay at the Curtin Wetlands. The Crane represents the first documented record for Centre County. At the end May, Alice Fuller identified two Gull-billed Terns at Bald Eagle State Park. Gull-billed Terns have never before been reported in Centre County and are extremely rare for Pennsylvania.

     Bob Snyder compiled the following account of the Sandhill Crane sightings (this article has been submitted for publication in Pennsylvania Birds). Alice Fuller prepared the account of the Gull-Billed Tern sightings. Alice has submitted this information , along with photographs taken by Bob Snyder, to the Pennsylvania Records Committee.


    Sandhill Crane Sighting in Centre County


    by Bob Snyder


    A Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) was observed in a constructed marsh, near Curtin Village, Centre County, on Sunday, May 4, 1997, at approximately 10:00 a.m. by Dorothy and Blanche Bordner. Persons present at 11:00 a.m. included Bob Snyder, Barb Landers and Bob Ackerman accompanied by a part of four, observed the crane for approximately 45 minutes. Other members of the State College Bird Club, who were on a field trip for spring warblers near Waterstreet, PA, were alerted by Bob Fowles via a cell phone call from his wife (who had been notified by Bob Snyder). The Sandhill Crane was observed later in the day (3:00 pm.)_ at Curtin Wetland by club members Ted and Alice Fuller, Mary and Larry Ramsey, and Allison Norris and Bob Fowles. The bird was said to be a non-breeding adult, by Alice Fuller, since its plumage was brown, not gray; there was a red spot on the forehead. According to John Peplinski, of the State College Bird Club, this was the first documented sighting of a Sandhill Crane for Centre County.

     The crane was first observed in areas of shallow water and grasses near the southern edge of the marsh, a distance of 100 yards from the highway shoulder. Subsequent observations were made from 300 feet both in the morning and afternoon. Observation was accomplished with 8x-10x binoculars and spotting scopes. I used both Pentax 10x50 binoculars and a Nikon Spotter XL spotting scope (15-60x). Photographs were taken at close range in the afternoon (5/4/97), and the crane gave a warning display as I attempted to approach closer than 80 feet. The display, which was done twice, was accomplished by pivoting the body 45 degrees from vertical, with the neck extended out and curved upward with the bill open, the left leg raised slightly showing the toes, and the wings raised and folded over the back resembling a spread paper fan. The camera used was a Nikon 6006 autofocus body fitted with a Tamron 200-400mm telephoto and 1.4x teleconverter (600mm), with polarizing filter, steadied on a Tiffen SBC tripod with F10 fluid head and cable release; exposure: 1/125 sec at f8 on Fuji Sensia (400ISO).

     The marsh, known locally as Curtin Wetlands, is located approximately 1.5 miles east of Milesburg, PA, along the right side of Route 150 North. The habitat is a freshwater constructed marsh, consisting of a 6.4-acre pond surrounded by emergent and shrub wetlands, located in the southeastern corner of a 48-acre reclaimed corn field. Adjacent habitat included Bald Eagle Creek, and a large bare-ground field. The weather on the initial day of sighting was fair, with bright sun, a few clouds and a brisk wind gusting to approximately 15-20 mph. Though not recorded, the air temperatures were in the mid 50- mid-60oF range. Other sightings of the Sandhill Crane at the marsh and in the adjacent bare-ground field were reported to John Peplinski by this author on 5/6, 5/7, 5/9, 5/10, 5/15, 5/24, and 5/29, and 6/2, which was the last date the bird was observed in the marsh.


    Two Gull-billed Terns at Bald Eagle State Park, May 25, 1997


    by Alice Fuller

     Sunday, May 25, Memorial Day weekend, was overcast with occasional drizzle. My husband, Ted, and I were headed to Hublersburg, a few miles from Bald Eagle State Park, where he was to play in a small band at a memorial service in a cemetery there. We left early to make a quick pass into Bald Eagle and fortunately we left before receiving the message that the band part of the ceremony was canceled because of rain. We headed directly to the beach area of the park a little after 1:00 p.m. There we spotted a flock of Ring-billed Gulls loafing on the beach area beyond the bathing pavilion and drove to the parking lot above that stretch of beach.

    As soon as we stopped I noticed a tern make a couple passes at the beach and then apparently spotted a place to suit it and dropped down on the sand among the gulls. By its orange bill I recognized it as a Forster’s Tern, a regular migrating visitor in the park. Then we noticed a couple feet from this tern were two more terns. To my surprise they both had black bills and black legs and feet. I figured they had to be Gull-billed Terns but I also was quite sure they had not been recorded before a central Pennsylvania, a fact confirmed later by John Peplinski. My binoculars are Leitz 7 x 35s and Ted’s are Sawyer 10 x 40s.

    To be even more positive of the identification Ted set up our spotting scope--a Kowa with zoom lens, 20x to 40x. Both individuals had black crowns and napes; both had the stout black bill, typical of Gull-bills; and both had black legs and feet. We also had a nice size comparison with the larger Ring-billed Gulls and the similar-sized Forster’s Tern. We both had seen Gull-billed Terns at Brigantine (Edwin Forsythe) National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey the previous Monday. We also have seen Gull-bills in Florida.

    After observing them for a few minutes we headed to the Hublersburg cemetery and after perceiving there would be no band action we headed back to the park. We stopped en route in the village of Howard to call Bob Snyder, a State College Bird Club member, and he said he would join us immediately at the beach. Only one tern was left on the beach and fortunately it was one of the Gull-bills.

    Also fortunately Bob, who is an avid wildlife photographer, brought a camera and moved closer to the beach, getting several pictures of the tern. The camera he used was a Nikon 6006 was a Tamron 200--400mm lens. Attached to the lens was a tele-extender, making the lens essentially 600mm. His camera was mounted on a tripod and he used a cable release and flash.

    Bob showed the tern slides at a SCBC meeting and afterwards received the following notation from fellow member, Steven Feldstein: "In photographs with the wings raised, bird had a light brown secondary bar. This suggests that the bird is not an adult, even though it had a completed dark crown; also noted that outer primaries had dark outer webs . . . that the above characteristics of the wing plumage, together with the black crown indicates a bird in second year plumage."


    Dues are Due

    Reminder--annual dues are now due ($5). Please pay Dorothy Bordner at the next meeting or mail to her. (Checks should be made payable to the State College Bird Club.)





    State College Bird Club, Inc.

    John & Becky Peplinski, Newsletter Editors