Newsletter of the State College Bird Club, Inc.

Volume 12 Spring/Summer 1998



September 7, 1998 (Monday)

**Annual Labor Day Picnic**

September 20, 1998 (Sunday)

Field Trip - Walnut Spring Park (migrant land birds)
7:30 a.m. until noon
Leader: Harry Henderson
Meet at end of Easterly Parkway in the Park

September 23, 1998 (Wednesday)

Regular Meeting
7:30 p.m. - Schlow Library
Program: "Getting to Know You: The People of the State College Bird Club"

October 3, 1998 (Saturday)

Field Trip - Tussey Mountain & Stone Mountain (hawk migration)
9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Leader: Harry Henderson
Meet at SE corner of K-Mart parking lot

October 28, 1998 (Wednesday)

Regular Meeting
7:30 p.m. - Schlow Library
Program: "A Novice Birdwatching in Australia," by Jim Dunn, PSU Professor of Ag Economics

November 1, 1998 (Sunday)

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

November 11, 1998 (Wednesday)

Regular Meeting
7:30 p.m.  - the Council Room on the 2nd floor of the Municipal Building at 118 S. Fraser St. where the Police are located

Program: "Peregrine Falcons in West Greenland," by Jim Schneider, PSU School of Forest Resources

December 9, 1998 (Wednesday)

Regular Meeting
7:30 p.m.  - the Council Room on the 2nd floor of the Municipal Building at 118 S. Fraser St. where the Police are located

Annual Holiday Party and Christmas Count Planning

December 20, 1998 (Sunday)

State College Christmas Count
compiler - John Peplinski

January 3, 1999 (Sunday)

Bald Eagle State Park Christmas Count
compilers - Harry Henderson/Eugene Zielinski

Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Please mark your calendars for our first meeting of the fall on Wednesday, September 23, 1998. Our program for this meeting will be "Getting to Know You: The People of the State College Bird Club." The primary focus of this meeting will be to meet and greet the people who make this bird club the huge success that it is . . . YOU! This will be a great opportunity to talk about just who we are as a club, and who we want to be. Beginners are especially welcome. In fact, we should all try to bring somebody new to this meeting. I look forward to seeing you all there. (And don't worry, we'll spend plenty of time talking about birds, too!) - Tim

From the President's Desk

by Tim O'Connell

Hello, everyone, and welcome back from what I hope was both an exciting and relaxing summer. You may recall from meetings last Spring that we were pursuing affiliate status with the National Audubon Society. As part of the application, I had to submit a statement about who we really are as a bird club. Once I started listing out all the cool things in which the Bird Club is involved (and I'm sure I missed a few), we had quite an impressive list of accomplishments. Here's a copy of what I sent in. I hope it makes you feel as proud to be a member of this club as I am.



The State College Bird Club

State College, Pennsylvania


Since its inception in 1941, the State College Bird Club has been a fixture in the local community of Pennsylvania's Happy Valley. Today, we are a diverse group of roughly 70 local citizens dedicated to the appreciation of wild birds in central Pennsylvania. The Bird Club attracts members from many facets of our community: We are astrophysicists, school children, retirees, college students, laborers, and others, all bound by the common thread of our love for wild birds and the natural world. In a town where the local community often lives in the shadow of a major university, the State College Bird Club rises as a shining example of an organization that enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Penn State.

The State College Bird Club is responsible for collecting and cataloguing important information on bird populations in central Pennsylvania. In addition to year ëround record-keeping for the ABA's Field Notes (Audubon's former American Birds), Bird Club members participate in the Breeding Bird Survey, North American Migration Counts, the Pennsylvania Special Areas Project, Cornell's various citizen science initiatives, and, of course, the Christmas Bird Count. Bird Club members were also instrumental in the development of Pennsylvania's Breeding Bird Atlas and Merrill Woods' seminal 1952 publication, Birds of the State College Region, Pennsylvania.

Developing Bird Club efforts to promote birds and conservation include a brochure on Club activities and birding the Centre Region, a Bird Club website, a birding mentor program, and an award for local citizens and businesses that demonstrate conservation through action. We currently maintain an email listserv and a telephone calling tree to rapidly disseminate information on rare birds and other important local findings. Bird Club members make presentations to schools and other local citizen's groups, publish articles in local newspapers and state and national periodicals, and have even made birds a hot topic on a local talk radio program. The Bird Club also maintains a presence on issues of local, state, and national conservation concern. Synopses of Bird Club activities appear in our quarterly newsletter, Whip-Poor-Will.

The Bird Club holds monthly meetings from September through May, and organized field trips from September through June (all open to the public). Eight meetings per year feature seminar presentations with topics that run the gamut from Ph.D.-level original research to travelogues of birding vacations. The dedication of Bird Club members to spend time in the field and report their findings have recently established the Centre Region as one of the premiere locations in the Eastern U.S. to observe both the spring and fall migrations of Golden Eagles.

For over 50 years, the State College Bird Club has a provided a forum in which people can gather as a community to learn more about birds and about their own place in the natural world. Our vision for the next 50 years includes an expanded role as a conservation leader in our rapidly-urbanizing community, without losing sight of the reason we all got together in the first place; our never-ending fascination with the birds around us.

Stone Mountain Hawkwatch Site

by Greg Grove

In a few weeks the first important component of the Northeast hawk migration will begin, featuring, of course, Broad-winged Hawks (BWs). This is an invitation to anyone interested to visit the Stone Mountain Hawkwatch platform and help search the skies for BW kettles. Now, as some of you know, central PA is NOT the place to have a sure chance to see substantial numbers of BWs. Somewhere in New Jersey or SE PA is better (or better yet if you'd like to see 100,000+ in one day--the SE Texas coast in late September)!

If you come up to Stone Mountain (or Tussey or Jack's or Bald Eagle) on a "prime" BW date, there is a good chance you will leave without seeing many BWs--maybe a couple dozen. There is a better chance, if you search the skies diligently, you will leave with a sore neck, strained vision, possibly sunburn (though probably only on your left side since you will face North), maybe even a bee-sting (so far no rattlesnake bites).

Looking for BWs is not like looking for other migrating raptors. They are often extremely high, little more than dots. Most people wouldn't think to peer so high into the skey, and so it is quite possible that 1000 Bws could fly over your head and you'd never know it! Thus--you have to scan constantly, not merely watch them flying by at eye-level. Thus, multiple pairs of eyes are very helpful.

Despite my pessimistic general forecast, we do sometimes get lucky. In seven years of hawkwatching at Stone Mountain (not full-time coverage)--here are the top seven BW days.

1. September 19, 1993 - 846 BWs
2. September 18, 1996 - 450
3. September 18, 1995 - 354
4. September 18, 1993 - 352
5. September 14, 1997 - 231
6. September 18, 1994 - 224
7. September 15, 1997 - 219

The 846 BWs we saw (Tim Herman and myself) on September 19, 1993, came almost completely within a one-hour period in mid-afternoon. At that time, we were not yet using the platform and visibility to the east was somewhat blocked--streams of BWs were all over the sky and some streams were weaving back and forth out of sight on the other side of the mountain. Because of our inexperience and my conservative nature, we "officially" counted 846 BWs--I think the real number was two or three times higher.

The second-best day (450 BWs) was also memorable--a very strong NW front blew through in the morning and the wind kept howling all day--it was a gorgeous early fall-type day, with beautiful blue sky and big white clouds whipping over--and raptors of all sorts blasting southward. Besides the BWs, we set Stone Mountain records that day with 48 Osprey, 35 American Kestrels, 6 Bald Eagles. The BWs weren't kettling (not on that wind)--they just streamed through a couple dozen at a time.

So, the possibility is there for an exciting day--but hot, windless days nearly devoid of migrants are just as likely. Predicting BW flights here is essentially impossible. You may watch an empty sky for hours, conclude there are no BWs withiin 50 miles, and then suddenly spot a cluster of dots streaming south impossibly high up. Prime dates in Pennsylvania are September 16-19. Sometimes some decent kettles are seen here as early as the 10th, and I've never had a good BW day after the 19th or 20th.

September 10 through early November constitutes the core of the hawkwatching season, and at Stone Mountain, conditions are far superior on days following cold front passages with NW or W wind. (Except that BWs fly under almost all non-rain conditions when they are ready to go.) For those interested in seeing hawks this fall at Stone Mountain, here are average peak dates for certain species from the past six years at Stone Mountain, specificially. More general time frames are in ( ).

Broad-winged Hawks

Sept 17-19 (Sept 10-22) 


Sept 23 (early Sept-early Oct) 

American Kestrel

Sept 25 (Sept-early Oct) 

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Oct 10 (late Sept - mid-Oct) 

Cooper's Hawk

Oct 4 

Red-tailed Hawk

Nov 2 (late Oct-early Nov) 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Nov 7 (late Oct-early Nov) 

Golden Eagle

Nov 6 (late Oct mid-Nov) 

Northern Harrier

Nov 2 (this is the most widespread timing of any species and is possible throughout Sept - mid-Nov)

For less common species (lucky to see 1-2 per day):

Bald Eagle

Sept 21 (Sept) 

Peregrine Falcon

Oct 3 (early Oct) 


Oct 10 (early Oct) 


Directions for Stone Mountain Hawkwatch

Take Rt 26 south from State College through Pine Grove Mills. Rt 26 makes a left turn at a flashing traffic light and goes up over Tussey Mountain. At this point you pass into Huntingdon County. Continue south on Rt 26 to the town of McAlevy's Fort. As you enter McAlevy's Fort, you pass a fire station on the right, go over a bridge, and come to a STOP sign. At the stop sign, turn left onto Rt 305 (also now called Greenwood Road). Proceed approx. 0.7 miles passing a large brick church on the left and then immediately turn right (leaving 305) onto paved Barr Road. Continue on this winding road for 0.6 mile, then turn left onto (paved) Davis Road. Follow Davis Road about 1.2 miles down to East Branch Road (there are no possible prior turns off Davis Road).

Turn right onto E. Branch Road. Follow for 1.6 miles to a left turn onto Allensville Road (dirt but drivable except in snow/ice conditions). Follow Allensville Road three miles to the very top of Stone Mountain (along the way up, ignore a left and then two right-hand turns). At the top, park on the left just before the Huntingdon/Mifflin county line marker. Follow the obvious trail north into the woods (to the left of the road). After 50 yards you will cross a small, semi-difficult rock field. Then pick up the orange-blazed Link Trail and follow 5-10 minutes more along the ridge out to the platform. You can't miss it if you STAY ON THE TRAIL ON THE RIDGE TOP.