Our event calendar is filling up quickly! We have something on the schedule for every weekend in April and plan to keep it rolling on into May. In addition to birding events all month long, we have two special Earth Day events lined up- one is centered around invasive plants and the other is about tree and wildflower ID. Plus, April 29th is National “Go Birding” Day and to celebrate, we have FOUR events planned. Click below to see the whole calendar!
As we move further from the height of the pandemic, we are looking to bring back a more diverse roster of programming. We welcome your insight as to what YOU would like to see- will you help us by filling out this brief questionnaire?
Our 2022 CBC was postponed from December 24 to December 31 due to the cold weather. While the higher temperatures were appreciated by our volunteers, the significantly warmer day brought in a fog that really put a damper on any soaring birds. Waterfowl numbers were also down. Read all about the highs, lows, and notable findings on our blog.
An article in Audubon magazine has excellent tips on how to make your home and yard safer for birds. These tips are summarized and adapted for southeastern Pennsylvania- check them out by clicking the button below. Some of these tips actually mean less work for you!
VFAS intern London DiIorio, a licensed taxidermist, recently visited the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to learn about their ornithology collection and participate in their work for Bird Safe Philly. Here is her account of that experience:
The Drexel Academy of Natural Sciences is a museum and research institution located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that was founded in 1812– making it the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Western Hemisphere. The Academy has a vast collection of over 18 million specimens of plants, animals, and other natural objects, including some that are more than 300 years old. But one of its most impressive collections is its ornithology collection, which contains over 200,000 bird specimens from all over the world. The collection was started in the mid-nineteenth century by John Cassin, a prominent ornithologist and a curator of the natural history museum. Cassin collected specimens for the museum himself, but the collection additionally features specimens from many other ornithologists– including John James Audubon. Since then, the collection has grown rapidly, with one of the largest and most comprehensive ornithology collections in the world today. The specimens in the collection are preserved in a variety of ways, including study skins, taxidermy mounts, and skeletons. Several of the specimens date back over 150 years and include many rare and unusual, as well as extinct and endangered species.
Having helped launch Bird Safe Philly, the academy works closely with its volunteers who monitor the city for birds that have collided with buildings. While injured birds are taken to wildlife rehabilitation centers, deceased birds are taken to the academy. There, they are preserved, added to the collection, and used for research. This past January, I had the opportunity to get a hands-on experience with this collection and meet with ornithology collection manager, Nate Rice.
On a sunny November day in 2022, a small crowd gathered in a barn at Kauffman Orchards in Lancaster County. Dan Mummert from the PA Game Commission was there to band three juvenile barn owls, a rare second clutch in one season, from the same nest site. As Dan and his team carefully applied the bands, we learned all about these “farmer's friends” who are voracious consumers of meadow voles, mice, and other small critters. As with many birds, barn owls are losing viable habitat, making their already brief lifespans (3-5 years in the wild) more challenging. The PA Game Commission helps to monitor and protect nests/nest boxes in Pennsylvania. Within the VFAS territory, Chester County does not have any known barn owl nesting pairs and this is where our members may be able to help.
These magnificent birds require very little for the actual nest- see the above photos of a nest at Kauffman Orchards.The boxneeds to be at least 10' off the ground and cannot sway. Ideally, the opening is away from prevailing winds and it cannot be near a busy road or tractor traffic. The most limiting factor is the need for at least 100 acres of un-mowed grassland within ½ mile radius of their nest site, similar to the habitat of a kestrel.
Do you live somewhere in the area that meets these conditions? Contact Dan at the PA Game Commission who will be happy to provide information on how to build, install, and monitor a nestbox and then you can let Dan know whether it was successful in attracting owls.
2023 Bluebird Society of PA
“If you build it, they will come.” Or so the saying goes. The reality, as many know, is that if you build a bluebird nestbox, that’s just the beginning. Maintaining and monitoring the box is a critical activity to aid bluebirds in safely and successfully mating, nesting, and raising their chicks. This and many other important points were reinforced at the Bluebird Society of PA’s (BSP) 23rd Annual Conference held this year in Downingtown, PA on March 17th and 18. The conference was a sold-out event - fun, informative, and well-organized by BSP member and Downingtown resident Nancy Fraim.
With Downingtown part of VFAS territory, VFAS volunteers Barbara Holland, Marya Kaye, Caitlin Miller, Pat Nastase, and Lynn Sowden had a great time hosting an information table during the conference. The 150+ attendees were welcoming, knowledgeable and clearly dedicated, exchanging conversation, tips, and perusing the VFAS free literature highlighting everything from VFAS programs and events to how to turn one’s yard into a native habitat. The need for increased native plants habitat versus invasives or introduced flora was emphasized by all the presenters, including BSP member Ken Leister, Blake Goll from Willistown Conservation Trust, and Ian Stewart from Delaware Conservation Trust. The supporting VFAS/Backyards for Nature handout of PA native plants, Barbara’s local birding photos, and Pat’s photo album showing the Nastase’s naturalized and beautiful yard (and all the birds it attracts!) were especially popular at the VFAS table.
While bluebird conservation is serious business, it is also a source for joy, as Holly Merker, another Downingtown resident, highlighted in her “Ornitherapy” presentation. Her audience, including VFAS volunteers, clearly agree. Members enjoyed sharing stories of their peace and delight in the birds. Current research supports that birding and time in nature are proving to be “drug-free wellness plans”, Holly said, with bluebirds a wonderful mascot for the opportunity. What could be better?!
Are you passionate about birds and nature? Do you like working with a team of like-minded individuals? If so, please join us and volunteer with the Valley Forge Audubon Society! Whatever your interests and talents, we would welcome your participation.
How you can help:
1) Join the VFAS Board of Directors. The Board's primary duties are working on strategy, setting goals and objectives, overseeing programs and activities, and actively managing risks. The Board of Directors meets monthly via Zoom and once per year in-person at VFAS's annual chapter meeting. There are currently two open Director positions.
2) Join a committee. Whether you'd like to help plan and/or lead programs, represent VFAS at public events, or lobby elected officials to support bird-friendly legislation, we'd love to have you as a part of our team. To see a list of our committees, please visit our website.
3) Become an intern. Many thanks go to our current student intern, London, who is leaving us in the fall, for all her wonderful work for the past year.
4) Volunteer for an hour, a day, or more. We'll be happy to accommodate your interests, time, and talents. We look forward to seeing what unique contributions and skills the community can bring to our organization.