Summer is the perfect time to slow down and really see what your local feathered friends are getting in to. Perhaps you've noticed that the hummingbirds are a-buzz, that fledglings are preparing to take flight, that “Merlin Sound ID” doesn't quite work for the tree frogs chirping at night . . . it's all part of the humid magic that is summer in Southeastern PA!
As always, thank you for your interest in your local Audubon chapter, we hope to see you at a program soon!
. . . VFAS can help with that! As more and more new birders attend our events, leaders are lending out personal spares more often. We'd love to grow a small collection for walk leaders to share with event attendees as needed. If you're looking to declutter and have a usable spare to share, contact us at email@example.com
We couldn't do this important citizen science without help from members like you! The Spring 2023 results will be available in our next newsletter. In the meantime, mark your calendars for our annual Christmas Bird Count to be held on: Saturday, December 23, 2023
Photos of the West Norriton Pollinator Garden courtesy of Shari Donath
Need Help with a Native Plant Garden for your Community?
Do you need support to start, develop, or expand a native plant garden that residents of your community can enjoy? Want to attract more birds, butterflies, and bees? Valley Forge Audubon (VFAS) may be able to help!
Several members of the VFAS Advocacy Committee have helped start bird-friendly gardens on public properties such as libraries, parks, and municipal grounds. Advocacy member Shari Donath shared these pictures of the West Norriton garden she helped create.
We can suggest ways to get a garden started in your community and advise on great plants and shrubs to include. We can also provide templates for signage to identify plants and promote your garden. We may also be able to provide financial support for purchasing plants and signage.
On Thursday, June 8th, we went to Brightside Farm Park to watch American Kestrel chicks being banded. There were rolling fields of head-height grasses. Dan Mummert, a Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the PA Game Commission, talked to everyone about American Kestrels and conservation of meadows. He then pointed out the nest box, which was mounted on a telephone pole. Afterwards, he took the chicks out of the nest box and put them in his bag. Next he weighed and banded them. There were 2 chicks, a male and a female. Fortunately, they were extremely healthy and had amazing weights.
After the kids asked Dan many questions which were enthusiastically answered, he put the chicks back in their nest. In total we saw 4 Kestrels: 2 chicks and the 2 parents, and numerous meadow birds like red-winged blackbirds, barn swallows, and eastern bluebirds.
“Sid the Spotter” is a member of the VFAS Junior Birder's Club, a special group of kids with a focused interest on birdwatching and nature. Thanks to Sid for his first-hand account of the American Kestrel banding- and for his great spotting on VFAS bird walks!
Look no further than the VFAS for some recommendations! While we have a comprehensive list of great books to check out (peep the “Books for Birders” section on our website), we try to keep our members abreast of newer releases as well. Here's our top 6 from the first part of this year:
1. A Wing and a Prayer: The Race to Save Our Vanishing Birds by Anders and Beverly Gyllenhaal
Journalists Anders and Beverly Gyllenhaal spent a year chronicling costly experiments, contentious politics, and new technologies to save our beloved birds from the brink of extinction. Birds are dying at an unprecedented pace; But there are encouraging breakthroughs across the hemisphere and still time to change course, if we act quickly.
2. Dawn Songs: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration
Poetry and nature essays can be powerful ways for people to connect with the natural world. This is a new anthology edited by Jamie K. Reaser and J. Drew Lanham, and features lyrical reflections on our relationships with birds by 60 different writers.
3. Flight Paths: How a Passionate and Quirky Group of Scientists Solved the Mystery of Bird Migration by Rebecca Heisman
The compelling and fascinating story of how scientists solved the great mystery of bird migration, Flight Paths is an unprecedented look into exciting, behind-the-scenes moments of groundbreaking discovery. The story of migration research offers a beacon of hope that we can find solutions to difficult and complex problems.
4. Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper
Central Park birder Christian Cooper takes us beyond the viral video that shocked a nation and into a world of avian adventures. Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and primer on the art of birding, this is Cooper’s story of learning to claim and defend space for himself and others like him.
5. What An Owl Knows by Jennifer Ackerman
In her latest book, Ackerman explores the world of owls and what scientists have discovered about these amazing birds, including their anatomy, hunting skills, communication, and sensory abilities.
6. National Geographic Birder's Life List and Journal by National Geographic, 2023
Every birder keeps a life list - and this beautiful blank book offers the perfect way to do so, with room for dates, locations, and personal notes, encompassing a lifetime of bird-watching adventures. Organized to match ornithological taxonomy, with graceful illustrations of common species, occasional text by renowned birding expert Noah Strycker, and an index for easy navigation, this journal makes the mission of keeping a life list all the more convenient and rewarding.
VFAS MEMBER DANIelle Hagerty DID A DEEP-DIVE INTO “neonics,” a TYPE OF insecticide commonly used on corn and soybean crops. READ ON FOR THE GRIM DETAILS OF THIS LEGAL INSECTICIDE & HOW YOU CAN MAKE CHOICES TO AVOID IT:
You might already know that pesticides cause harm to biodiversity, humans, and the overall health of the planet. Recent evidence shows that they have also been impairing the health of many different bird species.
Neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” are insecticides that are most commonly used on the majority of corn and soybean crops in the U.S. They were first developed in the 1980s by Shell and Bayer. They are derived from nicotine and have a variety of uses, including veterinary medicine, farming, and lawn and garden control. They are applied to seeds as a coating. After the seed is planted and begins to grow, the pesticide is taken up by all the tissues of the plant, including the stem, roots, leaves, petals, nectar, and pollen.
If consumed, the neonics bind to the nerve cells of both insects and birds. This causes the creature to twitch and shake uncontrollably, which is followed by paralysis and eventually leads to death. Even small doses of neonics can cause damage to vital functions of birds such as memory, immune system, and
reproduction. A study by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) found that even one-tenth of a corn seed per day that has been contaminated by neonic pesticides can affect bird reproduction during egg-laying season.
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.
We are looking for committee members! These are our boots-on-the-ground volunteers who bring their specific talents to VFAS. Our current committees are:
- Advocacy -
Advocate for issues related to climate, water, working lands, healthy forests, and bird-friendly communities.
- Conservation & Community Science -
Help with the Spring & Christmas Bird Counts; enter, compile, & analyze data.
- Outreach -
Search out opportunities for marketing VFAS and participate in community events where there is a focus on environmental and bird-friendly activities.
- Programs -
Develop new programs and schedules future programs.
- Publications & Communications -
Assist with preparing articles for the newsletter and blog; preparing and scheduling social media posts.
Committees meet quarterly, mostly via Zoom. The average time commitment is 3-5 hours each month.