American Goldfinch, photo by Tony Nastase
Hello First name / VFAS Member,

Our fall word is “forward”- we're so looking forward to our fall & winter migrants returning to Pennsylvania. Internally at VFAS, we are also moving forward after two integral board leaders stepped down from their positions. That said, our future is bright as we welcome two other long-term board members into their new roles of President and Vice-President! You can learn more about everyone later on in the newsletter. As always, thank you for your interest in VFAS!

Illustration of & by Rosemary Mosco
As always, VFAS has a full calendar of events for this fall! You'll be able to catch us in places like Ridley Creek SP, Harriet Wetherill Park in Plymouth Meeting, Green Lane Park, Stoneleigh Garden in Villanova, and Goddard Park in Kennett Square.
Can't make it out to an event in person? No problem, we hold online programs as well! One notable upcoming program on Wednesday, October 18th is a talk from artist, author, and all-around nature aficionado Rosemary Mosco! You may know her from her playful comics that circulate on the internet or recognize her as last year's keynote speaker at Cape May Fall Festival. VFAS is excited to host Rosemary and would love for you to tune in to her webinar on 10/18/23 at 7pm.

The counts are tallied and all we can say is WOW!  The 2023 Spring Bird Count was quite an event this year.  This was an amazing count with numerous records broken, or dare we say, shattered!  We had more than 20 species that were listed as the highest total ever for the count.  Click on the button below to read about it all on our blog.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for our annual Christmas Bird Count to be held on Saturday, December 23, 2023
We'll need help from folks like you!
If you are in town for the holiday and want to help, please contact Vince Smith by December 18th to be assigned to a team. 
Beginning birders are welcome and will be assigned to a team with experienced members.

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“Are there any native plants that deer won’t eat?”
- Conversations at Tabling Events -
  • “If I plant a dragonfly pond, will birds eat all of them?”
  • “Are there any native plants that deer won’t eat?
  • “How can I have a native plant garden when my homeowners’ association requires a mowed grass lawn?
These are the sorts of questions people ask when trying to make their yards more friendly to birds. Offering support and information to help birds thrive in our communities, Valley Forge Audubon Society (VFAS) is staffing tables at numerous events this fall . . . learn more about these events and the answers to the questions by clicking the button below:
Want to learn more about advocacy for birds? 
Contact the VFAS Advocacy Committee at: 

Thanks to all our friends who joined us on August 13, 2023 for a fun afternoon of socializing, snacks, business and birding. This year’s event was held at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, a great birding location and event space owned by Montgomery County.

More than 78 birding colleagues came to say hello to Bird Ambassador Oden the Owl and his human companion (thanks again, staff of the JJAC), to thank current VFAS Board members and vote in the 2023-2024 VFAS Board of Directors and Committee Chairpersons. Bernard S. Brown, “Billy”, intrigued us with his presentation “A Defense of the Unholy Trio.”

The fun and frivolity was capped off with some late-afternoon birding as 27 attendees braved the heat and explored the JJAC terrain, led by outgoing Board President Vince Smith and incoming Board President Chris Wells. Thirty-seven different species were spotted and/or heard, proving once again “any time is birding time”!

To those who were able to attend, and all who are part of our birding community, we value each of you, and look forward to seeing you all at various programs and outings during this next year, and then NEXT year’s annual event!
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Photo by Jean Bochnowski
At our annual meeting in August, VFAS announced some changes in its board leadership. VFAS President Vince Smith + Vice President Pat Nastase both stepped down, after a combined 28 years of tenure on the VFAS board. It's safe to say we would not be the organization we are today without their tireless help!
We asked Vince & Pat to jot down some notes and memories about their time with VFAS- read on for some fun history and birdy anecdotes:
Notes from Vince Smith, former VFAS President:
1. How long was your tenure as a board member and as president? 
I was a board member from 2000 until the present. My first round as President of VFAS was from 2007 to 2010. My second round as President was 2018 through August 2023.
2. What is one VFAS accomplishment you're proud of? 
In 2018, VFAS was not thriving as an organization. We had great program ideas but not much attendance. With the help of Pat Nastase and Patty Werth, we went from barely getting 7 people to a program to needing extra helpers to handle anywhere from 20 plus to 70 people coming to an event.  I was also so glad at the way we transitioned through the pandemic to come out of it even stronger than before.
3. How can folks stay in touch with you after you step down? I will not be leaving the organization and I plan to be very active with programs and conservation projects, so you can still reach me through VFAS or at a program.
4. Do you have a favorite birding trip or event from your tenure? Off the top of my head, I recall a walk at Black Rock Sanctuary where a group of birders were standing along the top berm of a basin. We were elevated and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet came in below eye level. It had a very strong interaction with another kinglet and flashed its red crown at the other bird, and unintentionally, to all of us. The bird was 10 feet from us.  It was amazing that everyone on the walk had the opportunity to view the bird up close with the naked eye flashing its red crest.
5. Do you have any other notable VFAS memories? I recall the time a woman came up to me after about a half mile after a turn on the path and asked “Have you seen my husband”. It was a real “Oh crap” moment. Apparently, he went ahead of the group and didn’t take the turn.  We did eventually find him and I learned that it is important to keep a head count for reasons beyond attendance numbers.   
Or, the time I was on a snowy Christmas Bird Count and I kept hearing a Carolina Wren singing nearby in a spreading beech.  Little did I know that my wife had brought along a device called an Identiflyer that played bird song. You put different cards into the device for different bird songs. Every time we heard the Carolina Wren sing, my wife and I
would put our binoculars up to not find the bird. Our hands would get cold and we would put our hands back into our pockets to warm up. Every time we put our hands in our pockets the Carolina Wren would sing again. We did this 4-5 times and I kept saying: I swear I hear a Carolina Wren right near us.” It took a while to figure out that my wife kept hitting the play button on the Identiflyer when she went to warm her hands.  
Or on another Christmas Bird Count when 4 of us couldn’t rustle up an owl after starting at 3:30 AM.   We played calls at many different locations with no response.  At our last stop, we played a Great-Horned Owl call with again, no response. We finally gave up with dawn on its way and the 4 of us starting joking that the owls knew the tape was a fake because there was a green frog calling in the background and they were all sitting in the trees laughing at our stupidity. We started to belly laugh going back and forth and suddenly, at a distance, a Great-Horned responded to our laughing.
6. What is a great and underrated local birding spot you'd like to share? Evansburg State Park is under-appreciated by the local birding community.  It has such a wide range of different habitats: forests, fields, thickets and running water.
7. Is there an elusive lifer you're hoping to find after you step down and have some more free time? 
Yes- Vesper Sparrow. I have been out and about when they are out and about and have yet to pick up that species. 
That bird also taught me a lesson on how a bird in the hand is very different from a bird in the field. I was in a training class through Audubon in which they handed us bird skins. They gave a Vesper Sparrow and even though I knew all the necessary markings, it took me a long time to figure out what it was. It taught me how important what the bird is doing and how it moves (flies, walks, preens, sings etc.) is to identifying all birds.
8. If you had to pick a favorite bird, what is it?  I love all the Neotropical Migrants. As a geography major, I just love that they connect me to North, Central, and South America. It blows me away that they fly those distances twice a year and I get a chance to see them only during brief windows. That always makes the observations extra special.  
Notes from Pat Nastase, former VFAS VP:
1.How long was your tenure as a board member and as VP? I joined the board in 2018 and became VP that year.
2. What is one VFAS accomplishment you're proud of? When I joined the board in 2018, the organization was struggling to attract people to its events. The website was old and difficult to navigate and there was no social media presence, which is vital in this day and age.  Working with Navitas Marketing, I spearheaded the redesign of the website, making it informative and user friendly.  I also resurrected the quarterly newsletter and long-dormant social media accounts to improve communication with our members.  With those improvements, VFAS is attracting more participants than ever to its varied programs.
3. How can folks stay in touch with you after you step down? I’ll still be leading bird walks with Tony, managing
the website and social media, and answering messages on the VFAS Gmail account, so that’s a good place to reach me.  
4. Is there an elusive lifer you're hoping to find after you step down and have some more free time? 
I’ve always wanted to see the birds of paradise, so a trip to New Guinea may be in my future.
5. If you had to pick a favorite bird, what is it and why? As much as I love songbirds (the Blackburnian Warbler is my favorite songbird), I would have to pick penguins.  Although their appearance and habits are amusing, penguins are tough birds that survive in challenging environments. It’s sad to see their populations decline because of climate change. I’ve been fortunate to have seen 4 penguin species in my travels (Magellanic, Gentoo, King, and Galapagos) and hope to add Little penguins if I get to Australia.
Chris Wells                                            Jim Ermer
The search for the new VFAS leadership was an easy one- two of our longtime board members stepped right up to help. Please help us welcome Chris Wells as our new President and Jim Ermer as our new Vice President! Both Chris and Jim have been trusted and influential members of our board for a few years now, so it feels like a natural transition.
We asked Chris and Jim to introduce themselves and jot down some remarks for our membership to get to know them a bit better. Read on to meet our new VFAS leadership:
Meet Chris Wells, VFAS President:
1.How long was your tenure as a board member? 3 Years, since 2020 until today.
2. What are you looking forward to in this new role? Working with all of the talented and knowledgeable members of the board and expanding the awareness of the Valley Forge Audubon society.
3. Do you have a favorite trip or event from your time with VFAS? 
I enjoy working with the junior birders club and seeing their enthusiasm for the hobby of birding.
4. What is one thing you hope to accomplish as president of VFAS? I want to spread the knowledge of the importance of birds and for conserving the environment.  
Having grandchildren, I want to make sure that there are birds for them to watch and enjoy.
5. What is a great and underrated local birding spot you'd like to share? Heuser Park in King of Prussia- it has a paved trail, making it accessible to all.
6. In your opinion, what makes VFAS special? Our volunteers who are willing to share their love of birds and recognize the importance of saving birds.
7. If you had to pick a favorite bird, what is it?  My favorite bird is the one that I am looking at through my binoculars.  I still get excited when I see a Robin plucking a worm from the ground or a hummingbird at my feeder.
Meet Jim Ermer, VFAS Vice President:
1.How long was your tenure as a board member? 3 Years; I was previously a board member in the 90's/2000, until life took me in other directions.
2. What are you looking forward to in this new role? I have an extensive R&D background in drug development, so I bring that lens to the Board. Additionally, I am not a birder in the true sense of the word- but I have a great passion for preserving the natural environment and consider birds to be one of the primary indicators of the health of an ecosystem.
3. What is one thing you hope to accomplish as vice president of VFAS? I would like to continue to encourage younger members and families to become active in VFAS and
to increase the opportunity to expand
Citizen Science activities and to add a true research component to VFAS. 
4. What is a great and underrated local birding spot you'd like to share? I don't have a local one aside from my backyard. However, I grew up along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and there are 2 major areas up there that are not well known to people in this area- Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and Montezuma Wildlife refuge (and their surrounding areas). They are a bit of a drive but well worth the trip during the spring and fall waterfowl migrations. 
5. In your opinion, what makes VFAS special? The people.
6. If you had to pick a favorite bird, what is it? I really don't have one favorite, but Pileated woodpeckers and hummingbirds are pretty cool.
As of March 2023, twenty-five dollars from every Pollinator Conservation plate sold will be credited to the Pollinator Habitat Program Fund. The Pollinator Habitat Program Fund was established as a special fund in the State Treasury for the purpose of providing support for roadside pollinator initiative.

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.

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