Wild birds having ups and downs in western PA

It has been a year of ups and downs so far for the wild birds at Barcaskey Farm.

In May, I reported that my father killed a female bluebird while she was sitting on a clutch of eggs in one of her nesting boxes. A few days later the male returned with a new female and they started another nest, but unfortunately that female and her eggs perished as well. This will be the first year in a long time that there will be no young bluebirds in my father’s garden.

Carolina tits have flown another brood in one of my boxes and are currently providing a lot of mirth. There is something joyful about a group of young chickadees making their way through the trees. Parents lead and young people leapfrog from branch to branch, singing all the time. It is a small circus of tumbling and noisy birds.

Of course, my Carolina Wren successfully raised two broods and are now working the firewood piles for spiders and insects. Several broods of robins, blue jays, cardinals and chickadees have also been successfully bred on the property.

Unfortunately, not all birds are equally well.

A mysterious disease is currently spreading among certain species of songbirds in Pennsylvania and at least nine other eastern states.

Robins, blackbirds, blue jays and cardinals are the species most identified as being affected. The disease results in crusty and swollen eyes, blindness, neurological problems and eventually death. The infected birds were first found in May and have concentrated around the Washington, DC area.

Although not much is known at this point, there are steps homeowners can take to minimize disease transmission.

According to Patricia Barber, endangered species biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the commission recommends that people stop feeding the birds until this event is resolved, but there is no official moratorium. Bird feeders and baths are places where wild birds congregate and can spread disease. Feeders and baths should be cleaned with a bleach solution before next use.

In other sad news regarding birding, a second eagle from the Crescent Township nest has died.

Crescent Township Police Chief Ken Longerman reported last Tuesday that “Police responded to a motor vehicle accident on McGovern Boulevard near Premier Pan. A young eagle had flown against the windshield of a vehicle and perished. This is the second adolescent eagle to die last week. The animals are breathtakingly beautiful. The driver of the vehicle was not injured, although the vehicle’s windshield was destroyed.

Every summer, Pennsylvanians help track wild turkey populations by reporting their turkey sightings to the Game Commission, and a new period of investigation is about to begin.

The Pennsylvania wild turkey sighting survey opened on July 1 and will run through August. The two-month window follows the current national standard used by all state wildlife agencies, providing comparable data across the range of the wild turkey.

The information submitted helps the agency analyze the turkey’s reproduction. Participants are asked to record the number of wild turkeys they see, as well as the general location, date, and contact details if agency biologists have questions.

“The turkey survey improves our agency’s internal survey, which serves as a long-term index of turkey reproduction and is used in our turkey population model,” explained Mary Jo Casalena, Turkey Biologist. wild agency. “By reporting all turkeys seen in each observation, whether they are gulps, brood hens or broodless hens, the data helps us determine total productivity and allows us to compare long-term reproductive success.”

Many factors, including spring weather conditions, habitat, past winter food abundance, predation and last fall’s harvest, affect the productivity of wild turkeys.

“Thanks to the popularity of this survey in Pennsylvania, we have great confidence in our estimates,” said Casalena. “Let’s maintain these results in 2021 and even increase participation. “

Turkey’s sighting reports can be done through the Game Commission mobile app or on the agency’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.

Mike Barcaskey can be contacted at mikebarcaskey@outlook.com.

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