Birders Wanted
Inside the Outdoors, December 20
, 2013

We’re all familiar with the character on Sesame Street known as Big Bird. Well, we have our own big bird flying around the Jefferson Street Irving Avenue intersection; it was confirmed by two neighbors that live in that proximity.

I received a phone call one evening concerning the possibility of sighting what was believed to be an eagle. Then while talking to his neighbor last week, I happened to mention the possible sighting of a large bird to his neighbor, and he said, “We have an eagle flying above our homes.”

Sightings of eagles were at one time rare, to say the least, but as the population is growing statewide, these birds could pop up anywhere and have decided to stick around in our neck of the woods.

In one respect, I find it a blessing to have so many types of wildlife in the Laurel Highlands, birds in particular, but sometimes I wonder if it’s problematic as well. I state this because they capture and kill all the small game that many of us enjoy watching, some residents even feeding.

The gent who first called me about his sighting said the large bird was carrying a small animal. My conclusion was that in all probability it was a squirrel and we are going to find a diminishing population of these animals. Such is the case with chipmunks, rabbits and cats, as well.

The Latrobe resident who first called me stated that he has the latter messing up his yard more so in the last year than ever before. Since there is an ordinance that these so called nuisances are running free, then they have been deputized to rid the city of them. Sorry cat lovers, small joke.

Then a fellow at the Indoor Farmer’s Market at the Cooperstown Event Center told me last week that he has seen an eagle flying in the proximity of what is referred to as the Third Bridge here in Latrobe. That certainly is proof that they are found in the area.

Everyone should know the male and female description of this bird. A large raptor, both are dark overall with a distinctive white head and tail. A juvenile bird is all brown then gaining white mottling until reaching adult plumage in four to five years. When I was first called about this sighting, I was told of a very large bird with a brown head. Not fully grown, he had seen a juvenile species, I have no doubt.

In conjunction with the sightings of “Big Bird,” the Pennsylvania Game Commission is urging citizens of the United States of America to join the tens of thousands of volunteers to participate in the Audubon Society’s 114th Annual Christmas Bird Count which is underway until Jan. 5.

This is the longest-running citizen-survey in the world, and the data collected through the count allows researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

It’s kind of exciting when you think about it. Now, there are any amount of birds in Latrobe that we can say we have seen and report, such as the Great Blue Heron, the Egrets and Kingfishers to name just a few. Of course, we can leave out “our friends” the geese. And when you think of it, listing birds in our locale should come easy.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “Volunteers can pick the most convenient circle, or participate in more than one count. There is a specific methodology to the CBC, but everyone can participate. The count takes place with ‘Count Circles,’ which focus on specific geographical areas. Each circle is led by a ‘Count Compiler’ who is an experienced bird watcher, enabling beginning birders to learn while they assist.”

This should give those who feel stuck in the house with nothing to do a chance to get out and do something that will benefit others. I find this exciting especially we live in the neighborhood of our great outdoors. Now that it has snowing, spotting winged-creatures should be a bit easier as they are silhouetted against the white background.

So the question may arise, “How do I locate a Count Circle that’s seeking participants?”

Contact the local Count Compiler on Audubon’s website, www.audubon.org , to find out how you can volunteer. There is no fee to participate.

The whole idea of this project is to count or monitor what species of birds spends their winters in the Commonwealth.

And what better way is there than to introduce beginners to bird identification.

Just today, I spotted a crow, goose and raven. What can you do to top my sightings?


- Paul J. Volkmann
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