- April 25, 2018
Many times we will hear someone say in a disgusted fashion, “oh that’s just for the birds.” But in the case of the Lycoming Audubon Society that is literally true.
According to the group’s website, “The Lycoming Audubon Society (LAS) is a chapter of the National Audubon Society, with responsibility for members in Lycoming and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania. We are a qualified 501(c)3 organization that works to preserve and enhance the natural environment, provides conservation education at all levels, and cooperates with other organizations and agencies that share the goals of Audubon. Our mission is ‘To conserve and restore natural ecosystem focusing on birds, other wildlife, and habitats for the benefit of humanity and earth’s biological diversity’.
“Conservation education and advocacy are important functions of an Audubon chapter. Since its formation in 1968, LAS has participated in the preservation and enhancement of the natural environment in Lycoming and Clinton counties through many activities. The chapter draws from its many conservation-minded members to identify and research issues critical to our mission, and voices an advocacy opinion on those issues when appropriate.
“In addition, LAS members are also active in a number of broader important monitoring programs, including two annual Christmas Bird Counts and the annual PA Migration Count sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society of Ornithology. (See our Citizen Science page for more information.) Our community recognizes LAS conservation positions and expertise, and we are regularly involved through consultations, agreements, and hands-on participation.
“Like all Audubon chapters, our members enjoy birdwatching and an appreciation of ‘nature’ at all levels. We hold field trips regularly on an informal basis led by one or more of the chapter’s ardent ‘birders.’ Everyone is welcome to participate regardless of his or her birding experience. Our meetings are open to the public and often feature a birding excursion or a conservation topics.”
Gary Metzger, Vice President of Lycoming Audubon, told Webb Weekly, “Most of our folks enjoy watching and learning about birds at least in part because it’s an activity that gets us out into the natural world with other wildlife, wildflowers, and the myriad sights, sounds, and smells of wild places all around. It’s also an activity that you can enjoy at any age. We have folks at our programs and on our bird walks young enough to travel in strollers, and ‘mature’ enough to walk with a cane. Hey, you can enjoy birding from a window in your house or your car windows if it comes to that.”
He said they offer ten monthly programs about birds and nature each year at the James V. Brown Library downtown and they offer an average of 30-35 guided bird walks to the absolute best birding spots in a five-county area. The programs and bird walks are suitable for any age, and all their activities are free of charge and open to the public. They average about 50 at their programs and 16 on the typical bird watching outing. According to Metzger, “We have folks traveling from many nearby counties, and they tell us that they enjoy our walks and programs because our group has fun! There’s nothing stuffy about our walks — folks feel free to visit with one another as we go along, and there’s always a more experienced birder to answer questions or help someone spot and identify some neat bird.”
Chapter volunteers spent over 1,800 hours in many activities throughout the past year. Metzger said they are a 20-year participant with PennDOT’s “Adopt a Highway” program, and they maintain nesting boxes for bluebirds, wood ducks, screech and barred owls at seven locations here in Lycoming County, all readily accessible to the public. Citizen science is big on the “must do” list for chapter volunteers, including gathering important data on birds at two Christmas Bird Counts and a spring PA Migration Count. Members of the chapter also participate in another Christmas Bird Count in Clinton County.
Wayne Laubscher, a long time Lycoming Audubon board member, is a federally licensed bird bander and he bands owls, eagles, and hummingbirds to help determine travel and migration routes and population numbers of these bird species.
“Currently, we are advocating for keeping the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws we have intact, and effectively enforced,” Metzger said. “Passed way back in 1918, this law has saved any number of spectacular bird species from extinction, including the snowy egret, the sandhill crane, and our own wonderful wood duck. Over 1,000 species of birds continue to be protected by this magnificent 100-year-old law, but the administration in Washington is attempting to exempt many industries from their obligation to use ‘best practices’ in their projects, and there is a move afoot in Congress to attempt to weaken the law itself. Audubon nationwide, as well as conservation organizations in Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere, are mobilizing to protect this law that has so well protected our birds. Lycoming Audubon is determined that we will celebrate our own 50th anniversary this year, with confidence that we’ll see another 50 good years, and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that the MBTA sees its second centennial protecting the birds of the Northern Hemisphere. Last, but certainly not least, Lycoming Audubon together with National Audubon, and pretty much every other national and international bird conservation organization, continues to engage in dialogue with our own members and with the community at large about the threat posed to birds and humans by the changing climate. In a ‘Climate and Birds’ report released by National Audubon in 2014, Audubon scientists projected the impact on 800 some bird species that inhabit North America for at least part of the year. Their report indicates that 50% of those species will have the areas they need to live and breed reduced by half or more, yet this century. Unless effective action is taken soon to dramatically reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, the fifth and sixth graders we’re teaching to appreciate the wonder of birds will no longer be able to see many of those birds. They won’t be able, in turn, to teach that wonder to their children. Penns Woods without the iconic ruffed grouse, or the melodious wood thrush, or so many others — that’s an immediate future that none of us want to see.”