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Bird lovers wing it in Pa.

Audubon Society spots as many species as it can

Audubon Society spots as many species as it can

February 08, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Six hardy bird lovers turned out in slushy, cool weather Saturday morning to hike through Quarry Meadow along the Falling Spring just east of Chambersburg.

Conococheague Audubon Society members sighted several species of birds, both native and nonnative.

Sharp-shinned hawk, redtail hawk, white-throated sparrows, crowned sparrows, song sparrows, cardinals, blue jays, goldfinches, juncos, starlings, rock pigeons, house finches, downy woodpeckers, mallards, Canada geese, great blue heron and mourning dove all were mentioned by society members.

Some species such as Canada goose are becoming native, according to Maynard Henry of Hanover, Pa. About 120 of the large geese were sighted. Because the Falling Spring never freezes, mallards and geese use it frequently, while great blue herons hang around because of a nearby fish hatchery.

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"The Falling Spring comes out of the ground at 52 degrees, it's open water year-round, and anything coming through will hunt for open water and try to recover and find a meal," Henry said.

Henry, who was born and raised in the Chambersburg area, has been with the society "forever." He said his lifelong hobby of raising pigeons got him interested in birds. The club does a migratory count, a Christmas count, hawk migration watches and many other activities, he said.

Shirley Fenstermacher of Chambersburg said she saw a swan on the hike. It looked as though it had had a tough winter, she said. "Its feathers looked beat up."

Bird watching is a nice hobby, she added.

"We do our best to be honest and make a list," Fenstermacher said. "It's intellectually challenging to get the details. A beginner can say, 'That's a sparrow,' and that's good, then it's better to say which kind of sparrow. You can be a beginner and have fun, or be an old-timer and have fun."

Twenty-year society member Barb Higgins of Chambersburg added that members also observe butterflies and wildflowers on field trips.

The group has a telephone hot line to inform each other of unusual sightings.

In January, a call went through the hot line about the presence of a snowy owl in Path Valley.

"It was cold and windy and 15 degrees with snow coming down," Fenstermacher said. "We went anyway. They are not common here, and that's why we get excited."

Jessie Hague of Chambersburg also traveled to Path Valley to see the owl.

"It was in the middle of an evergreen; it was a big blotch of white," she said.

The snowy owl is native to the Arctic. In years when food is scare there, the owls come south, Hague said. She saw one in downtown Chambersburg in 1968, and added the unusual owl to her life list, which serious bird watchers keep of the birds they have seen.

"It's a huge bird, larger than a barn owl," Hague said.

A member brought a large wing she had found near her home to the gathering held after the hike. Members discussed what type of bird it belonged to.

"We haggle around 'til we're sure," Fenstermacher said. "We do a lot of that. We can't decide (on this one). We'd like to have the rest of the body. All the parts give us clues (as to identity). A feather is usually not enough of a clue."

The Conococheague Audubon Society meets in Warfield Hall at Wilson College at 7:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month from September through May except January, when it meets at 6 p.m. in the Park Avenue Church. Field trips are scheduled throughout the year.

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