Friday, May 31, 2024

5 PM – Registration Opens (Vendors display their wares.)

6:00 – 8:00 PM – Social

7 PM – Annual Business Meeting and Festival Announcements (DoubleTree junior ball room)

8:30 PM – Nocturnal field trip departs from DoubleTree parking lot

Saturday, June 1, 2024

7:00 AM – Field Trips

Noon – 4 PM Vendors display their wares


1:00 – 1:40 PMTessa Rhinehart

Eavesdropping on birds: autonomous sound recording and AI for ornithology and conservation

Tessa Rhinehart is a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh. Since 2018, her work has involved developing tools to empower ornithologists, ecologists, and conservation biologists to expand their ability to monitor wildlife. These tools center on inexpensive autonomous recorders for capturing wildlife sounds, paired with free and openly available AI algorithms that can predict which species are present in the recordings.


1:40 – 2:20 PMSteve Latta

No Fool’s Errand: New evidence suggests the persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Louisiana

The history of decline of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is long and complex, but the status of the species since 1944, when the last widely accepted sighting in continental North America occurred, is particularly controversial. Reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have continued, but none has reached the threshold of quality for general acceptance by ornithologists or the birdwatching public. In 2021, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened for public comment a proposal to declare the species extinct. Here we present evidence suggesting the presence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker at our study site, based on a variety of data collected over a 10-yr search period, 2012-2022. These data are drawn from visual observations, recordings by acoustic recording units, trail camera images, and drone video footage. Using multiple lines of evidence, the data suggest intermittent but repeated presence of multiple individual birds with field marks and behaviors consistent with those of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Data indicate repeated re-use of foraging sites and core habitat. Our findings, and the inferences drawn from them, suggest that not all is lost for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and that it is clearly premature for the species to be declared extinct.


2:20-2:40 PM – Break and vendor time


2:40 – 3:20 PMAmber Wiewel

Kicking Off the Pennsylvania Bird Atlas!

Pennsylvania’s 3rd Bird Atlas launched on January 1, 2024. The Atlas is a community science project designed to document bird species breeding and wintering in PA. Learn how the use of eBird for the Atlas improves data collection and how social media helps connect birders around the state. We’ll also check in on how the Atlas is progressing a few months in.

Amber grew up in Missouri where she first fell in love with birds in the Ozarks. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree from Iowa State University. She worked as a wildlife biologist for the US Geological Survey before taking on the role of Pennsylvania Bird Atlas Coordinator in 2023.


3:20 – 4:00 PMBrian Wargo

East Coast Hawkwatching: Identification, Tricks, and Trends

Hawkwatching is an esoteric subset of birding that utilizes unique skills and techniques for identification. Hawks are usually far out in the sky, often appearing black, and nearly devoid of any plumage patterns. Making matters worse, these birds rarely vocalize, are moving fast, and do not return for a second glance. All of these problems conspire against the hawk counter who must quickly identify the raptor and move on to the next bird. So, how do they do it? Brian takes you into the mind of the hawk counter and shares the techniques that hawkwatchers practice to make the identification. In addition, Wargo is the Eastern Flyway Editor for Hawk Migration Studies, taking countless hours to analyze the data collected from the nearly 90 hawk sites in the eastern part of the United States. This information helps reveal the state of the raptors for the east coast. This workshop provides tips and tricks for hawk identification, all while integrating population trends for each raptor species.

Dr. Brian M. Wargo is a physicist by training, a decorated science educator, and a hawk counter at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. He serves as the President of the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society and is on the board of directors for the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) where he chairs the Data Committee as well as the Education and Conservation Committee. In addition, he is the Eastern Flyway editor for Hawk Migration Studies, the official journal of HMANA. When not counting raptors, analyzing data, teaching students, or writing books, Wargo enjoys birding and has done so in all 49 contiguous states in North America.


5:00 – 6:00 PM – Cocktail hour

5:30 PM – Open doors to ballroom (DoubleTree junior ballroom)

6:00 PM – Dinner begins (DoubleTree junior ballroom)

6:30 PM – Presentation of Awards (DoubleTree junior ballroom)


7:00 PM – Keynote speaker: Katie Fallon

Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird

Vultures are often overlooked, underappreciated, and unloved, despite the vital roles they play in healthy ecosystems. Worldwide, vultures are primarily scavengers; they can help stop the spread of disease by quickly and efficiently removing dead animals from the landscape. Unfortunately, due to poisoning, direct persecution, habitat loss, and other threats, vultures are more likely to be threatened or endangered than any other group of raptors. But in the Western Hemisphere, Turkey and Black Vultures counter this trend and are increasing in number. Based on Katie Fallon’s recent book, this fun presentation will explore the life and times of the noble Turkey Vulture, including its feeding, nesting, and roosting habits, migratory behaviors, and common misconceptions. Katie will also discuss what it’s like to be up-close-and-personal with Turkey and Black Vultures through her work with the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.

Katie Fallon is the author of the nonfiction books Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird (2020, 2017) and Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (2011), as well as two books for children. She is Executive Director of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the region’s wild birds through research, education, and rehabilitation, and has served as President of the Mountaineer Chapter of the National Audubon Society. Katie is a Certified Professional Bird Trainer and has worked with live birds since 1998; over the last twenty years she has given educational presentations featuring raptors, vultures, parrots, and corvids. She writes the column WINGBEATS for Bird Watcher’s Digest and has taught writing at West Virginia University, Virginia Tech, and elsewhere. Her first word was “bird.” For more:

Sunday, June 2, 2024

7:00 AM – Field trips