Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

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Tyler Arboretum is an IBA (Important Bird Area)

Photos at Tyler on 12/18/13
Photo on the front of the Visitor Center at Tyler Arboretum

When walking from the parking lot towards the Visitor Center at Tyler Arboretum, one of the signs you see on the outside of the building is the one pictured above. The first time I saw this sign, I immediately became curious – what does it mean to be an Important Bird Area?  What does this designation mean for birds – and for Tyler?  My Google searching led me to find the answers I was looking for!

The National Audubon Society oversees the Important Bird Areas Program.

Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but usually they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. IBAs may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected.  —  from What Is An IBA?

There is also a video produced by Audubon that offers background about the program and highlights state, regional, and national conservation activities.

The IBA Program has an impressive, interactive website that allows the user to search by state and/or through an interactive map.  I quickly found the information for Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas Program.

Formed in 1996, Pennsylvania developed the first statewide Important Bird Area (IBA) program in the country. A group of scientific advisors (known as the Ornithological Technical Committee) has identified over 80 IBA sites encompassing over two million acres of Pennsylvania’s public and private land. These areas include migratory staging areas, winter roost sites and prime breeding areas for songbirds, wading birds, and other species. Pennsylvania is making an important contribution to the conservation of bird habitat in the western hemisphere. Penn’s Woods are critical to many interior forest birds, providing nesting habitat to 17% of the world’s Scarlet Tanagers and 9% of the Wood Thrushes. By focusing attention on the most essential and vulnerable areas, the IBA program helps to promote proactive habitat conservation, benefiting birds and biodiversity. Audubon Pennsylvania works with a multitude of partners across the Commonwealth to advance the conservation of Important Bird Areas. — from PA’s Important Bird Areas Program

I was then able to drill down and found Tyler Arboretum on their map as part of a larger area designated as the Upper Ridley/Crum Site.

Site Description
The Upper Ridley/Crum Important Bird Area includes Ridley Creek State Park, Tyler Arboretum and a vast expanse of primarily private land north of Route 3. Other publicly-accessible sites include Willistown Township’s Okehocking Preserve (Route 3 and 926), and several preserves owned by the Willistown Conservation Trust.

Ornithological Summary
The site is significant for its use during migration and the nesting season. As a large patch of green in a fully suburbanized region, the IBA acts as a vital stopover site for many species of neotropical migrant songbirds. Several woodland species of concern stay for the summer and nest within the IBA, including Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler and Wood Thrush. Grasslands and agricultural fields in the IBA provide stopover habitat for Bobolinks and nesting habitat for a few Eastern Meadowlarks.

The Audubon Pennsylvania website has even more information specific to Pennsylvania about the IBA program, along with some helpful responses to IBA FAQs and a complete, detailed site profile for Upper Ridley/Crum.

My investigation in to the IBA program has given me an even greater appreciation for the role Tyler plays in biodiversity and conservation of our avian population.  Now I need to work on my bird identification skills to see if I can spot some of these critical species!

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Have you met Owlexander? He was at the Tree House Festival!

The tree houses are such a hit at Tyler Arboretum, it only seems fitting that there be an annual festival to celebrate – well, tree houses!  When you first heard about the Tree House Festival, maybe you were like me.  I originally thought to myself, “I’ve already seen the tree houses – what could possibly be different this time?  Why should I go?”  Well, if you did not make the trip out to Tyler today, be sure to mark your calendar to attend next year – there is something for everyone, things that you do not get to see at Tyler every day!

2013 Tree House FestivalFor the kids, there was a wealth of educational and fun activities.  It was fun to see kids engage with the multiple stations for hands-on arts and crafts.  I wish I was half as creative as these Tyler volunteers that were leading the crafting tables!  And I appreciate how environmentally-friendly the craft activities were – one of the tables had a copy of the book The Lorax (he speaks for the trees, you know!  There is even a website to learn more about The Lorax Project).  If kids weren’t making crafts, they were getting locked in to ropes and harnesses to climb one of Tyler’s trees (under the watchful eyes and guidance of Oakwood Tree Care Professionals, of course).  It looked like SO much fun, I wish I could have climbed!  But my eye was caught by a crowd gathering behind the barn, so I went to investigate.

2013 Tree House FestivalAs I walked closer to the group of onlookers, I could finally see what all of the gathering excitement was about – it was a collection of hawks and falcons on display!  Rarely do I get the opportunity to get so close to these beautiful birds, and the “keepers” of the creatures were there to share facts and figures and to answer any questions from the group.  Kids wanted to know why some feathers were shorter on the tail than other feathers, while adults were asking if the species were native to Pennsylvania.  I could have stood for over an hour just at this spot to watch the movements and hear the “screeching” of the birds, and to listen to all of the information shared with my fellow onlookers.  Meet two of my favorite new bird friends (the Gyrfalcon and European Eagle Owl) below!

2013 Tree House Festival

This is a Gyrfalcon, a bird typically found in northern North America, but it does come down to Pennsylvania in the winter to search for food.

2013 Tree House Festival

Meet Owlexander! This is a European Eagle Owl (also referred to as a Eurasian Eagle Owl), one of the largest owl species in the world. He is only a few months old but fully grown – and has claws that you do not want to get close to! This creature is not native to Pennsylvania.

After getting saturated with facts about the raptors (and taking many, many photos!), I decided to take the time to walk the newly-dedicated Scenic Loop path.  I wasn’t brave enough to walk on the day of the dedication, which happened to be the hottest day of the year.  But since today there was a break in the heatwave we have been experiencing (only 88 degrees today!), I wanted to give the Loop a try.  What a really enjoyable walk!  Even on a hot and sunny day like today, there are enough trees along the pathway providing periodic shade as a break from the sun.  Today was a fun and educational day – looking forward to more of these kinds of days at Tyler!