The Quarterly Community eNewsletter of Bird Town Pennsylvania
Autumn 2022
Welcome to “Bird Beat”
Welcome to “Bird Beat,” the quarterly eNewsletter of Bird Town Pennsylvania. Bird Beat is a seasonal communication (summer, fall, winter and spring) for individuals working to use native plants in their properties for the birds, pollinators, and other beneficial creatures that enhance the ecosystems in which we all live. Many of you have received one or more forms of habitat recognition or certification from Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, or other organizations.

“Bird Beat” offers timely tips for native plant enthusiasts like you, along with links to resources, events, and ideas to engage your families, friends, and neighbors with the wonders that your native gardens, from container gardening, to full blown meadows, evoke. The theme for this edition of “Bird Beat” is Migration! We hope you find “Bird Beat” informative and valuable. Please share this newsletter with any folks you think would like to subscribe to future editions of “Bird Beat.” Note that you can unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. We invite your comments and suggestions for future topics at

Danger: Migration, Lights, and Windows
By Peter Saenger

LIGHTS OUT Programs: Do they help, and is it worth the effort? The short answer is YES! But it’s not that simple. Reading the news reports, on the night of the first and morning of the second of October 2020, over a thousand birds died in Philadelphia colliding with glass in a small block radius in downtown. Totally tragic and mostly preventable. Yet reading the news reports also seemed to offer reassurance, as one stated that a similar event had not happened there in the past 70 years. Unfortunately, the reporters didn’t have the whole picture. Click here to learn more.
Migration—Not Just for Birds!
By Karen Campbell

Seasonal migrations are exciting times for us birders. In the spring, we anxiously await return of our breeding birds from their southern wintering grounds. In the fall, we’re sad to see them leave. While birds follow that classic concept of animal migration, insects (having shorter lifespans than a migration period) were historically excluded from consideration. Their small size and weight were also believed to restrict movement to the whim of the wind, and they weren’t believed to have specific or regular winter destinations.

So, do insects migrate? ABSOLUTELY!! Fortunately, recent studies are improving our understanding of insect migration. Click here to learn more.
Leave the Leaves


FALL FOLIAGE IS BEAUTIFUL TO LOOK AT when it is on the trees, but when the leaves pile up on the ground, many homeowners (and their hired
landscaping services) rake or blow every single one off their yards, often loading them into plastic trash bags that end up in landfills. But with just a little work, those leaves could be transformed into garden gold that can build your soil’s fertility, protect your plants, provide habitat for beneficial insects, and even improve the lawn. Here’s how you can put leaves to work in your yard.

Spreading a layer of leaves on vegetable and perennial beds will moderate soil
temperature changes, preventing new transplants from heaving when the groundfreezes and thaws in winter. As leaves decompose, they add nutrients for the soil’s food web, which comprises the microbes, fungi, and earthworms that nurture plants underground. The organic matter added as the leaves break down improves the soil’s water retention capacity and helps loosen up heavy clay. The leaves will also block sunlight and prevent weed seeds from germinating in spring. Adding a 3-inch thick layer of leaves as mulch will provide all of these benefits.

You can turn leaves directly into a potent soil amendment by letting them
decompose before adding them to your garden. Leaf mold contains nutrients that are readily available to plants, so it’s useful when you are sowing vegetable seeds or putting in transplants. To make leaf mold, you can pile the leaves—shredded or whole—in a cylinder of chicken wire or in a plastic bin or bag (poke the latter with a few holes to allow oxygen in). Moisten the leaves periodically to facilitate the decomposition. Check on them after about three to four months to see if they’ve begun to break down. You can use the leaf mold in your garden when it becomes dark and crumbly.

Often referred to as “black gold” by gardeners because it has so many
applications, compost is useful as a fertilizer, soil conditioner, potting soil, and
disease deterrent. If you have yard and garden waste and vegetable scraps from your kitchen, you can combine them with fall leaves to make your own compost. When brown and dry, leaves are high in carbon and an ideal complement to the green, nitrogen-rich waste from your garden prunings and kitchen parings. Keep a pile of fall leaves next to your compost pile and mix in a few handfuls whenever you add the scraps.

Removing all the leaves from your lawn and then spreading bagged fertilizer on the grass doesn’t make sense. Decomposing leaves feed grass with the key nutrients it needs in fall. Leaves used as mulch on the lawn also decrease the number of dandelion and crabgrass sprouts that come up the next spring,
according to the Michigan State University extension service. Turning fallen leaves into grass fertilizer is as simple as running them over with a lawn mower, shredding them into small pieces that you won’t notice after a few days. The shreds gradually settle onto the soil surface and break down over winter.

Even if you like to neaten up your landscape in fall, consider letting leaves remain around the base of trees such as oaks, willows, cherries, pines, and poplars. Leaf litter is critical habitat for many moths, butterflies, bumblebees, lacewings, beetles, and fireflies as they complete their life cycles during their months of dormancy.

Creating this habitat for insects will also attract birds that eat them. In addition,
leaf litter provides refuge during the winter for turtles, toads, and other insect-
eating critters.

Julie Bare is a landscape steward at Refugia Design.
This article first appeared in Grow Magazine from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). Visit the PHS website at
Want to learn more about critters that benefit from your doing less fall clean-up in your yard?

Sign Language
By Christine M. Du Bois

You provide tall grasses. bushes, trees, and wood piles where birds can safely rest. You keep your yard invitingly “messy” for the birds and insects they feed on—BUT your neighbors are skeptical. How can you help them understand? An attractive, gently informative sign—that might spark a little conversation, which could lead to further helpful conversations. So what kind of sign? From where? An eco-yard recognition program is a great choice. Click here to learn more

Spotlight on Community Science
By Heidi Shiver

Projects in Community Science are a fun way to collect data about our local bird and pollinator populations and beyond. The data you collect helps scientists study diversity in nature and trends in populations. No formal training is required—just curiosity, a willingness to go out and explore, and a smartphone or computer … Click here to learn more.
Do This! Not That!
By Barbara Beck

Fall is upon us with a host of activities, football games, county fairs, and festivals. The smell of autumn greets us on crisp mornings, and we indulge in pumpkin lattes and ginger snap cookies. For us, as well as nature, it’s a time to prepare for the upcoming winter and for many lean months. It’s a difficult time for the insects and birds that share this space with us, yet there are things we can do as homeowners, or avid gardeners, to help them out over the coming months.
Sense of Wonder: Flight
By Christine M. Du Bois 

Your local grocery store closed down—what to do? You get in your car or on your bike and ride the roads to a grocer farther away. Birds react the same way: when cold weather closes down their food supplies in the north, they migrate south using their own ingenious transportation tools and tricks: elaborately engineered flight feathers and air highways complete with winding on-ramps! Click here to learn more.
Birds Can’t Vote, But You Can

Join the National Audubon Society and bird lovers across the country and pledge to Vote For The Birds. In addition to federal races, state and local elections happening nationwide will have a big impact on our communities and our birds. These decision makers have an important influence on the ways that laws are written and enacted at every level of government. The best way to protect birds and the places they need is to make sure that you vote on or before Election Day on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Click here to sign the pledge to tell the National Audubon Society that you're in and will make a plan to vote!
Kids’ Corner
By Christine M. Du Bois

You travel to school, activities, relatives, stores, vacations. Young birds travel too! Some teenage birds travel thousands of miles during fall and spring in a process called migration. Click here for a game matching birds with their migration and food habits. There’s also a coloring page of a broad-winged hawk, a fun bird to watch migrating through Pennsylvania.
Birdwatching: Classic Movies about Birds
Bringing Migration into Focus: Winged Migration
By Heidi Shiver

This is a stunning, magnificent, Oscar-nominated documentary about the migration of birds both in spring and fall, when birds fly hundreds— even thousands—of miles as they navigate by the stars, sun, gravitational fields, and landmarks to follow food sources and mate. The limited narration informs as needed, but the stars of the film are the birds themselves and how they were filmed. The filmmakers went to extraordinary lengths to get breathtaking footage. The soundtrack is lovely and memorable. If you haven’t seen it, take an hour, kick back and enjoy—and if you have, it’s worth a second or third viewing. Click here to learn more about this movie.
Looking Ahead!

  • Look for our Winter edition of “Bird Beat” in February for information on how you can support overwintering and early migrating birds, as well as nature-friendly ways to prepare your native-plant gardens and your home’s windows for spring
  • Be sure to check our website for more resources:
  • Encourage others to sign-up to receive “Bird Beat,” our eNewsletter.

EDITORS NOTE: We welcome suggestions and content for the Bird Town Bird Beat. Submissions can be sent to for consideration. Note that submissions will be accorded full consideration but do not ensure inclusion in the newsletter

President: Heidi Shiver
Vice President: Phil Witmer
Secretary: Janet Krevenas
Treasurer: Tom Price
Board Member: Steve Saffier
Board Member: Lauren Diamond
Liaison to PAAC: Leigh Altadonna

Bird Town e-newsletter
Marsha Pearson, design and layout
Karen Campbell, blog publisher
Leigh Altadonna, editor emeritus and consultant
Christine M. Du Bois, editor
For image credits, click here

Kids' Corner Answer Key:
Broad-winged Hawk matches to b
Snow Bunting matches to d
Belted Kingfisher matches to a
Greater Yellowlegs matches to c