The Lycoming Audubon Society at 50
By GARY L. METZGER
In September of 1968, an even 50 years ago this fall, a new local chapter of the National Audubon Society was incorporated to serve Lycoming and Clinton Counties. The organization was formed through the efforts of faculty at Lycoming College and resident nature and bird lovers in the two counties. The new chapter’s mission statement was, “To conserve and restore natural ecosystems focusing on birds, other wildlife and habitats for the benefit of humanity and earth’s biological diversity.”
Certainly in the 1960’s and 70’s there were plenty of habitats and critters calling out for restoration and conservation. The West Branch Susquehanna River was in very poor condition as it flowed through Clinton County, and only a bit better here in Lycoming, due to acidic drainage and barely treated sewage and industrial waste discharges. Fish, birds and other wildlife that would normally thrive on the bounty of such a waterway were somewhat scarce. Crucial wetland, grassland, forest and other habitats were not well protected. Over the past 50 years much has improved in the state, and here in our own beloved counties, due to better federal and state laws, millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, and a whole lot of hard work.
Lycoming Audubon was instrumental in re-establishing breeding populations of Peregrine Falcons and Osprey to north central PA. Our members participated in two major state-wide breeding bird surveys, as well as local efforts to survey populations of bats, American Woodcock, Barn Owls, Bald Eagles and other species of conservation concern. We conducted first one and then a second Christmas Bird Count each year, part of an annual international effort to take local snapshots of wintering bird populations and distribution. We participate each May in the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology sponsored PA. Migration Count. Volunteers with the chapter maintain and monitor artificial nesting structures for various bird species that find inadequate natural nesting habitat, including various species of waterfowl, owls, and falcons as well as Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Chimney Swifts and others. We work with various partners to establish and protect habitats for these birds as well as for grassland nesting birds such as Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink.
They say that if you love something you’ll naturally want to protect it. Audubon folks are fascinated by, and yes truly love birds in all their amazing beauty and fascinating life histories. We know that to have birds you have to have the various natural habitats they depend upon to survive. From the early years of the chapter through public programs, bird watching events, newsletters and other vehicles Lycoming Audubon has sought to share our appreciation for birds, other wildlife and the grand natural world where they all live-partly in the hope that many will want to protect them.
Today, our members and friends are still gathering to enjoy and to spread the good word about birds. We are more active locally and statewide in our advocacy for conservation and protection of the natural world. Our volunteers partner with Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute, the Williamsport Water Authority and other local groups each spring and fall to offer daylong outdoor educational curricula to local elementary and middle school classes.
The chapter has new vehicles for communication and fellowship. Our quarterly snail-mail newsletter is supplemented by an electronic version. We have a website, an internal listserv and a rapidly growing Facebook presence. Our 400 members and many, many friends can visit with us on-line or in person at our free and open-to-the-public monthly chapter meetings in the James V. Brown Library or at any of our numerous chapter led bird walks.
I have been privileged to lead Lycoming Audubon for the past five and a half years and I’ve been continually impressed by the dedication, industry and warmth of our group. The birders among us are just a welcoming, fun loving group always interested in sharing their love of birds and nature with others. I’m confident that the next 50 years will bring exciting new challenges, and lots of good times, to our Lycoming Audubon Society.
Gary Metzger is an enthusiastic bird watcher and vice president of the Lycoming Audubon Society.