Area bird club taking flight

"Yellow-bellied sapsucker" may sound like an insult, but members of the newly formed Allegheny Highlands Bird Club know it's actually one of the many bird species living in the region. Club members are hoping to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about this bird and others with residents in Elk and surrounding counties. "The area is really, really rich in birds and lots of different species of birds," said John Fedak, the club's president. Fedak said the idea of forming a local bird club developed when he moved to the area about 10 years ago. He discussed the idea over the years with Holly Dzemyan, the club's current vice president and an environmental education specialist at Bendigo State Park, and the organization was officially established in early summer. "This summer seemed to be the summer that everything just clicked together," Fedak said. The club's first meetings have been well-attended, he said, with about 22 people at each of the two meetings held thus far. "Just judging from the first two meetings, we have a lot of very generous and knowledgeable birders who just want to contribute to the club and help other people," Fedak said. One of the club's goals is to plan a program of activities that will be educational and of service to bird watchers and the community. Fedak said the club provides opportunities for bird enthusiasts of all ages, including children, to learn more about the species and share their information with others. "One of the first programs we're going to be doing is working with students in Cameron County schools. We're hoping to involve them also in the club," Fedak said. "One of the goals of the club is to attract more youth and eventually offer youth scholarships and things like that." The group is also planning several events and field trips. Bird banding field trips conducted by Emily Thomas will be held Sept. 10 and 24 near Marshburg, and a hawk watch led by Mark Johnson will take place in Cameron County on Oct. 1. Fedak said the motivation for those who have already joined the club is simple. "Basically, it's a love of birds, a love of nature and the outdoors," Fedak said. "I like the fact that you can go to the same spot day in and day out and you can see the same birds or different birds. It kind of becomes a game to go to those spots and predict what you're going to see, or go to spots that are similar and predict what you're going to see. It's also fun to try to find birds that don't belong so that you can get other people to see them, or that are rare to the area."