Earlier this week, I was interviewing Juniata alum, Niki DeSantis, for a Q&A in the Alumni magazine. My writing internship in the Juniata marketing office has allowed me to make great connections to several brilliant people in the Juniata community. I was interviewing her about her assistance on Alex Ovechkin’s Sports Illustrated photo shoot and we got side tracked talking about the challenges of working freelance.
By guest blogger, Aidan Griffiths ’22
There’s nothing quite like Fall hawk migration. Hundreds of thousands of birds of prey take advantage of the favorable Autumn winds and migrate south for the winter, sometimes grouping together in flocks of hundreds or even thousands of individuals at a time. Many enthusiastic observers gather each year to watch this amazing phenomenon, and it just so happens that Central Pennsylvania is one of the best areas in the country to do so. These majestic birds follow the abundant mountain ridges in Huntingdon and surrounding counties because the updraft of air off the mountain slopes helps them achieve lift. They also ride the warm currents of air, called thermals, that rise off the surrounding land. This allows observers to get fantastic views of many raptor species as they ride these thermals to the top and sail over the mountain. On October Seventh, the Juniata College Chapter of the Wildlife Society traveled to the Stone Mountain hawk-watching site in northern Huntingdon County to do just that!
Seven of us Wildlifers met bright and early (for a Sunday) at 9 AM behind Brumbaugh Academic Center. We took inventory, did some quick introductions, and carpooled up to Stone Mountain. On the ride up, we weren’t very optimistic about our chances of seeing good raptor activity. The winds were blowing from the South, which is the wrong direction for birds that want to end up there. Perhaps more to the point, there was a pea-soup fog that seemed to get thicker the farther up the mountain we got. When we finally got out of our vehicles, we could barely see six feet in front of us, and the rocky path leading up to the hawkwatch was wet and slippery. Nevertheless, we made the brief trek up to the platform. The view we had was such that we wouldn’t have been able to tell a hawk apart from our left knee, but we did have some nice birds at the summit. A small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and other songbirds greeted us with little chirps and squeaks while we waited for the mid-morning sun to burn off the fog. Our formal guide, Luke Fultz, had informed the leaders earlier in the morning that he wouldn’t be arriving until ten o’clock, and we were starting to wonder if we should have done the same. However, as the warmth of the rising sun increased, the fog burned off and blew away, and were left with a gorgeous view of Central Pennsylvania valleys and Jack’s Mountain on the ridge opposite us. And, of course, the dissipating fog heralded the arrival of our birds!
At about 10:30, we started seeing our first migrants. A group of four Tree Swallows passed daintily overhead heading south. Several groups of Turkey Vultures started lifting off and soaring over the ridge, some cruising right by us. In one group that we saw from above, we noticed another vulture species: A Black Vulture. The sun shone brilliantly off its plumage, and we were able to see the telltale silver wingtips and difference in size and shape compared to the nearby Turkey Vultures. Around this time, Luke and his friend Desmond arrived. He gave us a brief lesson about raptor identification and passed out some laminated fliers showing them in flight. Not long after, a Common Raven and a beautiful female Northern Harrier gave us amazing views as they passed the platform. We also had some songbird migrants overhead: a few warblers that zipped by too fast to identify and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In the midday sun, many of us found we were baking in our sweatshirts and long pants, so we shed as many layers as was appropriate for an academic setting.
About this time, Greg Grove, the regional eBird reviewer for Huntingdon County, arrived at the platform. A brief digression: For those of you who don’t know what eBird is (which is probably most of you), it is an online citizen science database where birders can submit their sightings, view other people’s sightings, and learn more about the birds of the world. It’s also a great resource for scientists and conservationists who want to learn more about the status of various populations of birds. Greg and his wife have been birding in Huntingdon for over twenty years, and Greg is one of the primary hawk counters for the Stone Mountain site. He helped us recognize the differences between Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. He pointed out the “top heavy” appearance, smaller size, and more fluttery flight of the Sharp-shinned compared to its larger, more fearsome-looking cousin. A couple male American Kestrels, North America’s smallest falcon, also sailed by the platform and wowed us with their beautiful blue, orange, and white plumage. A distant Red-tailed Hawk and another Raven concluded the day’s count. We thanked Luke and Greg for their help, gathered our things, and descended back down towards the parking lot. On our way down, we demonstrated our aptitude for non-bird wildlife observation when one of our leaders spotted a snake sunning itself on a rock. Unfortunately, it saw us and darted into the craggy rocks before we could identify it. When we arrived back at the cars, we rolled down the windows, grateful for the opportunity to cool off. On our way back to campus, we reveled in our success. It was a great day with great birds and great weather, shared by great people! It was definitely one of my favorite college experiences thus far!
Guest Blogger, Hannah Buckwalter, tells us about her experience living in Ecohouse this year!
Juniata has a new addition this year!
EcoHouse is back up and running in its new home: 1631 Mifflin Street! There are seven eco-minded people living in the house this year who are all ready to make this a great year of sustainability.
So far, EcoHouse has put on three events for the Juniata and Huntingdon communities. Our first was a housewarming open to all to help us warm the new house. This event was a blast! People found that the house is very easy to find since it is right across from the World Language Center. They also discovered that it has an awesome yard and living room that are great for gathering to learn about environmentally friendly lifestyle choices.
The next event we hosted was a Meatless Meat Monday! Members of EcoHouse greeted people walking along the quad and invited them to try some delicious meat substitutes. So many people were amazed by how much better things like seitan sausages and soy/wheat bacon are than the typically gross tofu that most think of as the only meat substitute. The event was a huge hit, and we’re looking forward to this helping promote our push to get more vegan options in Baker that taste delicious!
The third event we’ve done so far was a make-and-take at the house where people could come turn their old T-shirts into reusable shopping bags. While we worked on the bags we talked about what single use products we use and how we can avoid using them.
Now, we are looking forward to the vegan cooking class coming up at the house on Oct. 27th at 3pm with Yasoda from Three Leaf Farmden! Keep an eye out on Facebook (Juniata College EcoHouse), Instagram (@jcecohouse) and Twitter (@jcecohouse) or on the announcements for more events at EcoHouse!
Hope to see you all around sometime!
EcoHouse is an off-campus housing option at Juniata College that focuses on sustainable living and eco-friendly practices. After a couple of years without an Ecohouse, a few determined Juniata students took initiative and started it back up again with the goal of making it better than ever! Residents of the house all take a part in providing the Juniata community with learning opportunities on sustainability, and you don’t need to be a senior to live in this house!
I have eight days left of my freshman year at Juniata. It’s the perfect time to start reflecting on my first two semesters of college. My Google Photos app has been trying to convince me to look through the slideshow of my freshman year for like a month and there isn’t a better time than the present.
It was definitely a year of firsts.
There was my first college paper. It took four trips to the Writing Center and lots of caffeine but I managed a solid A-. Now, I can write a paper on my own with minimal caffeine intake and still earn myself an A.
I was dragged on my first trip to Sheetz and was pleasantly surprised. I was convinced that it wouldn’t live up to my beloved Wawa but I was proved wrong. An estimated 300 Mac & Cheese bites later and I still don’t regret it.
I skipped class for the first time and got caught skipping class for the first time. Completely unrelated, but still good advice: don’t tweet about skipping class to go see Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day and use your class hashtag.
I ate my first microwave cup of ramen noodles. It’s an interesting taste, definitely a meal to save for after you’ve eaten all your other food and you’re desperate to eat something because it’s 2am on a Saturday and you have a paper to work on.
I fell asleep on a public bench for the first time. It was just such a nice day and I was going to read my book for class out on the quad but the grass was still wet from the rain the day before. I dozed off and was awoken by the feeling of a stray volleyball hitting the back of the bench.
I went electrofishing for the first time. I never pictured myself wearing waders and a large yellow backpack while trying not to slip on the rocky bottom of the river while sending tiny electric shocks through the water to stun fish. It was a new experience that I didn’t think I would ever want to do – much less get the chance to do. Turns out fish are pretty cool.
My first year at college has been quite the roller coaster. I have learned many things that will be helpful in the future. Career services helped me create a resume to send out when I’m applying for internships this summer. I took a history class about Australia and New Zealand on a whim and now I’m applying to study abroad in New Zealand. I also learned how to Photoshop photos of my dog so she’s wearing rain boots in my Intro to Information Technology class.
Advice that I wish I was given before starting my freshman year at Juniata? Participate in Campus Events – Res Life has events all the time. I met one of my best friends at a cookie baking and coloring book night in the dorm lounge. Take Calculated Risks – explore your interests. Go rock climbing, join a research team, study abroad, or participate in an outreach project. Have an Open Mind – you might find out that Sheetz is better than Wawa or that Ramen noodles are the new instant mac & cheese. Get a Sheetz Rewards Card – you will earn tons of points which equals free food. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY! I can now say that I’ve been electrofishing, learned to salsa, read an extensive amount of Ernest Hemingway’s writing and attended a live reading done by the award-winning author, Jennifer Steil.
I would like to think that my first year at Juniata was a success. I will be heading into next semester more academically and mentally prepared and ready for whatever the world throws at me next.
Choosing a college was not easy for me. I visited at least twenty colleges, applied to eleven, got scholarships to seven, interviewed at three, and found my place at one. I’ve been on dozens of college tours. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for in a college until I found it. I applied everywhere from Vermont to Florida. Each school had something different to offer.
I made a spreadsheet of quantitative and qualitative data from each of my college visits. I thought that a bunch of graphs were going to help me make my college decision. I had all of the statistics from each college: student population, professor to student ratio, four-year graduation percentage, transfer rate and tuition. I also had all the words that I would use to describe the college and I rated each of the campus services like dining, janitorial services and employee interactions.
After analyzing my extensive collection of data, I realized that the school that had the highest scores was the school that I least wanted to go to. I realized that just because the schools had great scores didn’t mean they were the greatest schools for me. I couldn’t base my college decision off of numbers; I had to base it on how I felt.
After my epiphany, I started narrowing down my potential colleges. I knocked out the ones that were obviously not the place for me. Then I looked at the student population. I didn’t feel like I was the big school kind of person. I don’t like getting lost in the crowd. Then I looked at location. All of the choices I had left were in a five-hour radius of my house so that didn’t help. I ended up thinking of the college tours and my experiences with admission counselors. Which one left me with the best impression?
This gave me my final two schools: Washington College and Juniata College. Washington was only an hour away from my house and they offered me a great scholarship, an amazing apprenticeship, and great opportunities. Juniata was a four-hour drive from my house, offered me a pretty good scholarship, the ability to individualize my P.O.E. and explore countless topics, as well as an incredible community with people who were focused on helping me achieve the most for my future. As cheesy as it sounds, Washington had the money but Juniata had my heart.
Juniata was the college where I felt most comfortable during my visit to campus. The students were welcoming and friendly. The professors that I met made me feel like they actually wanted me to be successful. The concept of the P.O.E. rather than a normal major was extremely appealing because I had big dreams and I’m not sure I could have graduated from normal college without a quadruple major.
When I arrived at my orientation I knew I had made the right choice. I felt at home instantly. The people I met were wonderful, my orientation leaders showed me the ropes, my fellow incoming freshmen made me feel comfortable about my transition into college. When I came to Juniata, I knew I found my place.