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Tenting Takeover

If you’ve been on campus lately, you’ve definitely noticed the swarm of tents that suddenly appeared on the Quad. No, it wasn’t an evil camping magician that sought vengeance on Juniata students. No, it wasn’t Laughing Bush (our outdoors club) practicing for their next outing. It was actually a Juniata tradition called – yep! you guessed it! – tenting!

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Wings on the Ridge

By guest blogger, Aidan Griffiths ’22

The annual hawk migration is an incredible sight if you're in the right spot! Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra
The annual hawk migration is an incredible sight if you’re in the right spot! Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra

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!

Trying to see through the fog. Photo credit Annemarie Sciarra
Trying to see through the fog. Photo credit Annemarie Sciarra

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.

Our trusted leader, Luke Fultz. Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra
Our trusted leader, Luke Fultz. Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra

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!

Fall break spent chasing waterfalls

Last week was fall break. This year it happened to line up with my older sister’s fall break which has never happened before. My mother decided we should all meet up and do a girl’s trip for a few days. We decided that Asheville, NC was a good midpoint between Huntingdon, Annapolis and New Orleans.

We started out by going shopping in the adorably artsy town that is Asheville. My mother bought so much Tupelo honey that she actually had to check her bag on the flight home. We also tried on a million pairs of shoes, several were described by my mother as ‘feeling like a butter’. Yes, apparently shoes can feel like a single butter.

My sister and I at the Bad Fork Valley Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway – unfortunately there is no such thing as the Good Spoon Valley… we looked.
My sister and I at the Bad Fork Valley Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway – unfortunately there is no such thing as the Good Spoon Valley… we looked.

Our next stop after shopping was the Asheville Pinball Museum. I’ve never been a museum person but this one was incredible. We spent hours playing old-timey pinball games and classic Pac Man and Donkey Kong arcade games.

We visited Biltmore Mansion, I saw lots of fancy tapestries and wood carvings and Mr. Biltmore’s mesmerizing library. On our way out of the Biltmore gardens, we saw a black bear about 30 seconds into a Chinese Fire Drill. I didn’t realize it until after we left, but that was by far one of the scariest moments of my life. The bear was so incredible to see that I momentarily forget my intense fear of bears.

The main reason my mother had wanted us to visit Asheville was to see the changing fall foliage. Unfortunately, the leaves were behind schedule and hadn’t started changing yet because the weather has been so crazy lately. We had to drive until at least 5000 feet above sea level to see even the slightest bit of color.

Even though we had an extreme lack of color in the foliage, we went on a driving adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway to find some waterfalls. My sister sang “Waterfalls” by TLC for the entire car ride but the view more than made up for it.

I never really appreciated the mountains until I came to Juniata. Growing up in Annapolis meant that I spent most of my days 39 feet above sea level, crabbing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay. My only real childhood memory of mountains is from the trip we took to the Grand Canyon when I was nine. The mountains in Asheville were incredible and lush and honestly one of the prettiest views I have ever seen.

View from Biltmore Mansion.
View from Biltmore Mansion.

The views from the Cliffs and the top of 1000 steps in Huntingdon are beautiful, but they are nothing compared to the Smokey Mountains. The mountains of Huntingdon and the mountains of Asheville are vastly different and not at all what I am used to, but they are both immensely fun to explore.

I can’t wait to embrace my newfound love of mountains and spend more time exploring in Huntingdon. In conclusion, Fall Break was amazing, we did go chasing waterfalls and we did not stick to the rivers and lakes that we were used to.

Mean, Green, Eco-Queens

Guest Blogger, Hannah Buckwalter, tells us about her experience living in Ecohouse this year!

The Ecohouse crew!
The Ecohouse crew!

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.

Some of our ladies hanging out with Dean of Students Ellen Campbell and talking about meat substitutes this afternoon.
Some of our ladies hanging out with Dean of Students Ellen Campbell and talking about meat substitutes this afternoon.

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.

We made vegan, allergen-free coconut curry with rice and tempeh. Cooking nutritious meals together has quickly become one of our favorite (& yummiest) house activities
We made vegan, allergen-free coconut curry with rice and tempeh. Cooking nutritious meals together has quickly become one of our favorite (& yummiest) house activities.

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!

Home Away From Home

This year, Stephanie Letourneau is living at the Raystown Field Station and running her own blog about the adventures there! To not miss any of her updates, follow her blog Pursuing Passions.

Waving hello from the lake!

The Field Station Harbor
The Field Station Harbor

On August 22nd, I successfully moved into the Raystown Field Station.  We had a presentation after moving in on field safety and then went down to the fire pit by the lake for s’mores and residential life information.

The schedule at the field station includes having one class all day each day.  Our first day was an introduction to the station, tours, and logistics.

My class schedule is:

Mondays – GIS

Tuesdays – Sense of Place Seminar and Nature Photography

Wednesdays – Research

Thursdays – Aquatic Ecology

Fridays – Limnology

Our first class was Limnology on Friday.   We have only had a few classes, but so far, we have designed a leaf decomposition study as a class to evaluate nearby ponds and Raystown Lake.  Our labs the past two weeks have comprised of going out on the lake on the boat and measuring the lake’s physical and chemical properties.

Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake
Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

For GIS, we have been exploring the program and practicing creating maps or finding information.  I am very excited to learn how to use GIS more and how it can help with my research.

Sense of Place seminar began with a boat tour of Raystown Lake, which included the basic science and history facts of the area.  Who knew you could have a lecture on a boat?  We also discussed our research projects for the semester.  I am not sure what I am exactly studying yet, but I will be researching an acid mine drainage site.

The first two weeks, we did not have anything on Wednesdays because we do not have our research projects established yet.  My professor said, “Either make it a very productive day or a really good day.”  I did a combination of both; I did some homework in the morning and spent the afternoon kayaking on the lake with some classmates.

Photo Aug 29, 2 59 11 PM

Nature photography is a lot of terminology and learning the basic concepts of how to take a good picture.  It is particularly difficult to take pictures of wildlife because of their movements so we have learned a lot of specialized techniques so far.  Our first project was a picture of a wildflower. I am looking forward to improving my skills.

Aquatic Ecology has been an introduction to ecology and learning the applications of these concepts in aquatic ecosystems.  This course is unique because it is taught by Dr. Lane Loya from Saint Francis University.

 

One afternoon, we had a mini Lake Symposium to listen to researchers discuss the previous studies on Raystown Lake and the potential issues for the future.  The presenters included a park ranger from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and from Juniata, Dr. Sharon Yohn and Dr. Chuck Yohn.  It is interesting to learn about an ecosystem in which you live and about the different issues that have to be monitored.

I also enjoyed kayaking and going on a firework cruise on the lake with my mom on Labor Day weekend.

From September 10th to 14th, our class at the field station travelled to the Finger Lakes region of New York to study lakes and streams.  We stayed at the Cornell Biological Field Station and the USGS Lake Ontario Biological Station.  On the way home, we stopped at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Our Limnology and Aquatic Ecology professors joined us too, which provided an immersive experience to apply everything we have learned and will learn this semester.

 

I wanted to end this post with some fun from Juniata’s traditions, Lobsterfest (Yes, sometimes I actually go back to campus.)  It is an opportunity for students to sign up for clubs and enjoy delicious lobster on the quad.

Letourneau_Lobster

Another tradition at Juniata is Mountain Day.  One day in the fall, classes are canceled, and the school provides buses to take everyone to Seven Points Recreation Area on Raystown Lake for a day of outdoor fun including a picnic lunch, kayaking, slip and slide, inflatables, tug-of-war, and more.  However, no one knows in advance when it is going be.  As the Juniata website states, “trying to guess the date of Mountain Day is one of the most popular topics of conversation among the students and faculty in the weeks leading up to the event”.  It really is.  Students and professors will place bets when they think it will be and students will stay up all night if they think it might be the next day.

Luckily, Mountain Day didn’t happen while we were in NY, so we were able to sail the research boat across the lake to join in on the festivities!

 

Here’s to more adventures and beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Letourneau_Sunset