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Todd Bird Club History

The Todd Bird Club, named after the noted Western Pennsylvania ornithologist W. E. Clyde Todd, was organized in 1982 in Indiana to promote the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds in Indiana, Armstrong, and Cambria counties. Pat Andrascik, Anne Hedgpeth, Anne Harrison, and Beth Marshall had participated in a beginning birding class taught by Dr. Dwight Sollberger at IUP. When the class ended, the three women decided that they would like to continue the birding outings that they had experienced under the leadership of Dr. Sollberger. They met and developed a plan to form a club. Pat recalls sitting in Anne Hedgpeth's kitchen eating duck-shaped cookies while they discussed their plans. Dues were set at $5. Soon others joined them — Timmi Jones, Conrad and Aino Johnston, Dorothy Pless, Jeanine Ulisky, Morris and Lois Carlson, Marcie Gustafson, Clara and Sheri Truitt, Lee Schweitzer, Dr. Dorcas Clark, Judy Harper, Rose Reed, Alma Boyd, Jean Jinks, Etta Heinlen, and more. The first meetings were held in Weyandt Hall on the IUP campus.

In 1983 the Todd group decided to organize a Christmas Bird Count with Roger and Margaret Higbee as the compilers. The center of the circle was set at Second and Grandview in Indiana where it remains to this day. Species tallied included 56.

The core group offered some of the first programs: Jean Jinks discussed "Winter Bird Feeding"; Beth Marshall, "Beginning Birding"; Pat Andrascik, "Identifying Waterfowl"; and Etta Heinlen, "Identifying Warblers." Field trips were taken to Yellow Creek State Park, Blue Spruce County Park, Keystone Reservoir, and Hawk Mountain.

By the fall of 1984 membership had totaled 54 including, in addition to those mentioned above, Leonard Anderson,, Pat Johner, Nancy Karp, Lori Rittle, Vi Schneider, and Dr. Richard Waechter. Then active members on the 1984 list who have passed on include Mary Church, Jim Dearing, Barb Rowe, and Cora Williams.

Anne Hedpeth was the first president; Pat Andrascik, secretary; Etta Heinlen, our first treasurer; and Pat also served as our first newsletter editor.

In 1984 we assumed the responsibility of participating in the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas by covering Indiana and Armstrong counties in this five-year project. In April 1985 Dan Brauning, Atlas Project Coordinator, was our guest speaker at a Todd meeting. Atlas participation was excellent and we did a great job! The Atlas also served as a path to Todd membership. It was through the Atlas that we added Georgette Syster and Gloria Lamer to our membership list.

Members volunteered to monitor the bluebird trail at Yellow Creek, and we did this for about five years. We donated an Osprey platform to the park in 1988. This is the same platform, never occupied by an Osprey, that is still standing near the eastern end of Yellow Creek Lake. In 1988 we elected officers: Jone Perkins, president, replacing outgoing president, Georgette Syster; Beth Marshall, vice president, replacing Anne Hedgpeth who moved to Texas; Jean Jinks replacing treasurer Timmi Jones; and Pat Johner replacing Pat Andrascik as secretary. We started doing river trips and venturing a little farther afield — Powdermill Nature Preserve, Pymatuning, Presque Isle — but our main focus still remained Yellow Creek State Park. And as we spent more time at Yellow Creek, the park list began to grow. We started producing checklists of Indiana County including Yellow Creek. In truth 98 percent of the birds on the list had, at one time or another, been found at Yellow Creek. We realized what a great birding gem we have right here in our own backyards!

Members Pat and Steve Andrascik started their own bluebird trail in the Brush Valley area in 1985. In 1990 their 82 boxes fledged 184 bluebirds, 6 Black-capped Chickadees, 70 Tree Swallows, and 27 House Wrens.

In 1991 Georgette Syster started assembling a Todd Bird Club scrapbook. That same year we instituted Tuesday morning outings at Yellow Creek. The following year we started participating in the North American Migration Count, held the second Saturday of May every year. It is now called the Pennsylvania Migration Count, and we've participated every year since 1992. In 1992 Georgette Syster was elected secretary and Gloria Lamer, treasurer. These two dedicated members still hold these positions today.

In November 1994 we lost our meeting room at Weyandt Hall at IUP because of campus politics. Several meetings were held at the Unitarian Church in Indiana and others at Power Safety. In September 1995 we were offered the use of Blue Spruce Lodge in exchange for inventorying the birds of all the county parks. Blue Spruce is still our home today, and we are still monitoring the birds on county park land.

In 1997 a large Todd contingent traveled to Mio, Michigan, for a Kirtland's Warbler tour. The trip yielded much more than the warbler however — great birding, good comradery, and a lot of fun.

By 2000 we had acquired more members by word of mouth, through the All-for-Charities Fair at the Indiana Mall, and through the Indiana Library. Yellow Creek was still the predominant outings destination, but we were having new leaders — Marcy Cunkelman, Carol Guba, Lee Carnahan, Steve Graff, Dory Jacobs, etc.

In April 2003, Todd sponsored a trip to Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Illinois to see dancing Greater Prairie Chickens on the lek. In May that same year we hosted the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology's meeting in Indiana. Instrumental to the success of that meeting were organizers Carol Guba and Georgette Syster. We supplied refreshments and field trip leaders — and even a Kirtland's Warbler on the one field trip! It was a meeting to remember. On January 1, 2004, Todd started participation in the Second Breeding Bird Atlas Project with Roger and Margaret Higbee coordinating. This five-year project was not received as enthusiastically as the first Atlas, but we completed our assigments, covering blocks in Indiana, Armstrong, Cambria, and Jefferson.

In 2005 we started sponsoring a trip to the Niagara Frontier every November. We've also had several March trips to New Jersey.

Jon Dunn, Scott Weidensaul, Dan Brauning, Doug Gross, Jerry McWilliams, Bob Mulvihill, and Paul Wiegman have all presented programs to Todd Bird Club. In December 2011, Jon Dunn is returning.

Today the Todd Bird Club is alive and well. We have several younger members including AJ Lassick who won the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology's Young Birder Scholarship to attend their 2010 meeting at Erie, and Daniel Winstead who is actively birding on a regular basis with his dad. We currently have 56 paid members, but it's only February, and many of us have yet to pay our dues! We are still sponsoring Tuesday morning outings, weather permitting and outings to various places. We hold our monthly meetings at Blue Spruce County Park Lodge the first Tuesday of each month, September through May. We launced our Web site in February 2011. And we have great plans for the future.

February 2011
Ring-billed Gull, Dunkirk Harbor, NY, Marg Higbee

Upcoming Events

Tuesday Yellow Creek Outing

  • Tue, July 23, 7:30 am
  • Yellow Creek Park North Shore Gazebo

Tuesday Yellow Creek Outing

  • Tue, July 30, 7:30 am
  • Yellow Creek Park North Shore Gazebo

Tuesday Yellow Creek Outing

  • Tue, August 6, 7:30 am
  • Yellow Creek Park North Shore Gazebo

Tuesday Yellow Creek Outing

  • Tue, August 13, 7:30 am
  • Yellow Creek Park North Shore Gazebo

Tuesday Yellow Creek Outing

  • Tue, August 20, 7:30 am
  • Yellow Creek Park North Shore Gazebo

Tuesday Yellow Creek Outing

  • Tue, August 27, 7:30 am
  • Yellow Creek Park North Shore Gazebo

Moraine State Park Outing

  • Tue, September 24, 8:00 am
  • Barbers Point (North Shore) - Moraine State Park