The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

December 2000 - January 2001 -- Online Edition


Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: December 26, 2000 (the next issue will be February-March 2001). If possible, please email material to

Otherwise, mail to Please help CHIP NOTES get out on time.

(410) 922-5103

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Bob Wood

By Jean Worthley

I am sorry to report that Bob Wood died at home on September after a long battle with cancer.

He led a very interesting life. Elmer and I met Bob at the University of Massachusetts in the late forties when we all were taking courses in Biological Field Studies. He was a veteran returning from the South Pacific and worked for the National Park Service after graduation. While he was a ranger at Crater Lake he met Ardis. They spent several years in California and then came to Maryland where they raised a son, Roger and a daughter, Barbara.

Bob was a member of MOS for 38 years, and Treasurer of the Baltimore Bird Club for 8 years. He was state ornithologist for a while, taught at Gilman and went to Antarctica numerous times to study skuas. His worldwide life list of bird species reached 3257.

He was interested in many areas of natural history including botany (He was a member of Elmer's Botany Class for a while) and box turtles. At his home he marked all the box turtles he found and kept records of their reappearances.

When I visited him five days before he died he lamented the decline in box turtle numbers in recent years. That day he looked much as when I first met him- laughed a lot about old times and would not let me leave until I told him how many otters I could find in a painting hanging over his bed. There were three whole otters and parts of two more! He was also a collector of beer containers, root beer containers, cans of black pepper, cones, skulls and many other items.

We will miss him.

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The New Sibley Bird Guide

Reviewed by Ben Poscover

Sibley, David Allen. National Audubon Society--The Sibley Guide to Birds. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf) 2000. 544 pages.

The first impression of this book is its size, both by dimension and weight. If one is expecting it to be a book one carries in the field as with other field guides, then one may be disappointed. However, there is no claim to its being a guide to be used thusly but is titled only as a guide to birds.

The next step in investigating this book is to open it and WOW! It is birds, birds, and birds with drawings of inviting clarity. To one who gains joy by watching birds, it is difficult to put the book down until each page has been scanned and a promise is made to return for a more in depth examination.

A short narrative introduces each species and each bird is represented by several drawings. Entire pages are devoted to some species; others are drawn in half pages and where appropriate next to birds of similar appearance for comparison. Plumages are shown by time of year and age . The same is true of flight where drawings show the bird as seen from below and above. In some instances, flight pattern and wing position is also given. The format is large enough to allow for notes to be placed among the drawings that enhance identification. There are many asides throughout the book such as beak comparisons, head and bill shapes, feather lengths, morphs, behaviors, postures, and so on. Differences in some of these comparisons are so slight that for the life of me, I cannot make a distinction.

Range maps appear at the bottom of the page. Color codes are used to illustrate distribution by time of year. In some instances where populations are limited, I find it difficult to see the distribution.

What quickly becomes apparent with this guide is that the author is determined to give the reader all possible information needed to make an identification and to enhance knowledge. While I will not carry this book on my person in the field, I will have it near by for quick reference and enjoyment.

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Birds of North America

Reviewed by Ben Poscover

Kaufman, Ken, Birds of North America. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company) 2000. 283 pages

This field guide first came to my attention though an article by an outdoor writer in West Virginia. He extolled the virtues of this guide and its author writing that having this field guide in the field with you was like having an expert birder showing you the way. Having cut my bird watching teeth on Peterson and Robbins, I found this an interesting comment.

When opening the book, one is struck by the similarity to the Golden Guide book. Narrative description and range maps are presented on the left page with corresponding birds on the right. What is missing are sonograms. Also, the book contains a colored tab indexing system on both the front and backs pages that gives one quick access to sections of the book similar to that found in the ABC guide. The index has a box before each bird name that serves as a place to mark for each bird identified as found in the National Geographic Guide. Lines on some representations point out distinguishing features such as the field mark strategy found in Peterson. The guide appears to be a composite of ideas found in several other field guides.

The one thing that sets this field guide apart from others is that the author digitized photographs and drawings of birds and recombined them with a computer to give "photographs" of birds that have the characteristics and clarity of drawings. To be sure, the bird representations in this guide are the best of any guide using photographs. For me, some of the shadings in smaller birds such as some warblers and sparrows are not as clear as I would have wanted. However, this guide will be of great help to me in bird identification and I will use it frequently as a supplement.

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Baltimore Fall Count Saturday, September 16, 2000

Compiled by Debbie Terry

This year's Fall Count for Baltimore City and County had 25 participants, twelve more than last year, who saw 131 species of birds, five more than were seen last year. The day began with northwest winds and sun but by afternoon the skies became overcast with occasional sprinkles of rain in some areas. As last year, our greatest number of species counted was Broadwing Hawk and eighteen species of warblers were identified. The Common Yellowthroat managed to take first place in the warbler class by three over the American Redstart.

Many thanks go out to all of the birders who participated this year. Their names are cited below the species list.

The species list follows:


Species:                        TOTAL

Pied-billed Grebe                    2
Double-crested Cormorant            63
Great Blue Heron                    20
Great Egret                          8
Green Heron                          6

Black-crowned Night-Heron            2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           1
Black Vulture                        3
Turkey Vulture                      25
Canada Goose                       191

Mute Swan                            3
Wood Duck                            1
American Black Duck                  2
Mallard                             91
Blue-winged Teal                     1

Northern Shoveler                    5
Green-winged Teal                   23
Osprey                               2
Bald Eagle [adult]                   3
Bald Eagle [immature]                4
Northern Harrier                     5

Sharp-shinned Hawk                  14
Cooper's Hawk                        9
Red-shouldered Hawk                 14
Broad-winged Hawk                 1313
Red-tailed Hawk                      5

American Kestrel                     3
Peregrine Falcon                     3
Virginia Rail                        1
Black-bellied Plover                 2
American Golden-Plover               3

Semipalmated Plover                 33
Killdeer                            21
Greater Yellowlegs                   4
Lesser Yellowlegs                   44
Solitary Sandpiper                   2

Spotted Sandpiper                    2
Sanderling                          40
Semipalmated Sandpiper             291
Western Sandpiper                    3
Least Sandpiper                     26

White-rumped Sandpiper               2
Baird's Sandpiper                    7
Pectoral Sandpiper                  24
Stilt Sandpiper                      1
Laughing Gull                       27

Ring-billed Gull                    82
Herring Gull                       154
Lesser Black-backed Gull             1
Great Black-backed Gull            444
Caspian Tern                        13

Forster's Tern                       7
Rock Dove                           77
Mourning Dove                       98
Barred Owl                           1
Chimney Swift                      600

Ruby-throated Hummingbird            6
Belted Kingfisher                    7
Red-bellied Woodpecker              49
Downy Woodpecker                    30
Hairy Woodpecker                    13

Northern Flicker                    34
Pileated Woodpecker                  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee                  20
Acadian Flycatcher                   1
Least Flycatcher                     1

 unidentified Empidonax              6
Eastern Phoebe                      17
Great Crested Flycatcher             1
Eastern Kingbird                     2
White-eyed Vireo                    13

Blue-headed Vireo                    3
Warbling Vireo                       2
Red-eyed Vireo                      23
Blue Jay                           108
American Crow                      267

Fish Crow                            5
Tree Swallow                        30
Barn Swallow                        15
Carolina Chickadee                  82
Tufted Titmouse                     92

White-breasted Nuthatch             28
Carolina Wren                       38
House Wren                          29
Winter Wren                          1
Marsh Wren                           3

Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 7
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher               15
Eastern Bluebird                    11
Gray-cheeked Thrush                  1
Swainson's Thrush                    6

Wood Thrush                          6
American Robin                      77
Gray Catbird                       182
Northern Mockingbird                51
Brown Thrasher                      11

European Starling                  838
Cedar Waxwing                       81
Blue-winged Warbler                  1
Nashville Warbler                   11
Northern Parula                     10

Yellow Warbler                       7
Chestnut-sided Warbler              21
Magnolia Warbler                    33
Blk.-thrtd. Blue Warbler             5
Blk.-thrtd. Green Warbler           17

Pine Warbler                         1
Prairie Warbler                      1
Palm Warbler [western]              34
Palm Warbler [unknown race]          1
Bay-breasted Warbler                 2

Black-&-white Warbler                8
American Redstart                   36
Ovenbird                             3
Northern Waterthrush                 1
Common Yellowthroat                 39

Canada Warbler                       2
 unidentified warbler                2
Eastern Towhee                      14

Chipping Sparrow                     2
Field Sparrow                        3

Savannah Sparrow                     3
Song Sparrow                        47
Swamp Sparrow                        2
Northern Cardinal                  121
Rose-breasted Grosbeak              14

Blue Grosbeak                        4
Indigo Bunting                       8
Bobolink                            11
Red-winged Blackbird                23
Common Grackle                     213

Brown-headed Cowbird                68
House Finch                         42
American Goldfinch                 259
House Sparrow                       37
Unidentified passerines              4

Total Species                      135
Total Individuals                 7149


FIELD OBSERVERS: Jeanne Bowman, Alan Bromberg, Judy Burke, Danny Bystrack, Scott Crabtree, Donald Culbertson, Ruth Culbertson, Robert Dixon, Helene Gardel, Kevin Graff, Kye Jenkins, Peter Lev, Dan McDonald, Georgia McDonald, Jim Meyers, Paul Noell, James Peters, Sue Ricciardi, Stephen Sanford, Gene Scarpulla, Deborah Terry, Peter Webb, Matilda Weiss, Joy Wheeler.

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Conservation Report:

Pesticides and the West Nile Virus
By Anneke Davis

Birders may wonder if Baltimore should be spraying pesticides to kill the mosquitoes which transmit the West Nile Virus. Is this an epidemic of consequence? What other species are affected by the disease, and by the pesticides?

The West Nile Virus first appeared in the Western Hemisphere in 1999. In the New York metropolitan area, 62 people (in a population of ten million) developed symptoms of West Nile Virus. Seven of them died of encephalitis or meningitis. The virus was also found in many dead birds and in several common species of mosquitoes.

As of mid September of 2000, the virus was found in birds and mosquitoes ranging from New Hampshire to North Carolina. A total of 12 people, all in the New York area, were reported with serious neurologic infections.

Many species of vertebrates are susceptible to the virus. About 70 species of birds have been affected. Crows account for 65% - 80% of avian mortality. The incidence in mammals, including humans, is comparatively minor.

The West Nile Virus is transmitted among birds, and from birds to mammals, by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes bite infected birds, suck up a blood meal, and then pass on virus-laden saliva to another victim at a later biting.

The public health community's response to this virus is widespread spraying of pesticides for mosquito "control." The pesticides sprayed in Baltimore City in the fall of 2000 were of a class called pyrethroids. Pyrethroids indiscriminately kill mosquitoes, butterflies, praying mantids, lady beetles and countless other insect species essential to the web of life as pollinators and food sources. Such pesticides can also cause neurological harm to humans, especially to young children.

For more information about the Baltimore City spraying program, call (410) 396-4436.

If the current threat of the West Nile Virus seems not to justify widespread spraying of pesticides in our urban areas, consider contacting the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Peter Beilenson.

U.S. mail: Baltimore City Health Department
210 Guilford, 3rd floor,
Baltimore, MD. 21202

For scientific information look up "West Nile Virus" on the Centers for Disease Control website:

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Maryland Environmental
Legislation Information

Keep up with environmental issues while the Maryland Legislature is in session. Subscribe to Conservation Report, 13 issues a year, weekly, December - April. Cost: $15 for new subscribers, $30 for others. To subscribe call (410) 448-2362 or send your check, payable to MCC, to CR, 1825 North Forest Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21207-6506.

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Postcards from the Edge - Reborn!



Dear Chippers,

This is my first trip since retirement on July 1. I am in South India consulting on a vanilla development project. Birds are generally easy to see here, as they are protected by the Hindu religion. Along the road one can see Stork-billed, White-throated, and Pied Kingfishers. In the monsoon rain forests are 35 birds endemic to to South India and Sri Lanka. I saw my 34th on this trip -- the secretive Wynaad Laughing-Thrush. Next trip I'll be looking to clean up my wants here.

Best, Hank Kaestner

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Membership Dues

If you have not already done so, please pay your dues promptly! Notices have been sent to everyone whose 2000-2001 dues have not been received. If the expiration date on your mailing label is printed in red, we have not received your dues. If the information on the label is incorrect, or your name or address is wrong, please call Roberta Ross. Unpaid members WILL be dropped from the mailing list effective January 15, 2001.

Make checks payable to Baltimore Bird Club. Mail to:

Roberta Ross
4128 Roland Ave
Baltimore MD 21211-2034

Telephone: 410-467-8137

Our regular dues, which include membership in the state organization, are $20 for an individual or $30 for a household. Members of another chapter or life members of MOS who joined after 6/11/90 pay the "chapter only" dues of $10 for an individual or $15 for a household membership. (Before 6/11/90, the Baltimore chapter also offered a life membership. If you are a life member of the Baltimore chapter and MOS who joined before 6/11/90, you do not owe anything.)

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Postcard from Madagascar


Tananarive, Madagascar

Dear Chippers,

I have been in Madagascar trying to get a supply of vanilla. Almost all land birds here are endemics. The beginning of the breeding season in the southern hemisphere means all the birds are singing and in their best plumage. Only lifer was the Madagascar Jacana, which is the last of that family for my list.

Best, Hank Kaestner

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Sea Bean Symposium

By Jean Worthley

October 12-15 I attended the fifth annual Sea Bean Symposium in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The main activity was searching the beach for interesting drift seeds brought in by the waves but I also saw some birds. A Palm Warbler was bobbing its tail right outside our motel room on the lawn one evening. Saturday morning we went to Sebastian Inlet and saw about 30 Wood Storks standing around the dock waiting for the fishermen to throw them tidbits. On our way out to the beach we practically had to step over a large group of Ruddy Turnstones also waiting for a handout. As we walked along the beach Sanderlings were dashing back and forth in front of the waves and Brown Pelicans were flying majestically overhead. It was a wonderful weekend with a group of interesting people.

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Field Trip Reports

Compiled by Steve Sanford

September 10 - North Point State Park - 18 participants enjoyed 51 species including 7 species of warblers at this park on the bay in eastern Baltimore County. The weather was overcast with temperatures in the 70's. Leaders: Brent and Mary Byers.

September 19 - Lake Roland - Leader Bea Nicholls writes: "We all birded the bridge and the usual circle around the picnic areas and open space. After a rain break in the pavilion, Paul Noell did the dike trail while the rest of us birded the main entrance road. It was especially nice to see the immature Black and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and know that the two species are still propagating at Lake Roland. Thanks to Jim Meyers for getting the big, shaggy, wet, and stinky dog out of my car so we could finish the checklist." The weather was rainy and misty with temperatures in the low '60's. The group of 9 participants had 46 species.

September 23 - Oregon Ridge - The weather was drizzly and overcast but the birds were good: 10 species of warblers and a good look at a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at eye-level. The species total was 40, with 9 participants. Leader: Gail Frantz.

September 24 - Kevin's Hawkwatch The hawks were very slow in the morning at this hawkwatch site in northeast Baltimore, but picked up in the afternoon with 417 Broad-winged Hawks, and one Bald Eagle and one Peregrine. In comparison to Turkey Point, about 40 miles northeast, the same day there were a lot more Broadwings but fewer Sharp-shinned Hawks and Kestrels. The weather was mostly overcast with occasional drizzle. Winds from the southeast early, then northwest with temperatures in the 60's to 70's. 34 species total. 5 participants. Leader: Peter Lev.

September 26 - Lake Roland - 'Twas another rainy day. Nevertheless, 4 people showed up and tallied 27 species with 4 warblers. Leader: Mary Jo Campbell.

September 30 - Kevin's Hawkwatch Leader Peter Lev writes: "Not a good hawk day. We watched from 9 to 11:30, then dispersed. Only two hawks: a Sharpie and a Cooper's. We should have sent a field trip to Papermill Road flats instead." 27 species in total including a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Weather: sunny and cool with light east winds. 3 participants."

October 3 - Lake Roland - The birds reflected the changing season. There were 44 species with 7 warbler species along with several Winter Wrens. The weather was clear with temperatures from the low 60's to low 70's. 14 participants. Leader: Dot Gustafson.

October 10 - Lake Roland - This trip had 7 warbler species again including Nashville and Tennessee, and lots of Black-throated Blue Warblers plus many Ruby-crowned Kinglets. It was cold and cloudy. 44 species overall. 7 participants. Leader Matilda Weiss.

October 14 - Meadowbrook, Howard County - Leader Scott Crabtree writes:

The BBC trip to the Meadowbrook at the Rt. 100 Park & Ride was joined by a couple of Howard Co. birders as we searched for late breeders, migrants, and early winter arrivals. In three hours we had forty species - but no Lincoln Sparrows.

We had great views of Song, and White-throated, and White-crowned (Z.l.l., adults and juveniles), and Field, and Swamp - but no Lincoln Sparrows. We had fabulous Palm warblers (both varieties) - nearly as many as there were Song Sparrows - and Nashville, and Magnolia warblers - but no Lincoln Sparrows. We pished until we were blue in the face we crawled through brambles and over hedges - but no Lincoln Sparrows. We had inter-specific agonistic displays with Kingfisher being mobbed by Red-winged Blackbirds, and Red-shouldered Hawks driving off a Red-tailed - but no Lincoln Sparrows. Actually, I have no idea what it was about the day, but I have never seen such a reticent bunch of sparrows and finches in my life. From the beginning of the day, they did not want to come up. I think we was jinxed!

Total species: 40. 8 participants. Weather: Mostly sunny, 50-75 degrees, light breezes.

October 17 - Lake Roland - Highlights were hundreds of Canada Geese on the lake, a Great Egret, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. 34 species. 7 participants. Weather: cloudy, cool, with a few showers. Leader: Ruth Culbertson.

Online Report Form Now Available

Some people have expressed an interest in an Internet version of the field trip report form. Therefore I engaged in the interesting adventure of creating such a form. When you fill it out and click the submit form button, it e-mails me a summary of your entries. It is located at:

You can also click a link at the bottom of the form to download an Excel version of the "paper" form that you can print. Of course, you may continue to mail in the paper form as always.

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Cylburn Field Trip Reports

By Joseph Lewandowski

September 24, 2000

The tropical storm hit far South of Baltimore, but this Sunday Cylburn walk showed the effects of the weather. With overcast skies and temperatures only in the 60s, the air was heavy and still. Other than the calls of the Mockingbirds and Catbirds, little could be heard. Six birders walked along the paths, stopping at the gardens and the sundial to ascertain whether and birds would show up. Nineteen birds hit the species list. Good, close-up looks of the Common Yellowthroat and the Black-throated Green Warbler were the high points of the day; but Flickers, a Brown Thrasher, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and a Great Crested Flycatcher were also present. The birders were interested in all aspects of nature as we looked at fungi, butterflies, spiders, and caterpillars. It was a good day to contemplate the uniqueness of nature, see the different trees at the Arboretum, and notice how weather affects the bird populations.

October 1, 2000

Fog rolled in to Cylburn this Sunday and the six birders who ventured out to bird watch, were treated with a pleasant surprise. Cylburn was dappled with water. Tiny moisture drops clung to leaves and plant stems. The rustle of leaves was stilled by the moisture. Spider webs were everywhere and the dew-like water droplets clung to every silken strand making gossamer necklaces that only Mother Nature had the majesty to make. In all the quiet of the day, only sixteen bird species were counted including Flickers, Blue Jays, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Phoebe, Rufous-sided Towhee, and Song Sparrows. Despite the lack of a multitude of birds, Cylburn made up for it by showing us another side of her natural beauty.

October 8, 2000

This was a typical fall day. Temperatures were in the 40's and the sun was out, although it gave little warmth. The air was nippy with the promise of winter. One lone birder stood on the mansion steps. As an adventurer going out into the unknown, this lone naturalist sauntered out among the trails of Cylburn. A slight wind stirred the branches of the trees as fourteen species of birds were counted. While many regulars of Cylburn were sighted, a Common Yellowthroat, Parula Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Phoebe, and Rufous-sided Towhee were some of the species seen. The sun shining on the trees in the back garden made for some interesting bird movement and was the most productive area on this Sunday's walk. It was wonderful to be a part of Cylburn as she started to turn color for the approach of winter.

October 15, 2000

Where I was at on this Sunday, the day was gorgeous. Unfortunately, I was not at Cylburn, but attending an animal conservation conference. My trusty friends however reported to me that the weather at Cylburn was cool with a hazy sun. Three birders decided to bird the grounds of the Arboretum. Seventeen species of birds were sighted. Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Grackles, White-throated and Song Sparrows, a Blue-headed Vireo, and Towhees were some of the species seen. An array of the common Cylburn birds were also seen, making this Sunday walk a pleasant trip through nature.

October 22, 2000

This was another Sunday where three birders decided to bird the grounds of the Arboretum. Another beautiful Fall day greeted us with temperatures in the 60's along with sunny skies and a mild weather pattern. Sixteen species of birds were sighted. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-throated and Song Sparrows, Phoebe, and Towhees were some of the species seen. We saw some good flights of Canada Geese fly over the Arboretum, heard a hawk in the distance, and saw two Carolina Wrens together singing away. I think what impressed me most about this day was the closeness of the birds. It appeared that the birds came out especially for us and gave us some magnificent views. The Fall walks are almost over so make it a point to come out and walk with us.

October 29, 2000

The sky was a vivid blue without a cloud present. The wind rustled the leaves. The sun was bright and the air was crisp. This described the last Fall walk at Cylburn for the three birders that came out on standard time to bird watch. Temperatures were in the 40's as the birders tried the Lawn Border and Circle Trails to scare up birds. Eighteen species of birds were sighted. White-throated and Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, a White-breasted Nuthatch, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker were some of the species seen. The birds may have been out earlier, for birding was slow; but we did see many of our regulars with some excellent views. The trees were a mixture at the Arboretum. Some had no leaves on them while others still clung to the red and yellow foliage that adorned them. Cylburn is getting ready for winter and with that, we will await the Spring walks to see what Cylburn has to offer.

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New Fort McHenry Trips

Jim Peters will be leading a series of previously unscheduled Saturday trips to Fort McHenry Dec 16, Jan 27, Feb 17, and Mar 17. Trip details:

8am to noon at Fort McHenry - For wintering passerines and waterfowl. Meet at 8am in the visitor parking lot. Dress warmly. Telescopes useful. Trip canceled if raining. Leader: Jim Peters 410-429-0966.

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BBC Birder Finds
Fork-tailed Flycatcher

By Steve Sanford

On September 22 BBC member John Landers discovered a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in southern Delaware near Frankford. John passed this information on to me that evening so that I could post it on Maryland Osprey, Maryland's main Internet birding discussion group. I also sent a message to Andy Ednie of the Delaware hotline.

The next day the bird was seen by a fair number of experienced observers, making it the first well-documented Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Delaware according to Andy. Unfortunately, that was the last day it was seen. This is a tropical species that is seen only occasionally in North America.

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BBC Mail Order

The Baltimore Bird Club is now offering its merchandise for sale through its mail order section. The following items are available. All prices include shipping costs.

Baltimore Bird Club's Birding Site Guide - $12.00
Baltimore Bird Club T-Shirt - $18.00 (only XL left)
MOS Patch - $3.50
MOS Decal - $3.50

Please make your check or money order payable to "The Baltimore Bird Club" and send your order to: Joseph Lewandowski, 3021 Temple Gate, Baltimore, Maryland 21209.

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Back Yard Birding

By Gail Frantz

Baltimore City

From Elliot Kirschbaum:

Saturday, September 16, Right now, 2:10 p.m. two kettles of Broadwings (about 100 birds in each kettle) are going over the Hopkins House apartments in the Roland Park area of Baltimore City. They were spotted by my wife, Nancy, who is lying on her back recovering from surgery.

She has a great view of the sky for her position. Nothing will stop an enthusiastic birder!

(Nancy is still recovering from her surgery. As of 10/25 she's feeling better every day and is taking two twenty minute walks per day.)


Joel Martin writes:

The date was August 30. That's one of the few things I can say with certainty. Here's how it all happened.

I was at home on my lunch hour when I heard a beautiful, finch-like warbling song from the vicinity of the thistle feeder on the deck, where some Goldfinches were feeding. The song was unique enough to get me out my chair and I remember thinking, "what a strange, lovely song." I stared at the feeder, looking for this mystery songster, when I noticed a movement on the deck railing barely 6 feet from where I stood.

The singer was a wren! But it was unlike any wren I'd ever seen. Roughly the size of a Carolina Wren, and like it, had a longish tail. But the plumage was all wrong. The upper parts were a smooth, neutral warm brown -- "umber" brown in my notes, reminding me more of the look of a Waterthrush than the rusty brown of a Carolina, as did the thin, pure white eyebrow line. The under parts were plain grayish-white, with just a smudge of grayish-brown on the flanks, with no barring and no trace of the cinnamon or buffy tones of the Carolina Wren.

Though I'd never seen a Bewick's Wren, the thought began to creep into my mind, but at the same time I had this recollection (from somewhere) that juvenile Carolinas can be confused with Bewick's. So as I watched this bird hop back and forth, singing and cocking its tail, I assumed it was just a Carolina in a plumage I had never seen, singing a song I'd never heard. Unfortunately, I didn't know enough about Bewick's to know that I should have been focusing on the underside of the tail. In less than a minute the bird flew and vanished behind some neighboring houses.

Then I did something I shouldn't have --assuming and expecting that this was simply a young Carolina: I went right to my field guides to find only that juveniles "resemble adults." The bird that I saw looked in every way like the photos and illustrations of the eastern form of Bewick's Wren.

Since then I've been asking many people a lot of questions to determine whether this bird could have been a Carolina. There have been conflicting comments on the songs of immature Carolina's but most of the feedback on plumage points to Bewick's. I've been reluctant to make a general posting or to claim it as a Bewick's until I'm satisfied with the ID. Soon I'll be going to the Delaware Museum of Natural History, where Gene Hess tells me he has some excellent skins and preserved specimens of both species. If I see ANYTHING that gives me reason to doubt, I'll drop it, but if it looks like Bewick's all the way I'll write it up for the Records Committee and see what happens. Such are the "joys" of seeing a potential rarity!

What I'm finding is that for documenting rarities, records committees want all subjective data (field notes, sketches) to be done on the spot, BEFORE consulting a field guide, preferably while watching the bird. Any report that is submitted becomes much stronger if you can say that your notes were taken on the spot. Their sound reasoning is that our memory of these sensory impressions is very short-term and can be clouded by looking in a guide right away -- so that our memory "becomes" what we see in the book. I think these documentation experts would prefer that we all birded in the British way --going into the field with only bins, notepad and sketchbook, and no field guides.

Somewhere recently I read of an incident in Cape May where some rare bird was being seen by a group of British birders, along with the usual Americans. The Americans pulled out their guides, discussed the bird, congratulated themselves on the ID, then went on to something else. All the while the Brits sat quietly and sketched the bird. The writer asked, if you were on the records committee, whom would you rather talk to?


During the first week of September Nancy Wilmet reported a Red-headed Woodpecker on Glenn Falls Road. It was there for only one day.


At the end of October Steve & Margaret Mays enjoyed an influx of both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. During the same week several lovely Palm Warblers were feeding in a weedy field next to their barn.

On October 25, the Merriman's reported White-throated, White-crowned, Swamp, Savannah and Song Sparrows in a mini-marsh next to their house.


A Screech Owl serenaded Jerry Freeman all night on September 30. White-throated Sparrows and Juncos made their first appearance in his yard on October 12 and October 20 respectively.

Let us hear about your Back Yard
Birding too!!!

Call or write to:

Gail Frantz
13955 Old Hanover Rd.
Reisterstown MD 21136

Tel: 410-833-7135


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