CHIP NOTES

The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

December 2001 - January 2002 -- Online Edition

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: December 26, 2001 (the next issue will be February-March 2002). If possible, please email material to

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Great White Heron at Fort McHenry
By Jim Peters

On Wednesday September 26, 2001 I entered Fort McHenry at 7:30 AM before beginning my regular Wednesday monitoring. At about 10:30 I had made my way to the Fort Magazine near the marsh overlook and was in the process of listing some warblers when I saw what I believed to be a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron in the tidal gut paralleling the rip-rap on the southeast side of the marsh. Since I was sure that it was a Great Egret, I did not bother to view it with binoculars, but turned instead to the task of making sure I had identified all the small passerines in the shrubbery around the Magazine.

Later, around 10:45 I moved to the embankment overlooking the marsh and looked more carefully at the supposed "Great Egret." Immediately I saw that it was a large, white Great Blue Heron and assumed I was viewing an albino. Further scrutiny, however, convinced me that it was not an albino because I could not find any pink eye. It was then that it dawned on me that I was looking at a "Great White Heron." I checked my guide and noted the larger size, the heavy bill, the straight culmen and the short shaggy filoplumes. The bird seemed not only larger than the Great Blue that was in the gut with it, but the body seemed more robust. The bill appeared pale yellowish-white as did the legs and feet in the back-lit conditions under which I observed it. This is a white "morph" of the Great Blue Heron that is native to south Florida, and has never before been recorded in Maryland. Although it is not currently regarded as a separate species, it is quite a find here in Maryland.

I did not have a spotting scope, so I had to make all observations through 8.5 X 44 Swift Audubon binoculars at a distance of 200 feet or so. I watched the bird until about 11:45 AM or so when it took flight over the marsh and turned gradually toward the Port of Baltimore in the general direction of Harbor Hospital. I started toward the visitor center to call Gail Frantz to ask her to put the sighting on the Maryland Osprey website, but saw Keith Costley enter the Fort gate at that moment. We birded the nature trail for an hour and could not relocate the bird.

Around 2:30 AM I returned to the marsh to see if the heron had returned, and was elated to find it perched on driftwood in the shelter of phragmites in the far NE corner of the gut near the sea wall. It flew to a log on the NW side of the gut and proceeded to settle down and preen and eventually stand on one leg. I studied it for a good 45 minutes and then went to the phone to call Gail Frantz and have her post what I found on the Internet. Later that evening on a regularly scheduled walk a group of eight birders went to the tidal gut but could not find the bird.

On Thursday September 27, Marshall Iliff and Keith Costley observed the heron at the same location. A dozen or more birders came on Friday September 28 but failed to see the bird though they stayed all day. Saturday, September 29 was marsh clean-up day at Fort McHenry and we assumed that the disturbance in the marsh would keep the bird away, but at 9:15 AM the heron showed up and landed on the Osprey nest-platform where it roosted for a while before flying to the tidal gut. It remained there feeding and resting for some two hours until the conditions became unbearable and it retreated across the river towards the Masonville cove. I phoned Gail to have her update the last posting. When I left the Fort around 3:00 PM the bird had not returned, but Paul O'Brien showed up and saw it later in the day. Others came on Sunday morning, September 30 and saw the bird at the marsh, and later in the day when it moved to Masonville cove, some saw it there.

As far as I know, that was the last sighting of the Great White Heron. I understand a number of people looked for it at Fort McHenry and at Masonville over the next few days, but did not see the bird.

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The Start of the Maryland Breeding Bird Atlas Project

By Scott Crabtree

We're very pleased to announce the beginning of the next Breeding Bird Atlas project for Maryland. It will be a five-year project, and begins in 2002. Elliot Kirschbaum and Debbie Terry will be the Baltimore County Coordinators.

How many of you are now thinking, "Wait a minute, didn't I just buy the Atlas? Why are we doing it again so soon?" Actually, the last atlas project started twenty years ago! I know - I was atlasing my block near Laurel in 1982. Those five project-years went by, the data had to be compiled, species accounts written, and then printed and published. And here we are, almost ready to roll into 2002, and it's time to do it again.

Why do it again, you might ask? Because the first atlas laid down a baseline of data on breeding bird distribution. This will show where we've had changes - range expansions or contractions; appearances of species or disappearances - and that can be of enormous help in setting land use policies of all sorts, from supporting endangered species listings to whether and how some bit of public land should be developed.

Plus the atlas and the data collection that goes into it can be just plain fun. Don't you enjoy sitting down with your atlas to see what has bred locally? How about using it to plan a bird trip? Or to figure out the best place to find that close-out species? And there's no better way to get to know your local area than to explore it while looking for confirmation of a particular species breeding in that area.

Of course, after that sales pitch, what we're asking you to do is be part of the project! Volunteer to cover a block, or more - we'll have approximately 80 in Baltimore County and City. Don't know what is involved? There will be training, starting with the February meeting where Bob Ringler will talk to us more about the atlas project. There will be maps, specific guidelines, an atlaser's handbook, and plenty of help. This is a project to which birders of all skill-levels can contribute. Did you participate in the first atlas project? Let us know which block(s) you worked, and you get first "dibs" on conducting the atlas surveys there again if you wish.

The next five years will be a lot fun - there will be surprises and new discoveries. And it will be a great excuse to get out in the field at any time! Come on and sign up now. Contact Elliot Kirschbaum, (410) 243-1481, , or Debbie Terry, (410) 252-8771, for more information.

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Swift Watch in Hampden
By Carol Schreter and Alice Greely-Nelson

Alice Greely-Nelson, Hampden's resident Chimney Swift expert, has been watching the Free State Bookbinders chimney, 3110 Elm Avenue, since 1985. This fall with BBC members, Alice has been counting, publicizing and protecting the Chimney Swifts of Hampden.

Alice reports that each spring at dusk, for about four weeks, up to 3,000- 5,000 Chimney Swifts descend into the Bookbindery chimney. These birds are heading north. Each fall, for about six weeks and traveling with young of the year, even more birds roost there en route south. Suddenly last year, they also started using a large chimney slightly downhill, at the Mill Center. At times they use the two chimneys simultaneously - the first report of swifts using nearby chimneys to reach biologist Dana Bradshaw, heading a new study of Chimney Swift migratory patterns called SwiftWatch.

These birds are traveling from the U.S. and Canada to the Amazon Basin and back. "I'm enchanted by this group activity," says Alice. "It's a family affair. It's warm and comforting to watch this amazing display as they gather and circle, and then descend so fast."

Swifts are insect eaters, in the air all day long. Many have been seen feeding over the Druid Hill reservoir, just across the Jones Falls from Hampden. At night they hang inside chimneys like overlapping shingles on the side of a house. The swifts that nest in Hampden all summer occupy small household chimneys, one pair to a chimney. When large migrating flocks appear, they roost in bigger, industrial chimneys. These birds have adapted to chimneys. Historically they preferred hollow trees.

BBC had already scheduled two trips to Hampden in September. We were well positioned to respond when MDOSPREY posted an announcement of "A Swift Night Out," a nation-wide census called for September 7-10, 2001. For this public education and awareness effort, our high count in Hampden was September 8, with 4,478 Chimney Swifts entering the Mill Center chimney. As of September 30, with 17 states reporting from dozens of locations, only one location in Reading, Pennsylvania, had a higher number, with 5,000 swifts. (See "A Swift Night Out" results at www.concentric.net/~Dwa.)

Through the organizers of A Swift Night Out, based in Texas, Alice learned of Dana Bradshaw's new project SwiftWatch, based at the Center for Conservation Biology located at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. For SwiftWatch ( or www.swiftwatch.org/) Alice and David Nelson and BBC members kept counting the swifts weekly, for six weeks. (See chart "Fall 2001 Count - Chimney Swifts in Hampden - Summary").

While watching swifts enter the 5th Regiment Armory chimney in Bolton Hill last September, Alice attracted the attention of a Baltimore Sun feature writer, Linell Smith. The resulting article "A Swift Passage" (Baltimore Sun, October 14, 2001) noted that "many of the old schools, churches and community centers that these birds use have been demolished or refurbished -- or their chimneys sealed off for central heating and air."

Even Hampden's chimneys are at risk, as Alice discovered. A few swifts found their way into Mill Center offices and frightened occupants -- who thought these were bats. The building manager was about to cap off the chimney, to close off the top. Alice explained that these birds are afforded protection under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the building manager agreed to close off the chimney at the bottom, so as not to disturb the migrating birds. He also agreed to distribute to building occupants a memo from Alice explaining what these birds were doing.

The circle of Chimney Swift watchers is growing. Might you know of other chimneys used by migrating Chimney Swifts? Are you willing to help count Swifts next year? If so, notify Carol Schreter at (410) 664-5151 or at . Alice and BBC hope to survey migrating Chimney Swifts more widely next year, and send our results to both SwiftWatch and A Swift Night Out.

Fall 2001 Count -- Chimney Swifts in Hampden - Summary

Note: "(est.)" means an estimate. "(count)" denotes a careful count. The Swifts enter earlier as days grow shorter, and on cloudy or cool evenings.

Counters included Alice Nelson, David Nelson, Carol Schreter, Helene Gardel, Jeanne Bowman, Elliot Kirschbaum, Nancy Kirschbaum and many others.

Watch for new Spring 2002 trips to be announced in Chip Notes. Or go on your own, mid April - mid May, using directions in the back of the BBC program booklet.

  Date        Where        Number             Start in  Last in

   9/1/01 Mill Center   1,000+ (est.)         7:30 PM   8:30 PM
   9/8/01 Mill Center   4,478 (count)         7:15 PM   7:55 PM
  9/15/01 Mill Center   5,300 (count)         7:20 PM   7:45 PM
  9/25/01 Mill Center   1,475 (count)         7:03 PM   7:25 PM
  10/3/01 Mill Center      80 in. 57 pop out  6:50 PM   7:15 PM
          Bookbindery   3,000+ (est.)         6:50 PM   7:16 PM
 10/11/01 Mill Center   3,120 (count)         6:25 PM   6:55 PM
          Bookbindery   1,003 (count)         6:38 PM   6:55 PM
 10/18/01 Mill Center     993 (count)         6:12 PM   6:40 PM
 10/25/01 Mill Center     786 (count)         6:15 PM   6:35 PM
 10/28/01 Mill Center       4 (count)         5:00 PM   5:10 PM
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Message from the Board

BBC Budget Woes:
New Approaches

Baltimore Bird Club dues have remained stable for years - at $20 for individual members and $30 for a household.

Our income is less than you might expect because half of your dues goes to our parent organization, the Maryland Ornithological Society (MOS). With its portion of the dues and endowments, the MOS sends us Yellowthroat, maintains Sanctuary properties and spearheads state-wide bird research documented in publications such as the Breeding Bird Atlas and occasional Maryland Birdlife booklets.

For BBC, the Baltimore chapter of MOS, our major cost is the printing and distribution of Chip Notes, the annual Membership Directory and Program Booklet. After paying for these mailings last year, BBC had $2,236 left from dues income, barely enough to pay for our core expenses: the website, telephone line, upkeep of the BBC Bird Museum at Cylburn and honoraria for monthly lectures.

Despite efforts to avoid all possible occasional expenses and minimize all costs, over the past three years BBC used $7,000 from our savings account to pay our bills. To balance our budget, the budget approved by the Board last June included cuts in almost all categories except bulk printing and mailing. The current budget does not cover such basic operating expenses as occasional correspondence (stationary and postage), or reproduction of the Membership Application forms. We have no money for new initiatives of any sort.

The obvious solution is to raise dues. Unfortunately MOS, our parent organization, is also running a deficit. As noted in the November/December issue of Yellowthroat, MOS proposes to raise its portion of dues next year by $10. Based on the recommendations of an Ad Hoc Budget Committee that met last summer, BBC has decided to raise our portion of dues by $5 for 2002-2003. Thus, it is likely that dues next year will be $35 for an individual, and $45 for a household, including the $10 MOS and $5 BBC increases. Our $5 BBC increase will generate an estimated $1,750, enough to cover expected increases in the costs of core member services, bulk printing and mailing.

Our decision to raise dues by no more than $5 results from our dual desires to keep membership costs affordable and to attract new birders. However, it also means we have decided to explore new approaches to fund some operating expenses, any new initiatives, and any costs related to outreach, education, conservation or bird research.

One approach to raising BBC's income is to increase our membership. To this end, you will find in this copy of Chip Notes a copy of BBC's membership application form, an orange flyer. We hope you will pass this on to a potential BBC member. As the orange flyer indicates, for this year the dues fee remains at $20 for an individual and $30 for a household.

Outright fundraising is a more direct and immediate way to generate funds for new initiatives, outreach, education, conservation and bird research. As a start, the Board decided to let members know the situation, and to invite donations -- large and small. You may have already received our special mailing.

We hope you will consider our first Membership Appeal an opportunity, an invitation to do even more for Maryland's wildlife. We will use your donations to scrutinize, classify, document, publicize and, hopefully, protect the birds of Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Be as generous as you dare!

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Erana Lubbert's 100th Birthday
By Joy Wheeler

Erana Lubbert, one of our longest and most faithful members, celebrated her 100th birthday on September 16, 2001. She is not one of our charter members, but it is easy to say that of her 100 years, close to half of them have been spent as a member of the Maryland Ornithological Society. At a gala birthday party at the Maryland Country Club Erana was feted by her church, First English Lutheran Church of Towson, of which she is a charter member. The Baltimore Bird Club was represented by a dozen or so long-time friends and birders. The following words were presented to the 100 party-goers to celebrate the large part of Erana's passion for the birds plays in her life.

Erana's membership in the Natural History Society of Maryland, Cylburn Arboretum Association, Oregon Ridge Nature Council and the Baltimore Bird Club may give you strong clues of her interest in her natural surroundings. My memberships parallel hers. However, by the time I joined the Bird Club in 1972, Erana was already a legendary figure. As I got to know her better I discovered there were at least three reasons for this.

First, her determination, early in the 1950's to have Cylburn declared a park and to have it used as a center for the study of birds. She introduced many people to birdwatching and bird identification by sight and song. Men in business suits on their way to their offices, women in their "house dresses" still free to get away from their sole jobs as "housewives," scout leaders learning enough to lead their troops in bird ID badges, among others. She held bird-banding demonstrations and fostered our early collections of salvaged birds that would later become our museum. Our recognized presence at Cylburn now is largely the result of her strong presence and cooperation whenever the future of the park was being considered.

A second reason is Erana's sincere interest in people, not just birds. She opened her home for many social occasions and meetings and saved may photographs of those occasions. Her move from her home in Anneslie to Edenwald did not stop these gracious social occasions.

And third, and almost the most impressive, Erana was our membership/financial secretary for about a dozen years at a time when we had close to 1000 members on our lists. This without the aid of computers.

In a group like the BBC where lists are so important, I have not heard Erana speak of her own Life List, though her world travels would have added substantially to the 350 she might have seen in Maryland. She has told me stories of two birds on her Life List which most of us do not have: Bachman's Warbler and Sutton's Warbler. We have her slides of the location in Northern Virginia, the home of Paul Bartsch, where she gathered with other birders to see her Bachman's Warbler. The closest most of us will come to it is in Audubon's "Birds of America." As for the Sutton's Warbler, all we have is her own story of seeing that bird at Lake Roland at a time when she was accompanied by an experienced birding friend from West Virginia. We have nothing to confirm this story except our faith in her ID abilities and her own accounting of the sighting. Her story is not recorded anywhere that I know of, but it is a good story and I accept it. (Sutton's Warbler was first reported from West Virginia in 1939 and was painted by George Miksh Sutton, so you won't find it in Audubon, or West Virginia anymore for that matter.)

In 1995, for the 50th anniversary of the Maryland Ornithological Society, Erana provided many items from her collection of memorabilia to help us flesh out our history of those earlier days... photos of those women in "house dresses" and sensible shoes, newspaper accounts of birding in Baltimore, old programs. We have these items in our archives at Cylburn. But it is in the archives of our own memories that we venerate Erana's passion for birds. We determine to preserve Cylburn as a sanctuary for birds so that Erana's passion can be felt there now and into the coming generations. I ended the talk with a special invitation to all at the party to open their eyes and minds to their own passion for birds. I don't need to do that for you BBC members. I do encourage you to see Cylburn in the light of Erana's strong connections to the birds of Cylburn and maintain your own strong connections there.

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Conservation Corner

Lake Roland Plans
By Peter Lev

Baltimore City and Baltimore County convened a second public meeting about Lake Roland on 23 October 2001. Mary Porter of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks presented a number of reasonable suggestions for improving the park while retaining its natural qualities: repair the entrance bridge, repair the railroad bridge (well into the park), improve trails, improve restrooms, stop erosion on the peninsula (main picnic area), put interpretive signs in the Pine Barrens, etc. Proposals to increase usage of the west (near Princeton Sports) and north (L'Hirondelle Club Way) areas of the park had little support. No agreement was reached on limiting (or not limiting) dog access to the park.

Who will pay for repairs? Neither the City nor the County has set aside money for Lake Roland, but with the support of the community they can now look to the State, and perhaps other sources, for funds. That seems to have been the point of the meeting. When will the repairs take place? No idea. Someone has to come up with money to repair or replace the entrance bridge, for starters.

The idea of a rezoning or conservation easement at Lake Roland (subject of a previous Chip Notes article) came up only indirectly. Mary Porter said that all Baltimore City parks are zoned residential, and this is OK; none is in danger. However, in a conversation in September, I heard from Mildred "MeMe" Thomas of the Greater Falls Road Neighborhood Task Force that she is pursuing a permanent conservation easement for Lake Roland. The Baltimore Bird Club has called for the same thing, so I told Ms. Thomas that she had our support.

Another intriguing concept in the Lake Roland story involves enlarging the parking lot at the Falls Road Light Rail stop, buying some adjacent property, and creating a trail from the Light Rail to the park. Mary Porter commented that plans for the Light Rail were too preliminary to be included in current Lake Roland planning. So stay tuned! The saga continues!

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Fall Count 2001
Baltimore City and County - September 15, 2001

Compiled by Deborah Terry

More and more birders are discovering the fun of getting together to participate in a bird count event. This year there were 41 participants, five more than last year and they saw 139 species of birds, five more than last year. Of the 20 species of warblers seen Magnolias took first place with 58, Common Yellowthroats totaled 44 and Black-throated Greens placed third with 43 birds. In the past more Broadwing Hawks were seen than any other specie but not this year. Just before dark 5,300 Chimney Swifts dropped into a Hamden chimney. For more information about the Fall Count, consult the species list below.

Many thanks to our counters: Denise Bayusik, Alan Bromberg, Anne Brooks, J B Churchill, Keith Eric Costley, Scott Crabtree, Ruth Culbertson, Gail Frantz, Helene Gardel, Katherine Geppi, Zlata Hartman, Hans Holbook, Robert Holbrook, Sukon Kanchanaraksa, Elliot Kirschbaum, Nancy Kirschbaum, Elise Kreiss, Paul Kreiss, Brad Lanning, Carol McDaniel, Joe McDaniel, Dan McDonald, Georgia McDonald, Michele Melia, Jim Meyers, Joe Meyers, Kirk Meyers, Alice Nelson, Bea Nicholls, Paul Noell, James Peters, Art Rogers, Stephen Sanford, Gene Scarpulla, Carol Schreter, Duvall Sollers, Lisa Sollers, Deborah Terry, Wendy Taparauskas, Peter Webb, Joy Wheeler.

Double-crested Cormorant        54   Blue Jay                      40
Great Blue Heron                23   American Crow                249
Black-crowned Night-Heron        5   Fish Crow                     41
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron       1      unidentified crow          96
Black Vulture                   25   Horned Lark                    1
Turkey Vulture                  51   Purple Martin                  5
Canada Goose                   473   Tree Swallow                  31
Wood Duck                        2   N. Rough-winged Swallow        4
American Black Duck              9   Barn Swallow                   2
Mallard                        621   Carolina Chickadee           191
Blue-winged Teal                 6   Tufted Titmouse              131
Northern Shoveler               75   Red-breasted Nuthatch          3
Northern Pintail                 3   White-breasted Nuthatch       34
Green-winged Teal               88   Carolina Wren                 67
Osprey                          10   House Wren                    20
Bald Eagle [adult]               4   Winter Wren                    2
Bald Eagle [immature]            3   Marsh Wren                     3
Northern Harrier                 4   Ruby-crowned Kinglet           5
Sharp-shinned Hawk               9   Blue-gray Gnatcatcher          6
Cooper's Hawk                    4   Eastern Bluebird               9
Red-shouldered Hawk              7   Veery                          2
Broad-winged Hawk              419   Swainson's Thrush             10
Red-tailed Hawk                 10   Wood Thrush                   11
   unidentified Buteo            1   American Robin               141
American Kestrel                 8   Gray Catbird                 175
Merlin                           2   Northern Mockingbird          38
Peregrine Falcon                 6   Brown Thrasher                 4
Wild Turkey                      3   European Starling            572
American Coot                    1   American Pipit                12
Black-bellied Plover             6   Cedar Waxwing                 27
American Golden-Plover           9   Tennessee Warbler              3
Semipalmated Plover             19   Nashville Warbler              4
Killdeer                        11   Northern Parula                8
Lesser Yellowlegs               17   Yellow Warbler                 1
Solitary Sandpiper               3   Chestnut-sided Warbler        18
Spotted Sandpiper                2   Magnolia Warbler              58
Sanderling                       1   Blk.-thrtd. Blue Warbler      14
Semipalmated Sandpiper          84   Blk.-thrtd. Green Warbler     43
Western Sandpiper                2   Blackburnian Warbler           4
Least Sandpiper                 22   Yellow-throated Warbler        1
Baird's Sandpiper                6   Pine Warbler                   3
Short-billed Dowitcher          10   Palm Warbler [western]         9
Laughing Gull                  178   Bay-breasted Warbler           1
Ring-billed Gull               123   Black-&-white Warbler         14
Herring Gull                   195   American Redstart             14
Lesser Black-backed Gull         1   Ovenbird                       3
Great Black-backed Gull        421   Northern Waterthrush           1
   unidentified gull             3   Common Yellowthroat           44
Caspian Tern                    97   Canada Warbler                 1
Royal Tern                       3   Yellow-breasted Chat           1
Forster's Tern                  16      unidentified warbler       10
Rock Dove                       92   Scarlet Tanager               10
Mourning Dove                  102   Eastern Towhee                24
Yellow-billed Cuckoo             1   Chipping Sparrow              13
Barred Owl                       1   Savannah Sparrow               4
Common Nighthawk                 5   Song Sparrow                  11
Chimney Swift                 5596   Lincoln's Sparrow              1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird       10   Swamp Sparrow                  1
Belted Kingfisher               14   White-throated Sparrow         2
Red-bellied Woodpecker          53      unidentified sparrow        1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker         1   Northern Cardinal            125
Downy Woodpecker                48   Rose-breasted Grosbeak        15
Hairy Woodpecker                13   Indigo Bunting                 9
Northern Flicker                50   Bobolink                      19
Pileated Woodpecker             13   Red-winged Blackbird          93
Eastern Wood-Pewee              20   Common Grackle              1031
Acadian Flycatcher               1   Brown-headed Cowbird          23
   unidentified Empidonax        1   Baltimore Oriole               1
Eastern Phoebe                   9   Purple Finch                   3
Great Crested Flycatcher         5   House Finch                   26
White-eyed Vireo                11   American Goldfinch           203
Blue-headed Vireo                1   House Sparrow                 85
Yellow-throated Vireo            3   Total Species                139
Red-eyed Vireo                  48
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Field Trip Reports

Compiled by Steve Sanford

September 13 - Chimney Swifts in Hampden - 19 people attended, including a Baltimore Sun reporter to see an estimated 2500 Chimney Swifts. After using the Ely Street Bookbindery chimney for 15+ years, migrating Chimney Swifts have moved mainly downhill to the nearby Mill Center chimney. They started gathering at 7:10 PM, and circled overhead for 15 minutes before entering the chimney from 7:25 to 7:50 PM. This activity continues for about 6 weeks from about September 1 to October 15, so you can go anytime on your own and observe this during the hour before sunset. Many thanks to Alice and Donald Nelson, Hampden residents and Chimney Swift connoisseurs, who served as guides.

September 18 - Lake Roland - Most of today's activity occurred early in the more open parkland. 9 species of warbler were seen, along with Ruby-crowned Kinglets, both Night-Herons Highlights were a Bald Eagle near the dike, a multitude of Chimney Swifts skimming over the water, and a surprising appearance of 3 Common Nighthawks after 11 AM. 53 species. 20 participants. Weather: Sunny, in the 60's and 70's. Leader: Bea Nicholls.

September 20 - Chimney Swifts in Hampden - It was a dark rainy day. That did not deter an estimated 2000 migrating Chimney Swifts from flying low overhead, then entering the Hill Center chimney from 6:30 to 7:25 PM - very early because of the dark skies. 15 observers included a Baltimore Sun reporter, with her children, and a Sun photographer, preparing a story about our Chimney Swifts in Hampden, being the second most active chimney in the nation according to a recent national census. [See the story "Swift Watch in Hampden" for more information]

September 22 - Oregon Ridge - It was a sunny pleasant morning for the 16 participants who enjoyed good looks at Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Parula, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Belted Kingfisher. Leader: Gail Frantz.

September 23 - Cylburn Arboretum - For the twelve birders that joined our group for this week's walk, I am sure that they were hoping for a repeat of last week with its 1500 migrating Broadwings, which I regrettably missed. With overcast skies and temperatures in the 70's, that did not occur. We did see 34 species of bird, including 7 warblers: Palm, Black and White, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, and Black-throated Green Warblers, and Common Yellowthroat. We also had Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and good looks at a Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawk. Like all things, our expectations of an event often overshadow the event itself. However, as I was walking down the trail and saw and heard a Pileated Woodpecker fly over; I realized that it is the little things in birding that makes us all come back repeatedly to enjoy this ornithological pleasure. (By Joseph Lewandowski)

September 25 - Lake Roland - It was somewhat rainy but nevertheless 8 people attended and were rewarded with a Bald Eagle and Osprey, and 6 warbler species, with a total of 42 species overall. Leader: Mary Jo Campbell.

September 30, 2001 - Cylburn Arboretum - Cool and windy weather, with temperatures in the 60's greeted the eleven birders that braved this cold snap to bird at Cylburn. While not in huge numbers, we did see some more hawks today. Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, Red-shouldered, and Osprey hit our species list, along with Canada Goose and some great views of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Cylburn did not disappoint us in that we had some up-close-and-personal views of both Kinglets. Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, and Magnolia Warblers were still around as were a Scarlet Tanager, Phoebe, and some White-throated Sparrows. Our species count was 36. (By Joseph Lewandowski)

October 2 - Lake Roland - The weather was back to sunny and about 60 to 70. Featured birds included a low-flying Bald Eagle, a Blue-headed Vireo singing an unusual song, many kinglets of both types, and 9 species of warbler. Most activity again occurred early in the open area of the park. 59 species. 18 participants. Leader: Dot Gustafson.

October 7, 2001 - Cylburn Arboretum - Fall has finally come to Cylburn. The day was sunny, but cool with temperatures in the 50's. The nine birders saw falling leaves and only 32 species of birds. However, the day did turn up some interesting birds. The Kinglets were out again, as well as a Pewee. The Sapsucker was with us, and a Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawk soared above the Arboretum skies. Some mushrooms were out and White-throated Sparrows hopped along the trail. Two special birds were seen on this cool morning: a Red-breasted Nuthatch and a White-eyed Vireo. I am one that likes close-up birds and a Brown Thrasher obliged us with a long look today. Warblers were few but a Magnolia Warbler graced our list. (By Joseph Lewandowski)

October 9 - Lake Roland - It was a cold but beautiful sunny day with temperatures from about 40 to 50. Highlights were two beautiful, sun-lit Blue-headed Vireos, a Hermit Thrush, a Winter Wren, a late Ovenbird, many Yellow-rumped Warblers among 5 warbler species and 50 species overall. A visitor from Washington state was one of the 18 participants. Leader: Matilda Weiss.

October 13 - Soldiers Delight - Highlights were a fly-over Red-headed Woodpecker along with sightings of all the other Maryland woodpeckers except for a definite Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. There were also several female/immature Purple Finches, which seem to have been unusually common this year, a colorful Pine Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and many Golden-crowned Kinglets. The 12 participants included a visitor from Texas. The weather was sunny and seasonable. 42 species. Leader: Joe McDaniel.

October 14 - Meadowbrook - Leader Scott Crabtree writes: " We had low diversity of species on this day before a big cold front passage. The only high point was the Savannah Sparrow which teed up for us in the open, not 20 feet away. The view allowed us to examine all feather tracts in great detail." 37 species. 5 participants. The weather was overcast with a southeast breeze, humid and in the mid 60's.

October 14 - Cylburn Arboretum - It was a gloomy, cool, cloudy morning, but the fall colors were surprisingly close to peak all of a sudden. Migration was definitely winding down, but there was enough activity to reward the four birders present. The four participants found a pretty typical assortment of species for the season with a number of Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Blue-headed Vireo, and 3 warbler species. There were at least 4 Eastern Bluebirds in the mulch yard and a late Wood Thrush in the woods. A Red-tailed Hawk frequently parked stationary in the wind when not being mercilessly harassed by crows. The species total was 36. (Steve Sanford)

October 16 - Lake Roland - Leader Ruth Culbertson writes: "Birds were slow to show at the beginning of this last Lake Roland trip of the season. Then we saw a nice little flock of Myrtles and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. It was nice to see 4 male Eastern Towhees with 3 females. On the way back, before crossing the tracks, an Osprey soared high above the lake, and under him a Bald Eagle, beautiful in the sun. Oh, but wait - two more Bald Eagles appeared, doing a spiraling act or chasing the odd-man-out away. The eagles were the day's highlight and made some want to start singing 'America'." 47 species including 3 species of warbler. The weather was cool at first but fairly warm later and mostly sunny. 18 participants.

October 21, 2001 - Cylburn Arboretum - Brilliant yellow and red leaves greeted us as we drove into the Arboretum today. The plants have all been removed from the circle drive in front of the mansion and Cylburn is taking on a clock of winter. This was another sunny but cool day with temperatures starting in the 50's; however, the thermometer rose rapidly as the day progressed. More mushrooms were out and Paul Noell took the time to point out to the ten birders the differences in the fungi. Woodpeckers dominated our list with Flicker, Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied, and a Sapsucker seen. Chestnut-sided and Yellow-rumped Warbler were the only two warblers seen. Other birds attracted our attention. A Red-shouldered Hawk perched magnetically on a telephone pole. We had close-up looks at White-eyed Vireo and Kinglets. White-crowned Sparrows and Field Sparrows hit our species list, along with a Kestrel, Hermit Thrush, and Juncos. Our 30 species of the day seemed low, but it was enjoyable to be out and about on this beautiful Indian summer-like morning (By Joseph Lewandowski)

Oct 27 Northampton Furnace Trail - Leader Joy Wheeler writes: "With 54 species, among which were 500 Canada Geese, 500 American Coots, 8 Hermit Thrushes, and 6 Bluebirds, it was the birds that came in singles that got our excited attention: one Merlin, one Common Snipe, one Purple Finch, and one Pine Siskin." There was also a Bald Eagle, a late Swainson's Thrush, and about 8 Wood Ducks. The weather was seasonably cold, breezy, and partly sunny. 7 people attended.

October 28 - Cylburn - The last walk of the fall season at Cylburn always holds something special for me. It is usually the last time I see my fellow birders until the spring. It's as if we all go into hibernation for the upcoming winter. The air was cool and crisp with a blue sky and sun that greeted the ten birders this morning. As the leaves rustled underfoot, we only saw 29 species. Not the best of days, but the soaring of the Red-tailed Hawk, the close-up view of the Blue-headed Vireo, the Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow seemed to warm up the surrounding like a warm fire place in the evening. Our walk came to an end with the sighting of about 8 male and female Purple Finches, a real treat! As we end the Cylburn Fall walks and see the changes that mark the approaching winter, we remember the good times, the good birds, and the good company. Till spring. (By Joseph Lewandowski)

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Big Sit at Fort McHenry
By Jim Peters

The Star-spangled Birders of the Fort McHenry wetland "Big Sit" Team tallied 860 birds of 55 species in 16 hours on Sunday October 21 from inside a 17 foot circle. As a by-product of the "Big Sit" Sora Rail and Eastern Meadowlark were added to the fort list to bring it to 177 species and this year's list (since August 16) is now at 111 species. We actually found 60 species total but five (House Wren, Winter Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow and Black Vulture) could not be seen from within the 17 foot circle by observers and so weren't countable.

Keith Costley and Wendy Taparauskas participated in the count and we were cheered on by visits from Gail Frantz, Karen Lippy and Dot Gustafson during the day. The National Park Service staff escorted us through the Park Security Check Point and opened all the gates. In addition they allowed us to experiment with a night-vision monocular scope - a definite "must" for future "Big Sits" or night birding.

Some interesting birds seen included both Night-Herons, Merlin, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, both Kinglets, Palm Warbler (Eastern and Western), Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Towhee, Junco, Savannah , Field , White-crowned , White-throated , Swamp and Song Sparrows.

With our "Big Sit" behind us we look forward to planning an even more successful "Big Sit" next year. Don't underestimate City birding! Come join the Star-spangled Birders of the Fort McHenry "Big Sit" Team next year.

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Winter Invasion

By Steve Sanford

As of late October all signs are that we are in for a great birding winter. High numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches as early as August were the first sign. Purple Finches were unusually common by late September. Then in the last week of October Pine Siskins, virtually absent in many years, started showing up at many locations throughout the region. Furthermore, a few reports of Evening Grosbeaks - far more unusual - were showing up in the region including Maryland. Reports of Crossbills and Redpolls as close as Pennsylvania were also appearing. Snow Buntings were also appearing at Fort McHenry along the seawall.

So keep your eyes open and your feeders full!

See http://www.geocities.com/bfbooby/SnowBunting.html for a photo of one of the Snow Buntings.

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Tidbits

Baltimore Oriole in Baltimore!

What's so special about that, you ask? Well, it was not in Baltimore, Maryland. It was in Baltimore, County Cork, in the southwest corner of Ireland in early October. This was the first sighting ever of a Baltimore Oriole in the Emerald Isle. Thanks to Shireen Gonzaga for bringing this to our attention.

Connecticut Warbler in Baltimore

On October 7 Scott Crabtree found an immature Connecticut Warbler behind the small marsh in the Winan's Meadow area of Gwynn's Falls Park off Franklintown Road. This most uncommon of our migrant warblers was a long-hoped-for life-bird for Scott. Unfortunately, it didn't hang around.

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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 and Beyond

By Gail Frantz

 

Baltimore City

Mount Washington

  • Carol Schreter: Throughout August, two or three Grackles have been hanging around eating Black-oil Sunflower seed from my feeder. I usually see them in noisy, giant, mobile flocks, not hanging around my yard and feeder. On August 25, two days before the first Lake Roland migration walk, my yard in Mt. Washington hosted a Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Magnolia Warbler, and a Redstart. On Aug. 28, a Canada Warbler appeared, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch came to my feeder. (Might this be one of those rare Red-breasted Nuthatch "invasion " years?) On August 30, I saw a Black-throated Green Warbler, a Black-and-White Warbler, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Sept. 4: Migration started early this year. The first week was stupendous. On September 1, a loose flock of 18 Nighthawks flew overhead at 6:45 PM, but why were they moving northwest, not south? Another oddity.

Overlea

  • Greg Futral, Sept 8: Ten minutes ago I saw thirty some Cattle Egrets flying south at treetop/rooftop level. I didn't expect that in NE Baltimore City.

Baltimore County

Towson

  • Lester Simon, Oct 18, reports that his back yard bird bath along with Chokecherry bushes and Crabapple trees have been attracting several lovely Swainson's Thrushes. Several White-throated Sparrows have been enjoying the Simon=s small but lively waterfall. However, four or five Ruby-crowned Kinglets have not been able to work up enough courage to join the sparrows.

Randallstown

  • Steve Sanford, Oct 4: At home this morning I heard a delicate, high-pitched, twittering song in the back yard. I went out and soon found the singer. As I expected, it was indeed a Winter Wren - a nice new bird for my yard list. I didn't see him in subsequent days, although I may have heard him once or twice. This morning, (Oct 19) however, he, or maybe another one, paraded around quite visibly in the back yard. He apparently forgot that he is supposed to be very shy and secretive.

Oct 20: As I got out of the car after a good morning's birding with Pete Webb, I saw a raptor soaring above the house at medium height and assumed it was just another Red-tail. On closer inspection though I noticed it's wings seemed rather massive and square, the body overall was a uniform medium-brown, - and, look, there are big white marks in the center of the wings, and the inner half of the tail is white. And the tail projects out considerably more than the head. And look, it's bigger than the nearby Red-tail. Good Lord, it's a Golden Eagle. Over my house!

Catonsville

  • Joel Martin, August 29: Monday evening between 7:20 and 7:40 I counted 17 Common Nighthawks moving over my yard in Catonsville, Baltimore County. Sometimes they came in twos and threes. There was also a lot of Chimney Swift activity. It just so happens that thunderstorms were moving from west to east, several miles north of my location. All of the nighthawks were moving from SW to NE, toward the storms.

This is not the first time I've noticed sudden nighthawk activity in the vicinity of storms. I'm wondering if the unstable air creates some sort of welling up of flying insects that attracts the nightjars?

Columbia

  • Peggy Smith reports the one that got away: On September 23 my husband and I observed an Anhinga on the lake in front of the Malibu Grille on Wincopin Circle on September 23, Sunday afternoon. We watched it for about a half hour between 5:45 PM and 6:15. The prominent field marks on the Anhinga were the sharp, pointed beak, and the white configuration on the back, the bird lifted itself out of the water momentarily and I could observe that. Just saw an Anhinga early this year up close in Florida on a Silver Spring boat trip, so I knew what to look for.

Did anyone else observe the bird? Thought surely another birder would have seen it and reported it, guess not. The bird was not a Double-Crested Cormorant as we=re very familiar with those birds from the Conowingo Dam trips, there are so many up there.

I did have a Yellow-billed Cuckoo to add to my yard list this year.

Soldier=s Delight

  • Scott Crabtree, August 8: On Saturday morning, I took a swing through Soldier's Delight Natural Environment Area, and encountered some unusual behavior. I had arrived at the cut-over area along the Red Trail, just past the old Choate placer mines. (Is this cut-over area being "managed," possibly to return it to serpentine barrens?) I was noticed some very loud and active mobbing behavior. There were Prairie, Pine, Canada, and Black & White Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, many woodpeckers and other common locals, and lots of juvenile Bluebirds, the loudest of the mobbers. I carefully searched around the small oaks where this activity was taking place. My scrutiny yielded a Common Nighthawk as the target! When it took flight a couple minutes later, the birds scattered in all directions. Fifteen minutes later, on the far east side of the clearing, I encountered the same scenario - lots of vociferous mobbing directed at a perched nighthawk. (All told, I saw 12 nighthawks either perched or overhead -those flying were heading North, as has been reported by others recently.) I have never seen nighthawks, or any nightjar, being mobbed before, and was wondering why they would receive such treatment.

Theory: the "apparent" instigators of this activity were the juvenile Bluebirds, many still spotted in the upper breast, but growing in blue remiges and rectrices. They probably have either a learned or innate template for recognizing a threat shape - there was research in that area years ago that determined that goslings had it innately, but I haven't kept up with the literature to know if that is so in passerines. Do nighthawks match that threat model enough (looking a bit like a swift or falcon) such that naive birds would react to the nighthawks at a threat? Then, the Bluebird mobbing turns on everyone else?

Gunpowder State Park, Hammerman Area

  • Mary Chetelat writes: I have really enjoyed the Tuesday mornings at Lake Roland this fall. However, on Tuesday October 9, I had a long-standing appointment to take my dog to his groomer in Joppatowne. I usually go shopping while Bandit is getting done, but this time, since I couldn't be at Lake Roland, I thought I'd check out a park in the area for birds. The Hammerman area of Gunpowder State Park was fairly close, so going by the BBC's Birders Guide*, I headed there. It proved to be a good choice! Upon pulling up at the first suggested parking lot after a drive around the loop, I was met by two white-tail deer who seemed reluctant to leave even after I got out of my car and walked toward them. I saw the sign for the Muskrat Trail and headed into the woods.

At first, only a few Chickadee and Titmouse calls broke the silence. Then a Carolina Wren hopped out from under a low wooden bridge with a caterpillar in its beak. A noisy flock of Grackles flew into a tree overhead, then flew off and again it was quiet. Coming up along the marsh, a beautiful Eastern Towhee showed himself. Some Blue Jays flew over. Farther along, in an open area, a Cardinal, then a female Common Yellowthroat, flew by. Three Northern Flickers flew in making their little "wiccup" sound. A White-throated Sparrow, a Song Sparrow, and a Swamp Sparrow (I think) flitted among the reeds and pines. But it was time to head back. The fun was not over, however. On the way back I got some real treats! First a Brown Creeper. Then two Golden-crowned Kinglets. Then two Winter Wrens. Then a gorgeous Black-throated Blue Warbler!

Not bad for a little over an hour's birding!

*A Birder's Guide to Baltimore & Baltimore County MD, editor: Elliot Kirschbaum, is available for $10.00 at the Baltimore Bird Club's Tuesday meetings or to receive a copy by first-class mail, see "BBC Mail Order" above.

 

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

Call or write to:

Gail Frantz
13955 Old Hanover Rd.
Reisterstown MD 21136

Tel: 410-833-7135

e-mail: guineabird@aol.com