Leonid Bird Count
November 18, 2001
November 18, 2001 will go down in history (at least for 9 people) as the dawn of a new scientific discipline: astroornithology, the study of birds during meteor showers.
The following is an account of our observations and sporadic insights.
Location: A field behind Gail Frantz's house, in farmland near Reisterstown in Baltimore County, MD.
Time: 3:55 a.m. to 6:15 a.m.
Weather: Foggy, mid-30s Fahrenheit
Observers: Gail Frantz, Harry Frantz, Shireen Gonzaga, Elliot Kirschbaum, Nancy Kirschbaum, Ruth-Ann Scott, Don Scott, Peter Webb, Carolyn Webb.
Observing Protocol: Birds had to be seen or heard between two meteor events.
BIRD OBSERVATIONS (seen or heard)
Total: 9 species
Note: Peter Webb claimed to have seen a Painted Bunting, temporarily illuminated by the light of a particularly large meteor. His observations were unanimously rejected. (It's most likely attributed to a meteor impact event to his head.)
CELESTIAL OBSERVATIONS (seen or heard)
- Elliot Kirschbaum was the only member of the observing party who thought to get a meteor rate. He estimated 900 meteors/hour. Pretty darned good considering the fog and that he was looking in one direction.
- Many meteors were quite bright. Some left lingering trails that had green and/or blue hues. Except for the above- mentioned incident concerning Peter Webb and the Painted Bunting, there were no observed meteor impacts.
- The meteors were clearly seen emanating from its radiant point in the constellation of Leo, coming out from all directions. Meteor trails close to Leo had short tails (due to them being "head-on") whereas those further away had long trails.
We developed the following meteor classification nomenclature:
2) woo-woo!! (two woo's)
5) there's one!
6) 4 at a time!!!!
7) another one!
9) you can still see the trail!
10) I missed it!
Other Celestial Objects:
International Space Station
Iridium 32 Telecommunications Satellite
Beehive Open Star Cluster in Cancer (Messier 44)
Hyades Open Star Cluster in Taurus
Pleiades Open Star Cluster in Taurus (M45)
Orion Nebula in Orion's sword (Messier 42)
Jupiter with 2 Galilean moons visible through binoculars
Many pretty twinkling stars
It was a delightful morning, filled with the wit and humor of the many comedians in the group. As well as the sounds of howling dogs and howling National Guardsmen (from nearby Camp Fretterd).
Veni - Vidi - Sedi
By Jim Peters and Gail Frantz
The final results of the "Big Sit" 2001 were announced on December 31 by its sponsor, the New Haven Bird Club, and the statistics were impressive. Twenty-seven states and four foreign countries hosted 116 count circles manned by 460 sitters who observed a total of 609 species in a 24 hour period. The highest circle count was made on a dike near Westplaat, Zuid-Holland, Rotterdam, Netherlands by the "Undutchables" who recorded 107 species, which beat out a California circle by one species.
The "Star Spangled Birders" of the Fort McHenry Wetland did fairly well in their first "Big Sit." We ranked 19th out of 107 circles in the USA with a total of 55 species seen in 16 hours, and we placed 22 out of a total of 116 circles world-wide. We ranked 9th place against 9 circles in 4 foreign countries (Netherlands, England, South Africa, and Mexico). The combined species count of Howard County and Fort McHenry (71) placed Maryland 13th out of 27 participating states of the Continental USA. If you have Internet access, you can get more information about the international "Big Sit" at: http://members.aol.com/nhbirdclub/bigsit.htm
And so, while we didn't finish in the top 10 or win the Golden Bird drawing of $500, we can take pride in the way we scored against tough opponents world-wide. Again, many thanks to all who participated in the "Big Sit" to make it a success, especially Keith Costley and Wendy Taparauskas. BBC's Keith Costley designed, printed and presented colorful certificates to each participant. He included an illustration of the American Flag with the motto: Preserve Fort McHenry. The Big Sit! logo was also included: a chair encircled by the words, Veni - Vidi - Sedi: I came - I saw - I sat.
We are, even now, discussing strategies for improving our score next October, Come join us!
Through a Loch Raven Watcher's Eyes
By Joy Wheeler
Seven Great Egrets!
Standing tall in the willow shade of the cove
Seven pairs of black legs gleaming in the quiet water
Seven lemon yellow beaks pointing to the same shadowy shore
Then, long necks intertwining in space, becoming three double-beaked creatures plus one
I approach, avoiding their seven lines of vision
I get close enough to see each black beady eye
My slow stalking fails and they fly off with the grace of the ages
Was it muffled steps they heard
Or the shots from the police pistol range
Or the throbbing of a hovering helicopter
O, I may see these seven Great Egrets forever
These words seal that memory
BBC Officers for 2002-2003
President............................... Pete Webb
Vice President....................... no one as yet
Treasurer.............................. Anne Brooks
Recording Secretary.............Carol Schreter
Corresponding Secretary.... Roberta Ross
Membership Secretaries......Dorothy Gustafson
Adriana Masiarova Frangos
Nominating Committee-to be chosen by the board
Logging in State Forests
As long suspected, the public's preference to protect State forests conflicts with current state policies that encourage timbering. Thus, the issue of logging in State forests is likely to arise in the State General Assembly this session, when it meets from January - April. This background information should help you understand developments.
In an October 2001 telephone survey commissioned by a coalition of environmental organizations and conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, a well-respected survey research firm, a representative sample of Maryland voters was asked their opinions toward logging in state forests.
- More than 80% of Maryland voters say it is "very important" for State forests to provide clean air and water, or habitat for wildlife (82% and 89% respectively). Approximately half of voters say it is "very important" to spend additional tax dollars to acquire more forests for these purposes.
- Only 4% of Maryland voters say that logging in State forests is considered "very important." Approximately 80% of voters, in rural as well as metropolitan areas, say it is not important to spend more public funds to acquire forests for the purpose of logging.
Only 10% of all Maryland forest is owned by the public. Unless an area is specifically designated as "Wildlands," the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allows logging. DNR has been contracting for logging on 50% of publicly owned State forests, on a 50 year cycle, generating $3 million dollars a year. Part of the timbering fee goes to the counties where logging occur.
Most publicly managed land is privately owned -- by individuals or corporations (i.e., lumber companies) who have voluntarily signed agreements with DNR. These agreements provide tax breaks for timbering.
Instead of encouraging the harvesting of trees, our policies could be focused on protecting forested land for human recreation, habitat for wildlife, protecting endangered species, and the forest's ability to improve our air and water quality.
As an important first step, in January 2002 Delegate Dembrow of Montgomery County plans to submit a bill which would ban logging in all State forests, unless the deed which transferred ownership of the forest to the state contains a covenant that requires logging.
So watch for legislation that bans logging on State lands. Consider asking your state delegate to co-sponsor this bill, and to vote for it.
To keep abreast of legislative developments in Annapolis, subscribe to Conservation Report. Weekly issues December - April cost $15 for new subscribers, $30 for others. Send your check, payable to MCC, to Conservation Report, 1825 North Forest Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21207-6506. Or phone (410) 448-2362.
"We Appreciate…" Corner
We appreciate ROBERTA ROSS - Always there when you need her! A few of her duties over nine years of working as our Membership Secretary included sending reminders of dues owed, keeping track of new and old members in the club and a lot of record keeping. Roberta always wears a smile, which reflects her good humor. Her usual response to a request is "Sure, I'll do that!" Roberta's latest tour of duty in the BBC will be as Corresponding Secretary. Thank you Roberta!
Send in your "We appreciate…" nomination to Gail Frantz (see "Back Yard Birding")
Field Trip Reports
Compiled by Steve Sanford
Nov 10 - Horsehead Wetlands - Most of the activity was reserved for the end of the walk in the inlet northeast of the parking area. There were 1000+ Ruddy Ducks, several hundred Lesser Scaup and Buffleheads, 5 Common Loons, and a hovering Bald Eagle. Land-bird highlights included: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Purple Finch, mostly near the inlet. There was also a heard-only Brown-headed Nuthatch near the headquarters. 11 observers saw 53 species. Weather: 40 to 50 degrees with chilly wind. Leader: Kevin Graff.
December 1 - Southern Maryland - Highlights of the trip were: about half a dozen Gannets passing fairly close to Point Lookout, and several Brown Pelicans; 3 scoter species, mainly Surf Scoters, all of them quite distant however; lots of Common Loons everywhere, with the best being one very close to the fishing pier that we could clearly watch as it swam underwater chasing a school of tiny fish; Brown-headed Nuthatches at Fort Lincoln, seen through a scope by some; scads of chattering Bluebirds at the Point; and six species of woodpeckers within about 10 minutes at Stoakley Road in Calvert County – all the Maryland woodpeckers except Red-headed. Most of the expected waterfowl species were at the Point but almost all were quite distant. Unfortunately, the Harris' Sparrow that had been at Point Lookout for about a week had departed. It was a beautiful late-spring day, even if it was December 1 on the calendar, with the Bay waters as calm as they get. It was mostly sunny, no wind, temps reached the low 70's! 78 species. 17 participants. Leader: Steve Sanford.
Southern California Trip
By Joel Martin
In early October I had the opportunity to visit Southern California for the first time. The official purpose of the trip was to attend a job-related conference in Costa Mesa, south of LA, but the prospect of birding some new ground added an extra incentive. After months of negotiating with my bosses the go-ahead was given in late September. By then, "fear of flying" had taken on a new meaning, but this opportunity was not going to come again. So, armed with my ABA/Lane guide, AAA maps and lots of advice from MDOspreyers (including your Chip Notes editor), I swallowed my trepidation and a handful of Advil and took off for The Coast.
My plan was to use early mornings and free time during the three-day conference to bird as many Orange County locations as possible. Then following the conference I took two extra days to travel inland, looping through the San Jacinto Mountains to the desert and back again to the coast. True, this itinerary increased the ratio of hours driving to hours birding and probably cost me some easy target birds. But having never been to California I wanted to experience a variety of habitats and bird life.
There are many great birding locations right in Orange County and they were all very good to me in spite of my limited time. I visited Huntington Central Park, Bolsa Chica, several state beaches, Upper Newport Bay and the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. I found most of my coastal target birds, including Eared and Western Grebe, White-tailed Kite, Snowy Plover, Wandering Tattler (love that name!), Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Elegant Tern and the expected gulls, as well as Anna’s and Costa’s Hummingbirds and the ubiquitous Bushtits and California Towhees. On the first full day following the conference I toured the San Jacinto Valley, the San Jacinto Mountains and the Palm Springs area, picking up more goodies including Acorn Woodpecker, Band-tailed Pigeon, Townsend’s Warbler and Greater Roadrunner. Horrendous traffic in Palm Springs kept me from reaching the Salton Sea before dark, but the drive did hold one surprise, Lesser Nighthawk. I made the difficult decision to skip the Salton Sea altogether, spending the night in Borrego Springs and starting my last full day at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park at dawn. Good move! This hauntingly beautiful park yielded California Quail, White-winged Dove, Cactus and Rock Wren, Verdin, Phainopepla, and Black-throated Sparrow, among others. An afternoon trip to Lake Hodges near San Diego produced California Gnatcatcher (finally!) as well as Cassin’s Kingbird and Wrentit. The day and the trip ended back in Orange County at Crystal Cove State Park, where in a last-ditch effort I stumbled onto a singing California Thrasher.
The final tally was 132 species with 42 life birds. In retrospect I might have done some things differently, spending more time in the foothills and mountains, but overall I was very pleased with the results. A proper birding tour would require several more days at least. Southern California is a land of extremes and contradictions, and the traffic is bad at all times in nearly all places. But the varied habitats and the many specialty birds make it a spectacular destination for a lifelong Easterner.
By Kevin Graff
I arrived at Ft Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport on Friday December 14 around 10:30pm, after several delays at BWI and Philadelphia with rain and fog. Saturday morning started off with several Eurasian Collared-Doves outside my motel. Heading to Everglades National Park on State Road 9336 I saw 1 Mottled Duck at the canal, 2 Anhingas at Canal C-111, 1 Loggerhead Shrike, 2 Western Kingbirds, among other species.
Two miles from the entrance to Everglades National Park, I stopped by the road that leads to Southern Glade Youth Camp (boys' prison) to see some of the good birds reported on the Florida RBA a few days before my trip. I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes, a Limpkin, a Bell's Vireo, an adult White-tailed Kite, a Brown-crested Flycatcher, several Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrows, and pipits.
I arrived at Everglades National Park by mid morning. Highlights were:
5 Reddish Egrets at the first marshes inside park; a Short-tailed Hawk along the road to Pine Island Maintenance & Residential area; 3 Anhingas and a Short-tailed Hawk on Anhinga Trail; 2 Loggerhead Shrikes, 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 5 Pine Warblers, 1 Prairie Warbler on the roadside toward and beyond research center; 2 Least Flycatchers at Pa-hay-okee Overlook; 1 possible White-crowned Pigeon in mangrove trail at West Lake. Snake Bight Trail was the worst of any trails for MOSQUITOES!!!! I had to run 1.8 miles to get to the end of the trail to avoid getting bitten, but saw 5 Greater Flamingoes and several wading birds.
At Joe Kemp Key and Florida Bay behind Flamingo Visitor Center there were: 73 White Ibis, 13 Snowy Egrets, 22 Little Blue Herons, 10 Great Egrets, 1 Roseate Spoonbill, 1 Gull-billed Tern, 3 Common Terns. Eco Pond, the best birding site anywhere in Everglades NP, featured 19 White Ibis, 24 Little Blue Herons, 7 Great Egrets, 5 Snowy Egrets, 4 Tricolored Herons, 16 Common Moorhens, 1 Purple Gallinule, 1 Cattle Egret, 1 American Bittern, 2 White Pelicans (flyby), White-winged Dove, a Painted Bunting, and many passerines along the trail that loops around the pond; behind the pond were 1 Great White Heron, 1 Great Egret, 1 Roseate Spooonbill, 1 Tricolored Heron, 1 Little Blue Heron. On the Coastal Prairie Trail, the longest of any trails I walked on, over two hours from C-Loop Campground to the southwest corner of the Everglades, were: Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, and a lot of White and Brown Pelicans. Before dusk, at C-Loop Campground, I saw one Lesser Nighthawk flying by. Many of them were seen by Florida birders this past couple weeks.
On Sunday December 16, 2001 my first stop was at Boynton Beach Inlet south of Palm Beach to search for the Sabine's Gull reported a while ago. I couldn't find it, but saw the major four gulls species, Royal, Sandwich, and Common Terns, 1 Purple Sandpiper, 15 Sanderlings. At Hendricks Isle Drive in Ft Lauderdale were 2 Chestnut-fronted Macaws (not on AOU list) and 2 Canary-winged "White-winged" Parakeets (lifer), many hundred of parakeets and a small macaw was reported in this area over a week ago. At the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Observation Area were 45 Cattle Egrets, a Loggerhead Shrike, and one immature Burrowing Owl. (I first checked out other sites for Burrowing Owl in the same area but some of it was empty and other was gobbled up by houses). In front of the National Car Rental building I saw 4 Monk Parakeets building nests in Australian Pine, also 2 Wood Storks soaring and heading west.
This was one of my best birding trips and the weather was great: 82 degrees during the day and 77 at night. I added about 40 new species to my new life-list with a total of 120 species or less for two days of birding. Also plenty of alligators. Took some pictures of them.
Thanks to everybody for giving my tips on birding sites and special thanks to Steve Sanford for letting me borrow his ABA Guide "A Birder’s Guide to Florida" . It really helped me a lot for directions. Thanks again to all. Now I plan on to Colorado in summer 2002 and maybe Texas in Dec 2002.
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.
On December 27 John Landers saw a Snowy Owl at Garrett Heights Elementary School near his home in Hamilton (NE Baltimore City). He kindly called many BBC birders who saw it the same afternoon. Your hapless Chip Notes Editor, however, could not be reached due to his EICD (Excessive Internet Connection Disorder). Let that be a lesson! Unfortunately the owl was gone by the next day. A search of nearby areas, as well as Fort McHenry failed to locate it. On the other hand, nearby Holy Redeemer Cemetery, with many hundreds of graves topped with white angels and saints, could easily hide the owl all winter. A Snowy Owl could be seen sometimes during December at Bombay Hook NWR, Delaware also
A Harris' Sparrow was in prominent view at the end of Point Lookout in southern Maryland for about a week in late November. You can see some really stunning photos of it by Arlene Ripley of Calvert County at: http://www.nestbox.com/harris.htm
A Western Kingbird was on good view at Eastern Neck NWR off and on during December. Pictures can be seen at: http://www.geocities.com/bfbooby/WKingbird.html . A Western Tanager was seen occasionally for a few days in mid-December in northern Montgomery County. An adult Golden Eagle was seen November 10 and 11 at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County.
Back Yard Birding and Beyond
By Gail Frantz
I was enjoying these birds when another bird flew in -a Downy Woodpecker. As I was watching it spiral up a tree trunk, a larger bird flew in behind it — Red-bellied Woodpecker. So I got to enjoy two woodpeckers on two trees right next to each other. I was enjoying the Red-belly when yet ANOTHER larger bird flew behind it — Northern Flicker. It was almost unbelievable - there were three small trees right next to each other, and on each of them was a different woodpecker. What are the odds of THAT happening?
I went deeper in the woods, and the Yellow-rumps seemed to get even tamer. I pished and they came right in front of my face, literally, to see who the source of the pishing was. I also called out some nice Carolina Wrens. In fact, they started singing as I pished. Not only that, but after a while, they began singing a duet. Then a third bird began singing, and one of the "original" ones came about two feet (!!) in front of my face and serenaded me. He cocked his head back, opened his bill all the way up, and let out an explosive song for me to enjoy.
I also managed to pish out White-throated Sparrows, a Blue Jay, and some American Goldfinches. I have also seen (recently) in my yard a large flock of Mourning Doves, and I heard a large flock of Cedar Waxwings lisping high in the trees above, but never did see any of them. Today, I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of a Great Blue Heron in a very odd place - it was in a stream below the Beltway while we were sitting in traffic.
Saturday Dec 9: I was doing my Project Feederwatch observations and noticed a female Red-bellied Woodpecker moving down to the base of a tree out front. Once at the bottom she hopped onto the ground and proceeded to peck around in the soil for "what"?, I don't know. She found something a few times and took it over to the tree where she wedged it into the bark to eat. Was it a grub? an acorn? I have no idea. I have never seen a Red-bellied do this; have you?
Harriette Burks, Merlin Update: The Merlin is still (as of today, December 12) in my neighborhood. It is almost a daily visitor to the walnut tree where I first spotted it. Once in a while I watch it dine. Sometimes a solitary and silent crow pesters it, making it fly to another perch. It is usually bothered when it is eating. Is the crow trying to get the Merlin to drop its catch? I must say the bird has brightened my days. I think it's female, but my eyes are old and slow.
Trouble ID'ing Birds?
Sally Rowe writes: ... a close friend of mine who is a novice birder, saw her first Pine Siskins last week. She described them as "goldfinches in striped pajamas!"
from: Elfreida Carney
I watched a male Red-bellied woodpecker trying to make a home. He eventually attracted a female, who allowed him to chip away while she mosied up and down the trunk looking for meals. My grandson Tim lent me his scope and I watch the 2 of them for several days. One day, as I peered through the scope I saw a head come out of the hole. It was a starling who had taken over the nest. I never saw the 2 woodpeckers there again and the woodpecker tree has unfortunately been cut down.
Paul Noel made an solo walk at Cylburn on October 11. Not many birds but he did get a good look at a late Palm Warbler.
Let us hear about your Back Yard and Maryland Birding too!!!
Call or write to:
13955 Old Hanover Rd.
Reisterstown MD 21136
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