This Year's BBC Program
By Gail Frantz
Hope you're able to attend the new weekday walks we have scheduled this year:
Can't make the weekday walks?
Then on Saturdays or Sundays you can be among the first birders to:
Indulge yourself with an overnight trip to the Eastern Shore
We’ll spend Sat, Nov 15 with Taylor McLean at Blackwater. Then Sun (Nov 16), all day birding with Harry Armistead at Hooper's Island, Maple Dam Rd. impoundments, Bestpitch Ferry Bridge &Griffiths Neck Rd, and Elliott Island.
Visit Elk Neck State Park
Led by Joel Martin on September 14. You’ll find that, in addition to a fine hawk watching spot, the park can also be a great fall migrant trap for songbirds.
You’ll enjoy any of the club's trips but here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
Thanks to Our BBC Trip Leaders:
Your time, patience and enthusiasm make our club a place of learning.
Brent and Mary Byers, Simon Calle, Mary Jo Campbell, Mary Chetelat, Keith Eric Costley, Ruth Culbertson, Shirley Geddes, Kevin Graff, Josie Gray, Dot Gustafson, Elliot Kirschbaum, Peter Lev, Joe Lewandowski, Georgia McDonald, Taylor McLean, Chris Manning, Lenny Marcus, Nancy Meier, Jim Meyers, Alice Nelson, Paul Noel, Patsy Perlman, Jim Peters, Adelaide Rackemann, Bob Rineer, Brian Rollfinke, Steve Sanford, Gene Scarpulla, Carol Schreter, Debbie Terry, Dave Walbeck, Pete Webb, Matilda Weiss, Joy Wheeler.
And Thanks to Gail Frantz!
And Thanks to Gail Frantz!
We all thank Gail for her hard work in putting together the innovative new schedule of activities.
Help for Beginning Birders
By Joan Cwi
Are you a newcomer to the world of birding and wondering how to begin? Where do I go to see birds? Are my binoculars the right kind? What's singing over there? Is that yellow bird a canary? Beginnings can be hard--remember those first steps, first two-wheeler, first tennis game. But with a little instruction and tenacity, the difficult can become second nature — and warblers can be distinguished from canaries. We hope this article will help you with those first steps.
Introductory Birding Courses and Classes
Several courses are offered for beginning birders in the Baltimore area. One excellent resource is provided by The Johns Hopkins University's Odyssey Program. Two courses are offered during Spring and Fall migration. These courses are taught by David Holmes, an excellent birder and enthusiastic teacher who engenders the same passion in his students. Many Baltimore Bird Club members began exploring their interest in birding with David's courses.
Birdwatching: An Introduction is a Saturday half-day course offered in April and October and is meant for people interested in birdwatching but who have little or no field experience. The introductory course is followed by Spring Birdwatching or Fall Birdwatching, classes meant for beginning birders wanting to learn about bird identification or for mid-level birders wanting to brush up on their skills. These courses generally consist of four evening classes and three weekend field trips. They focus on the techniques and challenges of bird identification in the field as well as providing information about fundamental aspects of birding, such as binoculars, field guides, local birding clubs, and good regional birding areas. The field trips are the highlight of the course and shouldn't be missed. For more information call 410-516-4842.
Fortunately Baltimore has other excellent birding courses. A short course on Introduction to Bird Watching, taught by Jack Wennerstrom, is offered at Roland Park Country School (410-323-5500) and David Holmes also teaches introductory birding at the Irvine Center, listed below.
Another option open for those who might want to learn about bird behavior, ecology and conservation is the Home Study Course in Bird Biology offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The course is produced at an introductory college level and does not require a background in biology or science. The website is www.birds.cornell.edu/homestudy.
Guided Bird Walks for Beginners and Families
Although course work gives structure and background to birding, nothing beats the actual experience of birdwatching. There are several local programs oriented toward beginners and families. The following locations offer bird walks plus a variety of other educational opportunities:
And, of course, beginners are encouraged to join the bird walks posted in Chip Notes and The Maryland Yellowthroat. Be sure to let the group leader know you are a beginner and you will get extra help in improving your skills. Birders at all skill levels will be happy to help you in refining your identification techniques.
$ Dues Are Due $
It's time to send in your yearly membership dues. Please send them in the dues envelope included with this Chip Notes. If you have any questions, or if the envelope was not included, please contact our Membership Secretary:
J. Catherine Bishop
6111 Bellona Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21212
Dues are $40 for an individual or $50 for a household. See the enclosed dues envelope for full details on all categories.
Maryland’s Program Open Space
By Peter Lev
Many Baltimore birders have never heard of Program Open Space, yet they have enjoyed the benefits of this far-sighted land preservation program. Maryland’s Program Open Space uses a .5% real estate transfer tax to fund parks, recreation facilities, conservation easements, state forests, wildlife areas and natural environment areas. The beauty of this program is that development itself causes money to be set aside for land preservation.
In Baltimore County, Program Open Space has partially funded Cromwell Valley Park, Marshy Point Nature Center, and virtually every park project of the last twenty years. In Baltimore City there is less land available for acquisition, but Program Open Space has partially funded Southwest Area Park and has been used to refurbish older parks and to build playgrounds. Since this is a statewide program, every county in the state has benefited from Program Open Space money. Thanks largely to Program Open Space, the Sierra Club in 1999 ranked Maryland #1 among the fifty states in open space protection.
Unfortunately, Program Open Space’s funding mechanism is an easy target whenever revenues decline. Governor Schaefer diverted most of the dedicated transfer tax into the state’s general fund in the recession of 1992; Program Open Space regained full funding several years later.
Now Governor Ehrlich, faced with large deficits, has put the entire Fiscal Year 2004 transfer tax, about $80 million, into the general fund. He has substituted about $30 million in one-time bond funds. That Program Open Space was not zeroed out is good news. However, bond funding must compete with other projects, and so continued funding of land preservation is not guaranteed.
Next time you visit a Maryland state or county park, look for a sign acknowledging Program Open Space funding. Think about how much you personally have benefited from this wonderfully designed land preservation program. Program Open Space is a brilliant idea that has put Maryland in the forefront of national conservation efforts. Birders of all political persuasions should support Program Open Space, and should ask their legislators to restore the program’s full funding.
(Thanks to Rich Dolesh of the National Recreation and Park Association for talking to me about Program Open Space.)
Board of Directors Meetings
By Carol Schreter, Recording Secretary
The BBC Board met on March 11, April 8, May 13 and June 10, 2003.
A budget was approved for next year. The Board learned that BBC finished this year with a $2,000 surplus. Paula Warner, our new Treasurer, agreed to place a summary annual report in the August/ September issue of Chip Notes each year, so that members are kept informed about BBC's finances.
Baltimore City started renovating Cylburn Mansion. How will this affect BBC activities? Lecture Chair Debbie Terry will schedule the monthly lectures next year at Sherwood House in Cromwell Valley Park. Because we cannot use the Sherwood House kitchen, the January Covered Dish Supper will be scheduled for Cylburn, and hopefully not need to be canceled.
At the April Meeting the Board decided that the new "Field Trip Leader Guidelines" created by Paula Warner should be put on-line with the Field Trip Checklist.
Scholarship Chair Ben Poscover reported that three Baltimore nominees, educators, received MOS scholarships for a week at an Audubon Society Nature Camp this summer.
In May the Board reviewed a revised "Checklist of Birds for Cylburn Arboretum" created by President Pete Webb. This update of a 1994 checklist by Mark Pemburn will be distributed from the Cylburn Mansion entry hall.
In June the Board voted (unanimous) to allow the Conservation Committee to write Delaware's Fish &Wildlife Service in support of proposed regulations to close the season for horseshoe crab harvesting during the spawning season, from May 1 to June 7 each year. Migrating shorebirds, now in a steep decline, depend on these eggs as they fly north to Arctic breeding grounds.
May Count 2003
Organized by Debbie Terry — Compiled by Steve Sanford
Despite a fair amount of rain from mid-morning to early afternoon 59 observers in 24 parties scoured Baltimore City and County for the May Count. Numbers were down for many species, probably due to the day's weather, but we came out with 165 species, same as last year. We missed Bald Eagle and Wild Turkey. Pheasant, and Bobwhite were absent again, reflecting the loss of field habitat.
The 41 species shown in bold print on the list are ones that were seen by one party only, showing that each party can make a valuable contribution.
Many thanks to our counters:
Denise Bayusik, Anne Brooks, Don Burggraf, Brent Byers, Mary Byers, Cecilia Calle, Simon Calle, Mary Jo Campbell, Catherine Carroll, Ruth Culbertson, Joanne Dreyer, Marke Eanes, Rebecca Eanes, Gail Frantz, Helene Gardel, Shirley Geddes, Kevin Graff, Josie Gray, Dot Gustafson, Jim Highsaw, Barbara Israel, Kye Jenkins, Sukon Kanchanaraksa, Elliott Kirschbaum, Nancy Kirschbaum, Elise Kreiss, Paul Kreiss, Dolly Learing, Peter Lev, Joseph Lewandowski, Mark Linardi, Sheila Mains, Rob Mardiney, Dan McDonald, Georgia McDonald, Michele Melia, Jim Meyers, Joanne Meyers, Sharon Morell, Alice Nelson, Paul Noell, Eric Perlman, Patsy Perlman, Jim Peters, Leanne Pemburn, Mark Pemburn, Mac Plant, Roger Redden, Brian Rollfinke, Steve Sanford, Gene Scarpulla, Carol Schreter, Sondra Stafford, Wendy Taparanskas, Debbie Terry, David Thorndill, Pete Webb, Betsy Williams, Marion Wilson.
Red-throated Loon 0 Common Loon 16 Horned Grebe 2 Double-crested Cormorant 119 Great Blue Heron 38 Great Egret 4 Snowy Egret 1 Cattle Egret 9 Green Heron 13 Black-crowned Night-Heron 4 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 3 night heron sp. 1 Black Vulture 16 Turkey Vulture 73 Canada Goose 293 Mute Swan 2 Wood Duck 20 Gadwall 3 American Black Duck 3 Mallard 258 Green-winged Teal 2 Greater Scaup 9 Ruddy Duck 11 Osprey 33 Northern Harrier 2 Sharped-shinned Hawk 1 Cooper's Hawk 3 Red-shouldered Hawk 11 Broad-winged Hawk 1 Red-tailed Hawk 9 buteo sp. 1 American Kestrel 4 Virginia Rail 2 Black-bellied Plover 1 Semipalmated Plover 12 Killdeer 17 Greater Yellowlegs 12 Lesser Yellowlegs 6 Solitary Sandpiper 20 Willet 1 Spotted Sandpiper 57 Ruddy Turnstone 3 Semipalmated Sandpiper 18 Western Sandpiper 16 Least Sandpiper 84 White-rumped Sandpiper 1 Dunlin 15 peep sp. 70 Laughing Gull 2 Ring-billed Gull 314 Herring Gull 149 Lesser Black-backed Gull 2 Great Black-backed Gull 91 Caspian Tern 312 Royal Tern 1 Foster's Tern 1 Least Tern 5 Rock Dove 115 Mourning Dove 242 Black-billed Cuckoo 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo 7 Great Horned Owl 2 Barred Owl 5 Common Nighthawk 1 Whip-poor-will 3 Chimney Swift 1435 Ruby-throated Hummingbird 8 Belted Kingfisher 8 Red-bellied Woodpecker 92 Downy Woodpecker 36 Hairy Woodpecker 9 Northern Flicker 22 Pileated Woodpecker 11 Eastern Wood-Pewee 10 Acadian Flycatcher 21 Willow Flycatcher 3 Least Flycatcher 1 empidonax sp. 3 Eastern Phoebe 18 Great-crested Flycatcher 45 Eastern Kingbird 59 White-eyed Vireo 37 Blue-headed Vireo 2 Yellow-throated Vireo 10 Warbling Vireo 12 Red-eyed Vireo 203 Blue Jay 151 American Crow 325 Fish Crow 27 crow sp. 11 Purple Martin 9 Tree Swallow 136 N. Rough-winged Swallow 63 Bank Swallow 10 Cliff Swallow 25 Barn Swallow 258 Carolina Chickadee 122 Tufted Titmouse 147 White-breasted Nuthatch 23 Carolina Wren 51 House Wren 68 Marsh Wren 5 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 106 Eastern Bluebird 45 Veery 36 Gray-cheeked Thrush 1 Swainson's Thrush 31 Hermit Thrush 1 Wood Thrush 193 American Robin 354 Gray Catbird 462 Northern Mockingbird 139 Brown Thrasher 19 European Starling 568 American Pipit 1 Cedar Waxwing 62 Blue-winged Warbler 3 Tennessee Warbler 1 Nashville Warbler 2 Northern Parula 85 Yellow Warbler 95 Chestnut-sided Warbler 26 Magnolia Warbler 27 Cape May Warbler 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler 119 Yellow-rumped Warbler 156 Black-throated Green Warbler 40 Blackburnian Warbler 7 Pine Warbler 7 Prairie Warbler 8 Palm Warbler 1 Bay-breasted Warbler 2 Blackpoll Warbler 29 Cerulean Warbler 1 Black-and-white Warbler 91 American Redstart 113 Worm-eating Warbler 14 Ovenbird 118 Northern Waterthrush 12 Louisiana Waterthrush 20 Kentucky Warbler 12 Common Yellowthroat 193 Hooded Warbler 4 Wilson's Warbler 4 Canada Warbler 7 Yellow-breasted Chat 6 Scarlet Tanager 90 Eastern Towhee 60 Chipping Sparrow 138 Field Sparrow 21 Savannah Sparrow 22 Grasshopper Sparrow 2 Song Sparrow 136 Lincoln's Sparrow 1 Swamp Sparrow 13 White-throated Sparrow 86 White-crowned Sparrow 12 Northern Cardinal 324 Rose-breasted Grosbeak 30 Blue Grosbeak 5 Indigo Bunting 97 Bobolink 159 Red-winged Blackbird 367 Eastern Meadowlark 1 Common Grackle 411 Brown-headed Cowbird 75 Orchard Oriole 26 Baltimore Oriole 87 House Finch 125 American Goldfinch 277 House Sparrow 221 Species Total 165
Field Trip Reports
Compiled by Cathy Carroll
with Gail Frantz (GF), Joe Lewandowski (JL), and Steve Sanford (SS) where indicated
NOTE: Field trip reports should now be sent to:
3625 Elm Ave
Baltimore MD 21211
Just as the 2003 winter birding season provided birding challenges and opportunities, the weather of our spring birding season has often been and uninvited guest. All the same, I am sure that those who got out a few times will still say it was a great spring migration. It seemed to many that we waited a long time for the birds to finally arrive, but when they did, they arrived in force.
March 9 - Loch Raven. Leader, Debbie Terry writes: "Weeks after the 28" snowstorm, we trudged through 3" to 4" of leftover snow cover - a great cardio-vascular workout! Four Red-necked Grebes were a definite highlight. One of the Grebes was beginning to show breeding plumage on the back of his neck which was very red along with a developing white cheek patch. Other highlights were three N. Pintails, 35 Canvasbacks, 50 Redheads and 15 Tundra Swans. The two young Bald Eagles were fun to watch as they soared over the nervous ducks and swans." 44 species. (GF)
March 15 - Middle Creek WMA. Nine birders enjoyed the spectacle of thousands of migrating Snow Geese gathered on the main lake and in the sky around this wildlife refuge in northern Lancaster County, Pa. Due to ice on the lake the geese were concentrated near the southernmost viewpoint. With bright blue skies, and the sun behind the birders, the scene was dazzling. Another group of thousands of Snow Geese was in the fields to the north, almost within touching distance. There were 13 species of waterfowl overall including many Tundra Swans. Bald Eagles were seen on a nest and in flight. The feeders at the visitor center gave close views of Tree Sparrows. Temperatures were around 45° to 55°. The species total was 40. Leader: Steve Sanford. (SS)
March 23 - Cylburn Sunday. Blue skies, warm and sunny. Good views of a Red-shouldered Hawk, Fox and White-throated Sparrows. A Winter Wren was seen by a few. 9 birders. 23 species. (JL)
March 25 - Lake Roland. Leader Adelaide Rackemann reports: "First Black-crowned Night Heron of the season was seen briefly in flight. Elliot Kirschbaum made the observation that the Rough-winged and Barn Swallows we watched swooping high over the foot bridge, were the earliest he'd ever seen at Lake Roland. 41 species, 19 participants." (GF)
April 1 - Lake Roland. Leader, Mary Chetelat: "Everyone saw the Red-throated Loon up close and in good light - not an April Fool's joke!" 41 species, 15 participants. (GF)
April 2 - Fort McHenry. Leader, Jim Peters : "The 3 Red-throated Loons were the most seen since the wetland project began. ...Two Red-necked Grebes, one in summer plumage and the other in winter. Lovely singing Brown Thrasher. Everyone enjoyed a clear look at a Brown Creeper. Woodcock probings were easily seen on the path by the wetland." 42 species, 8 participants. (GF)
April 6 - Cylburn Sunday. Sunny, windy and cold day. Choice birds of the day were Cooper's Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Kingfisher and Magnolia Warbler. 7 birders. 30 species. (JL)
April 8 - Lake Roland. Leader, Patsy Perlman reports: "Very gray, COLD, clammy and overcast. By the end of the walk there were only 13 hardy souls left. Outstanding bird of the day and first of the season, was a Black-and-white Warbler!" 36 species, 23 participants. (GF)
April 13 - Cylburn Sunday. Sunny, cool. 28 species which included Hermit Thrush, Chipping Sparrow, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Rufous-sided Towhee, Tree Swallow, and Junco as our good-look-at species for the day. 10 participants. (JL)
April 22 - Lake Roland. Leader, Dot Gustafson: "For this early date, we had a total of 8 warbler species. Many people had good looks at a Blue-headed vireo and a Blue-winged teal." 66 species, 18 participants. (GF)
April 13 - Southwest Area Park and Cherry Hill. Leader, David Walbeck: "From the parking lot at Southwest Area Park we entered the woods and found Brown Creeper, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Phoebe, Brown Thrasher, Hermit Thrush and a Louisiana Waterthrush that was in plain view for about ten minutes. The emergent wetland yielded a Lesser Yellowlegs and three Green-winged Teal. Two Red-throated Loons were on the tidal pond and seen at close range from the bridge by the new boat ramp. We heard two Ring-necked Pheasants call but didn't them. Finally, in Cherry Hill Park, we flushed two male Pheasants and saw a Kestrel." 43 species. 7 participants. (GF)
April 15 - Lake Roland. 49 species, 21 participants. Everyone got a good look at the Brown Creeper and all three warbler species we saw today, Yellow-rumped, Palm and Louisiana Waterthrush. (GF)
April 20 - Cylburn Sunday. Sunny, mild day at the Arboretum. 7 birders helped us find 27 species. Chimney Swift, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Towhee, Cormorant, Fish Crow, and Barn Swallows were our signature species this day. Warblers are still scarce in the area. Hopefully, they will appear shortly. (JL)
April 20 - Huntley Meadows. Pete Webb led four members of the BBC and two Montgomery county birders on a trip around Huntley Meadows (Alexandria, VA). The hoped-for American Bittern was not found, but it was still a great trip with 72 species seen and or heard altogether. Highlights were unusually good, close views of an Ovenbird feeding on the ground by the footpath, hundreds of Rusty Blackbirds ground feeding in the wet woods at the edge of the marsh, at least five Palm Warblers ground-feeding near the observation tower and three sharing a small tree stub with a pair of Bluebirds, a Song Sparrow and a Common Yellowthroat. Views of Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows and Northern Rough-winged Swallows sharing a small snag was a three-swallow delight. The trip closed with a visit to Piscataway Park in Prince Georges county looking for the Prothonotary Warbler, and one male was heard and seen - a life bird for two trip members, as well as Maryland's first 2003 Eastern Wood-Pewee. An adult Bald Eagle soared over the parking lot to wrap up the show.
April 22 - Lake Roland. Leader Dot Gustafson writes: including a total of eight warbler species. Many people had good looks at the Blue-headed Vireo and the Blue-winged Teal. 66 species, 17 participants. (GF)
April 26 - Marriotsville Warblers. On April 26th, despite overcast skies and the promise of heavy rains, six intrepid BBC members showed up for Paul Noell's Marriotsville Warbler trip. True to the weather predictions, it rained - HARD! This did not dampen the enthusiasm of those who attended eager to see the season's first migrants. The rainy weather made for a disappointing species count, but good birds were seen nevertheless. Best sighting was a close-up Worm-eating Warbler, and the first Wood Thrush was heard singing. Also, there were good looks at Palm Warblers, Northern Parulas, Louisiana Waterthrush, Towhees, Chippies and White-throated Sparrows. A somnolent raccoon was curled up in the top of an exposed snag, oblivious to the rain. A Barred Owl was heard for the final note.
April 27 - Woodstock/Granite area, Patapsco Valley State Park. Just as the rain was relentless the day before, one could not have asked for a more perfect day to bird Patapsco Valley State Park. Keith Eric Costley led a group of at least 10-12 birders on an athletic hike of approximately five miles along varied terrain. Because of the degree of hiking difficulty, Keith almost upstaged the birds and took field trip leadership to new heights when he produced a beautifully colored map of the trip course and which detailed several 'easy outs' for those who tired or who had to leave early. Whether they were leaving early or not, almost everyone took one of Keith's proffered maps simply because it was so impressive. There were many highlights on this 70 species field trip - a Common Loon calling as six flew north high overhead, Wood Duck, four hawk species, four vireo species, twelve warbler species including singing Prairie Warblers (life bird for a few trip members), and Prothonotary and Black-throated Green warblers. Maryland's first reported 2003 Scarlet Tanager was seen flying over. Finally, for those who remained to the end, the season's first Ruby-throated Hummingbird for many was seen sipping nectar from a flowering bush.
April 27 - Chimney Swifts in Hampden. At dusk, between 7:48 PM and 8:22 PM, trip leader Carol Schreter and 13 other participants counted 1,063 migrating Chimney Swifts dropping into the Mill Center chimney in Hampden. A gradual process, the group never saw more than 50 or 60 Swifts in the air at one time. With this impressive count, it is very apparent how important the Hampden chimneys are to this little flying wonder.
April 27 - Cylburn Sunday. With some sun and mild temperatures in the 50's, 12 birders decided to walk the grounds of Cylburn. Birding was good, with 38 species seen. Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Cooper's Hawk, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Worm-eating Warbler, Bluebird, Yellow Warbler, Veery, Wood Thrush, Solitary Sandpiper, and Redstart were some of the key species seen today. (JL)
April 29 - Lake Roland. Highlights were Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, both Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Caspian Tern, four vireo species and seven warbler species including Black-throated Blue Warbler. This trip was lead by Debbie Terry and attended by eighteen others. 63 species were seen and/or heard.
May 3 - Milford Mill Park. Warbler migration was beginning to be in full throttle for this walk lead by Len Marcus and Simon Calle and attended by fourteen others. Highlights were dazzling-plumaged Chestnut-sided Warblers, nesting Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, singing Wood Thrush, two Veeries displaying courtship behavior, Baltimore Oriole, and finally toward the end of the walk, Steve Sanford found one of his favorite species - three beautiful Rose-breasted Grosbeaks - seen by all.
May 4 - Cylburn Sunday. It was a cool, overcast day. The Bluebird, Baltimore Oriole, Solitary Sandpiper, Warbling Vireo, and Scarlet Tanager were our signature species on this trip. 11 birders. 30 species. (JL)
May 6 - Lake Roland. Highlight of this cool, drizzling Tuesday morning walk led by Shirley Geddes and attended by thirteen others was a Kentucky Warbler among the fifteen warbler species seen. Final tally was 74 species which also included Swainson's Thrush and Orchard Oriole.
May 11 - Cylburn Sunday. Overcast and mild; temperature in the 50's. Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Parula Warbler, Black-and- white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Prothonotary Warbler were the major warbler species on the grounds. Ovenbird, Cedar Waxwing, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, a Swainson's Thrush, Indigo Bunting, and a Orchard Oriole rounded out our major finds for the day. 15 birders. 49 species. (JL)
May 13 - Lake Roland. Twenty persons attended this self-guided walk around Lake Roland on a cool, clear, very windy morning. They reported a total of 66 species, the highlight of which is unusual for Lake Roland - a Semi-palmated Plover amongst many Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers. Also seen were four Yellow-crowned Night Herons, a singing Swainson's Thrush (seen as well as heard), and two pairs of Scarlet Tanagers were very visible.
May 17 - Patuxent North Tract Research Refuge. Six expectant field trip participants did not allow the rain to deter them or leader Steve Sanford to stay in bed for this trip. And, it's a good thing. There were so many great birds it is hard to know where to begin. They included Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (seen and heard), Alder Flycatcher (heard only), well-seen Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Prothonotary, Wilson's, Prairie and Hooded Warblers (among a total of 23 warbler species), Blue Grosbeaks, and, of course, Summer Tanagers.
May 18 - Owings Mills Mall Wetland. The rain still had not stopped the following morning when Keith Costley led nine participants on a walk around Owings Mills Mall wetland. The area seemed thick with both Baltimore and Orchard orioles. A Pied-billed Grebe was found on the pond near the movie theater. Three vireo species, including good looks at White-eyed Vireo were enjoyed. Finally, nine warbler species were found including Wilson's Warbler. Earlier on his scouting trip, Keith found Blue Grosbeak and Ovenbird but could not find it again later that morning. Probably had something to do with the rain!
May 20 - Lake Roland. Gail Frantz and Elliot Kirschbaum led sixteen others on this walk to tally 69 species. Highlights were clear weather, nesting Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Acadian Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Sandpiper and Semi-palmated Plover.
May 27 - Lake Roland. Ruth Culbertson reported "a slow day, but nice to have some new members with us." Seventeen others joined Ruth to walk the road. After all the rain the paths were muddy. 62 species were tallied with lots of singing Blackpolls. Other good birds included Common Nighthawk, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed and Warbling vireos, Veery and Cedar Waxwing.
May 31 - Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Except for a couple of showers, the rains held off and Pete Webb led five other BBC members and two guests on a whirlwind trip around Bombay Hook and Port Mahon Rd. as the tide was receding. Goal: shorebirds. The cream of the crop was a White-rumped Sandpiper that Pete picked out of a hundred Semipalmated Sandpipers. He was then able to keep his eyes on it and describe it so everyone else could see it, too. Other highlights of this great trip: Ring-necked Pheasant pair, Clapper Rails, Black-bellied Plovers, nesting Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, Red Knots, flyby Glossy Ibis, Black Skimmers, Royal Terns and the clearest views one could ever hope to have of singing Marsh Wrens. The Seaside Sparrows were there too, but elusive. Great trip!
June 1 - Birds of the Jones Falls. Leader, Brian Rollfinke writes: "A new cold front passing through meant it was awfully breezy which made it difficult for us to hear singing birds. Despite the weather (a phrase probably reiterated a zillion times this spring!), we had a very enjoyable morning featuring great looks a Yellow-crowned Night Heron devouring a crayfish and a Great Blue Heron, both at very close range. We also observed numerous Yellow Warblers, Indigo Buntings and Baltimore Orioles, which added welcome color to a very gray morning. We discovered an active Oriole nest at the tippy-top of a cottonwood and enjoyed watching both male and female traveling to and fro." 44 species (GF)
June 12 - Carroll County Field Birds. Leader Pete Webb reports: "Everybody had a great time and very nice surroundings. Highlights: good looks at most of the target species, including Red-headed Woodpecker, Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows, Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlark. Got rained out of Dickcissel locations after failing to find any at the first site checked. Did see a female Blue Grosbeak with fledged young there." Weather: sunny AM, clouds PM, rain at 2:30 ended the trip, temps in the 70's. 57 species. 7 participants. (SS)
Close Encounter with the Henslow’s Sparrow
In May Cathy Carroll and I went birding at Point Pelee in Ontario. The birding had been wonderful with many species being sighted. The last morning it had been reported that someone had seen a Henslow’s Sparrow near the tip. As there were other unusual birds in that area we decided to go down to see what we could. As we approached the path where the Henslow’s had been sighted we saw some birders from Britain, whom we had met earlier, coming off the path. They reported that they had been unable to find the elusive Sparrow, for all their patience. Wishing us good luck, they headed back to the Visitor’s Center.
As Cathy and I proceeded up the path, we had hardly gone more than a few yards when Cathy sighted the bird sitting in a small evergreen about 12 inches above the ground. Leaving me to keep an eye on the Sparrow, Cathy headed back to find the Brits. Meanwhile I watched as, rather than flying down, the Sparrow carefully worked its way down from the shrub into the long grass. So well camouflaged was the Henslow’s that had I not been able to watch the grass move as it did, I would never have followed its progress. It proceeded apace through the grass gradually finding tender morsels for lunch. I was surprised at how quickly it could cover ground; and I walked slowly along with the Henslow’s as it moved along the side of the path, only a foot or so from my feet.
Soon another couple came along and I directed their view to the Sparrow. Then Cathy returned, not having found the Brits, but finding others to tell them to return to the tip once back at the Visitor’s Center. After about thirty to forty minutes a small group of ten or so, the Brits among them, had gathered to watch the bird as it proceeded to dine on various insects turned up in its’ travels through the grass. Soon we left the group and went our way to find another target bird, the Sedge Wren, which had been sighted. We hoped that the little Sparrow, fortified for its continued journey to its breeding ground, would find a mate and raise its young this year.
While I added many new birds to my life-list that trip, no experience will ever match the close encounter with the tiny Henslow’s Sparrow. For myself at least, it is more thrilling to watch a bird in its activities for a span of time than to add more birds to my list.
About ten years ago my sister and her husband purchased a cabin in Cotopaxi, Colorado. It's a modern log structure built on the side of a mountain top at about 9000 feet above sea level. Their deck is about twenty feet long and offers a cascading view of the various conifers, scrub oak and aspens that make their way down to the valley below. In the distance the snow-capped Sangre De Cristo mountains with their purple-gray base make for a stunning backdrop. Along the deck and onto the adjourning trees they have amassed a nice assortment of bird feeders.
It was here about seven years ago that I started my unofficial life list. I've had the good fortune to visit this retreat on four occasions. Always an avid lover of nature I, along with various family members would often pass the time watching the unfamiliar birds at the feeders. We would also note other species on our walks along the mountain roads. Each time we visited, the new (western) bird species would be researched and logged into a journal. Broad-tailed hummingbirds, Clark's Nutcrackers, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Pygmy Nuthatches, Spotted Towhees, Steller's Jays etc. made their way into our books.
Last September I bought a pair of binoculars and joined the Baltimore Bird Club. After a few meetings and a field trip I became aware of the "Life List." It's a delightful process to not only satisfy the collecting fetish one possesses but more importantly a wonderful way to record life through the interactions of friends and nature. Anyway... I am happy to report that I just returned from a week's vacation (May 18th thru 25) from the hills of Cotopaxi and have added to not only my cabin list but my Life List as well. This was not an easy task because I was with my sister (borderline birder) and my wife (bored birder). For the record and to their credit, I must say that they were very tolerant and even assisted me in several birding endeavors. Highlights (lifers) of the trip were:
1. Bullock's Orioles (4-5 pairs), Swainson's Hawks (including 1 on nest), Western Kingbirds, and Western Meadowlarks along the perimeter of Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Closed - only open on Sat)
2. Green-tailed Towhee (1m), Flycatcher (species), Mountain Bluebirds, and Red-napped Sapsuckers in Estes Park
3. American Dippers along the Arkansas River
4. Black-headed Grosbeaks (numerous), and Dark-eyed Juncos - Gray-headed at cabin feeders.
5. Western Tanagers (7-8) and Williamson's Sapsuckers (1m, 2f) spotted in the mountains around the cabin.
Cylburn Saw-whet Owls
Cylburn Saw-whet Owl|
Photo by Steve Sanford
(accompanied by Keith Costley)
On Tuesday, December 17, I made a lunch-time birding excursion to Cylburn. Hearing some noisy birds I followed the sound to a mobbing scene near the Circle Trail. There, partially hidden in the heavy vines on the trunk of a deciduous tree, was a Saw-whet Owl being harassed by Chickadees and Titmice. I hurried into the mansion and excitedly told Joy Wheeler whereupon they both ran to the site and observed the little owl. The next day Jim Peters and I were unable to locate the bird, but spotted a good bit of "whitewash" and some owl pellets under some pine trees with trunks covered in vines near the wooden gazebo. Returning on Saturday, accompanied by Anne Brooks and Cathy Carroll, where he found the tiny bird once again in one of those pines. On Sunday, more BBC members visited the site and were treated to excellent views of the Saw-whet.
Hard to believe that on Monday I found a second Saw-whet Owl! This bird was in a large spruce near the formal garden and was munching on a little mouse. The other owl was in the same pine tree that it had been seen in earlier. The two owls were seen at once on at least one more occasion after this.
It is very nice to find a bird that elicits such excitement among birders. It gives one a warm feeling to share something special with the fine people of the birding community; but it seems there is always one in the crowd. (If you could pass me a soapbox, I'd like to climb up on my high horse... thank you.) One that gets carried away, and puts their desire to get a better look, or at the best photograph, before the welfare of the bird(s). It was that person [or persons] that thought it would be a good idea cut the vines away from the owl's daytime roost. The owl abandoned this site because it was no longer a good hiding place. For seventeen days I questioned my decision to "expose" the Saw-whets; then I found one again and started to feel a little better.
Owls are very sensitive creatures, and we should always take care not to disturb them too often. Learn more at: mdbirds.org - www.owlpages.com - www.owling.com
Baltimore Bird Club
Annual Report - 2002-2003
Prepared by Anne Brooks - Treasurer
(NOTE: The new treasurer for 2003-2004 is Paula Warner)
INCOME DUES $ 12,010.00 SALES $ 431.50 INTEREST: Checking $ 45.55 Savings $ 94.05 DONATIONS: General $ 665.22 Museum $ 200.00 TOTAL $ 13,446.32 EXPENDITURES MOS Dues $ 5,708.00 Programs $ 1,002.39 Chip Notes $ 1,673.33 Museum $ 1,174.31 Membership Secretary $ 736.20 Conservation Committee $ 42.21 Publicity $ 124.00 Hospitality $ 78.36 Officers $ 61.05 Organization Memberships $ 50.00 Scholarship Committee $ 50.00 Sales Taxes and Postage $ 59.16 General Printing $ 195.00 Miscellaneous $ 210.00 TOTAL $ 11,164.01 Savings Balance $ 9,150.11 Checking Balance $ 4,501.96 Museum Self-Insurance Fund $ 5,940.80 Martin Fund $ 37,233.48
Pileated (and other) Woodpeckers
The Pileated Woodpecker is a fascinating bird to watch. Did you ever see one chipping huge chunks of wood from a tree? Hear his loud, kik,kik,kik call? (Each time I hear it, I’m reminded of the jungle.) And they look so prehistoric!
With a length of 17 inches, Pileated Woodpeckers are huge in comparison to the 6.5 inch length of the Downy Woodpecker. In fact, they are the largest of the North American Woodpeckers.
The Pileated, like other woodpeckers, forages for insects in bark and wood crevices. They nest in excavated tree cavities lined with wood chips. From head to toe, woodpeckers are designed to be able to drill into hard surfaces.
In order to absorb the shock, a woodpecker’s brain case is enlarged and bones are designed to act as shock absorbers. Nostrils are protected from flying sawdust by feathers and they close their eyes just before their bill hits the wood. Woodpeckers have a strong, straight, chisel-shaped bill designed to take the heavy pounding produced when foraging for food or excavating a nest cavity. Tail feathers are stiff and provide support as the woodpecker moves up and down the tree in search of food. Once a likely spot is found, the tail acts as a brace as the bird hammers into the tree. Woodpeckers have zygodactyl feet (two forward-facing toes, two rear-facing). This increases support for clinging to the trunk. The Pileated Woodpecker has feet that are flatter to the tree, so that the heel acts as a further support.
Woodpecker tongues are especially adapted to gathering insects that may be deep in wood crevices. They are barbed, sticky and long relative to the size of the head. In fact, the hyoid apparatus – a set of bones and muscles that control the tongue’s movement – wraps around the entire skull and, depending on the species, either continues around the woodpecker’s eye or is anchored near the nostril. When the woodpecker finds a tasty morsel, the hyoid apparatus pushes forward, enabling the tongue to extend into the tree crevice.
A few facts about the Pileated Woodpecker: They are year-round residents and breed between mid-March and the end of August. Pileated Woodpeckers are monogamous with both parents sharing nest-building and incubating duties. Often the male incubates at night. Females lay 3-5 white eggs, 1.3" The altricial young fledge in 26-28 days.
Source: Sibley, David Allen: The Sibley Guide to Bird Life &Behavior and Ehrlich, Paul et al, The Birder’s Handbook – A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds.
"A Narrow Fellow"
The April morning was one of the unusual ones in April or May this year, sunny and warming. It was early enough to have avoided the annoyance of the dog walkers on "my" Northampton Furnace Trail, perhaps 7;30 AM. Not far into the trail my quiet was shattered not by dogs and their accompanying walkers, but by birds – 7 or 8 of them. They were in a piney area where last year at this time I had found tufts of white feathers which I had interpreted as baby owl feathers. Two or three months before in the late winter I had seen some Barred Owl activity in the vicinity.
When I began to pay attention to the crows that morning they flew noisily, one by one, up from the lower branches of the pines and left. The crow on the lowest branch stayed and cawed with continued agitation. Wanting to check for the presence of feathers (This would count for a "confirmed" on my block, after all.) I walked the few yards toward the persistent crow. The sun shining through the sparse cover of the pines highlighted the crows' concern: a large basking black snake, its head raised, answering the crows' attention, coils spread unevenly. In spite of my exhilaration at witnessing the event, I couldn't help thinking of the Emily Dickinson poem that starts "A Narrow Fellow in the Grass..."
Several of Nature's People I know,
And they know me –
I feel for them a transport of cordiality -
But never met this fellow attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero to the Bone
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.
Back Yard Birding and Beyond
By Gail Frantz
Later that day, Jim was told that less than 100 yards away from the pump station pond on Steven and Margaret Mays' property, a female Kestrel sat incubating eggs in a box that Steven Mays had put up in the spring of 1995.
(3/29) I got more good video footage this week of two Toms strutting at their reflection in my basement glass door. I was literally inches away from them. Only way to describe it would be awesome.
I haven't seen one in several years. Both Peterson and Nat'l Geo maps show him in wintering along the Eastern Shore in winter. Maybe he got blown here by the storm. I saw him only that one day. The ground under my feeders of course was snow covered with several feet of snow and a coating of sleet.
I had thrown bird seed on top.
Let us hear about your Back Yard and Maryland Birding too!!!
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