The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

October/November 2008 -- Online Edition


  1. Lights Out Volunteers Find Baltimore Rarity: Clapper Rail
  2. Lights Out Baltimore Update by Wendy Olsson
  3. Field Trip Reports compiled by Kevin Graff
  4. Fall Count by Debby Terry
  5. Conservation Corner: BBC Conservation Committee Annual Report 2007-2008 -- Times They Are A 'Changing... by Joan Cwi
  6. BROADWINGS!!! Cromwell Valley Park Hawkwatch by Jim Meyers
  7. Backyard Birding and Beyond
  8. Treasurer's Report by Dick Krejci
Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: November 10, 2008 (the next issue will be December 2008/January 2009). If possible, please email material to

Please help CHIP NOTES get out on time.

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Lights Out Volunteers Find Baltimore Rarity: Clapper Rail

Photo: Wendy Olsson
Early Tuesday morning, September 9th, Baltimore Lights Out volunteers found a bird which took them some time to identify. When they did Wendy Olsson posted this email to MDOsprey:
"Volunteers Joann Pettinacchio, Judy Harding, and I found a Clapper Rail and a Common Yellowthroat downtown this a.m."
To which Bob RIngler responded by email:
A Clapper Rail would be an extraordinarily rare bird in Baltimore. The specimen should be saved or at least photographed."
When asked about the significance of such a find Bob emailed back:
"Clapper Rail is a bird of salt water marsh thus is rare this far north in the bay where the water is more brackish. Frank Kirkwood reported three shot on the Patapsco Marsh on May 17, 1893. I have also heard that sometime during the 1960s or 1970s one was found on a window ledge of a downtown building in fall. Someone said it was reported in The Sun but I have nothing specific. Keith Costley saw a large rail that may have been a Clapper in the harbor a couple years ago."
The Clapper Rail body is being given to the Smithsonian.

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Lights Out Baltimore Update

by Wendy Olsson

Exciting things are happening for migratory birds passing through Baltimore and cities around the nation. Boston recently announced their city-wide program to encourage buildings to turn off decorative lighting after 11 p.m. all year round! This will not only help songbirds through migration, but it will also reduce the carbon footprint of the city, reducing the need to extract natural resources like coal via destructive methods such as mountaintop removal. Other cities along the gulf and West coast are trying to also initiate Lights Out programs.

The champions of a Lights Out Program vary by city, according to Karen Cotton of the American Bird Conservancy. In some cases, the business community wants to benefit from the cost savings of reduced overnight energy use that a Lights out program would bring. In other cases, municipal governments champion the program to benefit from the energy and cost savings, and to reduce the carbon footprint of the city while saving birds. In Baltimore, concerned citizens want to stop the death of many songbirds in their city, raise awareness on the issue of Bird collisions, and help Baltimore become "Cleaner and Greener". Toronto's FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) also began after one concerned individual with a lot of tenacity decided to do something to stop the senseless death of thousands of migratory birds as they passed through his home town. To date, Toronto, Chicago, New York, and Boston are the major North American cities that have Lights Out Programs. However, more are in the works.

Baltimore's program is growing as more individuals learn about the program and decide to monitor the streets of Baltimore. The program will be a subcommittee of the BBC's Conservation Committee. The number of individuals monitoring buildings has grown from 3 folks doing it on their own to 15 volunteers monitoring the streets of Baltimore, working on brochures, and signing up to transport birds in need to nearby rehabilitators. Monitors have found not only the opportunity to collect data on migratory bird deaths in Baltimore, but also see beautiful sunrises over the Baltimore Harbor and urban wildlife sightings such as Caspian Terns and a beautiful Sphinx Moth under a security light by the Baltimore Convention Center, and a monarch butterfly that also seemed to be attracted to the lights on one of the convention center's glass walls. The monarch was taken to the patch of butterfly weed at the Baltimore Aquarium.

Observers monitoring between August 19 and September 4 at minimum twice per week (Usually 4 times per week) have found:

Photo: Wendy Olsson

Monitors have four principal buildings that they record data on but also have other buildings on which they also report data if time permits. Monitoring currently is concentrated in the Western part of the Inner Harbor, but if resources permit it would also be useful to monitor areas in Harbor East due to the amount of development going on in the area, including a high-rise and more on the way. Monitors record what they find, and in addition, if they do not find anything at a principal building.

In addition to monitoring buildings, Lights Out Baltimore volunteers have attended Baltimore City Sustainability Commission meetings to raise awareness on the hazards glass buildings and light pollution raise for birds. After our first meeting, one of the participants in the "Built Environment" committee stated that she attended a meeting at an office building in Baltimore County and in the span of 1.5 hours three birds hit the window there! Case and point this is a big problem and we are getting the word out. The participant stated that had we not attended the prior public input meeting on sustainability in the Built Environment, she wouldn't have had this issue on her radar as a potential problem. In talking with building security guards and construction workers downtown on our monitoring walks, there's definitely a problem. A few quotes from those we've spoke to: "It is really bad after they wash the windows", "I find birds all the time", this one is a bit of a paraphrase but this is the gist: "The really bad time is spring when all the sudden all these birds with really long beaks hit the windows". (We showed him a picture of an American Woodcock and he confirmed that's what he was seeing).

Bird specimens found will be donated to either Salisbury University or the Bird Collection at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We are especially delighted to have found willing institutions to take the specimens since this reduces the number of birds collected from the wild for research purposes. Live birds that have injuries will be taken to local licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators in the area. Special thanks go out to rehabilitator Kathy Woods, who will be giving a mini-session on how to transport injured birds to a rehabilitator and minimize stress and eliminate risk of further injury.

Thanks to our volunteers for their help with Lights Out Baltimore, and for taking an active role in stopping unnecessary bird deaths in Baltimore!

Bryce Butler   Joanne Pettinicchio
Carol SchreterJudy Harding
Dan LebbinJulie Tomita
Dave CursonKathy Woods
Dixie MullineauxKevin Graff
Keith Eric Costley   Erin Allen
Jayson StoverMarci Treece
Joan CwiWanda Stefan
If you have questions about Lights Out Baltimore, or would like to volunteer (even if you're not an early riser, our volunteers are invaluable for administration and publicity!), please email Wendy at

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Field Trip Reports

Compiled by Kevin Graff

Aug 26 - Lake Roland - Chilly early am, but turned out to be a beautiful morning, in spite of the fact that we could not cross over to the woods on the far side of Lake Roland. We concentrated on the road and went as far as the parking lot for the light rail. Bay-breasted was the only warbler for the day. 39 species. 4 participants. Leader: Patsy Perlman.

Aug 26 - Cromwell Valley Park - Not much going on a first day. Few saw a Broad-winged Hawk flyby. 5 warblers: Blue-winged (seen by one observer, Magnolia, redstart, Ovenbird and C Yellowthroat. Evereyone enjoys seeing both orioles species. 49 species. 7 participants. Leader: no show

Sep 2 - Cromwell Valley Park - Very good day for passerines. 9 warblers: Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Pine, Black-and-white, redstart, Ovenbird, C Yellowthroat amnd Hooded. Good look at Philadedphia Vireo, also White-eyed, Warbling and Red-eyed nearby. Few of us saw a Olive-sided Flycatcher in a short time near bridge toward Sherwood Farm. 52 species. 9 participants. Leader: Kevin Graff (filling in for someone)

Sep 9 - Cromwell Valley Park - The highlights of our field trip to Cromwell Valley Park were 7 species of warbers, CHESTNUT-SIDED, MAGNOLIA, BLACKTHROATED GREEN, PINE REDSTART, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and HOODED WARBLER. In addition, three ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS were seen well by all. We also had two birds appear that we hadn't seen for a while, Shirley and Raymond Geddes. It was an enjoyable morning birding with friends. 51 species. 11 participants. Leader: Debbie Terry

Sep 10 - Greenmount Cemetery - No reports from leader but the group had 2 Peregrine Falcons, wood-pewee, acadian and willow flycatchers, 5 Great Crested Flycatchers and 4 Baltimore Orioles. 21 species. 3 participants. Leader: Joy Wheeler.

Sept 16 - Cromwell Valley Park - A real "birdy" day - flocks of robins and goldfinches, kettles of Broadwinged Hawks and other species on the move. Good to see some warblers, a beautiful Magnolia plus Blackthroated Green and Chestnut-sided. Don Burggraf had a Lincoln's Sparrow, but try as we might, no one else saw it. But later few of us saw the bird after trip was over. The highlight would be the hawks going over, so exciting and a kestrel flying about. 60 species. 15 participants. Leader: Ruth Culbertson.

Sep 23 - Cromwell Valley Park - There were several interesting species for this group. Several people were impressed with the Palm Warblers, the male Rose breasted Grosbeak, and the Snow Geese and Great Egret, both in flight. 60 species. 7 participants. Leader: Dot Gustafson

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The 2008 Baltimore Fall Count

by Debby Terry

The Baltimore Fall Count was held on Saturday, September 20. Twenty-five birders covered Hart-Miller Island, Cylburn Arboretum, Loch Raven and Prettyboy Reservoirs, Ft. McHenry, Cromwell Valley Park Hawkwatch and Leakin Park, Granite, Powell's Run Road, Milford Mill Park and Soldiers's Delight in the western part of Baltimore County. One hundred and forty eight species of birds were tallied. Seventeen of those were warblers with Common Yellowthroat being the most numerous (27), and American Redstart the runner up, (16). As usual, the birders on Hart-Miller Island tallied the most species with eighty- four.

Some of the day's birding highlights are as follows. Two parties saw a Hooded Warbler in breeding plumage. Another birder saw and heard a Common Raven and two Savannah Sparrows. Birders on Hart-Miller were treated to views of many not often seen birds such as a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a Baird's and several White-rumped Sandpipers and 9 American Golden Plovers. Birding along Powells Run Road, a birder expressed his amazement to see,"one huge, incredible "kettle" of 140 Black Vultures."


Jeanne Bowman, Danny Bystrak, Keith Costley, Kevin Graff, George Jett, Elise Kreiss, Paul Kreiss, Brad Lanning, Dan Lebbin, Mark Linardi, Mikey Lutmerding, Jim Meyers, Dan McDonald, Georgia McDonald, Paul Noell, Jim Peters, Ben Poscover Jr., Steve Sanford, Nico Sarbanes, Gene Scarpulla, Debbie Terry, Joe Turner, Marcia Watson, Peter Webb, Eileen Wise.

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BBC Conservation Committee Annual Report 2007-2008: Times They Are A 'Changing...

by Joan Cwi

The conservation climate felt different this year. Baltimore Bird Club's Conservation Committee (BBC-CC) members noticed change in local and state governments resulting in positive outcomes. Our participation in grass roots conservation efforts began to pay off. We felt part of a broader community of like-minded conservationists (e.g., Maryland Ornithological Society, Audubon Society, Maryland Conservation Council), who provide professional input and jointly work together to effect change.

BBC-CC members were buoyed by the success that conservationists (ourselves included) had last year protecting the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR) from mega-development. Invigorated, we took on another monster task this year by joining the fight to stop the building of wind turbines on public land in Western Maryland. As birders, our major objection was the likelihood that mountain top turbines would cause serious habitat segmentation in critical forests and damage birds during migration (see Chip Notes Apr-May, 2008). We emailed birders encouraging them to register their opinion on the website established by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Seven BBC and MOS members attended the DNR hearing in Annapolis, and several of us spoke. Due to the overwhelming public outcry, Governor O'Malley denied the building permits.

Statewide we also participated in promoting other conservation activities. The Maryland Legislature had four key environmental issues that were wholly or partially funded this year. These targeted reduction of global warming emissions and energy consumption, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and providing the Critical Area Commission with tools to enforce laws governing buffer zones around the Bay. In support of these efforts, the BBC authorized the MCC to include our signature on a Chesapeake Bay Foundation letter urging the funding of Bay clean up. Based on personal experience with its efficacy, Carol Schreter wrote a letter to the Governor and Public Service Commission promoting comprehensive Home Energy Audits as a way to help consumers identify ways to conserve electricity. And in support of letters sent to Governor O'Malley by the MOS and Friends of the Red Knot, the BBC also sent a letter urging him to ban the harvest of Horseshoe Crabs to save this shorebird.

At the county level, BBC-CC members attended several Town Hall Meetings on Climate Change and appointed a member to represent BBC on the Baltimore County Climate Coalition. The BBC signed a coalition letter (19 organizations) urging the Baltimore County Executive to issue a Climate Action Plan to curb County government emissions of CO2. City-wide, the BBC-CC supports Baltimore's Mayor Sheila Dixon in numerous conservation efforts. The Mayor established the Urban Tree Canopy Program and recently appointed a City Director of Sustainability. BBC wrote a letter in support of this program. We also coordinated with Baltimore City's Department of Recreation and Parks by moving the spring and fall Swift Watches to the Conservatory at Druid Hill Park, as well as encouraging the BBC to add two field tours in the Park. Through letters and phone calls, we are trying to educate Rec and Parks on the importance of using a bird-friendly glass in constructing the new "green" Visitor Center at Cylburn Arboretum. On a national issue, we voiced our concern about the environmental damage that will be caused by the construction of the Texas Border Wall, as described in our article for Chip Notes (Dec/Jan 2008). The BBC sent letters to Maryland's U.S. Congressmen and Senators regarding its impact on wildlife and ecotourism. In addition, the BBC and MOS signed onto a No Texas Border Wall letter sent by the Audubon Society.

The BBC-CC continued many ongoing efforts, including promoting the purchasing of shadegrown coffee and eradication of English Ivy. All these combined effort resulted in several Chip Notes articles and publications in the Urbanite, City Paper, Roland Park Country School's Kaleidoscope. We also provided materials to the Timonium Wild Bird Center and the State Highway Administration's for distribution on Earth Day.

With so much to do, the Conservation Committee needed new members. We recruited Paula Schugam, Dixie Mullineaux and Joan Hellman to join our current five members.

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BROADWINGS!!! Cromwell Valley Park Hawkwatch

by Jim Meyers

For the past several years a group of local hawk watchers have been conducting an autumn hawk count at Cromwell Valley Park, located in the Towson-Parkville area of Baltimore County just south of Loch Raven Reservoir. As mid-September approaches each year we eagerly anticipate the passage of Broad-winged Hawks (Buteo platypterus), the only raptor here in the east which migrates together in large groups. For the 2008 season we began our count on Saturday, Sept. 13th with the expectation that the peak flight would occur around the 18th of September, based on past experience. Each September we average about 2,400 BW hawks counted.

The first couple of days were disappointing as hot, humid air settled in, the result of a warm front that brought light winds from the south. This was exactly what we did not want, as the best hawk flights in autumn are associated with cold fronts with a north wind. Twenty- eight raptors were counted those first two days, and only 3 were Broad-winged hawks. On Monday the 15th things began to look up. A cold front was pushing through that very morning, with winds out of the northwest at 12 mph. Broadwings were migrating in small groups or as single birds until 4:40 pm when we saw a couple of kettles (groups of swirling, circling hawks seeking thermal lift) numbering about 20 hawks each. An hour later we saw 66 BW hawks descending into the woods nearby as the day's flight ended and the hawks sought a safe place to roost over night.

On Tuesday the 16th we were thrilled to see 168 BW hawks slowly rise from their roosts and form small groups as they headed south. Through out the day we observed several kettles and streams of BW hawks at high altitudes. The largest single group numbered 83 birds.

Wednesday's highlights included at least 7 large streams of Broad-winged hawks flying directly over our watch-site, again at high altitudes. Thursday the 18th brought our highest count of the season, with 2,186 Broad-winged hawks, including a stream of 240+ birds at 2:10 pm. Mark Miller and Marty Miller saw a large number of BW hawks descending to roost after 6:00 pm, and we anticipated a nice lift-off the next morning.

Friday morning's expected lift off turned out to be everything we had hoped for and more! Small groups of hawks were seen rising out of the treetops at 8:30 am and slowly forming into larger kettles as they sought thermal lift. This was the scene in every direction, both along distant and nearby wooded ridges. For the next 90 minutes we spotted over 40 separate kettles of hawks ranging in size from 5 birds to 202 birds. The wind was out of the east at 11 mph, and we watched several large kettles of hawks break into streams and ride the wind, passing right over our heads at not too great a height. A truly awe inspiring sight! We learned later that Bob Rineer had witnessed a large flight of over 1,300 BW hawks in the Hunt Valley section of Baltimore County at about the same time as our flight, as well as Kevin Graff who had large numbers near Belair Rd. and White Ave. By 10:00 am the flight was pretty much over, with only small groups seen at very high altitude the rest of the day.

We continued our hawk count on Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st, but the big push of Broadwinged hawks was finished, with only a few dozen seen then. Another Broad-winged hawk migration season was over, and those of us who witnessed it will never forget it! I would like to thank everyone who helped make it our best season on record. See you when the Red-tailed hawks start moving! Totals for the nine days, Sept 13th - Sept 21st, 2008

Bald Eagle17
Norther Harrier20
Sharp-shinned Hawk   160
Coopers Hawk12
Broad-winged Hawk6,130
American Kestrel61

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Back Yard Birding and Beyond

Editor's Note: Folks, we are still needing more of your anecdotes, observations, suggestions, even questions. When you see something that strikes you please jot it down in an email to either me () or Kevin (). If you're feeding birds, who's been showing up, or as in the two pieces below, who's just been flying over? If you have had migrants, even if it's not up to Steve's Cape May Warbler, it's not too late to send them in by November 10 for the next issue.This newsletter needs you.

Kevin Graff

Sep 7th -- Jarrettsville, Harford Co: Another good late afternoon migration day, with 5 flycatcher species: Olive-sided feeding in the air till 8pm, 2 Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least feeding in the air briefly between 713pm-730pm, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird landed on bare branch and then headed SW at 726pm; other migrants including 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo headed S at 729pm, 2 Common Nighthawk headed S at 706pm, 1 hummer headed S in a hurry at 730pm, single flock of 9 Tree Swallows headed SW, and single Magnolia Warbler was busy feeding to prepare for migration tonight.

Steve Sanford

Sep 18th -- Randallstown, Baltimore Co. While waiting for a plumber to come I had some surprisingly good birding from my suburban yard in Randallstown yard (northeast of Liberty and Old Court Roads) this morning. I was looking at the top of a neighbor's spruce tree and there was a bird with a bright yellow underside and face and with a big, bold wing bar: a Cape May Warbler. I had been looking there for years in hopes one would show up. Nice start. I scanned the skies with out seeing anything for a while. Then a Turkey Vulture led me to a kettle of about 30 Broadwings. Soon more and more kettled and streamed towards the southwest adding up to about 120. Around 11:15 there was another passage of about 140. Around 12:00 there was another cluster of about 80 - for a total of about 340 Broadwings. In the midst of this a fairly low adult Bald Eagle cruised by on the same course. A local Redtail and two local Red-shoulders circled overhead. Also 8 Cormorants flew by heading due south in a V - only my second sighting of this species at home.

Bryce Butler

Aug 23 -- Baltimore Mount Washington: we live on a hillside so our deck sits at tree height. Today a Hooded Warbler showed up on the deck railing, perched and looked about for about thirty seconds. This is a new backyard bird since we moved here a year and a half ago.

Aug 31 -- A number of warbles moving through: Chestnut-sided (imm). Canada, Nashville, Black& White, an Am Redstart landed briefly on the deck looking out of place. Sept 23 -- In the wooded streets behind our house, Wildwood Lane and Roxbury Lane, a large flock (I hazard a guess of at least twenty or more) of mostly immature male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks cavorted about in the trees and flitted across the streets landing in the vegetation on the street margins. There were also a large number of Catbirds feeding on wild grapes.

Sept 24 -- the woods were quiet today save for a few Catbirds and one Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Wildwood, who gave good looks and its clear high call note. The Hummingbird activity at our three feeders has been non-stop all month, often with 3-6 of the little mites buzzing angrily around. Some of them are quite chubby with one unable to bend to the feeding hole while perched so having to fly when feeding, then perching after.

Oct 2 -- A forlorn young Phoebe gave our suet feeder a close look, circling the feeder a few times then landing on the rail to intently watch the other birds feeding on the peanut block I have in there. It finaly flew off.

Oct 7 -- Occasional hummers still coming through. One looked suspiciously selasphorian today so I set up the scope and camera in the livingroom. My wife is very indulgent. Of course the bird never reappeared.

Oct 10 -- Imm. male Ruby-throat fed briefly then flew close to the six door-sized windows that look out onto the deck, hovered there and then slowly flew sideways the whole length of the windows while peering in before flying off. It was the last hummer we had.

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Baltimore Bird Club (BBC) Treasurer's Report ending September, 2008: Highlights

by Dick Krejci, BBC Treasurer

  1. The treasurer's report for September, 2008 includes income generated, interest accrued and expenses realized for fiscal, Y2009 (Sep08-Aug09).
  2. BBC's fiscal year for Y2007 and forward will be September through August.
  3. The BBC Checking Account ended September with $6,928.44 and $65,147.10 was the total of all BBC assets that will carry forward into October, 2008.
  4. All checks written prior to October 1, 2008 have cleared the bank prior to ending September. No outstanding issues are currently known.
  5. All thank you letters for donations received to date have been sent out.
  6. Details for September are on the attached EXCEL document "BBC Treasurer's Report for Sep08 thru Aug09".
  7. The proposed budget for fiscal, Y2009 had been submitted and was approved during June's board meeting. As we begin fiscal Y2009 in September the newly approved budget will be utilized for my monthly reports. In addition, the board voted at last month's meeting to add an additional $400.00 to the budget for the Lights Out Baltimore Campaign headed up by Wendy Olsson

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