The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

October/November 1996 - Online Edition


Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: October 25, 1996 (the next issue will be December 1996/January 1997)
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                   Steve Sanford
                   8412 Downey Dale Drive
                   Randallstown MD 21133
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May Count 1996 Results: Baltimore City and County

by Leanne Pemburn

"If only it had been the day before!" but even so, it was a pretty decent count. 47 observers in 19 parties spent 118.93 party hours walking 78.25 miles, driving 41 miles, with 4 hours spent at feeders, and 5 hours night birding. We had a total of 168 species, and 12,323 individuals counted. This was in spite of the fact that the clear, calm weather encouraged a lot of birds to fly north Friday night. (as evidenced by the count of night migrants at Black Marsh - 63 Veerys and 44 Swainson's Thrushes, among others, and the great migrant fallouts in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia Saturday evening.) Likewise in spite of the fact that a few key areas were missed, due to unavailability of counters (Hart-Miller Island and Soldier's Delight) or permission to enter (Masonville). To cap it off, a rain storm at 4 PM effectively ended the day's birding for most of us.

Even with all these road-blocks, we turned in good numbers of many species. 10 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons indicate the species was not too disturbed by the dam construction at Lake Roland. Northern Harriers were still in good numbers, with 5 sightings, also 3 Bald Eagles. No Peregrine Falcons reported this year - the nest on the USF&G building failed when the female disappeared shortly after the eggs were laid. King and Sora Rail are not usual - we had 1 of each at Black Marsh.

Thrushes were well-represented, with 101 Veerys (including fly-overs), 63 Swainson's and 127 Wood Thrushes. Catbirds are doing extremely well, with 533 counted. Northern Mockingbirds obviously took a big hit over the winter, with only 91 counted. Carolina Wrens were also down, with only 33, compared to 74 House Wrens. 17 Brown Thrashers seems like a good sign, considering we didn't have one on the Christmas Count last year. There were some unusual sparrow migrants, such as White-crowned (Southwest Area Park), Lincoln's (Waterview West) and Grasshopper Sparrow (north of Oregon Ridge). Blue Grosbeaks at Back River Sewage Treatment Plant, Eastern Meadowlarks in the Reisterstown area, a nice Bobolink flight (452) and 90 Rufous-sided (Eastern) Towhees rounded up a fair day. Conspicuous misses included Chuck-wills-widows and Whip-poor-wills, Pied-billed Grebe, Yellow-throated and Cerulean Warblers, Eastern Screech Owl, and American Black Duck. And BOO to the poorly timed Olive-sided Flycatcher, Mourning Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler that couldn't stay, or show up, on the correct day.

Many thanks to all who rose at unlikely hours and slogged through fields of ticks. Next year Michele Melia will take over as County Coordinator - hopefully she's better at tally rallies than I am.

The List
Common Loon                      2  |  Blue Jay                       506
Pied-billed Grebe                0  |  American Crow                  329
Double-crested Cormorant       130  |  Fish Crow                       15
Great Blue Heron                57  |  Carolina Chickadee             143
Great Egret                      1  |  Tufted Titmouse                120
Snowy Egret                      0  |  Red-breasted Nuthatch            0
Green Heron                     13  |  White-breasted Nuthatch         22
Black-crowned Night-heron        4  |  Brown Creeper                    0
Yellow-crowned Nt-heron         10  |  Carolina Wren                   33
Tundra Swan                      0  |  House Wren                      74
Mute Swan                        2  |  Winter Wren                      0
Snow Goose                       0  |  Marsh Wren                      68
Canada Goose                   210  |  Golden-crown Kinglet             1
Wood Duck                       30  |  Ruby-crowned Kinglet             2
Green-winged Teal                0  |  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher          127
American Black Duck              0  |  Eastern Bluebird                30
Mallard                        161  |  Veery                          101
Northern Shoveler                2  |  Gray-cheeked Thrush              3
Hooded Merganser                 0  |  Swainson's Thrush               63
Common Merganser                 6  |  Hermit Thrush                    0
Red-breasted Merganser           2  |  Wood Thrush                    127
Ruddy Duck                       0  |  American Robin                 473
Black Vulture                    4  |  Gray Catbird                   533
Turkey Vulture                  82  |  Northern Mockingbird            91
Osprey                          14  |  Brown Thrasher                  17
Bald Eagle                       3  |  American Pipit                   0
Northern Harrier                 5  |  Cedar Waxwing                  339
Sharp-shinned Hawk               4  |  European Starling              762
Cooper's Hawk                    1  |  White-eyed Vireo                58
Red-shouldered Hawk             22  |  Solitary Vireo                   0
Broad-winged Hawk                3  |  Yellow-throated Vireo           14
Red-tailed Hawk                 20  |  Warbling Vireo                   7
American Kestrel                 4  |  Philadelphia Vireo               0
Merlin                           0  |  Red-eyed Vireo                 288
Peregrine Falcon                 0  |  Blue-winged Warbler              1
Ring-necked Pheasant            11  |  Brewsters Hybrid                 0
Wild Turkey                      2  |  Lawrence's Hybrid                0
Northern Bobwhite                4  |  Golden-winged Warbler            0
Black Rail                       0  |  Tennessee Warbler                2
King Rail                        1  |  Orange-crowned Warbler           0
Virginia Rail                   21  |  Nashville Warbler                4
Sora                             3  |  Northern Parula                 75
Common Moorhen                   0  |  Yellow Warbler                 107
American Coot                    1  |  Chestnut-sided Warbler          22
Semipalmated Plover              2  |  Magnolia Warbler                42
Killdeer                        13  |  Cape May Warbler                 2
Greater Yellowlegs               4  |  B-t. Blue Warbler               37
Lesser Yellowlegs                1  |  Yellow-rumped Warbler           93
Solitary Sandpiper              14  |  B-t Green Warbler               25
Willet                           2  |  Blackburnian Warbler            12
Spotted Sandpiper               28  |  Yellow-throated Warbler          0
Semipalmated Sandpiper           1  |  Pine Warbler                     4
Least Sandpiper                  9  |  Prairie Warbler                 15
White-rumped Sandpiper           0  |  Palm Warbler                     0
Pectoral Sandpiper               1  |  Bay-breasted Warbler             9
Dunlin                           0  |  Blackpoll Warbler               24
Stilt Sandpiper                  0  |  Cerulean Warbler                 0
Short-billed Dowitcher           0  |  Black-and-white Warbler         25
Common Snipe                     1  |  American Redstart               80
American Woodcock                3  |  Prothonotary Warbler             1
Laughing Gull                    8  |  Worm-eating Warbler              8
Bonaparte's Gull                34  |  Ovenbird                        92
Ring-billed Gull               190  |  Northern Waterthrush            10
Herring Gull                    29  |  Louisiana Waterthrush           15
Lesser Black-backed Gull         0  |  Kentucky Warbler                19
Great Black-backed Gull         43  |  Mourning Warbler                 0
Caspian Tern                     7  |  Common Yellowthroat            225
Common Tern                      4  |  Hooded Warbler                  20
Forster's Tern                   1  |  Wilson's Warbler                 1
Least Tern                      25  |  Canada Warbler                  26
Rock Dove                      224  |  Yellow-breasted Chat            18
Mourning Dove                  208  |  Summer Tanager                   2
Black-billed Cuckoo              5  |  Scarlet Tanager                 96
Yellow-billed Cuckoo            11  |  Northern Cardinal              292
Barn Owl                         1  |  Rose-breasted Grosbeak          38
Eastern Screech-owl              0  |  Blue Grosbeak                    6
Great Horned Owl                 1  |  Indigo Bunting                 132
Barred Owl                       3  |  Dickcissel                       0
Common Nighthawk                 9  |  Rufous-sided Towhee             90
Chuck-will's-widow               0  |  American Tree Sparrow            0
Whip-poor-will                   0  |  Chipping Sparrow                50
Chimney Swift                  198  |  Field Sparrow                   23
Ruby-thrted Hummingbird         21  |  Savannah Sparrow                 7
Belted Kingfisher                7  |  Grasshopper Sparrow              1
Red-headed Woodpecker            0  |  Fox Sparrow                      1
Red-bellied Woodpecker          79  |  Song Sparrow                   106
Downy Woodpecker                43  |  Lincoln's Sparrow                1
Hairy Woodpecker                 9  |  Swamp Sparrow                   65
Northern Flicker                48  |  White-throated Sparrow          30
Pileated Woodpecker              7  |  White-crowned Sparrow            2
Olive-sided Flycatcher           0  |  Dark-eyed Junco                  0
Eastern Wood-pewee              74  |  Bobolink                       452
Acadian Flycatcher              78  |  Red-winged Blackbird           624
Willow Flycatcher                4  |  Eastern Meadowlark               8
Least Flycatcher                 0  |  Rusty Blackbird                  0
Eastern Phoebe                  20  |  Common Grackle                 298
Great Crested Flycatcher        48  |  Brown-headed Cowbird           145
Eastern Kingbird                79  |  Orchard Oriole                  22
Horned Lark                      0  |  Northern Oriole                 98
Purple Martin                   24  |  Purple Finch                     2
Tree Swallow                    46  |  House Finch                    184
N. Rough-winged Swallow         74  |  Pine Siskin                      0
Bank Swallow                   604  |  American Goldfinch             453
Cliff Swallow                   25  |  House Sparrow                  231
Barn Swallow                   228  |

                    TOTAL SPECIES                  168
                    TOTAL INDIVIDUALS            12323
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Wanderings and Reflections: Maryland to California

by Jim Peters

Thursday November 9 1995 - I am eager to depart. It is cold and blustery outside and into the yard on a gust of wind comes a mixed flock of juncos and white-throated sparrows. Immediately I am aware of a smaller bird amongst them that looks about the size of a chipping sparrow. A quick look through my binoculars tells me I have a rare visitor - a clay-colored sparrow. Could this be the same one that spent February/March 95 at my feeder? The feeding flock is skittish and in a few minutes it scatters with the next wind gust. I'm ecstatic! What a great way to start a birding trip to the west coast.

Friday November 10 - As we cross the Midwest the sky looks more ominous and the wind picks up. By the time we reach St. Louis, we are under a tornado warning. A huge Canadian air mass is moving across the plains and triggering severe thunderstorms. We speed along I-44 towards Tulsa, OK. By mid-afternoon the sky is black and we drive with headlights on. I can see a narrow window of light far to the southwest. I am confident that we can skirt the storm by nightfall. By 4 PM the storm has crossed the interstate. We are in torrential rains, severe lightning and heavy winds that buffet the vehicle.

As we pass Lebanon, MO, I see a funnel cloud in the lightning flashes off to our right. It's my very first tornado and it's a thrilling sight. With each flash of lightning I watch it move towards Lebanon. A few miles down the road we reach Springfield, MO, where we take refuge in a truck stop. We hear Lebanon has been hit and badly damaged with a number of people injured. We camp for the night in lowering temperatures and snow squalls. No birds today of any note. We are lucky to have escaped the storm without injury.

Saturday November 11 - We awake to a frozen landscape. The temperature hovers at 19 degrees and everything is coated with ice and snow to a depth of 4 inches. As the morning progresses the temperature rises and the snow begins to melt, and by the time we reach Tulsa there is little to remind us of the storm.

Our target bird is Smith's Longspur, which winters on the ranchlands north of the city. Raptors are everywhere and we are amazed at the numbers of each species. A large vole population is responsible for the density. We count 75 raptors of 10 different species in an area 15 by 20 miles. We miss only Prairie Falcon and Golden Eagle of the 13 species reported in the area. Alas, we did not see Smith's Longspurs despite much searching through flocks of longspurs and sparrows on the short-grass prairie.

Sunday November 13 - Today is a travel day on our way to Albuquerque NM. We stop at the Big Texan in Amarillo TX for a buffalo burger. It's a bit more expensive than beef but it's delicious, and the restaurant has lots of atmosphere.

Ravens are the starlings of the prairie and we see them along almost every mile of interstate.

Monday November 13 - At dawn we take the winding road up Sandia Mountain from Albuquerque to hike the Sandia Crest Trail. There is a strong cold wind blowing and some recurrent snow along the trail. It's a sunny clear day and the view is breath-taking. Steller's Jays are everywhere along with Ravens and Mountain Chickadees. What we hope to find are Rosy Finches which are sometimes seen in the parking lot. Unfortunately, we neither see nor hear any. This is the second target species to elude us on this trip.

By afternoon we have motored south to San Antonio MN, and are exploring Bosque del Apache NWR. Amongst the 250,000 Greater Snow Geese we find a few Ross's Geese and several thousand Sandhill Cranes. The refuge is a great birding area and we see a variety of grebes, ducks, raptors, and passerines, but we miss seeing the single Whooping Crane reported on the refuge. It is all very impressive and not to be missed by anyone visiting the refuge in fall and winter.

Wednesday November 15 - This morning we find ourselves in the Mojave Desert near the Calico Mountains. It is sunny with temperatures in the low 80s, like a Baltimore summer's day without the humidity. I love it! On a gravel road which crosses a dry wash we come upon a covey of 6 Chukar Partridge. They are as surprised as we are, but they settle down after a short run and walk down the wash and disappear. We get a great look at our first life bird of the trip.

Monday November 20 - Before dawn I drive to Ventura, California from Santa Clarita to take the Island Packers boat to Santa Cruz Island where I hope to add the recently-split Santa Cruz Scrub Jay to my life list. Alas, too few people sign up for the trip and it is canceled. I go to Plan B and bird the harbor area and the ocean beaches where I add Mew Gull (#2 lifer) to my life list. Ventura's beaches host large flocks of several gull species - Heerman's, Western, Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged, etc. - as well as a variety of shorebirds - Willet, Marbled Godwit, Pacific Golden Plover, etc. On the way back to Santa Clarita I find a Prairie Falcon at Fremont, and at Placerville I add Lawrence's Goldfinches, as lifer #3. It's a beautiful male, resplendent in his winter plumage, and in the company of Lesser Goldfinches.

I find Golden-crowned Sparrow (lifer #4), Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Plain Titmouse, Black Phoebe, and Acorn Woodpecker as well. Scrub Jays are everywhere. All in all, a good day with three lifers and an abundance of other good birds.

Friday November 24 - We drive down the coast to San Diego making stops along the way to bird. We see Belding's Sparrow (an endangered race of Savannah Sparrow), Eared Grebe, Forster's Tern, and a large number of shorebirds (Black-bellied Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, etc.) at Huntington Beach (Boca Chica preserve). At Newport estuary we find Cinnamon Teal, Sora Rail, more Long-billed Dowitchers, and a Merlin.

California Gnatcatcher is the target bird today, and we finally catch up with one at San Elijo Lagoon which has undisturbed chaparral habitat surrounding a beautiful lagoon filled with waterfowl and waders. The Gnatcatcher is elusive but with persistent searching and some pishing we catch glimpses and then a good look as its curiosity about us brings it out of the brush into the open. We duly record lifer #5 and prepare to bird our way back to Baltimore.

(Look for the Jim's diary of the return trip - California to Maryland--in the next issue of Chip Notes).

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Calling All Artists

Steve Sanford - Chip Notes Editor

We are in search of artwork to grace the pages of Chip Notes. There is surprisingly little birding related "clipart" available. Most of the pictures I have used in Chip Notes have come from a collection put out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Artwork from members would liven up Chip Notes and give it more individuality. We would certainly give recognition to anyone contributing artwork.

Basically we are looking for small, simple black-and-white drawings of birds or birding-related subjects. The pictures should not have too much gradation in shading, if any, and should not be too detailed since they would normally only be occupying an inch or two of space. Cartoon-style pictures would be welcome, too. Ideally, we would build up a reserve of pictures to be used as the need and space arises. If you were able to produce pictures on short notice to go with a particular article, that would be especially valuable.

If you can help with artwork, please get in touch with me, Steve Sanford, at 8412 Downey Dale Drive, Randallstown MD 21133, e-mail address:

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In Memory of Barbara Larrabee

by Patsy Perlman

It is with much sadness that we note the death of Barbara Larrabee. She was a board member of the Baltimore Chapter of the the Maryland Ornithological Society for many years. She was curator of the bird museum at Cylburn from 1978 to 1982, after our founder, Martha Schaefer. Her contacts with Mr. Moudry of the City Horticultural Department were instrumental in having window cases constructed for the bird specimens.

Barbara was also a staunch member of the Cylburn Arboretum Association, and worked diligently as Chairlady of the Trails Committee, amongst her many other activities. Barbara's careful work and concerns for preservation at Cylburn will be sorely missed.

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Membership Dues

by Roberta Ross

Our 1996-97 membership year began September 1, 1996. Thanks to all who paid their dues promptly. If you have not paid your dues, please forward them as promptly as possible to

Roberta Ross
4128 Roland Ave
Baltimore MD 21211-2034

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

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Birding Central Park

by Joy Wheeler

Extolled in journals from the New York Times to the National Enquirer it's been something I've been wanting to do ever since I first heard of it, go birding in Central Park. So I signed on an American Museum of Natural History Discovery Tour, tours which usually visit far flung places from Antarctica to Mongolia. This one was to stay in New York City instead, to explore in late April the museum's new dinosaur exhibit, go behind the scenes in many other exhibits, go on boat tours of the harbor, and go birding in Central Park.

It all happened to my complete satisfaction. With the expert guidance of Steve Quinn, experienced bird guide for AMNH tours, we discovered many different habitats of Central Park and in one morning we saw 49 species of birds, the best being Snipe and Indigo Bunting. The Warblers that I'd seen at home the week before were there too, Parula, Palm, Black-and-white, and Nashville. It was all that I'd hoped, early enough in the morning to avoid crowds, but in time to see the diversity of life that frequents the park, birds and people.

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Field Trip Reports

compiled by Mark Pemburn

. . . continued from last issue:
Though outside my morning window, the most glorious summer in recent memory is dwindling into fall, it is still spring in Field Trip land:

April 28 - A cool morning that began in overcast but turned brighter as the sun rose over the walkers on the Cylburn Self-Guided trip this day. As Joe Lewandowski reports, the ten birders in attendance were treated to a look at a White-breasted Nuthatch so close that "it jumped out at you like a picture in a field guide." They were also graced with a good views of a Pileated Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo, Towhee and Thrasher. Thirty-one species were tallied for the trip.

April 30 - Rain and temperatures in the 60s characterized this day at Lake Roland whereon Phyllis Gerber led a crew of 17 o'er hill and dale in pursuit of the feathered ones. The result was a total 25 species with Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and four to five Spotted Sandpipers in the starring roles.

May 4 - The Milford Mill trip that Steve Sanford and Pete Webb have been leading for the past few years has become immensely popular. This seems to be rooted in the legend that Steve took forty with one blow - no, no, that's not it - oh! -- that he saw 22 species of Warblers on a single morning two years before. This year, 21 eager birders turned out for a respectable 58 species, of which a dozen were warblers. Highlights were a Red-headed Woodpecker, two well-seen Barred Owls and a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron constructing a nest at the river's edge. An evening extension to this trip conducted at Marriottsville Road brought the species total to 89(!).

May 5 - A warm spring day for the next of the Cylburn Self-Guided series. Joe and a dozen others pulled 28 species out of the woods and fields. The top performers were Baltimore Oriole, Towhee, Black-throated Green Warbler and Ovenbird.

May 7 - Clear and calm but a bit on the chilly side at 55 today. Taking his turn at the helm, Mac Plant navigated the Lake Roland trip with a crew of 23. The trip total of 63 species included Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Canada Warbler.

May 12 - More cool weather with clouds and wind added into the mix on the day Graham Egerton guided an assemblage of 20 birders through the trails of Phoenix. Among the 58 species noted were a nesting Parula and Canada Geese with young.

May 12 - Meanwhile, at Cylburn, the Self-Guided series continued. Joe+2 saw some 25 species including Hairy Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager and Indigo Bunting.

May 14 - Migration is now in full swing though the weather continues to be unseasonably cool. Nonetheless, the species counts are starting to climb, as witness the fine total of 71 that Bob Wood and a group of 17 pulled out of Lake Roland (no, not out of the lake, out of the trip). The trip highlight was a look at a Hummingbird nest.

May 18 - The day got off to a warm start but fell into the fifties before evening. That's ok, Gene Scarpulla really likes the 50s -- and this was his trip to Delaware Bay and environs. Twenty-three BBC birders gathered for the starting gun at Bombay Hook but they were by no means alone - the place was packed. The 88 species that we garnered required a deal of work, however. Gene attributes this, in part, to the heavy rains the area endured during the weeks past. The impoundments were virtual lakes and the road at Port Mahon was in rough shape. Highlights of the trip were Wimbrel at Little Creek and Least Bittern and Oystercatcher at Ted Harvey.

May 19 - An early glimpse of summer weather this day (temps in the high 70s) for the last of the spring Cylburn Self-Guided series. On this trip, Joe and nine others turned in a total of 24 species including Pileated Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriole (I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be able to use that name again! Ed.) and Black-throated Green Warbler.

May 21 - Shirley Geddes says it was HOT! -- temperatures in the 90s for her trip to Lake Roland. As interesting as the 65 species tallied for the 22 people in attendance was the presence of Fleur Ng'weno, a visitor from Nairobi Kenya where she leads similar groups of people to locate very different birds. She demonstrated an exceptional talent for describing the location of birds in the trees.

May 25 - A few days later, it cooled off some and the clouds took over. Our able avi-mycologist, Paul Noell led the day's trip to Liberty Dam accompanied by 14 fellow seekers. Among the 51 species totaled for the day were eight Spotted Sandpipers flying in formation as well as Worm-eating, Kentucky, Hooded and Wilson's Warblers.

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Our Costa Rican Connection

by Joy Wheeler

You may have read of our recent contribution from the Dorothy Blake Martin Fund to the Tropical Science Center in San Jose, Costa Rica. This is the agency which is maintaining and managing Los Cusingos Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, a "natural treasure which still remains a haven for hundreds of species of birds seeking refuge in a native habitat." This property belonged to renowned ornithologist Dr. Alexander Skutch since the 1930s until 1993 when the TSC purchased the property. Their purposes were to "allow the variety of birds that live on and pass through the land a chance to conduct their lives in a natural manner and to provide the opportunity for skilled researchers and naturalists to continue to gather crucial information about neotropical birds."

The TSC goal of $100,000 is for the conservation and protection of the Sanctuary where Dr. Skutch and his wife, Pamela, continue to live and work.

Many of us have reasons to be interested in helping to reach this goal. Dr. Skutch began his life in Baltimore, having been educated at the Park School and Johns Hopkins University. We have read his many books researched and written since he settled in Costa Rica. We have visited the Skutches on their Costa Rican farm and walked down his well-worn paths. We have seen the birds at his feeder and heard his account of the life-style of the pair of falcon's nesting in his yard.

If you are interested in helping the TSC "meet the challenges necessary to promote Skutch's ideals into perpetuity," donations may be sent to: Riggs Bank N.A., Account Name: Tropical Science Center, Account Number: 12-084 504 52, PO Box 96758, Washington DC 20090-6758 or make your check payable to Tropical Science Center and send directly by certified mail to: PO Box 8-3870-1000 San Jose, Costa Rica.

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Purple Martin Field Day

by Joy Wheeler

From birding in Central Park in April, I went birding in Central Virginia in mid-June, just another step in our 5 year unsuccessful attempt to attract Purple Martins to Cylburn. You may remember that along with Emily Kneebone, director of Cylburn's Perennial Garden I have been trying to start a Purple Martin colony in the Purple Martin house she put up in memory of her son, Tom.

This is not the first time this has been tried at Cylburn, for there is an old Martin house near the oak grove on the other side of the driveway from the mansion. Its many compartments are exposed to the elements, though it houses an occasional family of House Wrens. This house was erected by the MOS many years ago, according to an old newsletter. In the years since it has been put in place, Cylburn has become a more serious arboretum and trees have been planted too close to it for Martins' taste.

Emily and I will report later on our quest for Martins. Here I want to report on the one event that has come our way to give us some hope and encouragement. In the summer of 1995 through the Audubon Naturalist News there was a notice of a Purple Martin Field Day. We'd missed it that year, but I got the promise of an invitation for 1996 to occur after the nesting season had gotten underway.

True to his word, Lance Wood, host of the field day, called in April with the date for the Second Annual Purple Martin Field Day, June 15. He also had some advice for the current year which we hadn't yet begun: no need to begin playing the Purple Martin dawn song tape before May 1, the date when first-year males begin looking for new nesting sites. It was easy to put off our pre-sunrise trips, but from May 1 to June 1, once again without success we carried out our sleepy-eyed regular early-morning trips to Cylburn, boom boxes and tapes in hand. So it was as much for encouragement as it was for the finer points of attracting Martins that I went.

I got a generous helping. Lance Wood, our host, is a slim youngish man in a long-sleeved button-down collared shirt, khaki trousers and Panama hat, an environmental lawyer with the EPA during the week in Alexandria, Purple Martin fancier on weekends. He met us at his home (Barnfields), a modest farmhouse in a grove of trees amid wide grain fields bounded by wooded lots and hedgerows, a small pond nearby. Members of the Monticello Bird Club had led us there from a meeting place outside of Charlottesville.

Wood began his lecture in the "University of Martinology" a few minutes after 10 AM, after a member of the local press and a photographer arrived. He admitted to being a newcomer to the "school," having begun his quest 5 years before when he was able to attract only 4 pairs to his newly erected houses. But anybody can do it, he assured us, if one is willing to learn about Purple Martins, their needs and requirements, and then make the effort to maintain and protect the colony. He gave credit to the Purple Martin Conservation Association of Edinboro, PA as his source of information he needed to get started. Your experience will then become your best teacher as it was his, he said.

He touched on the first historical record of Native Americans attracting these birds to their camps by hanging hollow gourds for their nests. They valued the birds not only for their beauty and willingness to live near humans, but also for their aggressiveness in large numbers to ward off crows and grackles that came into their territories to take off the grain and fruits from tilled areas around the camps.

Everything about attracting and maintaining a Martin colony was up for discussion, from the types of house to types of predators to types of predator guards. Just as the Native Americans did. Wood favors large bottle gourds instead of the expensive wood or metal houses. He grows many of his own gourds but as his colony grew he has had to depend on a supplier in Alabama.

For two hours we sat in the breezy shade watching Wood's current colony of 130 pairs of Martins and listening to them chatter while he regaled us with advice, anecdotes, and "Martinology." For another hour we socialized, followed him around with our questions and exchanged our own Purple Martin stories. Not everyone was converted, however. "I didn't think it was going to be so complicated. I thought he would tell us what kind of house to buy and how to put it up and that would be that," I heard someone say.

Whether any of this will translate into success at Cylburn next year, I don't know. It did offer some encouragement. Besides that, it gave me a whole morning in the company of 130 nesting pairs of a species of graceful, iridescent birds, watching their flight patterns, listening to their rapid chatter. And though we were people with a wide range of interests from apple grower to garden club members, and even two ornithologists from the Smithsonian, we were all there in the interest of the continuance of one species of bird, the Purple Martin. What more inspiration could you need?

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Hot Spot in the Desert

by Alan Bromberg

There we stood in the Mojave Desert in mid-May, wearing several layers of clothes, and we were cold. Of course, it was only 5:30 AM, we were at an elevation of about 4000 feet, and the wind was blowing at about 25 miles per hour. We were at Butterbredt Spring, which during spring migration is one of Southern California's premier birding hot spots.

Butterbredt Spring is an oasis near the town of Mojave. During spring migration, huge numbers of passerines crossing the desert are attracted by the water and the vegetation, but they don't linger. Once they get a look at the arid scene around the spring, they get the heck out of there as fast as they can. To enjoy the Butterbredt experience properly, you have to be there at dawn on a windy day, when the birds pour out of the canyon in an endless stream. That's why we were standing around shivering and drinking lukewarm coffee, waiting for the avian onslaught.

A few passerines were stirring already, and a check around the spring turned up a Belted Kingfisher, California Quail, and a flock of Chukar. As the sun rose, the activity began to pick up. Just a few at first, then small groups, then larger ones, and finally an amazing onrush of passerines. Most of the birds don't land, but pass by quickly in the wind, so identification is a true test of your birding skills.

As thousands of birds rocketed past, we struggled to focus our binoculars on individuals fast enough to make the ID and call them out. "Wilson's Warbler!" "Yellow Warbler!" "Wilson's Warbler - another - another!" "Black-headed Grosbeak!" "Wilson's Warbler!" "Sage Sparrow!" "Townsend's Warbler!" "Hermit Warbler!" "Warbling Vireo!" "Wilson's Warbler!" (Wilson's Warbler was our most abundant species that day.) "Audubon's Warbler!" "Green-tailed Towhee!" "MacGillivray's Warbler!" "("Where?" "By that white rock - oops, gone.") "Lazuli Bunting!" "Hammond's Flycatcher!" "Western Tanager!" "Myrtle Warbler!" ("Huh? You're kidding, a Myrtle here - where??" "On that little bush." Sure enough, it really was a Myrtle.) "Orange-crowned Warbler!" Cassin's Solitary Vireo!"

We paused to admire a Golden Eagle passing overhead, then returned to the passerine parade. "Nashville Warbler!" "Golden-crowned Sparrow!" "MacGillivray's Warbler!" "Great, got it that time!" "Black-throated Gray Warbler!" ("That's a lifer - where - oh, there. Damn! It flew! Wait, there's another one!") "Bullock's Oriole!" "Olive-sided Flycatcher!" "Swainson's Thrush!"

Cliff and Violet-green Swallows zipped by, and a California Quail wandered onto the scene, but our attention was riveted to the tidal wave of migrants.

About mid-morning the Charge of the Flight Brigade began to abate, gradually dwindling to a trickle of birds, then to the occasional straggler. After resting arms weary from holding binoculars and removing extra clothing no longer necessary as the morning cold gave way to desert heat, we hiked down Butterbredt Canyon. The hike is not particularly strenuous - about a mile and a quarter each way, with a gradual descent on a trail which is fairly easy except for the two barbed-wire fences you have to get through (my army drill sergeant would have been proud of me) and the mucky areas around the stream at the end of the trail. Often little clumps of migrants remain in the canyon after the great mass has moved on. Hooded Orioles sometimes nest in the trees along the stream, and resident desert species can be found.

We found few lingering migrants that morning and no Hooded Orioles, but some Greater Roadrunners dashed past, Rock Wrens and a handsome Black-throated Sparrow obligingly appeared, White-throated and one Vaux's Swift sailed over, and a stunning Mountain Quail strutted on a flat rock for our admiration. A variety of wildflowers added welcome beauty to the stark landscape, and several species of colorful lizards proved nearly as interesting as the birds and far more cooperative for the photographers among us.

A thrilling morning of birding ended back at the spring, where a Great Horned Owl sat in a tree, waiting to share our lunch, or perhaps find its own lunch among the ground squirrels, rabbits, and smaller birds. After a relaxed meal in the shade, we piled into the van and departed Butterbredt Spring, rocking and rolling over the miserable excuse for a road, and descended into Jawbone Canyon to search for the elusive LeConte's Thrasher - but that's another story.

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The Board of Directors of the Baltimore Bird Club has approved the following change in Article 5 of the club's bylaws. The change aligns our bylaws with the bylaws of the MOS and our nomination process with that used by most state chapters. At the beginning of the Tuesday Evening Show-&-Tell at Cylburn on Dec. 10, the membership will be asked to ratify the following bylaws change.
The current Bylaws Article V:

Section 1. The Nominating Committee shall be a rotating committee consisting of five (5) voting members elected by the membership from the membership at large. Two (2) members shall be elected from a list of at least five (5) candidates in even-numbered years and three (3) members shall be elected from a list of at least five (5) candidates in odd-numbered years. Each member shall serve for two (2) years or until his successor is elected. The President, with the approval of the Board of Directors, shall appoint one member of this committee to serve as Chair for a term of one (1) year. All members of the Nominating Committee shall be nominated and elected in the same manner and at the same time as the Officers of the Chapter and shall serve throughout the year to provide names for filling vacancies at the request of the Board of Directors. Any vacancy in the Nominating Committee shall be filled by the Board of Directors. The members of the Nominating Committee are not barred from becoming nominees for office.

Section 2. The Nominating Committee shall publish a slate of proposed candidates in the February issue of the Chapter Newsletter. Additional nominations may be submitted to the Nominating Committee, in writing, no later than March 1 of that year. It Is the responsibility of the Nominating Committee to ascertain the consent of all nominees before they are included on the ballot.

Section 3. The ballots shall be published in the April Newsletter. Ballots shall be forwarded to the Chair of the Nominating Committee no later than the date specified on the ballot.

Section 4. Election shall be by plurality vote of legal ballots received.

Section 5. Eligibility to vote shall be consistent with the State organization.

Section 6. The Nominating Committee shall count only valid ballots and shall submit a written report to the Recording Secretary at the May meeting of the Board of Directors and to the Executive Secretary of the Maryland Ornithological Society, Inc. The report shall be published in the next Newsletter following the May meeting of the Board of Directors.

The proposed new Bylaws Article V:

Section 1. The Nominating Committee shall be a rotating committee consisting of five members, two of whom shall be elected in even-numbered years, and three of whom shall be elected in odd-numbered years from the membership at large, by the Board of Directors at its initial meeting following the annual membership meeting. Each member shall serve for two years, or until a successor is elected. Before the next meeting of the Board of Directors, the Committee shall elect one of its members to serve as Chairman for a term of one year.

Section 2. It shall be the duty of this Committee to prepare a list of candidates for the elective offices to be filled at the annual meeting, and to publish this list in the Chip Notes prior to the annual meeting.

Section 3. It shall also be the duty of this Committee to prepare and present to the Board of Directors, at its initial meeting. a list of candidates for the ensuing year's Nominating Committee.

Section 4. Additional nominations for elective offices and Nominating Committee may be made from the floor at the annual meeting and the Board of Director's meeting, respectively.

Section 5. No nomination shall be made without the nominee's prior consent.

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From Birdwatcher's Digest

by Joy Wheeler

Birdwatcher's Digest comes to Cylburn as a result of the MOS exchange agreement with Maryland Birdlife. When two copies came where we usually get only one, the explanation came along with it: "Your organization or publication was mentioned in "Quick Takes" section of the September/October 1996 issue of BWD."

"Quick Takes" by Marylander Rik Blom, is a review of current reports of publications and happenings involving birds. His reference to Maryland Birdlife is a review of Lola Oberman's observations of a territorial battle to the death between two Pileated Woodpeckers, December 1995. Rik's name is found on another "quick take" -- good directions for focusing on the patagial bars of Red-tailed Hawks for sure and certain identification of this "highly variable" bird

It is almost as good to read Rik's work as it is to hear him lecture in the field or in the lecture hall. For more of his work check out the BWD Skimmer. Subscriptions are $12 for one year, $20 for two: PO Box 110, Marietta OH 45750. For a good chance to hear Rik come to Cylburn on Tuesday November 5 at 7:30 PM when he will speak about "Maryland's Owls."

A poignant note in the current BWD is the announcement of the death of Roger Tory Peterson along with the publication of his article "My Evolution as a Bird Artist," a revealing account of his methods and philosophy as a painter and field guide designer. BWD promises a tribute to Mr. Peterson in their next issue.

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Summary of Treasurer's Annual Report

Robert C. Wood, Treasurer

BEGINNING BALANCE,  MAY 1, 1995                              $22,839.28
                Membership Dues                 $ 8,192.00
                Donations                         1,483.00
                Interest, Savings Account           879.35
                Interest, Checking Account           59.45
                Interest, Museum Self Insurance      97.60
                Checklists, Patches,  etc.           23.00
        Total Receipts                                        10,734.90

                Dues to M.O.S.                  $ 4,145.00
                Membership and Donations            690.00
                Chip Notes                        1,594.78
                Printing:  Annual Program, etc.     817.00
                Youth Education                     210.00
                Portable Exhibit                    994.96
                Museum:  Taxidermy, etc.            545.00
                Checklists, Patches, etc.           338.76
                Operating Expenses                1,809.37
                Committee Expenses                  533.79
        Total Expenditures                                   (12,678.66)

ENDING BALANCE,  APRIL 30, 1996                              $20,895.52
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Back Yard Birding


In April of '95 Paul Dabkowski noticed a large bird perched in a dead locust tree near the Foster Farms pond in Worthington Valley. He grabbed his binoculars to take a look. Even before the image was focused Paul recognized that it was a mature Bald Eagle. The bird remained there for at least an hour. Over the past year Paul has continued to monitor the pond. He has identified Great Blue and Green Herons, but the eagle has not returned.

In Woodensburg: the Mays have been entertaining a Ruby-throated Hummer with an orange gorget. Judy Wooden discovered an active Great Crested Flycatcher nest but was unable to determine how many birds were in the cavity.

Chris McSwain in Randallstown saw a Carolina Wren carrying nesting material on August 23. She also reports Common Nighthawks on the evenings of August 28 and 29.

Lori Robinson, a staff member from Winand Elementary School, found an active Catbird nest in the school's courtyard. The birds made good use of some computer paper for the foundation of the nest. Resting in the nest were three juveniles who were successfully fledged by July 23.

Eirik Blom's column Quick Takes from Bird Watchers Digest (June/July '96), gives the following info for anyone interested in participating in a Purple Martin monitoring project.

The first part of the project wants to list every active and inactive colony in the USA. Eirik characterizes this comprehensive study as an "intriguing project, and every reader with Martin housing should participate."

If you are interested contact: James R. Hill, Purple Martin Association, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro PA 16444 or call 814-734-4420, fax at 814-734-5808 or e-mail: .

Did you know that a Ruby-throated Hummingbird: may beat his wings 200 times per second during a display dive, heart beats 1260 times per minute, would have to eat 285 pounds of hamburger every day if it had a human metabolism? (Stokes, The Hummingbird Book)

Back Yard Birding - Feeding Tips
Jim Peters found a sure fire gourmet treat for all types of woodpeckers and suet-eating birds. (He's currently experimenting on a feeder design that will discourage the Starling population from snarfing it all up.)
  1 cup  crunchy peanut butter 
  2 cups "Quick Oats" 
  2 cups cornmeal 
  1 cup  lard (no substitutes)
  1 cup  white flour 
1/3 cup  white sugar 
Melt the lard and peanut butter, stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into aluminum foil pans 5 1/4" x 8 1/4" (bread pans work well). Allow to cool, cut into cakes, store in freezer. Jim often adds sunflower seeds to the mix (before the mixture hardens). Jim suggests that you may also add raisins, chopped fruit, currants, or available nut meats.

Here's the same idea in an uncooked version:

 1 cup  shortening or lard
 1 cup  peanut butter
 4 cups cornmeal
 1 cup  flour (any type)
Mix well, refrigerate. This mixture may be smeared on tree trunks, railings, etc. (I kept some in a Bluebird box during the snows of '96, and at least one Carolina wren from the woods survived by finding and eating it. G.F.)

Jim mixes his own seed using white millet, finely ground corn (Jim says the corn is available as baby chick scratch at most feed stores), and some black oil sunflower seeds. He generally feeds the birds until the end of Feb. By that time "my birds show less interest as the temperature is more moderate."

Jim continues feeding "sunflower and peanut hearts until mid March, ...when I usually stop my feeder operation altogether. I begin feeding again in mid Oct... I have a hummingbird feeder through the spring, summer and fall." Speaking of hummingbirds, an article in Bird Watcher's Digest suggested an 8 or 9 ratio of sugar and water (1/4 cup sugar, 2 cups water) in the hot humid weather to cut down on dangerous molds that can grow quickly in a 24 hr. period. It works very nicely, the hummers keep coming.

This winter, Sherry Trabert from Hamilton nourished her Brown thrasher and other birds with a mix of sunflower hearts, cracked corn and peanut pieces that she buys pre-mixed (The Wild Bird Center). Sherry has made her yard in Hamilton attractive to wildlife by having "many birdhouses and feeders, good cover, specific flowers, shrubs and trees and a small garden pond with running water (by pump) year-round. We have proved the famous saying that if you build it, they will come!" Some folks enjoy feeding birds all year 'round, even in summer. This may be because adult birds, who have made use of backyard feeding during the harsh seasons, continue to visit familiar accommodations with their young. If you choose to feed during hot weather, bacteria growth on moldy seed and hulls can be a problem. Extra precaution should be taken to prevent diseases that may develop, by cleaning feeders and keeping ground food clutter swept up.

There are some fun recipe books out for feeding the birds. If you're interested, try the Bibelot book store in Owings Mills or Borders in Towson & Columbia.

Let us hear about your Back Yard birding too. Call or write

                  Gail Frantz
                  13955 Old Hanover Rd.
                  Reisterstown MD 21136

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