Steve Sanford 8412 Downey Dale Drive Randallstown MD 21133or e-mail to
As soon as we arrived at our hotel in Belize City on March 2, we began to see gulls, terns, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, Neotropical Cormorants, Social Flycatchers, Tropical Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Belted Kingfishers, and even a Cinnamon Hummingbird on her nest. Later, at our "official" destination, Altun Ha, our very knowledgeable native guide, Roy, did an excellent job of filling us in on the history of this impressive Mayan site which was occupied from 1000 BC to 900 AD. However, I must admit that I was more interested in the White-bellied Emerald, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Great-tailed Grackle, White-fronted Parrot, and Masked Tityra which we saw there.
The Masked Tityra is about the size of a Baltimore Oriole, but seemed larger with its whitish pale gray body, black wings, and black facemask enclosing a red eye patch. Although we saw the tityra several times throughout the trip, it never ceased to impress me.
Our next morning was spent at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary where we birded the grounds, but spent most of our time touring the lagoons in small boats. Some of our prizes at Crooked Tree were Jabiru Stork, Wood Storks, an Aplomado Falcon, Laughing Falcon, Short-tailed Hawk, Snail Kites, herons, egrets, terns, sandpipers, Limpkins, Anhingas, Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, redstarts, Yellow-winged Tanager, Clay-colored Robin, Yucatan Woodpecker.
After lunch, I laid in a hammock and enjoyed the breeze. Then we saw howler monkeys and some of the same birds at the Community Baboon Sanctuary, before making our way back to our dinner and accommodations at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.
On our third day, we went to Hidden Valley Resort where we spent three nights. On the way I spotted two Bat Falcons on top of a snag. There was a lot of bird activity all around the resort grounds so we were birding every waking moment, observing, among others: Yellow-backed Orioles, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Hepatic Tanagers. After lunch I spotted a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, which everyone in our group eventually saw. Later in the afternoon, we drove out to "1000 Foot Falls" and saw an Orange-breasted Falcon perched on the other side of the valley, an Azure-crowned Hummingbird, some White-collared Swifts, and some Vaux's Swifts.
As it began to rain, we headed back to the resort. Because of the mountainous terrain, considerable braking was required and the bus began to lose air pressure. I heard our driver, Mario, say to our native guide. "I think we make it." (We had.) The rain was brief and we found some Rufous-capped Warblers before going in for showers and dinner.
Wednesday morning the drive to Caracol took about two hours because of the condition of the roads. (Belize has three kinds of roads: rough, rougher, and roughest.) An excellent native guide, Andres Novelo, explained the Mayan ruins in a most entertaining manner, and was knowledgeable about the birds too. In addition to guiding tourists, he works with the researchers at Caracol, helping them to find and identify the flora and fauna. Andres was quite excited when I loaned him my binoculars. He would love to have binoculars of his own. If you have extra binoculars to donate to an excellent guide who is full of fun and energy and would make good use of them, I have his address and would be happy to pass them on to him. I told him I would try to locate a pair for him.
It was Andres who found the Blue-crowned Motmot for us. Then, I was excited to discover a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and share it with the group. In addition, we saw a Collared Trogon, Plumbeous Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite, and a White-crowned Parrot on her nest in a dead palm tree. Her head was sticking out of the hole for quite a while but, finally, we saw her come out and fly away.
The Ocellated Turkeys at Caracol are so used to the visitors and scientists that they did not seem at all disturbed when we walked past them. Right before we left Caracol we saw a Band-backed Wren, which is quite rare in Belize. This was the first one that Rafa, our Caligo Ventures guide, had seen in his many trips to this country. He was probably more excited about it than we were!
Thursday morning two very small planes took us to Gallon Jug, wa-a-ay in the jungle. From there a van took us to Chan Chich - a comfortable and picturesque resort situated in a Mayan plaza, surrounded by jungle. From the porch of my cabana I could see Red-lored Parrots, Rufous Hummingbirds, Long-tailed Hermits, Little Hermits, and Montezuma Oropendolas. The latter are beautiful large birds with chestnut back and wings, yellow and black tail, and a bi-colored bill. Since they are colonial and they also build new nests each year, their tree is festooned with dozens of large, pendulous nests. Eventually the colony moves on to a new tree.
No birding trip is complete without at least one trip to a dump, and one of the prime birding locations in this area was the Chan Chich dump. There we saw a Royal Flycatcher who was kind enough to raise his crest for us, and a Rufous-tailed Jacamar among others. Other nearby locations netted us King Vulture, Laughing and Bat Falcon, Red-billed Pigeon, Olive-throated Parrot, Mealy Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Amazon Kingfisher, Red-throated Tanagers, Dot-winged Wren, etc.
While returning from an afternoon trip to Leguna Verde we spotted a large tapir in the middle of the road. The tapir, a mammal resembling a huge pig, with a heavy body, short legs, and a fleshy proboscis, is the national animal of Belize. None had been seen in this area for years. We had a good long look before it lumbered off into the jungle. Our report created quite a stir in Chan Chich!
Saturday morning was made unforgettable when an immature Ornate Hawk-Eagle appeared just off the path we were taking through the jungle. He seemed to be stalking some Ocellated Turkeys, but we could not determine his success or lack thereof because he went deeper into the jungle. Ornate Hawk-Eagles are quite large and sport a long spiky black crest. Since "ours" was an immature, it lacked the solid bright cinnamon cheeks and neck. Instead, it was streaked, with barred flanks. He was quite a beauty! Other delightful discoveries on our morning walk were a White-breasted Wood-Wren, two Slaty-tailed Trogons, a Black-faced Antthrush, and a Crested Guan.
After breakfast, our trip to Leguna Seca and "the marsh" yielded two special prizes: a Sun Grebe posing on a log for us, and a Black-collared Hawk. We also saw a White-whiskered Puffbird, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Northern Jacana, Black-headed Trogon, and others. In the afternoon I chose to lounge on the porch of my cabana and watch the hummingbirds, parrots and Montezuma Oropendolas chasing around.
A late afternoon hike down the road to "the bridge" gave our group a Keel-billed Toucan, Yellow-winged Tanager, Yellow-throated Euphonias, Cinnamon Becard, Piratic Flycatcher, Hooded Warbler, Black-cowled Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, and Giant Cowbird.
When we finally headed back for showers and dinner, I heard a crashing in the trees and hung back to see what was coming. It was a small band of spider monkeys. They swung across the road and continued on into the jungle.
Sunday morning we went to Jaguar Reef Lodge. It is lovely: nestled right on the Caribbean Sea, with the Maya Mountains in view behind it. After a pleasant lunch we drove to the Hopkins Marsh and then to the Sittee River where we walked by the river. In both locations we saw many birds: Pale-vented Pigeon, Olive-throated Parakeet, Red-lored Parrot, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, various woodpeckers and woodcreepers, Dusky Antbird, eight species of flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Black-crowned Tityra (even prettier than the Masked Tityra, if possible), Clay-colored Robin, and a variety of northern warblers -- not to mention Blue-gray, Yellow-winged, Summer, and Red-throated Ant Tanagers; Green-backed Sparrow; Blue-black Grassquit; and Variable Seedeater.
My favorite of the day was the Red-legged Honeycreeper - a small iridescent bird with a face, belly, rump, and wing-bar of vivid violet-blue topped off by a light turquoise crown sparkling brilliantly in the sunshine. As you look closer, you begin to notice the pattern of jet-black back, wings, and tail; a very small black mask; scarlet legs; and you might see the yellow wing-linings, if you aren't too dazzled by the rest. Eventually, but reluctantly, we returned to our lodge for dinner.
The next day, on the entry road to the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary, we stopped to observe the Chestnut-headed Oropendola, which can only be seen there, and another White-collared Manakin as well as Rose-throated and Cinnamon Becards, Piratic Flycatcher, White-collared Swifts, Double-toothed Kites, Common Black Hawk, Roadside Hawk, and Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher. Along the trails at Cockscomb were some species we saw only there: a Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Orange-billed Sparrow, Black-headed Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator, Blue-black Grosbeak, a beautiful Scarlet-rumped Tanager (one of my favorites), Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Northern Bentbill, Common Tody-Flycatcher, and Violaceous Trogon, as well as more common species. Near the office/picnic area we spotted a Gray-fronted Dove, a Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-bellied Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and a Little Hermit.
In the vicinity of the Jaguar Reef Lodge, where we spent our last two evenings, there were Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, Royal and Sandwich Terns, and even a Hooded Oriole.
As we drove to Belize City on March 11 to catch our return flight to the U.S., we were stopped briefly at a police roadblock to make sure that our van had not been commandeered by seven prison escapees who were still on the run. Farther down the road, a Plain Chachalaca flew into the side of our speeding van. "Chachas are good to eat," exclaimed our excited driver as he pulled to the side of the road. But alas, a truck driver who was traveling in the opposite direction got there first and raced off with it.
This was a great trip! Although I saw over 200 species of birds, I did not find the pace to be too tiring or hectic. There were many opportunities, if one desired, to stay put and rest or study a field guide. However, most of us didn't want to risk missing anything in this fabulous country.
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Just after Christmas, 1996 I received a note from her saying she was ready to give these items back to BBC. I'm happy to report that the folder with transparent pages for easy viewing is now at Cylburn with the other 50th anniversary archives we gathered. It was not until many weeks after Christmas that I was able to visit Erana to receive the folder. She'd been ill and spent almost two weeks at St. Joseph Hospital and a few days at the infirmary at Edenwald before she was able to receive me. She had been getting excellent care for pneumonia, and everything was being done to restore her flagging appetite. For a while she was foregoing her daily 45-minute walk around the drives and walkways of Edenwald. However, as I write this in June, she is out for her walks again and her appetite has returned. And, as is characteristic of Erana, she is enjoying her own special brand of independence again.
Perhaps you may have a chance to browse through our archives, our slide collections, our books of birds from many countries around the world. You will become aware of how many of these things have been contributed by Erana. Two recent world travelers, Shirley Geddes to Europe and Patsy Perlman to New Zealand, have used these books to do some of their own pre-trip planning. We are all most grateful to Erana Lubbert for being a good steward of her own history and ours as well. She is indeed one of her treasured members.
HERVEY BRACKBILL is another name you may recognize if you've been with the BBC since its beginning in 1945. (Let's refer to him as HB; his impressive name has a Swiss-German origin and may have nothing to do with the bills of birds, HB believes, and should not be used to predict his long interest in the subject.)
HB became aware of birds early in life in Lancaster, Pa. He pursued his already considerable interest by signing up early with the BBC, observing and banding birds close to his home in the Gwynns Falls area, and reporting his findings in Maryland Birdlife, Maryland, and many other birding and ornithological journals. As a professional journalist for the Baltimore Sun, HB wrote many feature articles about Maryland's birds for the general public. He, like Erana Lubbert, has enjoyed a nine-decade-plus life, and has collected many things of interest about the BBC and the birds in his life. Like Mrs. Lubbert he wants to return to the club some things which he feels would have meaning for us: his fairly complete series of Maryland Birdlife, for one.
In 1995 I called HB to personally reinforce the invitation to the MOS Conference in Baltimore only to find then that he was almost blind, quite deaf, and confined to a wheelchair for most of the day. Unfortunately, he was not able to accept. So, when I received a call from him this spring, I was glad to hear that he was still enjoying life and still appreciating the part birds played in his life.
When I arrived at his home on Poplar Drive near Gwynn Oak Park, as we had arranged, I was stunned by the condition of what had been many acres of mature woodland at the end of his street. Instead, here was a most nightmarish change from deep green woods to wide-open, bare brown soil. The roots of trees had been gouged out and pushed along with their dismembered trunks into high, jagged piles spaced along an extensive gully, so long and wide I couldn't bear to look at it to see how large it actually was. What a way to end what must have been a beautiful relationship with this once-perfect habitat. The Brackbills lived in their comfortable home there since the early 1950s.
In spite of his disabilities HB was a gracious host. We looked through a collection of old-style Sunday Sun "brown sections," all with feature articles with photographs of some of Maryland's more newsworthy birds, all with the Hervey Brackbill byline. (Oh the time I was wasting before I picked up binoculars for the first time in 1971!) He then invited me to go to his basement to collect the issues of Maryland Birdlife, which I had some trouble finding, as he shouted directions from his first-floor vantage point. But they were there, stacked among many other journals. My curiosity led me to leaf through a few of these, all with the familiar HB byline. I did find enough issues of Maryland Birdlife to fill my box and carry upstairs.
But my host was not ready to let me go. He had some good birding stories to tell and I was a receptive audience. One was about Alexander Skutch, who had sought him out on one of his infrequent visits to Baltimore. The two of them were walking through the Forest Park neighborhood where HB was living at the time. Our storyteller remembered how it felt to be corrected in his identification of a bird. It was a Brown Thrasher, Mr. Skutch insisted, instead of a Wood Thrush, as HB had called it. (Or was it the other way around? If the similarity of these two species weren't enough to confuse you, the passage of 50 years would be.)
I have the promise of another invitation for another round of stories. For me this is just another benefit -- and not the least -- of membership in the BBC and the MOS. If you'd like to go along next time, perhaps taking a tape recorder, I'll try to get you an invitation too. Hervey Brackbill is truly another one of our most treasured members.
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Candy Andrejeski Mike Baker Jane Baldwin Sally Bloomer Bill Bridgeland Dan Clark Dot Clark Mimi Cooper Anne Allen Dandy Walter Dandy Charles Davis Graham Egerton Phyllis Gerber Linda Groff Dot Gustafson Jill Jones Woody Kief Davida Madden Bernie Maddox Gerry Moudry Sue Patz Ben Poscover Anne Redfern Bob Stanhope William Stine
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Roberta Ross 4128 Roland Avenue Baltimore MD 21211-2034Dues are $20 for an individual or $30 for a household.
New members who joined after April 30, 1997, and paid a full year's dues at that time, have already paid for the 1997-98 membership year and do not have to pay any further dues now.
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The fee for the seminar is $50.00 per person, $40.00 for full-time students and members of the Nature Center, but the plant sale is free and open to the public. Please call the Nature Center at (410) 484-2413 to receive a brochure on the seminar and/or additional information. The Irvine Nature Center is located on the campus of St. Timothy's School, 8400 Greenspring Avenue, Stevenson, MD, one mile north of the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) Exit 22.
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Editor's note: This remarkable literary gem was discovered by Tom and Doris Simpson after passing Camden Yards in the drizzling rain and sighting a lone vulture making his way out of town.
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March 16 -A sunny day with a bitter cold wind led to the cancellation of the Centennial Lake, Columbia bird walk, but three birders showed up to see what the lake had to offer. Allen Hafner reported that 24 species were sighted, with such notables as a Lesser Scaup, some Coots, Bluebirds, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Golden-crowned Kinglets.
March 22 - It was a cold, cloudy, dark night in Pennsylvania. Twenty-four birders visited Codorus State Park to hear Karen Lippy talk about the woodcock. Gail Frantz reported the birders, armed with spotlights and audiotapes, heard 5 - 6 woodcocks, and one flew down a car trail to disappear almost immediately. This elusive bird scored again: Bird - 1, Birder - 0.
March 23: See The Joy of Cylburn.
March 25 - Twenty birders walked Lake Roland with Adelaide Rackemann and spotted 34 of our feathered friends. Among the birds I thought were interesting included: Pied-billed Grebe, American Widgeon, Great Blue Heron, Kingfisher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Bluebird.
March 30 - See The Joy of Cylburn.
April 1 - It was windy, cold, and even snowy. Nevertheless 14 hardy participants, led by Jean Worthley, birded Lake Roland and saw 26 species.
April 6 - See The Joy of Cylburn.
April 6 - A cool and cloudy day greeted three birders as they walked Piney Run Park. A Hermit Thrush and several Common Loons were the highlights that Burton Alexander reported. 42 species were seen that day with Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Fish Crow, and Brown Thrasher as other notable species seen.
April 8 - It was another clear and cool day for spring as twenty-one birders visited Lake Roland. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were singing, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Barn Swallow, and Rough-winged Swallow were seen, and two warbler species were spotted: a Yellow-rumped and a Palm Warbler. 37 species topped our bird count for this day as reported by Matilda Weiss.
April 13 - See The Joy of Cylburn.
April 15 - All the birds must have been out doing their last minute taxes because Patsy Perlman reported that the birding was very slow, with the birds being few and far between at Lake Roland. The twenty-three birders saw 45 species on this sunny day with temperatures around 50 F. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, Green Heron, Winter Wren, and Double-crested Cormorant were the special birds of the day. Three species of warbler, Palm, Pine, and Yellow-rumped, helped round out the field.
April 20 - See The Joy of Cylburn.
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March 30 - It's Easter Sunday and the sky is blue. Warm sunshine is everywhere. Daffodils are in bloom, painted turtles are basking on logs, and a muskrat swims languidly by. This is not some exotic location miles away. It is Cylburn. Four birders saw eighteen species of birds. A pair of Mallards and a male Wood Duck were tops for our list. But good views of White-throated Sparrows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Killdeer were also a part of this morning. Yes, we did see painted turtles and a muskrat; and no, we were not under the influence of any substance. We were just taking in the beauty of Cylburn: always there, always exciting, and always unpredictable.
April 6 - Six birders braved a cold, rainy morning to see what Cylburn had to offer on this third self-guided tour of the Arboretum. If one visits Cylburn regularly, one can see the dramatic changes that occur from week to week. The wildflowers were out in force with color all along the trails. The birds also seemed to enjoy the change. Eighteen species were seen. Towhees were singing, flickers and robins were frolicking around the trees, and White-throated Sparrows and juncos were still searching around the bird feeders for something to eat. Cylburn was trying its best to bring spring to Baltimore.
April 13 - Cylburn was beautiful today, with the tulips beginning to bloom and wildflowers out in force. This was a picture perfect spring day, and fourteen birders came out to join the walk. Six of our birders came from the Anne Arundel County Chapter of MOS, and we welcomed them on the Cylburn Self-Guided tour. The day did not disappoint us. We saw twenty-seven species of birds, including our first warbler of the season on the Sunday walks, a Black-and-white Warbler. Rufous-sided Towhees sounded their calls, a kestrel showed off his hunting skills, and good looks were had of Blue Jays, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and a Hermit Thrush. Hawks flew overhead, and some unidentified birds in the high branches led one to believe that the warblers will be out in force next week. Cylburn has brought spring to Baltimore.
April 20: Tulips are out in force at Cylburn, and eleven birders saw the brightly colored gardens as well as thirty species of birds. The flickers were doing their usual antics and we had some good views of Gnatcatchers, Blue Jays, and White-throated Sparrows. But the trip was topped with some great close-up looks at Chipping Sparrows, Rufous-sided Towhee, Solitary Vireo, and our first green-colored warbler of the season, a Palm Warbler. While the weather may not be making up its mind, the birds at Cylburn are trying their best to bring springtime to Baltimore.
Subsequent Cylburn Self-guided Walks are described in Part 2 of the Field Trip Reports
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On a certain day in late spring for the last five years or so, I awake to discover a thick stack of paper on my desk, waiting for me to do something about it. The paper represents the accumulated experience of the past season's field trips and the "something" I must do is to make sense of them. My job is to bring these two-dimensional lists with their hand-written notes to life for those who were not there, or to tickle the recollection of those who were.
This time, I thought I'd let the records speak for themselves. I present you with the simple brush-strokes of the statistics, color-washed with the comments of the field trip leaders:
April 22: Lake Roland. Weather: Cool at first, turning sunny and warmer later on. Leader: Dot Gustafson. Participants: 17. Species: 55. Highlights: "Tundra Swan. Excellent views of a Prothonotary Warbler and a Louisiana Waterthrush."
April 24: Rock Run, Susquehanna State Park. Weather: Fair but wet from a night of rain. Leader: Rodney Jones. Participants: 7. Species: 36. Highlights: "Several Yellow-throated Warblers."
April 26: Glen Meadows Retirement Center. Weather: Clear, warm day: bright blue sky. Leader: Steve Simon. Participants: 15. Species: 45.
April 27: Jug Bay. Weather: Sunny and mid 60s then light rain in afternoon. Leader: Steve Sanford. Participants: 6. Species: 66. Highlights: "Very well-seen Hooded, Yellow-throated and Parula Warblers. Nine Warbler species total. Reflecting the general lateness of migration, the hoped-for Summer Tanagers and Prairie Warblers were not found. In contrast, some late winter species were present: Snipe, Pipit, White-crowned Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird and Hermit Thrush."
April 27: Cylburn Self-Guided. Weather: 60. Reported by Joe Lewandowski. Participants: 14. Species: 30. Highlights: "Common Loons, Cormorants, Black-throated Blue Warbler."
April 29: Lake Roland. Weather: From low 40s to mid 50s. Leader: Elliot Kirschbaum. Participants: 30. Species: 54. Highlights: Nesting Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. "Seven species of Warblers."
May 4: Phoenix. Weather: Clear. Leader: Graham Egerton. Participants: 35. Species: 62.
May 4: Cylburn Self-Guided. Reported by Joe Lewandowski. Participants: 6. Species: 44. Highlights: "Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Spotted Sandpiper, Swainson's Thrush, Common Nighthawk, many Warblers."
May 6: Lake Roland. Weather: Variable -- sunny, cloudy, showers, windy, clearing. Leader: Mac Plant. Participants: 28. Species: 72. Highlights: "Fifteen Warbler species: a great day."
May 11: Lake Roland/Southwest Area Park via Light Rail. Weather: Sunny, clear and warm. Leader: Mark and Leanne Pemburn. Participants: 12. Species: 65. Highlights: "Amazing views of a Blackburnian and a Chestnut-sided Warblers feeding at or below eye-level (who ever gets to see the top of a Blackburnian's head?). For the future: get to know the Light Rail schedule; they don't start running until noon!"
May 11: Cylburn Self-Guided. Reported by Joe Lewandowski. Participants: 6. Species: 49. Highlights: "American Redstart, Prairie and Blue-winged Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Baltimore Oriole."
May 14: Northampton Furnace Trail. Leader: Joy Wheeler. Participants: 9. Species: 20. Highlights: "the sighting and hearing of about four Common Nighthawks. Jane White had found a dead Nighthawk during the day at Pratt St. and then saw the 'real live' bird flying over the trail. Truly a memorable day for her. The two Great Egrets were magnificent, especially after a whole year without them."
May 13: Lake Roland. Weather: Overcast and windless. Leader: Shirley Geddes. Participants: 30. Species: 74. Highlights: "Olive-sided Flycatcher. Barred Owl with young. Fourteen species of Warblers."
May 18: Cylburn Self-Guided. Reported by Joe Lewandowski. Participants: 11. Species: 38. Highlights: "Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Cape May and Wilson's Warblers."
May 20: Lake Roland. Weather: Light rain until mid-morning. Leader: Bob Wood. Participants: 22. Species: 59. Highlights: "American Redstart feeding young at the nest. Best bird: Bay-Breasted Warbler."
May 25: Delaware Bay. Weather: Partly sunny, 70. Leader: Gene Scarpulla. Participants: 16. Species: 83. Highlights:. Highlights: "A White-faced Ibis in breeding plumage seen among a flock of Glossy Ibis at Shearness Pool (Bombay Hook). Also there: breeding plumaged male Red-necked Phalarope, a Wilson's Phalarope and a small flock of White-rumped Sandpipers. Thousands of Horseshoe Crabs at Port Mahon, Pickering Beach and Ted Harvey."
May 27: Lake Roland. Weather: Clouds turning later to sun. Temperatures in the 50s. Leader: Josie Gray. Participants: 30. Species: 69. Highlights: "Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on its nest. Four baby Eastern Phoebes huddled together being fed by their parents."
May 31: Owings Mills/Liberty Lake. Weather: Cloudy, then sunny and in the 80s. Leader: Gail Frantz. Participants: 10. Species: 62. Highlights: "We missed the sale at Macy's but we did get a great scope view of the Willow Flycatcher singing. Everyone agreed the two broods of Wood Ducks were adorable. A newly constructed lodge with active beaver added to our 'shopping' pleasure."
June 3: Lake Roland. Leader: Adelaide Rackemann. Participants: 3. Species: 14. Highlights: "An unscheduled extension of the Lake Roland trip. Prairie Warbler."
June 6 Patuxent NWR (North Tract). Weather: Mostly cloudy and about 65-70. Leader: Steve Sanford. Participants: 17. Species: 68. Highlights: "Prairie Warblers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, and Pine Warblers, all at their nests. Those pesky Summer Tanagers and Blue Grosbeaks did not materialize, though, due perhaps to the unseasonably cool weather."
June 14: Carroll County. Weather: overcast and in the 70s. Leader: Bob Ringler. Participants: 9. Species: 66.
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In April, the board thanked outgoing Corresponding Secretary Dot Clark for her service to the BBC. The board discussed and approved the proposed budget for 1997-98 and heard a report on publicizing BBC activities in the Sun.
New directors Chris Manning and Dot Gustafson were introduced
at the May meeting, and the
board considered a proposal to compensate leaders of all-day
field trips. Although the idea was
not approved, the board believed it appropriate to remind
participants in field trips that it is
normal etiquette to contribute to the cost of gas and tolls when
car-pooling on field trips. The
board voted to continue to allow the Natural History Society to
sell publications at the Tuesday
meetings during the 1997-98 year and agreed to reimburse the
Western School of Technology
for the costs incurred by its Envirothon team at the
previously-approved amount of $425.
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Another city birder, Liz Moser (author of "Mutant Duck from Outer Space") saw a Greater Scaup when she was jogging close to the Maryland Science Center in late March.
During February in northeast Baltimore, Kevin Graff added a Fox Sparrow to his backyard life list. Kevin's yard also had a record high of eight Chipping Sparrows eating millet seed.
"The Downey and Hairy have been at the suet all winter and the Goldfinches have eaten a fortune in thistle seed. A Mourning Dove has already hatched a brood under the eave by (and over) our front door. We've seen a hawk wrestle with a large bird (smaller than he) in the driveway across the road and finally saw the victim fly off. We couldn't identify either participant--too many feathers and too much confusion.
"The Juncos are now gone and the House Wren will soon be here to evict the Chickadees from the birdhouse in the magnolia. Our thirty-three year old Blue Spruce blew over in the April 1 winds, following the snow. And so it goes in our home across Dulaney Valley road from the Loch Raven."
Around 8:15 P.M. on April 15, Paul Koehler from Woodlawn -- not far from Security -- walked out his front door and heard a Whip-poor-Will calling from a 15+ acre patch of undeveloped land across from his home. The "empty" land includes trees, shrubs and a general assortment of weeds. Several years ago Paul said that he heard a Woodcock on the same property. Paul made his telephone call brief because he wanted to go back outside and continue listening to the Whip-poor-will call.
In mid-April, Lester Simon of Seminary Ave. in Timonium glanced out his window and was delighted to see a flock of twelve Chipping Sparrows. They covered his stone patio and spilled out onto the grass, eating the seed beneath the feeders. The birds stayed for an hour or two before they left. Lester also has his first pair of nesting Carolina Wrens. They're using one of the Simon's hanging baskets. Although Carolinas are often heard in Lester's neighborhood this is "the first time I've been able to find the spunky little bird's nest." Lester enjoys photographing birds and is planning a summer Maine trip to update his shorebird photo collection.
In March, Simon and Cecilia Calle of Timonium watched a Red-tailed Hawk attempting to extract suet from the two feeders they have hanging ten feet above the ground in one of their trees. Simon wasn't sure if the bird was successful.
On the morning of March 22, Chris McSwain of Randallstown heard a beautiful Oriole-quality bird song in her back yard. Naturally, there were no Orioles there. She was astonished when she discovered that a Fox Sparrow was the originator of the ethereal melody.
During March and April, Dan Hurley had no problem counting the four Purple Finches at his feeder in Owings Mills because they consistently came in together.
Bob Wood of Kingsville writes, "When I stepped outside at 7 A.M. Sat. (May 11), there was a tree full of Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers -- well, at least 5 or 6 of each. I also saw one Orchard Oriole, only the second one in my yard in 32 years."
Joy Wheeler saw an unprecedented number of Bay-breasted Warblers this year and in addition, "Warblers have been so visible this year, what with the leaves taking so long to unfurl, especially on my growing grove of 7-foot bald cypress trees. Besides, when I can add two warblers to my modest list of yard birds, it makes me very happy: Cape May and Bay-breasted, both eating the tender, new, needle-like leaves of the cypress. And I've had that singing Wood Thrush again."
Pete and Carolyn Webb have been watching the unfolding of a dramatic event in their own yard: The successful nesting efforts of a pair of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in one of their old oak trees. If you're interested in viewing this "Blessed Event," the Webbs will be happy to "host any guest" who would like to visit. Call the Webbs to arrange a time. No shower gifts necessary.
Phyllis Grimm of Reisterstown has had a Palm Warbler visit her feeder for the last three winters. Phyllis observed that "her" Palm Warbler has a brighter olive color than is evident in the books.
In Woodensburg, the Mays family reports during the last week of February included three pairs of Bluebirds and a pair of Kestrels investigating appropriate boxes. Simultaneously, flocks of Robins and Flickers were seen in the fields. Cold April 18 brought the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of spring. White-crowned Sparrows visited the yard in March, April and May. During March and April, male and female Purple Finches ate sunflower seeds strewn on the back porch. Since the birds came in one at a time, an accurate count was not possible. Nesting Baltimore and Orchard Orioles returned on May 1 along with a migrating Osprey in the morning.
A male Blue Grosbeak has been singing in the fields along Old Hanover Rd. North of Reisterstown from June 8 through July 5. No female has been sighted yet. (GF)
Jane and Maurice Brown have lived in their home along the Gunpowder River for 25 years. This year, for the first time, a pair of Bluebirds arrived on March 29. The Browns, having just returned home after a month absence, were greeted with a burst water tank along with the birds. It took Jane and Maurice a day to clean up the mess. During that day, the Bluebirds kept up a constant barrage of flying to, pecking at and actually looking into various windows of the house. At last Maurice found a free moment to get a box and put it up for them. The Bluebirds moved in immediately. The Brown's have six boxes that provide homes for nesting House Wrens and Chickadees. They also enjoy a wonderful assortment of species, including Kingfishers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers.
Jane Manning in Towson has heard one of her backyard catbirds singing a short phrase from the popular 1970s tune "Bette Davis Eyes."
On April 6, Steve Sanford in Randallstown had a singing Rufous-sided Towhee, which he says is quite unusual for his yard. But something even more unusual happened a few days later when Steve heard a Puccini aria being sung by a (soprano?) Song Sparrow.
But which aria? He e-mailed the tune (using his own creative musical notation) to birder/opera buff/webmaster Terry Ross, with the following challenge: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to name that tune: the opera, the composer, and the official name of the aria."
In the blink of a Peregrine's dive, Terenzio replied, "This aria, 'O Mio Babbino Caro' is from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, which is one of the three one-act operas of Il trittico. The aria is sung by Schicchi's daughter Lauretta to her 'daddy dear.' I've heard Song Sparrows sing Beethoven's 5th [Steve concurs] and some Brahms but never Puccini."
"Terry knows his stuff!" commented Stefano.
Steve later claimed, "The grackles in my yard like Stravinsky too. They sing highlights from the Rite of Spring all morning long. Lately I have a Song Sparrow who does Rossini's overture to La Cenerentola." The concert continued in May with the first White-crowned Sparrow he has ever seen in his yard singing the more prosaic "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Here's something I wrote in privacy to Steve, which he, as Chip Notes editor, forced me to include: a few years ago, an occasional Wood Thrush would sing from our jungle of trees and weeds. Finally, in the spring of 1996, one moved in. Oh ecstasy! At first, the lovely song soothed worn spirits, helped to mend broken dreams, lulled one to sleep at night, and awakened one gently in the dawn. However, after several weeks of this melodious flute-like song, a certain repetitious phrase emerged and could no longer be ignored.
At first, being so entranced with the idea of having a Wood Thrush as a permanent singing resident kept me from discerning the bird's repetitious phrase; but now, with weeks to go during this second summer, I'm going mad! La mi sol - - Re sol do - - ad infinitum. Occasionally he will sing only La mi sol and stop. I, too, freeze in my tracks, listening intently. Will he? Won't he? Yes, he invariably does, Re sol do. HELP! Who said, "Be careful what you wish for--it may come true" ?
What have you heard lately?
Deborah Delevan wrote in response to Julie Canon's efforts that saved a robin (BYB Jan/Feb), to remind us that the Chesapeake Birds of Prey, Inc., 3504 Advocate Dr., Jarrettsville MD 21084 Tele: (410) 692-2794, is available to offer their services. If you encounter an injured or abandoned bird, Ms. Delevan points out the importance of obtaining the help of a licensed rehabilitator as quickly as possible. These folks have the training, expertise and the legal right to properly care for all birds.
Another licensed rehabilitator and resource for emergency bird care is Dundalk's Gerta Deterer of Wild Bird Rescue Inc., 8139 Cornwall Rd., Baltimore MD 21222 Tele: (410) 288-4546. Mrs. Deterer also stresses the importance of quick action when wild critters are found in distress. Her organization has 45 folks in different parts of Baltimore County and they are often able to pick up birds or wild animals you may encounter that are in need of help.
Kevin Graff is presently involved in a project at Patuxent Wildlife research center in which he cares for Black Ducks. Due to interbreeding with Mallards, the Black Duck population is at risk. The center is attempting to raise birds that are not hybrids so they may be released into the wild. Kevin is also responsible for recording birds throughout the Patuxent refuge the two days a week he volunteers there.
Let us hear about your Back Yard birding too. Call or write
Gail Frantz 13955 Old Hanover Rd. Reisterstown MD 21136 e-mail:
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