The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

October/November 1997 - Online Edition


Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: October 25, 1997 (the next issue will be December 1997/January 1998)
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May Count 1997

by Michele Melia

This year's State May Count took place on May 10, 1997. A total of 30 parties of 71 intrepid birders turned out to identify and count the feathered and winged denizens of Baltimore City and County. The weather was partly cloudy, cool and windy: good conditions if you're a birder, maybe not so good if you're a migratory bird, alas, the wind was from the wrong direction. Whatever the cause, a lot of migratory birds decided to stay put on May 10th, and many parties of birders were rewarded with good numbers of warblers, both of species and individuals. Thirty-three species of warblers were identified; for nine warbler species over 100 individuals were counted. Other notable finds include a Tundra Swan at Loch Raven, White-rumped Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed gull, and a lingering Greater Scaup at Hart-Miller, a Snowy Egret at the Baltimore Harbor, an American Coot in central Baltimore county, and two Lincoln's Sparrows at the Gunpowder River in northern Baltimore County.

However, even the lowly blackbird and starling are not overlooked on May Count day--1293 of the former (red-winged, to be specific) and 1510 of the latter were duly identified and counted. The County and City were saved from the ignominy of having the starling as most numerous bird on the Count by yet another blackbird species, the Common Grackle (1605 individuals counted). Ring-billed gull and Barn Swallow round out the rest of the top five.

On a sadder note, the Bank Swallow colony at Day's Cove has been bulldozed over, and the Bank Swallows were virtually gone from this site. The 101 Bank Swallows counted this year represent a large reduction over previous years. Only one Yellow-billed Cuckoo was reported this year. (Has anyone else noticed that this bird seems to be in a serious decline?)

Altogether, a total of 169 species were identified on the count. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was a notable miss this year. (Perhaps the Lake Roland birds have relocated to Pete Webb's back yard?) The Bald Eagle was another miss. Wait till next year.

Many thanks to our participants: Leonard Ashtes, Bill Balford, John Barber, Julia Barber, Peg Barber, Peter Blank, Rick Blom, Millie Boynton, Alan Bromberg, Anne Brooks, Brent Byers, Mary Byers, Mary Jo Campbell, Ralph Cullison, Robert Doyle, Kay Dreisbach, JoAnn Dreyer, Graham Egerton, Gil Ellis, Muffin Evander, Gail Frantz, Harry Frantz, Shirley Geddes, Kevin Graff, Linda Graff, Josie Gray, Dot Gustafson, Betty-Ann Hackett, Jane Highsaw, Jim Highsaw, Kye Jenkins, Sukon Kanchanaraksa, Elliot Kirschbaum, Nancy Kirschbaum, Kathy Kiselewich, Rosemary Krus, John Landers, Ray Lane, Dolly Leonnig, Joe Lewandowski, Marie Litz, Margaret Markham, Donald Mattson, Michele Melia, Jim Meyers, Jean Muller, LeAnne Pemburn, Mark Pemburn, Eric Perlman, Patsy Perlman, Mac Plant, Esther Powelson, Linda Prentice, Meg Prior, Anne Redfern, Bob Rineer, Roberta Ross, Terry Ross, Nancy Rowe, Jean Sawyers, Gene Scarpulla, Ed Smith, Betsy Taylor, Debbie Terry, Elizabeth Thompson, Darlene Valentine, Pete Webb, Margaret Weber, Hal Weiss, Matilda Weiss, Robert Wood

Baltimore May Count 1997
Common Loon                  2   |   American Crow              467
Dbl-cr Cormorant            94   |   Fish Crow                   10
Great Blue Heron           117   |   Crow Sp.                    82
Snowy Egret                  1   |   Carolina Chickadee         180
Green Heron                 16   |   Tufted Titmouse            144
Black-cr Night-Heron         2   |   White-breasted Nuthatch     32
Tundra Swan                  1   |   Carolina Wren               47
Mute Swan                    4   |   House Wren                  59
Canada Goose               344   |   Marsh Wren                  14
Wood Duck                   32   |   Ruby-crowned Kinglet        11
Black Duck                   2   |   Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher      165
Mallard                    345   |   Eastern Bluebird            87
Blue-winged Teal             5   |   Veery                        5
Greater Scaup                1   |   Swainson's Thrush            9
Black Vulture               19   |   Hermit Thrush                2
Turkey Vulture             113   |   Wood Thrush                126
Osprey                      38   |   American Robin             515
Northern Harrier             4   |   Gray Catbird               475
Sharp-shinned Hawk           2   |   Northern Mockingbird        93
Cooper's Hawk                2   |   Brown Thrasher              12
Red-shouldered Hawk         16   |   Cedar Waxwing               58
Broad-winged Hawk            2   |   European Starling         1510
Red-tailed Hawk             25   |   White- Eyed Vireo           46
American Kestrel             5   |   Solitary Vireo               9
Peregrine Falcon*            6   |   Yellow- throated Vireo      24
Ring-necked Pheasant        11   |   Warbling Vireo               9
Northern Bobwhite            1   |   Philadelphia Vireo*          3
Virginia Rail               20   |   Red- Eyed Vireo            221
Sora                        10   |   Blue-winged Warbler         41
American Coot                1   |   Golden-winged Warbler        3
Black-bellied Plover         2   |   Tennessee Warbler            2
Semipalmated Plover          8   |   Nashville Warbler            4
Killdeer                    51   |   Northern Parula            156
Greater Yellowlegs           3   |   Yellow Warbler             184
Lesser Yellowlegs            6   |   Chestnut-sided Warbler     101
Solitary Sandpiper          49   |   Magnolia Warbler            89
Spotted Sandpiper           62   |   Cape May Warbler             3
Ruddy Turnstone              3   |   Black-thrtd Blue Warbler   357
Semipalm Sandpiper         111   |   Myrtle Warbler             575
Least Sandpiper            117   |   Black-thrtd Green Warbler   93
Wt-rump Sandpiper*           2   |   Blackburnian Warbler        34
Dunlin                      58   |   Yellow-throated Warbler     10
Short-Bill Dowitcher         2   |   Pine Warbler                 6
Common Snipe                 2   |   Prairie Warbler             19
American Woodcock            9   |   Palm Warbler                 5
Laughing Gull               14   |   Bay-breasted Warbler         7
Bonaparte's Gull            50   |   Blackpoll Warbler            4
Ring-billed Gull          1113   |   Cerulean Warbler             7
Herring Gull               606   |   Black-and-White Warbler    173
Lesser Black-backed Gull*    3   |   American Redstart          238
Gr Black-backed Gull        97   |   Prothonotary Warbler         3
Gull Sp.                    50   |   Worm-eating Warbler         33
Caspian Tern               398   |   Ovenbird                   123
Royal Tern                   4   |   Northern Waterthrush        21
Common Tern                  5   |   Louisiana Waterthrush       21
Least Tern                  24   |   Kentucky Warbler            17
Rock Dove                  272   |   Common Yellowthroat        336
Mourning Dove              213   |   Hooded Warbler              21
Black-billed Cuckoo          3   |   Wilson's Warbler             5
Yellow-billed Cuckoo         1   |   Canada Warbler              35
Eastern Screech-Owl          1   |   Yellow-breasted Chat         5
Barred Owl                   5   |   Summer Tanager               1
Chuck-Will's-Widow           1   |   Scarlet Tanager            133
Whip-Poor-Will               2   |   Northern Cardinal          308
Chimney Swift              190   |   Rose-breasted Grosbeak      39
Ruby-thr Hummingbird        39   |   Blue Grosbeak                9
Belted Kingfisher           17   |   Indigo Bunting              80
Red-bellied Woodpecker     104   |   Rufous-sided Towhee         77
Downy Woodpecker            53   |   Chipping Sparrow           157
Hairy Woodpecker            10   |   Field Sparrow               22
Northern Flicker            44   |   Savannah Sparrow            31
Pileated Woodpecker         10   |   Song Sparrow               145
Eastern Wood-Pewee          18   |   Lincoln's Sparrow*           2
Acadian Flycatcher          23   |   Swamp Sparrow               21
Least Flycatcher             2   |   White-throated Sparrow     119
Empidonax Sp.                1   |   White-Crowned Sparrow        3
Eastern Phoebe              33   |   Bobolink                    89
Great Crst Flycatcher       49   |   Red-winged Blackbird      1293
Eastern Kingbird           133   |   Eastern Meadowlark           4
Purple Martin               54   |   Common Grackle            1605
Tree Swallow               244   |   Brown-headed Cowbird       148
N Rough-winged Swallow     164   |   Orchard Oriole              27
Bank Swallow               101   |   Baltimore Oriole           144
Cliff Swallow                5   |   House Finch                117
Barn Swallow               109   |   American Goldfinch         385
Blue Jay                   143   |   House Sparrow              176
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Mass Exodus

by Steve Sanford

This summer birders fled Baltimore in droves on birding vacations, with a distinct prejudice for cool northern destinations. This issue of Chip Notes contains many narratives of their trips: so many that at least one, Jim Peter's tale of his quest for the Himalayan Snowcock, will appear in the next issue of Chip Notes. Those who stayed at home, though, had some interesting encounters of the birding-kind, such as Pete Webb, who hadů

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Aliens Over My Roof

by Pete Webb

Mon. 6/16/97 - Help! We've been invaded! Carolyn was out on the patio cooking hamburgers when she heard a funny sounding squawk directly over the house and saw a heron and came rushing in to ask me what kind it was. I thought probably a visiting Green Heron would be most likely, but came out to see . . . a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron directly over the house standing on an oak tree limb. Even more amazing, another nearby limb had a suspicious looking accumulation of sticks, and when I trained my binoculars there, I discovered a SECOND Night-Heron sitting on it! My yard has had some interesting birds over the 14 years I've lived here, but this is just mind-boggling! OK, I shouldn't be bragging but this is so amazing, I just can't keep it to myself! Carolyn saw the (male?) bird trying to secure more sticks from the tree to offer to (his?) mate, so they are still building this nest. If they persist, we may be in a family way soon! We're used to hosting Cardinals, Robins, etc., but this is definitely out of the ordinary. Stay tuned for further developments as we observe them. We can expect a poop-covered roof, I imagine. Perhaps we should invest in some plastic tarp for covering?

Wed. 6/18 - The birds are still here, but a bit harder to see now; one stays on the nest and the other is occasionally seen and heard in the area; mostly in the morning. We just had some people come to see: Sally Rowe, Sue Ricciardi, and Linda Baker from the Anne Arundel Bird Club. One bird was on the nest and was best seen from our back yard woods, but we could see its bill or its rear end from the patio over our garage where we have our barbecue cookouts.

Thur. 6/19 - Both birds seen this morning 8:00 AM; at 6:00 PM one bird on nest.

Mon. 7/7 - Those Aliens that put up residence over my roof - they're multiplying! Today Carolyn found eggshell fragments (one egg's worth) along with fragments from crayfish and a body feather, all apparently fallen onto our patio from the nest overhead. The birds had been sitting and apparently incubating for two weeks and hatching was due this week, and it appears that at least one hatching has taken place. The roosting bird's behavior has changed, with much looking down into the recesses of the nest and perhaps even a regurgitated offering! We apparently have a Blessed Event to celebrate! We will be happy to host guests who would like to try their luck with whatever is in view at the time. Sorry, we don't have any cigars to pass out, being non-smokers; however, we also don't really need a baby shower either.

Wed. 7/9 - They're at it again! Those "Aliens" over the roof of my house have ejected another egg shell from their contraption onto my deck below! Last night we heard sounds from the nest which we believe are from Baby #1 which hatched Monday; now, Wednesday, we have TWO of them (in addition to the parents, of course)!

Wed. 7/16 - Today we finally saw a baby for the first time, along with both parents in attendance on the nest and even a third adult flying by and vocalizing loudly! Maybe an earlier offspring making a visit? The best view now is from the front yard by our front light post, viewing by telescope, which affords a fantastic close-up of the nest, one of the parents, and the top of the baby when it's in front. So far only one youngster has been seen, now about a quarter the size of one of the adults. It's covered with what looks like coarse spiky "hair" about two inches long, with red-orange bill and flesh around the eyes. The rest of the visible body is covered with grayish body plumage and the wings are showing the beginnings of the flight feathers, while still much too small to be anywhere near functional as of yet. We should be seeing more and more of baby(s) over the next two weeks before it (they?) fledge and fly away.

Sun. 7/20 - Steve Simon came with his video camera to film (tape) Baby on the nest and captured the Changing Of The Guard on tape (one parent coming in to relieve the other at nest duty; the relieved parent was taped taking off to go feed; Baby was at the time about half the size of the adult. A copy is on video tape here at Lancaster Rd. and runs about 5 - 10 minutes. Apparently, if the second egg hatched live, the hatchling must have been dispensed with, perhaps eaten; no sign of it has been found after the egg shell now in our "museum" display.

Sun. 7/27 - Bob Ringler and about 15 other birders from Carroll County and Howard County bird clubs came to view and photograph the family. Baby is now just about full sized and in full plumage from the shoulders down, but still fuzzy around the head and neck. The bill and eyes are still matching orange in color; the dark bill must come later. Among the birders were George Jett and wife, Dave and Maureen Harvey, and many others whose identities escape my memory as I write this account 4 days later. All had a good time and good looks at the family and witnessed the Changing Of The Guard, which took place at about 7 p.m. again, despite having also been seen about 3 or 4 p.m. the same afternoon.

Mon. 7/28 - Sally Rowe came to see the birds in the evening; we missed the Changing of the Guard but Junior was in good view with one of the parents, who spent most of the time standing on the branch next to the nest rather than on it, as was the case yesterday also. The strong wind and rain storm squall accompanying the cold front passage didn't do any obvious damage to birds or nest.

Tue. 7/29 - Debby Terry and Gail Frantz saw the family this morning.

Fri. 8/1 - Carolyn and I (Pete) celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this evening with a dinner out, and got home after dark. When we came out with our dog to walk him, we heard a funny noise; first some squawking, then a sibilant sort of growling noise coming from the direction of the nest; they were "growling," presumably at us! We've never heard them do anything like this before; we could hear it clearly by cupping our ears toward the nest, to overcome the loud background noise from the katydids in the trees all around us. I've heard a somewhat similar sound among egrets, both snowy and Great, when competing for choice fishing spots at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware and at other marshy locations where they congregate during migration, but never before from any variety of Night-heron.

Sun. 8/3 - Terry Ross stopped by to pick up the program books - Junior is still here; Junior's bill is gradually turning darker now; it started along the culmen, the top of the upper bill, and is now spreading throughout the bill. Junior's head is now looking more "mature" but still retains just a little bit of "fuzzy" plumage mixed in, albeit a mite wispy now. Other than the head, Junior now looks like a typical first year immature Yellow-crowned Night-heron, just as depicted in the bird books or seen at typical birding opportunities for the species. We haven't heard any more "growling" from the family. We also haven't seen Junior flapping wings or setting foot outside the nest.

Tue. 8/5 - Junior is still hanging out at the nest; we haven't seen either of the adults recently and are getting worried about Junior's well-being; if no food is forthcoming ... ?

Wed. 8/6 - Now things look less worrisome; Junior is flying and visiting the stream to feed; we saw Junior eating something in the nest bottom, and flying off for more a few minutes later. The adults evidently are now roosting elsewhere, while Junior still considers the nest as "home."

Sun. 8/17 - There can be some disadvantages to having a resident Heron around; yesterday Carolyn completed the cleanup of our leaf infested back yard pond and put in some fancy goldfish; this afternoon we returned home to discover Junior hanging out at the pond; sure enough, we saw Junior picking at pieces of one of our new fish(?) at the pond's surface. We got about 10 minutes of video using Sally Rowe's camcorder, on loan to us for this very purpose, while Junior was picking around the pond's perimeter. As it later turned out, Junior got none of the eight fish in the pond; instead of dining on expensive gourmet seafood, Junior was picking at something else - possibly reworking part of a crayfish from the stream? Junior has apparently been roosting elsewhere recently; we haven't seen any bird on the nest since the first week of August. These pond videos may be our last view of Junior in our yard. If so, then the world may be safe from these "Alien Invaders" again - perhaps until next year!

Fri. 8/29 - No further sightings since 8/17. Junior's out in the world.

Notes: My first hearing of YCNH calls was reminiscent of Green Heron calls, only not quite as high pitched; could still be easily mistaken for Green Heron, a sibilant, screechy "cow" call. This call was heard frequently during nest-building and the early incubation period, but seldom since. I never heard a call corresponding to the "quawk" call characteristic of Black-crowned Night-herons and consider the "cow" call to be the closest equivalent, used by the two nesting partners to call to each other and also once used by a fly-by bird passing close to the nest with both parents and hatchling present. I did not hear the birds use the call as an alarm as I have heard Green Herons do. The "growling" sound they made remains something of an enigma; Egrets make this sound while quarreling over fishing rights; I only heard "our" birds make this sound once; perhaps another YCNH or a raccoon or other nocturnal threat was being driven off at the time. My wife and I have been out at night with the dog many times before and since without any similar sounds forthcoming. The nestling/fledgling has also been heard to make a whistling, sibilant "piping" sound, presumably begging for food. The sound, like all YCNH vocalizations, is multi-tonal; this one is a repeated series of "cheeps," or, more accurately, "pheeps," loudest in the middle of each "pheep," repeated approx. 3 to 4 "pheeps" per second for up to several minutes. I do not recall hearing any vocalizations by YCNH's during encounters with them while out in the field birding, either at Lake Roland, the best local place to see them, or anywhere else. I may perhaps have heard them previously from my yard while listening at night for passing spring migrant thrushes and passed them off as migrating Green Herons, but haven't heard them make a sound during daylight hours, other than at my house during nest building and incubation.

We found a number of "souvenirs" dropped from the nest; primarily crayfish shell parts, but also fragments from two distinct egg shells and a couple of body plumage feathers.

Both still photographs and video footage were taken of the birds from our front yard looking up at the nest; as of this date (8/29), we have received one set of photo prints depicting the adults but not showing the youngster. Video footage taken at various times show the adults exchanging nest-sitting duties with a visible nestling, movement in and around the nest by an almost fledged nestling, and a fledged youngster fishing in a back yard pond, picking at pieces of a goldfish and moving about the perimeter of the pond. No audio recordings of the vocalizations were made. From the discovery of the newly completed nest with first egg laying to the last sighting of Junior spanned the time from Mon. June 16th to Sun. August 17th, two summer months. A passing postman told us he had seen a similar nest and activity from mid April to early June about three blocks away, earlier this same year. We may have hosted a second nesting and brood this season.

Author Pete Webb, organizer of our field trip program and leader of many trips, lives in Lochearn, just inside the Beltway, north of Liberty Rd, near Gwynns Falls, which has been a known nesting area for the relatively uncommon Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

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Membership Dues

by Roberta Ross

Our 1997-98 membership year began September 1, 1997. 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 printed 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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Sea Birds of Newfoundland

by Irma Weinstein

In late July, I visited Newfoundland to see the sea bird breeding colonies I had read so much about. I was not disappointed. At the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, boat tours take visitors to three islands in the bay, which contain the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America. One island is populated mainly by puffins and Leach's Storm Petrels. These birds burrow into the grassy surface to lay their eggs. The craggy side of the island is lined with Black-legged Kittiwakes which perch and lay their eggs on tiny ledges of rock. The sky above the island is filled with thousands of birds flying in every direction. Although the boat is heaving up and down, very good views of the birds can still be obtained. Another island is colonized mainly by Common Murres, Thick-billed Murres, and a small group of Razor-billed Auks. The smell and noise of these birds as they fish for food for their young is very impressive. There are also Black Guillemots on the lower ledges.

The other sea bird colony within motoring distance from the capitol city, St. John's, is Cape St. Mary's, which is on the south coast of the Avalon Peninsula. At Cape St. Mary's is the largest accessible Northern Gannet breeding colony in Newfoundland. The day of my visit, fog covered this part of the island. We could barely see ten feet in front of the car. The parking lot loomed up out of the fog. At the Visitor Center we were assured that the birds could he seen. We walked along a series of cliffs on a designated path, to reach Bird Rock, a sea stack immediately off shore, about 4O feet from us. Thousands of Northern Gannets were before our eyes, flying, nesting, clacking their bills together, feeding their fluffy grey youngsters, which were almost as big as their parents. Later in the afternoon, the fog cleared somewhat, and we saw that the cliffs leading to Bird Rock were also covered from base to top with nesting birds. At the top were the gannets, and below them, various murres, kittiwakes, cormorants, and guillemots. It was a sight never to be forgotten, a wonder of the natural world.

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At the Audubon Camp in Maine

by Kevin Graff

1st day: After we arrived at the boat dock at National Audubon Society Camp in Medomak, Maine, there were some interesting birds including several Black Guillemot, Common Eider, Common Loon and a Boreal Chickadee around the island with a total of 24 species. I have a couple of lifelist birds: Black Guillemot and a Boreal Chickadee. We had a program afterwards about the seabirds and their life at sea.

2nd day: We woke up at 6:00 AM for our early birdwalk at Hog Island (our camp), as we hiked down the trail for about 2 miles or so the wonderful sounds of warblers and vireos surrounded us. Some interesting warblers included N. Parula, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Black-and-White, and Yellowthroat. The trip ended with a total of 32 species on the island.

After breakfast, we went on another birdwalk; this time on the mainland with a total of 28 species including 7 pairs of Cliff Swallow nested under the roof of boathouse at the dock, Song Sparrows feeding their young on the perch and a adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead. Shortly after lunch, I joined the 2nd group for a cruise around several islands. I saw alot of cormorants, 4 pairs of Osprey nests, a pair of Eagle's nest with a nearly fully grown eaglet, also a lot of Eiders with young, mostly females and a good close up of Harbor Seals.

3rd day: Woke up at 4:00 AM for our 3 hour cruise to Matinicus Rock. A lot of interesting seabirds between the bay and the ocean. The following birds seen: loon, Greater and Manx Shearwater, Leach's and Wilson's Storm-Petrel, N. Gannet, Double-crested and Great Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Common Eider, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Red-breasted Merganser, Osprey, Bald Eagle, 5 species of gulls (included Bonaparte's), Roseate, Common, and Arctic Terns. As we arrived at Matinicus Rock, 4 species of alcid were everywhere on the water and on land along with thousands of Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gulls.

I spent at least an hour counting alcids and gulls on the island. The total numbers were: 609 Herring, 577 Great Black-backed, 7 Ring-billed, and 10 Laughing Gulls; 6 Roseate, 18 Common and 178 Arctic Terns; 280 Common Murre, 269 Razorbill, 510 Black Guillemot, and 133 Atlantic Puffin; cormorant and eider were also seen on the island. After 2 hours watching seabirds on the islands, we headed back to camp for a long nap.

4th day: Early in the morning, I joined the first group for a cruise to Franklin's Island where hundred of breeding gulls nested. Before we arrived there, we stopped by at Wreck Island to look at 36 nests of Great Blue Heron and a single nest of Black-crowned Night Heron along with an eagle's and an Osprey's nests. This is the only heron rookery in Muscongus Bay. Now back to Franklin's, counted 81 prs. Great Black-backed and 42 prs. Herring Gulls, also on the island 6 prs. Bank Swallow, a pair of Spotted Sandpiper, a pair of Osprey and 10 female C. Eider nested there. After lunch, we took a long break.

5th day: In the morning, I took a rest. At 10:00 AM we went on one of two Audubon vans for a trip to Seawall for a possible Piping Plovers. Before going there, my group and I went to Sherman Lake to see Bobolink. A total of 29 species seen included Ring-necked Duck, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, Black Duck, Mallard, E. Kingbird at its nest, N. Rough-winged Swallow, Marsh Wren, a flock of Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler at its nest, and Bobolink.

Now on the way to Seawall at Bates Morse Mt. Conservation Area, the beach was heavily fogged-in, but that didn't bother us. A total of 8 Piping Plovers and 17 Least Terns nested on the beach. We saw a total of 14 species including Piping Plover, Least Tern, Spotted Sandpiper, Nashville Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Black-bellied Plover and Alder Flycatcher.

6th day: Last day of bird trip. Our last birdwalk at Old Landing Road, which is two miles north of the Audubon camp. A total of 30 species seen along Old Landing Rd. Interesting birds seen: Black-crowned Night Heron, Hooded Merganser, Cooper's Hawk, Killdeer, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Common Raven, Black-and-White Warbler and Bobolink.

Later in the evening, we had a lobster feast for our last day. I hated leaving. I had a great time. This was one of my best birding trips. I got a total of 114 species including 14 life-birds

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Alcids Up Close

by F. Lester Simon, Jr.

On the Northern coast of Maine about 50 miles southwest of the Canadian border, is the little fishing and lobstering village of Jonesport. Shortly after 7:00 AM on July 22, we bearded Capt. Barna Norton's 50' motor launch and headed out to sea with his son, Capt. John Norton at the helm. My wife Libby had taken a Dramamine tablet, but on this day there would be no need for it. The skies were rapidly clearing; there was no fog and nearly no breeze.

A dozen of us were en route to tiny Machias Seal Island some 10 miles away. The glassy sea was bedecked with a myriad of multi-colored floats marking lobster traps. Eventually, a Greater Shearwater crossed our bow and later we spied a raft of Common Eider, but not much else. At 16 knots, it was difficult to use our binoculars effectively.

When we got close to the island, we were transported in two groups via a small boat to the rocky shoreline. There, several young men helped us, with cameras in hand, to navigate the wet, grassy and slippery rocks we had to cross to reach solid ground. Almost immediately, the air was filled with screaming and clucking Arctic and Common Terns diving at us menacingly to protect their eggs and young. We stayed on narrow paths passing, and being careful not to step on, chicks and single speckled brown eggs (the latter marked with small flags).We were not allowed to stop and take pictures.

After receiving further instructions, we were directed to split up and proceed to one of four, small wooden blinds. In ours, a nice young couple joined us. (We learned later that he had been a counter on the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point in New Jersey.) The view from the windows of the blind provided an unparalleled photo-op! Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills (auks) were everywhere: flying about, plopping on the roof of our blind and perched on the rocks in front of us, some as close as 8' away. The terns were also visible but neither as close nor as numerous. When flying, puffins look rather comical with their bright orange-red feet splayed out behind them.

After about a half-hour, we were switched to another blind for a similar length of time, and I finished my second roll of film.

When it was time to leave, the tide has risen so it was much easier to step into the small boat. The weather continued to cooperate on our return trip as we sat contemplating our wonderfully unique experience.

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In Search of the
Bristle-thighed Curlew

by Alan Bromberg

The Bristle-thighed Curlew is a bird that is desirable not just for its rarity, but because it has a neat name to put on one's life list. In North America it is found only on its breeding grounds in the western Alaska tundra. Last June, I was in Nome on a Field Guides trip, with curlew country just to the north. We spent the first day along the coast, where I saw my life White and Yellow Wagtails and Bar-tailed Godwit and viewed Long-tailed and Parasitic Jaegers, nesting Arctic and Aleutian Terns, Lapland Longspurs in breeding plumage (they sure don't look that way on Oland Road!), Pacific Loons, King and Common Eiders, and a fin whale.

Day 2 was devoted to a trip north, culminating in a search for the Bristle-thighed Curlew. After breakfast in Fat Freddie's (it should be called Saturated Fat Freddie's; they fry everything but the coffee), we headed north on the Kougarok Road, a/k/a the Nome-Taylor Highway. All dirt, it's a highway in name only. Whatever the road lacked in pavement, it more than made up for in interest. The scenery was magnificent - green tundra, rushing streams, lakes gleaming in the bright sun, snow-capped mountains, and wildflowers everywhere, an explosion of red and pink, purple and yellow, blue and white joyously heralding the approach of summer. (But not a tree in sight anywhere on the tundra.) And the birds: Willow Ptarmigan, a nesting Gyrfalcon, Arctic Warbler, Bluethroat, and Hoary Redpoll joined my life list, while Varied and Gray-cheeked Thrushes and Wilson's and Yellow Warblers serenaded us, a Golden Eagle soared overhead, Long-tailed Jaegers cruised by searching for prey, Wandering Tattlers flushed from a rocky stream, and a jaunty Northern Wheatear hopped about the rocks as the photographers among us snapped away. Mammalian sightings included moose, musk ox, snowshoe hare, and reindeer (but not the jolly fat guy in the red suit).

In midafternoon, after 73 miles of bumping along the "highway," Coffee Dome, the traditional spot for Bristle-thighed Curlew, loomed before us. Some British birders we had encountered had seen a curlew on the hill west of the dome. As we climbed out of the vans, swarms of ravenous mosquitoes descended on us. While we frantically covered ourselves with repellent, our leaders, Chris and Megan, briefed us on the trek we were about to undertake. Even though it was a little over a mile, Chris said it was perhaps the most demanding hike on any trip he leads because walking on tundra is a horror. Anyone who did not feel up to the climb could stay behind, and we were warned not to bring any food and to stay together; this was grizzly bear country.

So up the hill we went. If you have never hiked across arctic tundra, you cannot conceive of how difficult it is. There are dense, springy, unstable tussocks of grass, and you are supposed to step between the tussocks, because if you step on them, they tilt or rebound and throw you off, but if you step into low spots, you trip over the tussocks. It's such a tangle, that the low spot you think you're putting your foot on sometimes turns out to be a tussock, and vice versa. Soon we were panting for breath and praying not to break an ankle. The mosquitoes wouldn't quit; stop to catch your breath, and squadrons of them zeroed in on any unprotected spot. Reaching the crest of that hill was like chasing the horizon; the closer you got, the further it receded.

Somehow we reached the top. The view was superb, except that it didn't include any Bristle-thighed Curlews. The silence was broken only by the cheerful songs of Lapland Longspurs, not the shrill cries of the curlew. Tapes brought no response, nor did walking around in an effort to flush a curlew or spot one somewhere on the slopes. At last we gave up and started back, getting a consolation prize - a Rock Ptarmigan which stayed put as the photographers closed in to within a few feet. Leaving the ptarmigan in peace, we stumbled down the hill, boarded the vans, and started back toward Nome, smashing and squashing a horde of mosquito stowaways. We were disappointed about the curlew, but you can't get them all (but you can sure try), and we found other interesting things on the way back, including my life grizzly bear and, at the Nome dump, Larus vegae, an Asian subspecies of the Herring Gull, which is a potential split. All in all, it was a very good day, even if the Bristle-thighed Curlew had eluded us.

The next day, we had an evening flight to Anchorage, leaving most of the day for birding. We assembled early to search along the coast for Emperor Geese and anything else interesting that might turn up. Our leaders, however, had changed the agenda. Another group of birders had seen a Bristle-thighed Curlew on Coffee Dome after our departure the previous day, so Chris said he would take one van along the coast, while Megan drove the other van back north with anyone who wanted another crack at the curlew, this time on Coffee Dome. There would be no birding along the way; Megan would drive straight through, look for the curlew, then head right back to Nome. It was a tough choice; I really wanted Emperor Goose, and with Nome only 164 miles from Siberia, anything is possible along the coast, but I decided to go for the curlew.

With Megan at the helm and seven hopeful birders aboard, the van zoomed up the Kougarok Road. We stopped only when sharp-eyed Megan spotted a flying bird that might have been a Bristle-thighed Curlew, but could also have been a Whimbrel, which closely resembles the curlew and breeds in the same area. Searching the tundra, we thought we heard faintly the call of the curlew, but we found only Whimbrels. Soon we reached Coffee Dome and piled out of the van into the brisk morning air and a cloud of mosquitoes.

Coffee Dome had a definite advantage over the first hill - a partially-graveled road which spared us the rigors of plowing through tundra (and also cut down a bit on the mosquito attacks). Far more significantly, no sooner had we arrived than we clearly heard a Bristle-thighed Curlew calling from somewhere on the slope. Eight pairs of binoculars scanned the dome for the source of the calls, to no avail. But there was no mistaking what we had heard, and filled with hope and determination, we set out. Although the curlew continued to call from time to time, we were unable to spot it. Every flicker of movement brought up the binoculars, but it was always a gull or a jaeger or something too distant to identify. One large bird on the ground at the top of the dome could have been the curlew, or it could have been the world's northernmost Greater Roadrunner.

The curlew stopped calling, even in response to the tape. The mosquitoes remained intent on making us the breakfast buffet. Even though we were hiking up a path instead of stumbling over tundra, gravity still ruled, and our legs grew heavy. We began to wonder whether we would have to settle for a "heard" bird. Then, suddenly, a large bird burst into the air from close by, calling loudly. There was no mistaking the "chi-u-it" cries and loud whistles, or the buff rump that drew our eyes like a magnet. No Whimbrel this - it was a Bristle-thighed Curlew! Exclaiming in surprise and delight, we watched and listened as the bird, calling all the time, flew overhead and gradually disappeared down the road. As our avian prize finally vanished, we exploded in applause, cheers, high fives, hugs, and handshakes. The Bristle-thighed Curlew was ours!

So elated our feet hardly seemed to touch the ground, we descended to the van and took a group picture, displaying thumbs up, to commemorate our triumph. Departing Coffee Dome in a cloud of dust and mosquitoes, we joined the rest of the group in Nome for an afternoon of birding along the coast, where we found no Emperor Geese but ended our visit to Nome with another worthy find, a Red-necked Stint in breeding plumage. A memorable day indeed!

Our author, Alan Bromberg, achieved the distinction of being both the southernmost and northernmost birder in the continental United States in 1997. On April 13, in Key West, Florida, Alan watched shore birds on the rocks at the marker which designates the southernmost point in the country. From June 21 to 23, Alan was in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States, where he stood on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, watching Glaucous Gulls, Pacific Loons, and King Eiders fly over the ice pack

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Sandhill Crane in Worcester County

by Earl Palmer

A Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis - AOU/MOS#: 206./243) was observed last winter in Worcester County, MD in the area known South Point. (So. Point Rd bears W, off Rt. 611 - south of Rt.50.) The immature Sandhill Crane was observed by many residents of Knell Hill Dr., which overlooks Sinepuxent Bay.

The bird was first seen in mid-January 1997 by Mr. Robert Wilson, who saw it feeding on his front lawn where it spent most of the morning. Mark Hoffman visited the area on Feb.21, 1997 and photographed the bird.

This particular bird was identified as an immature due to the lack of red skin on its crown and lores when first seen; however, by March 8th (the last day observed) the crown was showing red, as were the lores.

During its stay at South Point the crane appeared to have an all-gray body with a whitish cheek and yellow eye ring. The bill was greenish and its legs were dark colored. One feather in its bustle stood out at an angle, which allowed the observers to be certain of their bird. It fed constantly on the grass lawns and in the drainage ditches, When approached on foot or car, it would raise its head and stare at you but did not retreat or fly away. The crane was not observed in flight.

This is the second report of the Sandhill Crane from Worcester County. The first was on 10/25/70 from Snow Hill area however that report was marked "not reviewable" by the MD/DC Records Committee of the Maryland Ornithological Society. Their 06/21/97 report on this species indicates 5 reports from Eastern Shore 13 from Talbot, 1 Queen Anne's and l Worcester County) out of 16 sightings - this makes only the second sighting for Worcester Co.

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Schedule Changes

Note the following changes for the Tuesday Evening at Cylburn programs:

  • Tuesday October 7 is now The Relationship Between Birds and Plants with Jean Worthley (originally scheduled for March.)
  • March 3 is now Bird Feeding: Facts and Fallacies with Dr. Al Geis (originally scheduled for October 7).
  • April 7 is now Hard Lives of Second Wives: An Inside Look at Polygamy in House Wrens with Dr. Scott Johnson.

View the complete schedule
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Postcard from the Edge

by Hank Kaestner


Dear Chippers!

I've just spent a weekend in the town of LIJIANG in YUNNAN province of China, very near the Tibetan border. I spent 3 days climbing in the alpine meadows of 18,000 foot JADE DRAGON SNOW MT. It was spectacular. The azaleas, rhododendrons, and alpine flowers were in full bloom. I had to hike on logging trails from the village at 8000 feet: a climb of 6000 feet to the highest spot reached at 14,000 feet. It was worth it, for the birds were in full breeding plumage and full song. At the highest point, a singing White-tailed Rubythroat was spectacular. Also new were 5 species of Parrotbills: Great, Spot-breasted, Brown-winged, Ashy-throated: and it was quite a chore identify 12 species of Phylloscopus warblers!

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Back Yard Birding

by Gail Frantz

The following e-mail message is from Dr. Usha Desai: "I am a medical doctor working in a hospital in the city of Bombay in India. The hospital is located in the heart of the industrial belt of the city. There is very little greenery around; despite that I have observed Coppersmith, Magpie, Robin, Fantail Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Parakeet, Sunbird, Bulbul, Koel, Tailorbird visiting at various times. It is heartening to note that the small patch of greenery that we have created inside the hospital campus by planting and growing a few trees has been enough to attract so many rare birds. It also gives us hope that we can do our own little bit and the birds are robust enough to be able to survive with the slightest help from us."


While visiting in central Ohio this past June, a friend, Phyllis Hass, showed me two Bluebird boxes in her backyard. The boxes were attached back to back on the same wooden post. Phyllis pointed out that there were two female Bluebirds in residence, one in each box. Both females were in the process of feeding their own babies. Phyllis had seen only one male and she wasn't sure if he was helping to feed just one or both of the broods. (GF)

Back in Maryland:
The Suburbs

  • Retired high school instrumental teacher, Ray Hardy, who presently creates violins, violas, and 'cellos at his home in Catonsville, relates an incident that happened in January of last winter. Ray was in his instrument workshop when he glanced out one of the windows that look over his backyard. He was astonished to see what appeared to be a Coopers hawk, standing in the middle of many strewn about feathers, pressing a Ring-billed Gull to the ground with his talons. Ray shouted to his wife Irene to come take a look while he hurried to get his camera to snap a photo of the incident. Several moments after Ray took his successful snapshot, the hawk flew away carrying the gull with him.
    Ray took advantage of another photo-op during spring migration in May. He took some close-up and lovely shots of a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak eating black oil sunflower seeds from a feeder that he and his wife have hung outside their kitchen window.

  • In Randallstown a few years ago, Steve Sanford had a large Norway maple tree removed from his yard in order to make room for other yard possibilities. Possibly an attractive site for hummingbirds?
    For the next few summers the hummers did begin to make brief visits. But during the long hot summer of 1997, Steve had a real bonanza. He writes; "the (Ruby-throated) Hummingbirds are really thick now. I now have THREE hummers at home: two battling females (or immatures), and a rare adult male. Yesterday morning when I first poked my head out the door, a hummer flew toward my face and hovered about two feet away until it decided there was nothing sweet about me."
    Steve also added another welcome addition to his backyard list: " Surprisingly, until today (8/12), I had never seen a swallow in my yard. When I got home today though, I had swallows with a vengeance. A mixed group of Chimney Swifts and Barn Swallows was swarming very low over my street for at least two hours. I suspect there were about 20 Barn Swallows and 40 swifts. I assume this is an indication of migration." Then 5 days later; "Now I have 3 swallow species. In addition to the Barn Swallows, the approaching storm last night (Aug 17) brought in great swarms of swifts and swallows, including a few Tree Swallows and Purple Martins. Many of them were too high or fast to identify, so I may have had other species as well."

  • In Towson, Joy Wheeler adds another possible breeding bird from her "extended backyard" along the Northampton Furnace Trail: "On July 19 . . . I observed a female Black and White Warbler . . . it's very possible that this warbler may also be nesting . . . I have no record of it here on this late date." Joy goes on to say that she used the designations of the habitat key of the 1977 Yellow Book which matches the type of habitat location where she saw the warbler. Joy's been watching carefully, but so far she's only seen the bird that one time.

  • Anneke Davis called to tell us about some unexpected visitors at a birthday garden party she attended in Mt. Washington. During the celebration, the family's bird feeder attracted its first pair of Indigo Buntings. The guests were impressed with the beauty of the uninvited, but welcome, visitors.

  • From Reisterstown, Phyllis Grimm sent an e-mail message: "two fledgling Screech Owls perch(ed) on our deck railing and then on a tree branch just outside a window one evening in June, just at dusk. They just sat there for 15 or more minutes, looking around and making soft sounds. At last another owl, which we took to be a parent, flew near and then they all flew away. Fantastic! We've looked for them almost every evening since then but have not seen them again.
    "Add immature bluebirds and young phoebes to the list of young birds we've had in our backyard so far this summer. Probably chipping sparrows as well, although I haven't been watching them closely."

    BYB Whoops! You may recall that Phyllis reported having an olive green warbler as a visitor for the last three winters. Some Dunderhead who puts together BYB (who could that be?), mistyped the little guy as a Palm warbler when actually he was a Pine Warbler!

The Country

  • In early spring of 1982 a neighbor gave Ed Merriman 2 Bluebird boxes. Ed didn't recall seeing any Bluebirds around but he was happy to "give it a try," and so he put up the two boxes in his yard. Within a few weeks a pair of Bluebirds claimed one of them and soon five eggs appeared. All eggs hatched but none of the baby birds survived that first nesting. They all died within the first four days. After eliminating several possibilities, Ed suspected spring spraying of local fields may have contaminated the insects that the adults were feeding the newly hatched birds. However, the adult birds persisted and their second nesting of three all fledged successfully.

    Ed reports that over the last 15 years; he has retired, acquired two beautiful Granddaughters, and has monitored 143 Bluebirds who have safely fledged from his carefully monitored boxes. If all goes well, sometime in late summer, the total will be 148.

  • In June, Nancy Moeler from western Carroll County, reported that she had a pair of Bluebirds building a nest in a box in her yard. She was delighted to add that accompanying the conventional pair, was an albino or more accurately, a leucistic Bluebird. What is the meaning of leucistic you might ask? In a recent article (Audubon Naturalist Jul/Aug 1997 Vol. 23 No. 6), John V. Dennis explains that leucistic birds are "birds which may have wholly white or partially white plumage and still have dark eyes and other dark features." Nancy's bird fit that description perfectly since he (she?) did have dark eyes, beak and legs along with a few grey wing feathers. Nancy felt that since the bird was begging from the adult Bluebirds, he might be a juvenile from an earlier nesting

Backyard Birders, Beware!

Did you read about the woman in New Rochelle, NY.? A dispute between neighbors has this gal looking at a possible $250.00 fine or 15 days in jail. Her offense? Putting a standard-sized bird feeder in her backyard without obtaining a permit.

Fan E-Mail From Missouri:

Kudos To Terry Ross, Stephen Sanford And BBC Members
Wish to thank you for your great home page. I am miles away from the Chesapeake Bay but hope to return someday soon for a birding trip. The information and details in the CHIP (NOTES) are helpful and the enthusiasm is contagious even as far away as Missouri.

Georgia Sneed

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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