The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

December 1997/January 1998 - Online Edition


Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: December 26, 1997 (the next issue will be February-March 1998). Send material to: or e-mail to
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'Tis the Season to be Counting

by Pete Webb

Yes, it’s that time of year again, and along with all of the other Holiday preparations, don’t forget those two very special occasions which also occur only this time of year: the Christmas Count and the Mid-Winter Count!

This time they occur just two weeks apart, on Saturday January 3 and Saturday January 17. As usual, the two Counts tally all of the birds you can find in your chosen area throughout the course of the day. The final Tally each day is at Cylburn. The doors open at 5:00 p.m. and the birders dribble in from then until about 6:00 or so, when the final countdown begins, tallying up the grand totals of each species seen during the day. A donation of $5.00 per person is requested for the Christmas Count to help defray the cost of the national Christmas Count publication put out by the National Audubon Society. The Mid-Winter Count doesn’t have that expense and doesn’t ask for money.

Both Counts get compiled into historical records tracking the population trends of wintering birds in our area and throughout the U.S. and help in assessing the changing health of our environment. The Mid-Winter Count also fits in with the May Count and the new Fall Count (starting next Fall for the Baltimore Bird Club, the third Saturday in September, which will be the 19th in 1998) in following population trends in all seasons.

The Compiler for both of the January Counts this year will again be me, Pete Webb, e-mail . Please contact me to coordinate which territory you will cover.

Just to compare, take a look at the results from last year, Jan. 4 and 18, 1997, also Saturday.

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BBC Winter Counts - 1997

by Pete Webb

Christmas Count, Jan. 4, 1997: 106 Species. There were 50 observers in 17 groups in the field, tromping 77 miles combined on foot and 330 miles in cars, starting as early as 6 a.m. (not counting 4.5 combined hours owling) and as late as 6 p.m. Weather was mild and mostly cloudy, 48 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with light and variable wind and no ice on the water.

Sat. Jan. 18 Mid-Winter Count: 88 species. Due to the extreme cold, only 15 observers in 8 parties braved the weather, putting in 24 miles afoot and 79 miles by car, from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Temperature: 4 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit, with West winds 10 - 20 MPH, making it seem even colder. Skies were mostly clear; ice hadn't yet built up significantly, leaving bodies of water mostly open.

Asterisks in the table below refer to special notes which follow.

        BIRD | XMAS| MIDW Red-Throated Loon | 7*| Common Loon | 8 | Pied-Billed Grebe | 15 | 11 Horned Grebe | 3 | Great Cormorant | 1*| D-C Cormorant | 34 | Great Blue Heron | 77 | 26 Great Egret | | 1* Tundra Swan | | 1 Mute Swan | 3 | Brant | 2*| Canada Goose | 306 | 768 Wood Duck | 1*| 1* Green-winged Teal | | 2 Black Duck | 45 | 21 Mallard |1159 | 450 N Pintail | 1 | N Shoveler | 11 | 1 Gadwall | 65 | 17 American Wigeon | 21 | 12 Canvasback |5852 | 11 Redhead | 1 | Ring-necked Duck | 78 | Greater Scaup | 13 | 11 Lesser Scaup | 773 | 3 (scaup sp.) | 915 | (Scaup total) |1701 | Oldsquaw | 2 | Common Goldeneye | 133 | 14 Bufflehead | 291 | 30 Hooded Merganser | 51 | 50 Common Merganser | 9 | 20 Red-breasted Merganser | 29 | (merganser sp.) | 300 | Ruddy Duck |2054 | Black Vulture | | 4 Turkey Vulture | 1 | 18 Bald Eagle | 6*| N Harrier | 4 | 5 Sharp-shinned Hawk | 8 | 3 Coopers Hawk | 6 | 2 Red-should Hawk | 6 | 5 Red-tailed Hawk | 31 | 16 American Kestrel | 20 | 3 Peregrine Falcon | 1 | Ring-necked Pheasant | 13 | N Bobwhite | 6*| 2 King Rail | 1*| Virginia Rail | 23*| American Coot | 96 | 50 Common Snipe | 1*| American Woodcock | 9*| Bonapartes Gull | 529 | 235 Ring-Billed Gull |2662 |6879 Herring Gull |2321 |5301 Thayer's Gull | | 1* Iceland Gull | | 3* Lesser Blk-bk Gull | 2*| 3 Glaucous Gull | | 1* Great Blk-bk Gull | 212 | 76 (gull sp.) | 510 | 57 Rock Dove |1045 | 171 Mourning Dove | 508 | 63 E Screech Owl | 4 | 1 Great Horned Owl | 1*| 1 Short-eared Owl | 1*| 1 Belted Kingfisher | 12 | 2 Red-bellied Woodpecker | 59 | 31 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker| 6*| 3 Downy Woodpecker | 88 | 37 Hairy Woodpecker | 19 | 3 N Flicker | 68 | 22 Pileated Woodpecker | | 1 Blue Jay | 311 | 125 American Crow |1295 | 540 Fish Crow | 8 | 25 (crow sp.) | 188 | 821 (crow total) |1491 |1386 Carolina Chickadee | 236 | 81 Tufted Titmouse | 132 | 40 White-breasted Nuthatch | 5 | 6 Brown Creeper | 5 | 1 Carolina Wren | 114 | 19 House Wren | 1 | 1 Winter Wren | 11 | 4 Marsh Wren | 8 | Golden-crowned Kinglet | 30 | 60 Ruby-crowned Kinglet | 18 | 5 Eastern Bluebird | 4 | 11 Hermit Thrush | 10 | 13 American Robin | 651 | 123 Gray Catbird | 2 | 1 N Mockingbird | 95 | 45 Brown Thrasher | 2 | Cedar Waxwing | 137 | 29 European Starling |2681 |2689 Orange-cr Warbler | 1*| Myrtle Warbler | 157 | 27 Common Yellowthroat | 2*| N Cardinal | 374 | 195 Rufous-sided Towhee | 57 | 19 American Tree Sparrow | 69*| 38 Field Sparrow | 12*| 3 Savannah Sparrow | 14*| 27 Grasshopper Sparrow | 1*| 1* Fox Sparrow | 4 | 3 Song Sparrow | 302 | 297 Swamp Sparrow | 134*| 19 White-throated Sparrow | 727 | 524 Dark-eyed Junco | 318 | 437 Snow Bunting | 301*| Red-winged Blackbird |1103 |2402 Eastern Meadowlark | 9*| 46* Rusty Blackbird | 7*| Common Grackle | 208 | 159 Brown-headed Cowbird | 29 | 101 Baltimore Oriole | 1*| Purple Finch | | 3* House Finch | 164 | 16* American Goldfinch | 177 | 30
Winter Count Notes

Christmas Count -- Great Cormorant - rocks between Ft. Smallwood and Riviera Beach in northernmost Anne Arundel County out beyond Key Bridge, where it was seen a couple of years ago, Brant at Fort McHenry, north shore, where they were a couple of years previous), Wood Duck - Beth Steel pond), Bald Eagle: 4 adult, 2 imm., Bobwhite - all at the Back River Sewage Plant, Virginia Rails - Black Marsh and Hart-Miller Island; some probably are also in the marsh next to Rocky Point State Park at the end of Back River Neck peninsula, King Rail - Black Marsh, Snipe - BR Plant, Woodcock - Marsh & Island again, Lesser Black-backed Gull - Sparrows Point area, Great Horned Owl - Black Marsh, Short-eared Owl - near Ft. Howard, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker -yes, Virginia, they really do exist!, Orange-crowned Warbler - BR Plant, Yellowthroat - south Harbor region, Tree Sparrow - primarily around Back River peninsula & Hart-Miller Island, also 2 in south Harbor region), Field Sparrow around Harbor and BR peninsula, Savannah Sparrow mostly BR Plant, 1 Grasshopper Sparrow in restricted site next to BR Plant, Swamp Sparrow mostly Black Marsh, BR Plant, and BR peninsula, Snow Bunting - Hart-Miller Island, Meadowlark - BR Plant & vicinity, Rusty Blackbird - BR Plant, 1 Baltimore Oriole South West Area Park, south Harbor area.

Mid-Winter Count - Great Egret - Back River Sewage Plant, Wood Duck - Sparrows Point pond, Thayer’s, Iceland, Glaucous Gulls - these 3 rarities at Eastern Landfill, off Pulaski Hwy., Grasshopper Sparrow - probably the same one, same place, Meadowlark - all at old landfill next to BR Plant, restricted area, Purple Finch - near Reisterstown, House Finch - under counted.

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Himalayan Snowcock: A Ruby Mountain Adventure

by Jim Peters

Ever so gradually, the haze of sleep passed and I found myself wide awake and staring through the boughs of a ponderosa pine at the myriad of stars in the night sky. Something had aroused me from a deep sleep -- a crack of a twig perhaps, or loose pebbles rolling on the steep trail not far from where I was wrapped in my sleeping bag, It was 3 A.M. on a moonless night and quite cold. Listening intently I heard only the distant hoots of a Great Horned Owl and the rustling of the pines. Perhaps a rodent had been foraging near my sleeping bog and disturbed me, or I'd heard a mule deer come down the Ruby Crest trail for a drink at the nearby spring. Now all was quiet and I soon rolled over to savor some sleep in what remained of the night.

At first light I heard my friend Brad stirring in his tent and so I extricated myself from my bedroll, and with flashlight in hand I proceeded to the spring for water. Imagine my surprise to find the fresh pug marks of a large mountain lion in the soft mud of the trail, not thirty feet from where I slept on the ground. Brad and I were both quite excited about the tracks, and pleased that the lion chose not to challenge us. I might add it gave me little comfort to see Brad barricading his one-man tent each night while I slept out in the open exposed to whatever might explore our camp in the dark. This was just one of many exciting episodes in our quest for Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada during the first week of August, 1997.

Brad and I arrived in Elko, Nevada, at mid-morning on Sunday, August 3rd, and proceeded directly to Lamoille canyon. Grabbing our scopes end binoculars we made the two-mile climb to Island Lake nestled in the bottom of the southeast cirque of Thomas Peak. The trail has good footing but is moderately difficult for flatlanders due to an elevation change of some 1200 feet. The profusion of plant life on the slopes more than makes up for shortness of breath and aching leg muscles There is a riot of color from alpine flowers such as paint brush, coneflower, columbine, lupine, fireweed, and mountain bluebell. One could enjoy a day on the slopes of Thomas Peak with a camera and wildflower guide and not pay heed to the abundance of other life that is present. Well, almost! Who can ignore Mountain Bluebird, Black Rosy Finch, White Crowned Sparrow, Townsend's Solitaire, and a host of other birds, not to mention the colorful butterflies that were present.

Upon reaching Island Lake we circumnavigated the shore to the northwest side and proceeded to ascend the steep talus slope leading up to a shelf of rock just below the cliff of the southeast cirque. Here we set up our scopes some 600 feet above the lake in a position to give us an unobstructed view of all the cliff faces. The weather was warm and sunny and we observed a pair of Red-tailed Hawks riding the thermals above the peaks. Ravens and Clark's Nutcrackers regularly flew from one side of the chasm to the other, a distance of about 3/4 of a mile.

Late in the afternoon Brad saw, at a distance, a grouse-like bird fly from an upper to a lower ledge and then back up. No sooner did he get his glasses on it than it walked behind some rocks and disappeared. Brad was sure that he had seen a Snowcock, but could not confirm it because it never reappeared. Elated that we had an unconfirmed sighting, and with the light fading, we made our way down the mountain to our vehicle and thence to Thomas Creek Campground to spend the night. There we met a couple from Texas who had spent 3 days in the southeast cirque without a sighting and had given up Sunday noon. Upon hearing of our luck they made plans to return to the cirque at first light the next morning in hopes of adding Snowcock to their life lists.

On Monday, August 4th, Brad and I were up before dawn, had a quick breakfast, finished packing and were off to the trailhead just as it became light. It was a cloudy, cool morning as we took the Ruby Crest trail towards Liberty Pass, Brad sighted a Blue Grouse near the Dollar Lakes and we saw a variety of other birds on our way up to Lamoille Lake which lies just below Liberty Pass. The trail to Liberty Pass makes an elevation gain of about 1650 ft. over a distance or 3 miles and can be quite stressful with a heavy backpack. Brad and I had elected to hike into the Wines Perk area because it has the best habitat and the largest population of Snowcocks (40 - 60 birds) of any of the peaks in the Ruby Mountains. Having attained Liberty Pass, we sat and rested for an hour while we scanned neighboring cliffs for any signs of Snowcock, but did not see or hear any. Incidentally, we had been told that Snowcocks give an elk-like bugling whistle when alarmed, but we never heard that call from any of the birds we saw. Rather we located them by the grouse-like clucking and cackling we heard as they moved about the talus slopes and cliffs.

On our next leg of the journey we observed a herd of 8 mule deer as we descended 1000 feet by switchback trail past Liberty Lake to Fauvre Lake in the valley below. It was while hiking down to Fauvre Lake that we spotted our second Snowcock in rapid flight for cover in a patch of low growing junipers high on a steep talus slope. In pursuit and harassing it was a large female Red-tailed Hawk that seemed to delight in the chase, but showed no real intent to do bodily harm. This was our second unconfirmed sighting, since the great distance and short observation period prevented us from seeing fieldmarks well.

We cooked beef Stroganoff for lunch on the banks of Klechner Creek that drains Fauvre Lake, and rested sore feet and shoulders. While there, we enjoyed the wildflowers that carpet the meadow and listened to Ravens and Nutcrackers break the mountain silence with their raucous calls, High overhead an adult Golden Eagle soared above the peaks of rugged granite.

These mountains are like the Sierra Nevadas, but being an island in the desert they get less annual moisture and, therefore, are not as densely forested. The rugged high altitude environment of the Ruby Mountains is ideal for Snowcock and probably very similar to their native habitat in the Himalayas.

Following lunch we picked up our packs and began the laborious climb 600 feet upslope to the pass leading to North Furlong Lake. Again we rested at the top of the pass and while there we heard some loud cackling on a rock shelf some 200 feet to the west of our position. Soon Brad saw a Snowcock moving along a ledge and had time to confirm fieldmarks before it disappeared from view. I made a quick foray over a rugged boulder field in an attempt to get a second look, but the bird had disappeared.

Next we descended 430 feet to the meadowland surrounding North Furlong Lake which lies at the base of Wines Peak. We located our campsite on the lower slopes of the mountain and were so exhausted from our 10-mile hike with heavy packs that we collapsed on the ground in the shade of a Ponderosa Pine and slept for more than an hour.

When I awoke I got my binoculars and hiked 2 miles up the Ruby Crest trail nearly to the top of the mountain just to reconnoiter the area. Wines Peak is a vast area of alpine tundra leading to a sharply rising rock ridge that forms the summit at 10,899 feet. I saw no Snowcocks but did find excellent habitat that we could explore early next morning, Some birds sighted along the, trail were White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Wren, Townsend's Solitaire, Kestrel, Raven, Water Pipit and Nutcracker. At the summit I saw 15 Mountain Goats grazing on the sparse vegetation at the top of a nearby ridge.

On Tuesday morning August 5th, at first light we took a final look at the Mountain Lion tracks and started up the trail to Wines Peak to what we hoped would be our best view of a Snowcock. Our strategy was to leave the trail and directly transit the expanse of tundra toward the west end of the summit ridge which abruptly ends in a sheer cliff that appeared to be a likely spot for Snowcock. We flushed a Virginia's Warbler from some low growing junipers as we began to climb up the ridge toward the cliff edge.

Soon we heard some low clucking, and there, visible on a ledge some 200 feet from us was an adult Snowcock looking paler than the bird depicted in the National Geographic Field Guide. It looked very much like a Chukar in field marks but at 28 inches in length it was definitely much larger and heavier. Soon, a second adult appeared on the same ledge and right behind came six nearly full-grown juveniles, all cackling excitedly at our intrusion. We observed this family group under excellent light conditions for several minutes before they began to exit the ledge one by one and disappear into the jumble of racks and crevices in the cliff face. Try as we might we could not relocate these birds. They suddenly disappeared just as they had appeared - like phantoms. We now had 9 confirmed sightings and 2 unconfirmed.

We continued to bird the summit of Wines Peak and were thrilled to find a Prairie Falcon hunting Water Pipits without success, despite some spectacular aerobatics. By mid-morning we had made our way down to our camp. After packing up we began the ten-mile, all-day, hike out to the trailhead in Lamoille Canyon. Three additional Snowcock were heard and seen on a cliff at Liberty Pass bringing the trip total to 12 confirmed sightings and 2 probables in just 2½ days in the Ruby Mountains.

In summary, Brad and I hiked some 28 miles in 2½ days with heavy packs. It was physically demanding and stressful for me, at age 67. Brad, who is 27 years younger than me and an experienced backpacker admits that it was no cake-walk, We were pleased, however, to get many good looks at Snowcocks, as well as to see a variety of other flora and fauna and to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Ruby Mountains under such perfect weather conditions.

By hiking to Wines Peak we certainly enhanced our chances of seeing Snowcock and getting good, close views, but for the less physically fit I think that sitting at Liberty Pass or Island Lake over a period of days is a good alternative. We saw all but one bird on cliff ledges and most sightings were within 200-300 feet. It's best to visit from mid July through August when the snow has melted sufficiently to expose the trails. An earlier expedition to the Ruby Mountains in mid-June 1996 found snow and ice conditions too hazardous for climbing in the Lamoille Lake and Island Lake areas. Deep snow with on icy crust covered the landscape and made the trails inaccessible, and there was danger of avalanches on the steeper slopes.

If anyone has an interest in making a pilgrimage to the Ruby Mountains for Snowcock I would be happy to share information with them.

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Summer Scholarships Available

Training In Ecology and Ornithology

Ecology Scholarships

The Maryland Ornithological Society is now accepting applications from Maryland teachers and youth leaders for seven scholarships to attend Summer ecology work shops which the National Audubon Society holds at its camps in Maine, Connecticut, and Wyoming. Each grant covers the cost of tuition, room, and board for an intensive six-day course of field study and instruction in ecology, conservation, and natural history.

Ornithology Scholarships

The Maryland Ornithological Society is also accepting applications from Maryland teachers and youth leaders for two scholarships for a week of study in ornithology at the Audubon Summer Workshop in Maine.


  1. The MOS requires that its scholarship recipients be those who work with young people. This includes teachers, park rangers, camp counselors, and others who are or are planning to make nature education a part of their careers.
  2. Applicants need not be members of MOS but must be endorsed by a member or a chapter of MOS.
  3. Each candidate must provide a written statement showing how the Audubon experience will be used to develop in young people an appreciation of our wild heritage and a sense of responsibility for the care and quality of our natural resources.
  4. Two or more letters from people who know of the candidate's interests and activities are requested. A resume would be a helpful addition to the application.
  5. Applicants must be 18 years or older.

Applications must be submitted by January 31, 1998.

Additional information may be obtained by calling 410-466-7377

Send applications to

    BALTIMORE 21209.

Brochures can be obtained from the Registrar, Audubon Camps and Work shops, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich, CT 06831.

You may also contact Mrs. Isa Sieracki, Chairman MOS Scholarship Committee.

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Discover the Rain Forest and Coral Reefs of Belize

by Marty Brazeau

Four thousand teachers and students have taken two-week environmental education courses since 1990 with "Save the Rainforest." That organization is offering a very affordable trip to Belize for Baltimore area high school students on June 17 - 30, 1998. We’ll spend one week at the Rio Bravo Research Station in Northwestern Belize exploring rain forests and Mayan ruins. During the second week at Water Cay in Belize’s Great Barrier Reef we will snorkel through coral reefs. We’ll stay in modern dormitories and eat appetizing meals. Courses will be taught by knowledgeable native teachers. At Water Cay we will also boat to mangrove islands and bird rookeries. At both sites there will be optional morning bird hikes and times set aside for recreation (swimming and volleyball).

I, Marty Brazeau, am the trip’s organizer. I am a Baltimore County teacher and MOS birder. The travel group will consist of at least ten students in grades nine through twelve. (Exceptions will be made for younger, mature students with an intense interest in rain forests) Parents are also invited to attend. The $1,628 cost of the trip includes round trip airfare from Baltimore, food and lodging, local travel, and staff costs. For more information about this Belize experience call me at 410-665-7462.

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The Exotic and the Rare

by Earl and Dottee Palmer

Looking over a mixed flock of hybrids and mallards meandering up the canal we saw a large black bird near the resident Canada Geese--another hybrid? A very large black hybrid goose with white across a red bill, red eyes and paddling with greenish legs. It's a swan--a Black Swan!: a species we had seen in Australia. Grabbing binoculars and bird books, we ran outside and confirmed our sighting--Cygnus Altratus.

The swan seemed to intimidate the other waterfowl though we saw no aggressive behavior. The ducks stayed on the opposite side of the 50-foot canal and the geese avoided the swan by paddling out of its way or flying onto the bulkhead. By now our next-door neighbors were out with a video camera and a neighbor across the canal ran out with a loaf of bread. The resident waterfowl are so accustomed to being fed, they will approach any human with or without food, but today they allowed the swan to dine alone.

After about 15-20 minutes the lone, stately swan gracefully paddled down the canal and the other birds resumed their daily routines on September 5, 1997 in Cape Windsor, a community just west of Fenwick Island, Delaware.

Obviously, the swan is an escapee, but from where?

This is our second unusual sighting this year in the Ocean City area. In January through March, there was an immature Sandhill Crane in Southpoint, which is about ten miles south of Route 50 near Assateague Island. Our friends, Carol and Bob Wilson, first saw the bird in their yard. It was a very accommodating bird when we visited Southpoint. We turned a corner and there was the crane ambling down the middle of the road. It went off to the side and stood in various poses giving us ample opportunity to observe it.

The Sandhill Crane was confirmed by MOS member, Mark Hoffman of DNR. This is the first confirmed sighting in Worcester County (though there was one prior unconfirmed sighting) and only the 17th in the State.

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Baltimore Bird Club T-shirts are still available

Contact Joe Lewandowski, or look for him at Baltimore Bird Club meetings.

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Postcard from the Edge

by Hank Kaestner

I have come to the Peten area of northern Guatemala to help the native people develop sustainable crops from the jungle. The world's supply of allspice comes from the New World tropics of Jamaica and Central America, and I am working with Conservation International to teach the locals the value of protecting their forests. The project is located near the famous Tikal Mayan ruins, and we spent the morning admiring the archaeological treasures and the numerous birds in the surrounding forests. I was able to see 110 species (only three lifers: Ocellated Turkey, Mottled Owl, and Gray-throated Chat). It is always fun to see the gaudy Keel-billed Toucans and Collared Araçaris, which are abundant at Tikal.

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Board of Directors Meetings

by Alan Bromberg, Recording Secretary

At its September 8 meeting, the Board of Directors discussed the work on the site guide and heard a report on a series of public input meetings on environmental issues being sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency. The board voted to approve funds for printing a new brochure for school visits to Cylburn and purchase of a storage cabinet at Cylburn. Steve Lee, director of the Heritage Museum of Art, gave a presentation on a proposal for a five-year survey of the natural resources of the Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park area. The project will include a bird survey, which he would like the BBC to conduct. One thousand dollars has been allocated for the bird survey. The board voted to accept Mr. Lee’s proposal to conduct the bird survey. A committee was established to work out the details.

On October 13, the board further discussed the details of the Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park survey. The first field trip is scheduled for October 25; all BBC members are welcome to participate in the survey. The board also talked about problems in the preparation of the maps for the site guide.

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Membership Dues

by Roberta Ross

Please pay your dues promptly! Notices have been sent to everyone whose 1997-98 dues have not been received. If the expiration date on your mailing label is circled in red, we have not received your dues. If the information on the label is incorrect, or your name or address is wrong, please call Roberta Ross. Unpaid members WILL be dropped from the mailing list effective January 15, 1998. Make checks payable to Baltimore Bird Club. Mail to

    Roberta Ross
    4128 Roland Ave
    Baltimore MD 21211-2034
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 a household membership. (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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A Reminder

This is a reminder that we do have a Baltimore birding hotline, and we need your reports.

Let us hear about your sightings. Naturally we want to hear about uncommon birds and "rarities." But also let us know about highlights of your birding in the region, as well as interesting yard birds, seasonal arrivals, and nesting. We urge field trip leaders especially to report trip highlights directly to the BirdLine in addition to mailing in your reports. You can call in your sightings to (410) 467-0653. You can also e-mail your sightings to the BirdLine at . For best results, please include the specific words: "BBC BirdLine Sighting" on the subject line.

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Field Trip Reports

compiled by Steve Sanford

I am taking over the compilation of the field trip reports for Chip Notes from retiring Mark Pemburn. We thank Mark for his efforts as compiler these last few years. And thank you to the leaders. Almost all of you have sent in your reports very promptly. I encourage you to write several sentences, or more, in your reports, so we can include your own summaries of the highlights and other characteristics of the trips that may not be obvious from the statistics.

Early Fall migration was rather disappointing. Warbler and thrush observations in particular were way down. Spring migration had been, if anything, better than normal. So what happened this Fall? Perhaps the lack of the traditional succession of cold fronts that brings waves of warblers and hawks was at fault. (That is, we were plagued with beautiful weather!) Or perhaps the drought killed off a lot of birds. No doubt we will see some systematic reports on this subject in various birding or ornithological journals.

One unusual phenomenon reported on our field trips and throughout the region was the early and frequent sighting of Red-breasted Nuthatches: a "Winter" species that is almost absent many years. Also, sightings of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were unusually early and numerous.

August 2 - Delaware Shorebirds. Our annual Summer pilgrimage to Bombay Hook and other Delaware coastal locations had 66 species, with 17 species of shorebirds including Wilson's Phalarope, Stilt Sandpiper, and American Avocet. Other notable species included the very uncommon Sedge Wren, Gull-billed Tern, Clapper Rail, and Seaside Sparrow. Leader: Gene Scarpulla. 16 participants.

August 24: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "While August does not sound like a Fall month, August 24 marked the first self-guided walk at Cylburn for this Fall season. Twelve birders began this walk and saw 20 bird species. Good looks at Pewees, a Red-tailed Hawk, and a female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak were the highlights of this trip. But the trip held so much more. It was a time to catch up with old acquaintances, find out what they did during the Summer, and just say hello. The harsh Summer drought did not seem to have an impact on Cylburn. The gardens were in bloom with lovely red, orange, and yellow flowers, and the woods were green and beckoning. Butterflies were out in force, and while it was cool for a Summer day, Cylburn was its usual, beautiful self."

August 30: Liberty Lake. Warblers were scarce, but a gathering of very early Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a collection of sandpipers and egrets were ample compensation. Weather: seasonably warm and sunny. 40 species. Leader: Burton Alexander. 15 participants.

August 26: Lake Roland. 48 species, including 5 warblers, Yellow and Black-crowned Night-Herons and the increasingly uncommon Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Weather: warm, overcast. Leader: Adelaide Rackemann. 18 participants.

September 2, 1997: Lake Roland. 33 species, including 2 warblers, Baltimore Oriole, and a Veery. Weather: Hot, humid, and foggy. Leader: Elliot Kirschbaum. 18 participants.

September 6: Glen Meadows. Highlights were Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Thrasher, Bluebird, 3 warbler species (Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia - all migrants). Weather: 55-60°, mostly cloudy. 27 species. Leader: Steve Simon. 14 participants.

September 7: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "September 7 was a wonderful, sunny Fall day with temperatures reaching the 80-degree mark as twelve birders made their way around Cylburn. We took a slight detour this day to check the compost and mulch piles before hitting the trails, and were rewarded with some great sights of birds close up. Twenty-eight species topped our list today with the likes of two Kestrels, a Blackburnian Warbler, a Great Crested Flycatcher, and several other warblers. The gardens and butterflies continued to attract us with open arms and gave us a delightful day with nature."

September 9: Lake Roland. 42 species, with 4 warblers including N. Waterthrush and Canada Warbler. Weather: High 70s, overcast, humid. Leader: Shirley Geddes. 13 participants.

September 16: Lake Roland. 52 species, including 8 warbler species, a male breeding-plumage Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a Purple Finch, marking the late peak of migration, such as it was, this September. Weather: Sunny, mid 70s. Leader: Josie Gray. 17 participants.

September 21: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "We always say that Cylburn has something for everyone and that a new experience awaits one as they walk the Arboretum. September 21st was no exception. Fifteen birders walked the trails on this cool, windy day and came up with 24 species. But, it was the way the birds presented themselves that made the day memorable. Who can forget the Sharp-shinned Hawk streaking across the sky, the kettling of Broad-winged Hawks, the up-close look at a Red-eyed Vireo, or the hopping of the Chestnut-sided Warbler. Even the call of the Catbird, carried on the wind, was melodious. With seven warblers topping our species count, one could say that it was a productive day. With the definite touch of Fall in the air, Cylburn was a delight."

September 27: Oregon Ridge. Highlights on this pleasant day included a charging Merlin, an early Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and a Swainson's Thrush (Thank you, Tim Carney) in this thrush-starved season. Weather: Sunny, mid 60s. 47 species, with 6 warblers. Leader: Gail Frantz. 13 participants.

September 28: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "This was definitely a Fall day as six birders in one group and four in another set out to walk the grounds of Cylburn. Our walk today took on a different quality as we went with the birds. By that I mean that whenever we saw a bird, we followed it to a different location. This circuitous route resulted in 28 species being seen. Of special note on this day was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a Broad-winged Hawk, and close up views of a Red-eyed Vireo and Brown Thrasher. The birds were moving and the overcast sky made for bird silhouettes instead of vivid color patterns. But this did not discourage our group. The rewards of seeing a Red-breasted Nuthatch feeding on a pine cone made the day enjoyable."

October 2: Soldiers' Delight. The focus was on flowers: "Gentians were lovely! Perfect October bright blue weather." The group also found one specimen of the rare Nodding Ladies' Tresses. 10 bird species. Leader: Jean Worthley. 13 participants.

October 5: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "Fall took a turn this day, for the weather was more like Summer than Fall. With temperatures in the high 60 to 70 degree range, nine birders went out to see what Cylburn offered. The blue sky and sun were a delight. The Catbirds and Mockingbirds could be heard all over the arboretum, and flocks of Blue Jays and Flickers were on the move. But only nineteen species were counted, including Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Black-throated Blue Warbler. As birders the day humbled us for we expected a great day of birding to go along with the weather. While Mother Nature had her way, we still enjoyed the walk through the area full of natural beauty."

October 7: Lake Roland. A rich early Fall mix with 7 warbler species, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, and newly-arrived Junco and White-throated Sparrow. Weather: clear and warm. 45 species. Leader: Matilda Weiss. 18 participants.

October 12: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "As far as birding trips to Cylburn go, this Sunday was a cool one. Eight birders decided to venture out to see Fall and they were not disappointed. The flowers of the Arboretum were beginning to wane and leaves were falling, almost as if it was raining leaves. Twenty-seven species topped our bird list today. We had a good look at a Hermit Thrush and some members of the group saw a Pileated Woodpecker. The first Junco of the Fall was seen and kinglets were very plentiful. Quite a few sparrows graced our list with Song, Field, Chipping, House, and White-throated being counted. If the conditions continue, I would expect the trees to be bare in short order. This may make birding easier for us, or it may be the harbinger of a long Winter."

October 14: Lake Roland. The highlight of this trip was a Bald Eagle which first flew south across the lake, then flew north a few minutes later with a squirrel in its talons. This may be the first Bald Eagle ever for the Lake Roland field trips. Can anyone comment on this? Please let us know, and we'll post it in the next issue. Weather: fair, humid, moderate temperature. 35 species. Leader: Dot Gustafson. 21 (!) participants.

October 26: Cylburn Self-guided. Joe Lewandowski writes: "The day was cold and overcast. The flowers had all died. A stillness blanketed the surroundings. This is what greeted the five birders who ventured out on this self-guided tour of Cylburn. The birding was terrible. Only six species hit our bird list and the only event that stood out this day was the flock of juncos that we saw. It may have been the front moving into the area or the birds knew that it would begin to rain shortly so they all nestled down to avoid the rain. Whatever the reason, it gave us all a chance to contemplate nature - to understand the change in seasons. But most of all, it showed us the interrelationship between all living things."

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Summary of Treasurer's Annual Report

by Robert C. Wood, Treasurer

BEGINNING BALANCE, MAY 1, 1996                         $20,895.52
      Membership Dues                      $ 8,611.15
      Donations                                747.00
      Interest, Savings Account                762.47
      Interest, Checking Account                53.93
      Interest, Museum Self Insurance Fund     101.82
      T-shirts                                 642.00
      Museum Equipment                         565.00
      Miscellaneous                             45.73
   Total Receipts                                       11,529.10

      Dues to M.O.S                         $4,245.00
      Membership and Donations                 710.00
      Chip Notes                             1,495.06
      Printing: Annual Program, etc.         1,183.00
      Youth Education                          210.00
      Museum: Taxidermy, etc.                  432.90
      T-Shirts                               1,406.60
      Operating Expenses                     1,228.48
      Committee Expenses                       708.82
   Total Expenditures                                  (11,619.86)

ENDING BALANCE, APRIL 30, 1997                         $20,804.76

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Back Yard Birding

by Gail Frantz

  • CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SANDHAUS FAMILY who have promised to sponsor the Baltimore Bird Club’s newest and youngest member for the next 18-21 years!

"Please announce to the World (or at least that portion that matters!) the arrival of MOS/BBC member: Phoebe Hannah Sandhaus, daughter of (new) members Douglas & Julie Sandhaus. Phoebe was born on September 23, 1997 weighing in at 8 lbs.2 oz. Her current life list count: 0 (Although she's SEEN a number of backyard birds, they of course won't be counted until she actually identifies them herself!)"

The Suburbs

  • Stephen Sanford has added a new dimension to his life:

"I recently updated my yard list for my decidedly mediocre suburban yard, and found my species-count was in the low nineties. My recent addition of three swallow species - Barn, Tree, and Purple Martin -brought me to 96 species. Aug. 24, I added Osprey to my yard list. Today, I added Rough-winged Swallow. So it's 100 or Bust!

"My Hummers are still coming frequently, and Nighthawks have flown over the last two evenings. For about a week I was having visits from those honorary swallows: Eastern Kingbirds." On Sep.22 he had a Nashville Warbler in his yard.

Oct. 9 Update; "The tension mounts. Yesterday morning, as I headed out the door to work, (the curse of the birding class), I clearly heard the mechanical tooting of a Red-breasted Nuthatch across the street. Since yard lists traditionally include birds identified from your yard, not just in it, that gives me species # 99! Naturally, I'd prefer to see it actually in my yard. I hope species #100 will be something magnificent, like a Bald Eagle, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more like a Brown Creeper."

Finally, on Oct. 19! "O joy, O joy! I just got species #100 for my yard: a Hermit Thrush. It perched briefly on the fence, then disappeared. As I write this, the other birds are showing their happiness by an unusual burst of activity and variety around my feeder. Maybe all 100 species will pass in review. Ooops! One just slammed into the window."

  • Chris McSwain of Randallstown reported seeing her first Fall backyard Junco on October 5.
  • Due to a bad cold and sore foot this past Summer, Joy Wheeler was grounded for almost a month. But on July 6, things started looking up. Joy felt better and decided to go out on "her" Northampton Furnace Trail.

She writes; "July 6 . . . a sunny, beautiful day in the 80s. A warbler was still singing with the song of either a Kentucky or Ovenbird. I couldn’t confirm either one. There was no mistaking the 6 to 8 (Baltimore) Orioles I saw as they flew from a large clearing to the top of a tall locust tree . They were constantly chattering . When I located the center of their attention, I could see a male Oriole with a struggling caterpillar in his beak, surrounded by several other Orioles who were also chattering.

"Suddenly, I could see a young Cowbird flying and tumbling down through the air towards me. The Orioles appeared to be directing their movement and commotion toward the Cowbird. Since the commotion died out soon after the appearance of this intruder, I could only speculate that the adult Orioles were moving in such numbers and with such seeming urgency in order to keep the Oriole with the caterpillar in its beak from feeding it to the young Cowbird. What do you think?"

The Country

  • From Woodensburg, Aug.21 - A Sharpie (?) and I [GF] startled each other last night when I walked out onto the back porch around 8:00. He left a pile of Mourning Dove feathers on the porch railing which he was using as a chopping block. Could it be the same one that's been terrorizing the birds in our backyard for the last 3 weeks?

A flock of 300+ Canada Geese have been honking and tooting up and down Old Hanover Rd. each evening and morning during Oct.

At last, warblers! It appeared that every Yellow-rumped Warbler passing through the Reisterstown area (along with one or two Black-throated Greens) was in our yard on Oct. 7 around 4:30 P.M. (GF)

  • Debbie Terry also noticed Myrtles in the Loch Raven area; "this morning (Oct. 12), Steve Simon and I walked into the flats from the fire trail. . . . The most plentiful passerines were Robins and Myrtles. They were everywhere."



  • Karen Lippy of the Codorus Bird Club has entitled the following story:


Park ranger Lewis from Codorus State Park was on duty in the Marina area when he saw a small plane coming low over the water toward one of the islands. The park's resident Bald Eagle, had been loafing in his roost tree. But when the bird saw the plane he loudly challenged it and flew out to intercept the interloper with his legs dropped down.

Since this is a territorial display, was the eagle attempting to drive off the plane or was the lonely bachelor seeking a mate?


  • Dick Cope who resides in central Ohio sent the following e-mail; "On the subject of birds: We have a bird feeder up all year and use only the black oil sunflower seeds. The last three or four years we have noticed some birds with physical problems-a few of the House Finches have a bad eye (closed up) and one cardinal didn't have any feathers from his shoulders up. He was around for two years and now another male Cardinal has shown up this year with no feathers from his eyes up. Then yesterday a Blue Jay came in without feathers on his head. I wonder what is causing this and if we can do anything about it-doubtful, but have you ever seen this?"


Avian Afflictions

  • BYB contacted Dundalk’s rehabber, Gerta Deterer (Wild Bird Rescue Inc. Tele: 410-288-4546) who gave some possible reasons for these avian afflictions:
  • Crusting formed around eyes may be Mycoplasma gallisepticum. This disease was first diagnosed in Virginia and has spread from there. It primarily affects House Finches but will spread to other birds if the right conditions are present. The disease produces blindness and will eventually kill the bird.

Keep bird water clean and clean feeders once or twice weekly by scrubbing out the feeders with 1 part bleach mixed with 10 parts water. Also, rake up bird droppings and old seed. If you see more than one bird with nasty looking eyes, be sure you follow these procedures. They may serve as a preventative.

  • Gerta also described some unsettling observations she noted this past Summer in Maryland. She feels that the hot, drought-ridden Summer, combined with pervasive and constantly progressing loss of habitat caused a particularly bad food shortage among birds and animals. A lack of necessary minerals or vitamins and fighting over limited food supplies probably contributed to a poor molt. If Ohio had similar weather conditions or rapid habitat loss, that might explain the featherless birds you occasionally see at your feeder.
  • Also in our area, during July and August, Gerta noticed a dramatic increase of weak, sick young Red-tailed hawks being brought into her rescue organization earlier than usual. She observed that the birds had dirt in their beaks which is an indication that they were starving and digging for grubs and worms because they couldn’t find more suitable food. Apparently, young hawks are vulnerable, because by July and August parent birds have kicked their offspring out of their territory. Since "space is limited due to rapid development" the juvenile raptors are unable to find their own area in which to hunt.
  • On a lighter note, Gerta announced that the National Finch and Soft Bill Society, awarded their Grand Championship, for the third year in a row to a: Ta-Dah - STARLING !

For good info and a laugh or two,

Read, Bird Watching for Dummies, a new book by Bill Thompson III & the Editors of Bird Watcher’s Digest. An excerpt from this book appears in the current issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest ("Tackling Feeder Pests and Problems When Things Go Wrong in the Backyard" Vol. 20 No 2 Nov./Dec 1997)

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