CHIP NOTES

The newsletter of the Baltimore Bird Club

April-May 1999 -- Online Edition

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Deadline for next CHIP NOTES: June 25, 1998 (the next issue will be August-September 1999). Send material to: or e-mail to
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Cape Henlopen to Cape Charles
February 13-14, 1999

By Pete Webb, Trip Leader

Black-tailed Gull from photo by Elliot Kirschbaum We started at our Baltimore area meeting place with 5 of the 7 people in discouragingly chilly and windy conditions, but continued to brave the cold and forecasts of intermittent snow or mixed precipitation. Our one Bald Eagle, an adult, was spotted on the way out, flying over Caroline County, Maryland near Route 404. More discouragement awaited us at our scheduled first stop at the Ferry passenger lot at Lewes, Delaware where construction blocked our customary access to the water. We usually find Red-throated Loons, scoters and other waterfowl there. We were hard put to scrounge up a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, but eventually did find a couple of Bufflehead. Further, there was no sign of the other people we were supposed to meet there; we did find them, however, as we were exiting the lot and they were coming back to look for us one more time.

At the overlook lot near the radar facility, we viewed Black and Surf Scoters on the bay side along with Sanderlings and some distant Black-bellied Plovers. With a strong northwest wind, we had no luck seeking views of Gannets at our coastal stops, but did get to see the Red-throated Loons on the Atlantic side.

At Silver Lake, we found the usual excellent views of Redhead, Canvasbacks, Shovelers circling in an interesting feeding behavior, and other waterfowl including Canada Geese of two distinct sizes and neck lengths. Small forms of the geese were predominant here, not all that much larger than the Mallards. By now, the weather had turned sunny rather than inclement.

At Indian River Inlet, we first took the trail out into the marsh, watching gulls dropping bivalves onto the gravel road to crack the shells and get their eats. We found a couple of Tri-colored Herons and both Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, as well as Greater Scaup and a distant Yellowlegs. Crossing over to the south side of the Inlet, one car saw some flyover Tree Swallows. At the south side of the Inlet, we viewed a Great Cormorant on the tower, Purple Sandpipers and a few Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones, and our first Oldsquaw of the trip, along with comparisons of Red-throated and Common Loons. Conditions including tides at the time kept the gull numbers down while we were there, and the cold wind dissuaded us from trying for the Sharp-tailed Sparrows which had been reported in the area in months past.

At the third street flats of Ocean City, we found plenty of Brant and a few more Sanderlings, but no unusual gulls or Oystercatchers. Continuing down to the O.C. Inlet, with no visible Peregrine on the water tower, we scoped about half a dozen Harlequin Ducks at the end of the South Jetty, along with more Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, and a small collection of Bonaparte's Gulls, but no Common Eiders. A raft of ducks on the far side of the rocks turned out to be Black Ducks, not Eiders or more Harlequin Ducks. When we checked the inland end of the O.C. Inlet, we found 6 male and 2 female Harlequin Ducks taking their ease on the rocks and posing for excellent views. No Eiders here either, however.

Our next stop at West Ocean City Pond, which produced Ring-necked Ducks Tundra Swans and a Kingfisher, was cut short when the temperature suddenly dropped several degrees and the wind, which was already enough to make us uncomfortably chilly, picked up and became brutally cold and forceful. We retreated to the cars and started our trek southwards to our overnight motel accommodations at Pokomoke City near the Virginia state line.

Next morning, we drove south, deciding against a try for the Newark area birds, dissuaded by the cold and the need to get south to our ultimate destination, the Bridge-Tunnel where reports of a Black-tailed Gull were drawing us. We stopped in at the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR visitor center, with a nice view of a pond from inside, out of the cold and wind. As we were tallying the ducks there, including some Green-winged Teal and Gadwall, a group of birders arrived from the Bridge-Tunnel reporting that the Black-tailed Gull had indeed been seen that morning at the usual spot at Island #4, but had flown away.

Hurrying to the bridge-tunnel, we scoured the downwind side of Island #4, with plenty of practice on various plumages of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls but no sign of the Black-tailed Gull. Gannets were flying by close enough to see the yellow coloration on the heads of the adults. Most of the scoters were Surf Scoters, some of which were close enough for very nice views. Great Cormorants were on the rocks off the south side of the island. Despite reports of both King and Common Eiders somewhere on the islands, we saw none.

After about an hour and a half, we gave up and moved on to Island # 3 to see what else what might be around. To our surprise and delight, a seal was visible lounging in the waters off the downwind side of the island. Otherwise, the birds seemed to be much the same as at the previous island. Three of us began separately scouring through the collection of mostly Ring-billed Gulls with a few Herring Gulls and fewer Great Black-backed Gulls lounging on the rocks most sheltered from the wind, just like on Island #4. As we were doing so from three different locations along the side of the island, two of us independently and simultaneously got a quick look at a darker backed gull walking out of view in among the rocks. Nancy Kirschbaum spotted the red-and-black bill as the bird walked out of view and began hollering for my attention. Meanwhile I was seeing the dark mantle color and carefully noting where it was going before looking up to acknowledge and yell for Elliot to come and see. Nancy and I were both looking at the bird briefly from two opposite angles, neither of us near the bird but seeing it from a distance at each side. Walking together to converge and discuss, I carefully judged about where the bird must be straight down, undoubtedly out of view behind all the rocks, and discovered a notch in the rocks through which the Black-tailed Gull was indeed visible! Everybody got a good look, and word was spread to the people on Island # 4 so more people could see the bird, as only the Baltimore group happened to be on Island #3 at the time.

After about 45 minutes, most of the gulls including the Black-tailed Gull got up and flew briefly before returning to roost again on the rocks. The Black-tailed Gull landed in a much more exposed and easily visible site after giving all bird-watchers present a wonderful view of its white tail with the broad, bold black band across the tail. One of the other birders remarked that of the two adult Black-tailed Gulls being seen a number of times this winter here and in New Jersey, this particular bird had less red on the bill than the other; hence the two birds apparently can be distinguished from each other.

After getting our fill of views of the by now sleeping bird, we went on to the other two islands, enjoying the local population of "House Sparrow" Ruddy Turnstones walking between the cars at Island #1 gleaning food crumbs and coming for tossed food crumbs along with the local Ring-billed Gulls; only the Turnstones actually came in between the cars for crumbs.

After combing Island #4 for the Black-tailed Gull without success and fearing that we had dipped out, it was a delight to be treated to our own "discovery" of the bird and to the sight of the unexpected seal. Our species total was 72. We returned home tired but very satisfied with our weekend outing despite the cold and wind.

-- Thanks to Elliot Kirschbaum for the photograph of the Black-tailed Gull.

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Donald's Duck Is a Winner!

By Gail Frantz

The Baltimore Bird Club's own Donald Culbertson submitted three drawings for the MOS Convention Pin Contest this year and his Wood Duck won the gold. Along with the winning Wood Duck design that Donald submitted, were a Red-winged Blackbird and a Cedar Waxwing.

-- Thanks to John Malcolm for providing a rough sketch of the design.

John Malcolm, MOS pin committee member, explains the rules:

The design must include the phrases "MOS" and the year; the bird must be appropriate to the conference site; the artist must be a member of MOS; each artist can submit only 3 designs per year.

Because the design will be reduced to a 1 and 1/8 inch pin, common sense guidelines include: using a simple design with few details; and selecting a bird whose identification doesn't rely on subtle colors (the pin company can't match all the colors in nature).

The pin design contest began in 1987, at the request of then-president Tony White, who wanted a unique, dated lapel pin for each conference. There wasn't time to have a contest that first year, so we asked MOS member and free lance artist Patricia Moore (Montgomery County Chapter) to design the first pin. After that, all the designs have been selected through competitions.

The number of judges, may vary from year-to-year. This year eight people had a hand in judging, including (always) at least one expert birder and one professional artist.

Donald is a graphic designer who became interested in the contest several years ago. He enjoys the challenge that the designs present. He also designed our BBC Oriole logo and the Oriole with the Maryland flag that was used at the MOS 50th anniversary celebration.

Congratulations Donald!

To view all MOS pin designs go to: http://www.mdbirds.org/annual.html

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Magnetic Attraction

By Nancy Dulaney Rowe

June 1995

Just three years ago she entered our lives,
Appearing right out of the blue.
She was raised with three siblings by parents whose care
Ensured good health as they grew.

Self-confidence came, as it does to the young,
And they all struck out on their own.
Then remembering her birthplace she came back again,
But she found no one there that she'd known.

April 1996

There was, it so happened, a fellow next door
Who was charmed and pursued her with zest.
So, lured by his looks and seductive love songs,
She made his abode their love nest.

Exemplary parents of four they became,
Though later they drifted apart.
But patiently waiting she found and was found
By a suitable second sweetheart.

May 1997

The next year we witnessed the same old routine,
From courtships to farewells, of sorts.
But no one was certain her partners had been
Merely one or a number of sports.

Though other uncertainties muddled the facts,
Among them, which broods held her genes,
We were certain two fledglings would pass them along
As they practiced their courtship routines.

April 1998

As two years a mother with five eggs now laid,
Her fecundity ought to be praised.
How many young bluebirds will she again fledge
From the site where she had been raised?

We'll "not count her chicks before they have hatched,"
But we wonder, as always before,
How many more years will the baby we knew
Be the mother of how many more.

Alas, such a question may hang in the air
And fade with the hopes we hold dear,
For suddenly gone are the five little eggs,
Though why and where to are not clear.

Since birds may desert any nest that's been robbed,
We removed it, for that seems a must.
Will the female return? Will a new one appear?
We shall soon have some answers, we trust.

May 1998

Eleven days later our hopes are revived,
As a cradle of newly mown hay
Is woven and cupped and it already holds
A single new, azure blue egg.

Who laid it? The question's on everyone's tongue.
Is "our baby" the mother-to-be?
Quite possibly yes, quite possibly no.
Said the monitor, "Let's wait and see."

In just a few days the answer is YES,
With five little eggs, as before.
So, how many times will the baby we knew
Be the mother of how many more?

Two embryos grew in their shells for twelve days,
Then cracked them with vigorous pecks.
With effort those tiny, bare bluebirds emerged,
Heads wobbling on long, wrinkled necks.

June 1998

In less than a fortnight the two chicks had fledged
And by papa were taught to survive,
While mama prepared another new nest
To cradle her third clutch of five.

After only three days of her warming the eggs
One vanished, the others showed cracks.
The work of a rival? Not mammal or snake.
If only we knew all the facts!

When both of the parents had disappeared, too,
We were stumped and could just speculate.
Were they forced to depart because of a threat?
Did one die and the other remate?

If she died we'll not know, unless she is found
With her band # 5-93.
If she lives and is captured, the same will be true.
Again, we shall wait and we'll see.

Unwilling to wait, we decided to see
Whether she, with her old or new mate,
Had moved across Copper Beech road to a box
With a synchronous nesting date.

July 1998

We found her! - ensconced on a nest she had built,
Determined and bright-eyed, but wary.
Our Grande Dame of Bluebirds her monitor named
This bird so extraordinary.

Her five feathered youngsters are banded and poised
To fly off and chirp their good-byes,
As soon as their feathers and muscles allow
And their color resembles the sky's.

Suppose she returns in the year '99,
Which site and which box will she choose?
Since tree swallows often control a shared site,
They'll determine which nest box is whose.

As "hope springs eternal" and we await spring,
The hopes we have held dear before
Will all be fulfilled when the baby we knew
Once again is the mother of more.

August 1998

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Field Trip Reports

Compiled by Steve Sanford

November 14 - Piney Run - Highlights of this joint trip with Carroll County MOS were a mature Bald Eagle perched in easy scope view, and a good assortment of waterfowl including 2 "Blue" Geese and a Redhead. 18 participants. 56 species. Leaders: Bob Ringler and Burton Alexander.

December 5 - Southern Maryland - The assortment of species was fairly typical for this trip, with lots of Surf Scoters, and a few Black and White-winged Scoters, lots of calling Oldsquaw, and a few Gannets at Point Lookout, and 4 Bald Eagles at various places. The most remarkable thing about this trip was the warm, sunny weather with the temperature reaching about 70, in contrast to the fierce, cold winds or rain of most previous editions of this field trip. The species count, like the temperature, was 70. 17 participants. Leader: Steve Sanford.

January 17 - Conowingo Dam - Highlights were a pair of Peregrine Falcons feeding on a Rock Dove, and four unbanded first-winter Trumpeter Swans. (The famous and controversial Slaty-backed Gull had not shown up yet.) The weather was merciful: Sunny and about 50. The 9 participants saw a total of 46 species.

February 6 - "New Design Road" - The highlight of the trip was all seven regular Maryland species of woodpecker. Six of the seven woodpeckers, including Sapsucker, Pileated, and Red-headed Woodpecker, were seen at Gemma Radko's home in southeastern Frederick County just across the county line from Hyattstown (Montgomery County). The trip also had good looks at Horned Larks on Greenfield Rd. off New Design Rd, Frederick County.

Leader Pete Webb writes about an interesting non-birding phenomenon: "At the Nolands Ferry park area of the Potomac River (southern terminus of New Design Road), Stone Flies were performing a mating ritual most people don't get to see: the aquatic "nymphs" were walking or swimming ashore to dry, climb trees, and molt into sexually mature, flying adults. After flying and mating, females from yesterday were on the river surface laying their eggs. We saw the nymphs coming to the shore and the females alighting on the water surface for egg laying."

The weather was partly cloudy with temperatures in the 40's and 50's. There were 8 participants. Leader: Pete Webb.

February 13-14 - Cape Henlopen to Cape Charles - Best bird of this trip by far was the extremely rare Black-tailed Gull on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. See leader Pete Webb's extensive report starting on page 1. 72 species. 7 participants.


Unmitigated Gulls

By Steve Sanford

Just as crossbills dominated local birding last winter, rare gulls were the big stars this winter. Starting February 6 a "possible" adult Slaty-backed Gull was seen at Conowingo Dam most days through February 15 and irregularly for another month. This gull is native to the North Pacific coast of East Asia. Although many, if not most, experienced gull-watchers seemed to agree on the ID, there is some doubt expressed on the Internet and other forums, particularly by those who have not actually seen the bird. Some other rather rare gulls seen repeatedly at Conowingo this winter were Thayer's, Iceland, and California Gulls.

Equally amazing, but less controversial in its ID than the Slaty-back, was an adult Kelp Gull that appeared quite reliably for at least three weeks beginning in mid-February at the tiny town of Sandgates, St. Mary's County, Maryland on the Patuxent River. This is a gull of the Southern Hemisphere, almost never seen previously in the United States. It could be seen very closely at the Sea Breeze Restaurant, which was very hospitable to the 1000+ birders who came from many states to see it.

Finally, an adult Black-tailed Gull, another East Asian species, spent much of the winter on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia. The ID of this species is rather easy and uncontroversial based on the broad black band on the middle of its tail. Our BBC Eastern Shore field trip was privileged to see this handsome and noble visitor from the Far East on February 14. See Pete Webb's summary of this trip for more details.

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 Postcard from the Edge  

Feb 20, 1999

Dear Chippers,

I had a wonderful stopover in Singapore on my way to Indonesia. After flying 27 hours from Baltimore, I needed a rest. So I relaxed by birding in the forested "water catchment" area surrounding several reservoirs in the middle of the island. This habitat is protected, and it contains many typical Malaysian forest birds. Although surrounded by a city-state of 4 million people, I saw the following birds: Gray-headed Fish-Eagle, Long-tailed Parakeet, the beautiful and scarce Jambu Fruit-Dove, Brown Hawk-Owl (a lifer!), Crow-billed and Greater Raquet-tailed Drongos, Dark-necked and Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds (that really do sew their nests from large leaves!), the migrant Arctic Warbler, and lots of Black-naped Orioles.

Best,
Hank Kaestner

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ABA Regional Conference
at Fort Myers, Florida

By Irma Weinstein

In January I attended the American Birding Association Conference at Fort Myers, on the west coast of Florida. It was a well-planned and well-attended event, housed at a Holiday Inn, near the Fort Myers airport. We had two full-day and two half-day birding trips, in addition to the evening lectures.

On the half-day trips we visited Sanibel Island and Ding Darling wildlife refuge where we saw all Florida species of herons, egrets, and ibises as well as Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks. A half-day at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island allowed us to see many shorebirds.

A full-day trip to Shark Valley, Everglades enabled us to see the Snail Kite, numerous passerines, Limpkins, Anhingas, and cormorants, The second full-day trip took us to central Florida where the outstanding sights were the Sandhill Cranes, Florida Scrub Jays, and Red-headed Woodpecker. We stopped to see Burrowing Owls and Monk Parakeets. We passed two Crested Caracaras in a field. Eurasian Collared-Doves are very common now in Florida.

All in all, I saw many familiar birds, and a few that were new to me. The next ABA Conference will take place in Chatham, Ontario in May.

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Arizona in Winter

By Jim Highsaw and Linda Prentice

Having read favorable reports on southeast Arizona in the winter months, we decided to give it a try during January 12 - 19, 1999. We flew to Tucson, rented a car and spent the first afternoon at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson. Over the next six days we visited the Buenos Aires NWR, the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve at Patagonia, the San Rafael grasslands, the San Pedro River Conservation Area, the Sulphur Springs Valley, Chiricahua NM, and the ponds outside Willcox.

The Desert Museum, with its hummingbird aviary, native bird aviary and outdoor areas, is a good place to start. We were even surprised to find a Canyon Wren (noncaptive) here. We found more birds at the Arivaca Cienaga area of the Buenos Aires NWR than anywhere else, including Vermilion Flycatchers, Green-tailed Towhees, Common Yellowthroats, Sora, Common Snipe, Cinnamon Teal, Meadowlarks, Say's Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, large numbers of sparrows, and a Great Horned Owl perched in one of the enormous cottonwoods. Raptors included red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, and kestrel. The nearby Arivaca Creek trail was less productive, although we did find a Red-naped Sapsucker. The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve was also a very good area, especially for Bridled Titmouse, Bewick's Wren, Gray Flycatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Zone-tailed Hawk, and a variety of sparrows.

The San Rafael grasslands are very scenic and well-worth a side trip from Patagonia. We found the only Horned Larks of the trip in the grasslands, and other birds such as Gray-breasted Jay and Montezuma Quail on the approach road. The San Pedro River Conservation Area was loaded with a variety of sparrows, and the ponds held Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, Shovelers, Moorhens and Coots. However, the Green Kingfisher which can be seen there was a no-show.

As we started up the Sulphur Springs Valley, we began seeing Loggerhead Shrikes, Kestrels and Red-tailed Hawks along the roads. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes were concentrated at a State-owned viewing area south of Elfrida; the same area was also good for ducks and shorebirds. Nearby we spotted the only Ferruginous hawk of the trip. We only had time to spend a couple of hours at the Chiricahua NM; however, we found Acorn Woodpecker and Strickland's woodpecker there, and were impressed by the amazing rock formations. At the final birding stop, the Willcox ponds, we found a variety of ducks as well as Meadowlarks, Killdeer, and Say's Phoebe.

The birding areas were uncrowded, the weather was perfect, and we found 11 new species for us. We would not hesitate to do this trip again.

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20th Annual Baltimore Harbor Christmas Bird Count
Saturday, January 2, 1999

Compiled by Pete Webb


The count had no rarities, but did tally Pine Warblers and a House Wren at Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant and four owl species, including Short-eared Owls at Hart-Miller Island, which also hosted a White-crowned Sparrow and the usual Snow Buntings. Overall there were 96 species with 31313 individuals. Here is the list:


Common Loon                 1
Pied-billed Grebe          32
Horned Grebe                2
Double-crested Cormorant    7
Great Blue Heron           78
Turkey Vulture              3
Canada Goose              932
Mute Swan                   4
Tundra Swan                 6
Wood Duck                   2
Gadwall                    40
American Wigeon            21
Black Duck                 45
Mallard                  1201
Northern Shoveler          18
Northern Pintail            5
Green-winged Teal           7
Canvasback               5935
Ring-necked Duck            3
Greater Scaup              55
Lesser Scaup               21
scaup sp.                 618
Bufflehead                158
Common Goldeneye           32
Hooded Merganser           50
Common Merganser           38
Ruddy Duck               3401
Bald Eagle                  4
Northern Harrier            7
Sharp-shinned Hawk          2
Cooper's Hawk               4
Red-shouldered Hawk         8
Red-tailed Hawk            18
American Kestrel            6
Ring-necked Pheasant        7
Northern Bobwhite           1
Virginia Rail               8
American Coot              73
Common Snipe                1
American Woodcock           1
Killdeer                   23
Bonaparte's Gull          750
Ring-billed Gull         3689
Herring Gull              281
Great Black-backed Gull    87
gull sp.                   46
Rock "Dove" (Pigeon)     1538
Mourning Dove             293
Eastern Screech-owl         2
Great Horned Owl            4
Barred Owl                  1
Short-eared Owl             3
Belted Kingfisher          20
Red-bellied Woodpecker     39
Sapsucker                   5
Downy Woodpecker           64
Hairy Woodpecker           16
Northern Flicker           57
Blue Jay                  100
American Crow             733
Fish Crow                   7
crow sp.                  204
Carolina Chickadee        136
Tufted Titmouse            49
White-breasted Nuthatch     7
Carolina Wren              69
House Wren                  1
Winter Wren                 9
Marsh Wren                  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet     35
Ruby-crowned Kinglet       17
Eastern Bluebird           25
Hermit Thrush              28
American Robin            682
Northern Mockingbird       94
European Starling        3502
American Pipit             93
Pine Warbler                2
"Myrtle" (Y-Rump) Warbler 118
Eastern Towhee              6
American Tree Sparrow      63
Chipping Sparrow            4
Field Sparrow               4
Savannah Sparrow           48
Fox Sparrow                27
Song Sparrow              314
Swamp Sparrow              59
White-throated Sparrow    632
White-crowned Sparrow       1
Dark-eyed Junco           559
Snow Bunting               29
Northern Cardinal         244
Red-winged Blackbird     2133
Eastern Meadowlark         12
Common Grackle            812
Brown-headed Cowbird       12
House Finch               247
American Goldfinch        149
House Sparrow             273

Species                    96
Birds                   31313

Other statistics: Start: 6:15 am. Stop: 5:30 pm. 67 Foot hours, 23.5 Car Hours, 90.5 Party Hours. 60 Foot miles, 252 Car Miles, 312 Party Miles. Temp, Lo: 15 F; Hi: 23 F. Sky, am: cloudy. Sky, pm: cloudy. Wind Dir, am and pm: NE. Wind Speed 5-15 MPH. Still Water: Frozen. Moving Water: Open. 30 Observers in the field, 20 Paid, 13 Parties:

Participants: Paying observers: Brent and Mary Byers, Shirley Geddes, Kevin Graff, David Holmes, Russ Kovach, Peter Lev, Taylor Maclean Jr., Jim Myers, Patsy Perlman, Sue Ricciardi, Bob Rineer, Terry and Roberta Ross, Gene Scarpulla, Debbie Terry, David Walbeck, Pete Webb (compiler), and Joy Wheeler. Non-paying observers: Rick Blom, Tessie Brumgardt, Gabe Cronin, Ralph Cullison, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Bryan Monk, Dixie Mullineaux, Barbara Ross, Sharb and Susan Schwemmer, and Kevin Smith.

Thanks to all!

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Pete Dunne at Oregon Ridge

By Katharine Patterson
Program Chair, Oregon Ridge Nature Center

Oregon Ridge Nature Center is very pleased to present An Evening with Pete Dunne, Monday April 19th at 7:30 pm at the Oregon Ridge Lodge, 13401 Beaver Dam Rd. Cockeysville, Md. Pete Dunne is the Director of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory, Vice President of Natural History Information for the New Jersey Audubon Society, and consultant to the Peterson birding field guide series. A well known spokesperson for birders, Mr. Dunne is also a recognized columnist, lecturer and expert on optics for birders. He is well known as the author of several books on birds, birders, and the natural world: Tales of a Low Rent Birder, More Tales of a Low Rent Birder, Before the Echo, The Feather Quest, The Wind Masters, co-author of Hawks in Flight and his latest book, Small-headed Flycatcher.

The Wall Street Journal states, "Mr. Dunne ... is one of the country's most respected birders, a self-taught authority whose exuberant, almost poetic approach to the pastime has won him many followers among the growing legions of birders."

We are grateful to the Wild Bird Center in Timonium for providing copies of Pete's books for sale and signing following the talk. All proceeds benefit the Oregon Ridge Nature Center.

Due to the large attendance we anticipate for this event, please call 410-887-1815 to register. A fee of $2.00 for ORNC members and $5.00 for non-members is due in advance. Please make checks payable to the Oregon Ridge Nature Center Council, 13555 Beaver Dam Rd, Cockeysville, Md. 21030.

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BBC Mail Order

The Baltimore Bird Club is now offering its merchandise for sale through its mail order section. The following items are available. All prices include shipping costs.

    Baltimore Bird Club's Birding Site Guide - $12.00
    Baltimore Bird Club T-Shirt - $18.00 (only XL left)
    MOS Patch - $3.50
    MOS Decal - $3.50

Please make your check or money order payable to "The Baltimore Bird Club" and send your order to: Joseph Lewandowski, 3021 Temple Gate, Baltimore, Maryland 21209.

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Back Yard Birding

by Gail Frantz

Baltimore County

Ruxton & Towson

Midge Nelson writes:

My winter visitors brighten the winter days for us:

December 13: A Golden Crowned Kinglet.

November through January: ...and with me still is a Hermit Thrush.

February: A Tree Sparrow came in for a day and a Fox Sparrow has remained until now.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which we see...is not my favorite bird as its mechanical looking holes killed a Mountain ash some years ago and (the bird) has also played havoc with a leather leaf viburnum.

Midge also relates that last fall she found a motionless "lump of feathers" in the middle of the road near her house that turned out to be an immature Red-tailed Hawk. The bird was apparently hit by a car. She called Patsy Perlman who picked up the hawk and took it to Cylburn.. Patsy said that the bird would be used for a study skin. She explained that Cylburn has a variety of bird skins available for use as reference for research projects and/or study by artists, students and the blind.

Patsy described an exciting sighting on January 14. A Peregrine Falcon perched briefly in her backyard near her feeders. The falcon was apparently looking for a meal. A few days later, in a nearby neighborhood, Sally Bloomer also saw a Peregrine fly through her yard. Due to the close proximity in distance and time, it appears likely that both sightings were the same bird.

Woodensburg

January 29: After listening to me brag about the profusion of Tree and White-crowned Sparrows around our house and in Mandel's scrubby, marshy field a bit down the road from us, Dot Gustafson telephoned me with a request, "...Ruth Culbertson and I would like to come out tomorrow morning and see them."

"Yipes!" I thought to myself, "It's a put up or shut up situation."

"Now Dot, I can't guarantee that they'll be here."

Dot, always the pragmatist, countered, "Well, of course you can't. You know as well as I that birders can't ever be sure of what may or may not be seen. Are you going to be home?" I just knew those damnable birds wouldn't show themselves. Over the years I'd invited folks out to see one bird or another and the birds rarely cooperated.

"Well, I was thinking of going birding in Leakin Park tomorrow."

Dot responded instantly, "I understand perfectly. If you're going to be busy we can make it another time."

By now, my cowardice was becoming embarrassing. Maybe, just maybe we might get lucky and see one of the little feathered beasties.

"You know what? Come on out! I'll go to Leakin Park another time."

The thought crossed my mind that tomorrow there would be no birds on Old Hanover Road and all critter life, as we know it in those fields, would be dead.

Jan 30: The morning was bright, blue and beautiful (in my pessimistic state of mind, a bad omen.) The two cheery women arrived a bit early. We watched several Goldfinches dart on and off the niger seed feeders. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker came in for the suet (good, good.)

Slowly we worked our way towards the back of the yard to the stacked up jumble of tree junk that makes up our shrub pile. We arrived at the pile of vegetation and spent the next few moments watching more than a dozen chipping and chirping House Sparrows. Some of them scratched at the millet seed strewn on the ground while others jumped about in the tangle of multi-flora roses that have grown up around the pile. The birds appeared comfortable and at ease.

"We could walk on down to the Mandel field and check it out?"

No response. Ruth and Dot retained their binoculars and feet firmly in place. Thankfully, an occasional White-throat hopped in among the House Sparrows. I sprinkled some more white millet and black oil seed on the ground hoping that might bring in other "desirables."

We'd been standing for more than 45 minutes when I repeated, "Let's walk to the Mandel field." with an additional enticement, "The Tree or White-crowns might be there?"

I bounced optimistically away, still chattering and at the same time looking behind to see if they were following. Dot and Ruth remained motionless with binoculars pressed against their eyes.

"Sometimes you have to just stand quietly and wait." Dot suggested.

We all stood quietly and waited.

Suddenly, Dot called out softly, "Look! There's a Tree Sparrow."

Ruth and I saw the silhouette of a small bird disappear into the weeds. Ruth whispered, "I thought I saw one earlier but didn't say anything 'cause he flew away so quickly."

And so they finally came in, one after another, and gave the story a happy ending. Not one, two or three Tree sparrows but five on the ground, directly in front of us.

The birds were lovely. Their light grey, smooth looking faces and bodies combined with their bright rusty heads made them look surprisingly colorful. We delighted in being able to study, then discuss the plumage variation among these gentle little creatures.

Later that morning, in the bright blue sky, we spotted a passing Northern Harrier.

The White-crowned Sparrows never did materialize for my two dear friends. Maybe next year....? (GF)

Baltimore City

Kevin Graff writes:

A pair of Carolina Wrens has visited my backyard since Jan. 1st.

I've also seen a Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse several times at my feeder.

For a first time since the blizzard of 1996, a Black-capped Chickadee visited our sunflower black oil feeder on Dec. 24th 1998, the day of our first White Christmas.

So far, the species count in my backyard is 90. While the count from our nearby ridge (future hawk watch site), is approximately 102 species.

Carroll County

Finksburg

Dawn Johnson reported 18 Cedar Waxwings eating fruit from her neighbor's tree. Dawn was really excited since this was the first time she'd seen the aristocratic birds this year. However, she said that her three year old son was "not nearly as impressed."

Frederick County's November Hummer

Point of Rocks

David Bussey relates his encounter with a mystery hummer he had in his backyard for eleven days last November:

I first saw the (Selasphorus) Hummingbird on the morning of November 18. It was hovering around the empty feeder that hangs from the eaves outside my kitchen window. I had been deliberately procrastinating about taking it down, even though I had emptied it not long after the last Ruby-throats left. Guess I didn't want to get rid of one of the remaining signs of summer.

There were still a few stray Rhododendron flowers as well as quite a few Nasturtiums and a couple of purple flowered Mexican Sage plants lingering in the yard The morning the hummer arrived, I had filled the feeder before leaving for work. It came in and fed briefly. It seemed a bit nervous at first, but seemed to settle down a bit during the following week. Since I was off work all that week, I pretty much saw it every day between November 21 and November 29. The last time I saw the hummer was in the afternoon on November 29. I think it hung around for another day or two after that as the level in the feeder dropped some.

The small bird didn't appear to be a Ruby Throat due to its reddish brown color. Then, after consulting several guidebooks and a couple of hummer related web sites, also because it appeared at such a late date, I decided that it was most likely a Rufous or other selasphorus.

On Thursday morning, December 3rd Marshall Iliff from the state records committee came out to spend two hours to try and get a look at the bird. No luck. The bird was gone. We haven't seen it again.

Out of State

Locally?

BYB received the following email request from James Cook:

"I notice that one of your members describes using an upside down Goldfinch feeder in a recent posting. Do you know who makes this type of feeder? I can't seem to find them locally."

Assuming that James was from around this area, BYB gave him directions and telephone numbers to Timonium's Wild Bird Center and Bowmans in Westminster. For added insurance, since they're the company that makes the bird feeder, the Perky Pet web site address was included. A day or two later James sent the following explanation:

"Thanks for the info. I'll see if I can convince one of my local shops to order some feeders from Perky Pet. Incidentally, locally for me is Waterloo, Iowa, and the Goldfinch is, after all, the state bird of Iowa! Thanks"

On the Net

Check out The Northern Prairie Research Center web page at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/index.htm . Click on What's New and you'll be off and running with lots of fascinating info about birds and other environmental research results (i.e. Why Are Scaup Declining?, Wetlands of the United States -Their Extent and Value to Waterfowl and Other Wildlife.)

One reprinted newspaper article ("Deer & Elk Caught On Tape...") with accompanying photos, shows a deer eating Savannah Sparrow nestlings.

Let us hear about your Back Yard birding too ! ! !

Call or write to:

Gail Frantz
13955 Old Hanover Rd.
Reisterstown MD 21136

Tel: 833-7135

e-mail:


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