Goshawk at Fort McHenry
By Keith Eric Costley
On December 4th I arrived at Ft. McHenry at 11:45 and found Jim Peters, in his SUV, desperately trying reach me on his cell phone. When he saw me standing there; he jumped out (I'm not sure he used the door at all) and nearly shouted "there's Northern Goshawk preening near the second feeder." After teleporting to site, I found an immature Goshawk sitting ten feet off the trail and only as high as my waist. It was actually seven feet up in tree that grew on the slope. The Goshawk faced away from us and turned it head around to look at the feeder. When Jim joined me, he pointed out every field mark: the white supercillium; the white spots on it's greater secondary coverts; the heavier bill; and the jagged tail bands. When it flew a short distance to the trees above the seawall I ran back to my car for my Sibley's.
We found it again near the wetland sign and watched for another four minutes before it flew over our shoulder's and out over lawn. I could then see the pointed feathers in it's tail.
The Goshawk is bird number 201 on Jim's fort list. He also reported seeing an American Tree Sparrow, a Common Golden Eye, a Long-tailed Duck, and a Redhead during the Fort's First Wednesday Walk (with Mary Chetelat), or earlier this week.
Ravens and hawks are soaring over our new home in Green Valley, Arizona, the weather is gorgeous, and in February, we will be ready for house guests. Of course, winter birding is slower, but here's a sampling of what's around. . .
So far, we have seen White-crowned Sparrow, Rock Wren, Mourning Dove, House Finch, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Raven, Lesser Goldfinch, Curve-billed Thrasher, and hummingbirds in our rather sparsely landscaped yard, in spite of the heavy construction and earth-moving going on around us. After the construction is ended and we do some more landscaping, we are hoping for many more species since, in addition to the above, we saw Gila Woodpeckers, Pyrrhuloxia, Black-chinned Sparrows, Hooded Orioles, and others in our rental backyard. Nearby, we have found a Green-tailed Towhee, Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawks, Vermilion Flycatchers, Varied Buntings. . . Also reported, are Black-capped Gnatcatchers, Mountain Bluebirds, Vesper and Brewer's Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, Western and Cassin's Kingbirds, Peregrine Falcon, Lark Buntings, Fox Sparrow, Golden-Crowned Sparrow, and even A Rufous-Backed Robin. At 3:00 AM, a few mornings ago, there was a great horned owl perched on the wall of our next-door neighbor. (Great Horned Owl was one of the first surprises I had out there. A pair nests right outside the sanctuary windows of the Presbyterian Church. Parishioners line up inside to have a turn at looking into the nest. Although the owls had left the nest by the time we arrived, I had a good, long look at one perched on the cupola of the church.)
On the way to my dermatologist appointment this week. I spotted Pyrrhuloxia, Phainopepla, White-crowned Sparrows, Great-tailed Grackles, Kestrels, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Gila Woodpecker, and Lesser Goldfinch, but missed the Lewis' Woodpeckers and Lawrence's Goldfinches which usually hang out around there. Lack of time kept me from any serious birding that day, but after my appointment, I did drive up the road to the lower end of Madera Canyon for a half hour and saw Mexican Jays, Verdin, both kinglets, Spotted Towhee, and Acorn Woodpecker, among others. Today, I was startled to see a Roadrunner scooting through the Walmart parking lot, even though there were hundreds of parked cars and dozens more cruising through the aisles.
Although I have not had time to visit all of the possibilities, there are lakes with Ross' Goose, teals, Shovelers, Western and Clarke's Grebes, Common Goldeneyes, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Coots, Mergansers, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, egrets, etc. in this area. During migration, which is just now ending, there were plenty of shorebirds.
I can't wait until our first spring here!!! Come on out and bird with me.
Looking out the window of my cabin in West Virginia in January, 2001, I -- who only knew Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Robins, the rest were just generic - noticed this little bird. It had a black cap - how cute. What was it? And so my interest in birding began with the Black-capped Chickadee.
Here in Maryland, east of western Washington County, Carolina Chickadees are year-round residents. While their diet consists of conifer seeds, fruit and insects, they can often be seen at backyard feeders where they particularly enjoy sunflower seeds. In winter, they can be found foraging for food in mixed flocks of titmice, nuthatches, kinglets and woodpeckers.
Why do chickadees join in these mixed flocks? It is hypothesized that by participating in mixed flock foraging, birds can more easily defend against predators since there are more eyes and ears on the lookout and the sight of many individuals fleeing might confuse the predator. Another hypothesis is that feeding efficiency is increased. Participating in a mixed-species flock allows individuals to find food sources they might not have located on their own. Additionally, when foraging with birds with different feeding preferences, there is less competition for a single food source.
Like an estimated 90 percent of all bird species, Carolina Chickadees are monogamous and pairs will remain together throughout the breeding season. They are early nesters (March) and will excavate or enlarge a cavity in a tree, 1 to 23 feet above the ground. Chickadees will also use man-made nest boxes.
Nesting duties are shared by both the male and female. They line their nest with plant material - grass and moss, as well as feathers and hair. Each sits on the nest during the incubation period (11-12 days). When hatched, the young are altricial - they are immobile, downless, eyes are closed -- and remain in the nest 13-17 days, being fed (mostly larval insects) by both parents. Carolina Chickadees will typically have 1-2 broods each year. Each clutch will have about six oval eggs; white with reddish-brown markings.
Finally, did you ever wonder how Chickadees (or any perching bird) can stay on a limb while sleeping without falling off? Tree-dwelling birds have a tendon in their legs that extends to the tips of their toes. When they bend their ankle to settle on a branch, the tendon automatically forces the toes to clamp tight around the perch. The tension releases when the bird stands up.
Tidbits in Lieu of Field Trip Reports
The few field trips scheduled in the Nov-Dec period were either canceled due to bad weather or we received no report. So here are a few interesting fall sightings that may not otherwise have been mentioned.
On September 18 after some slow days, hawk watchers were rewarded with 628 Broad-winged Hawks passing over Cromwell Valley Park. Several Merlins were seen there in this period, including an adult male perched in one of the dead trees. Also there were several sightings of Lincoln's Sparrows.
On September 25 a Gray Kingbird was seen at Jug Bay Sanctuary in Ann Arundel County.
In late November a Brant was at Fort McHenry. A Northern Goshawk was there for several days in early December as described in the article on the first page.
In the same period a beautiful male Harlequin Duck frequented the causeway at Point Lookout in southern Maryland, often quite close to shore. There were also multiple sightings of one or more Cave Swallows at the Point. Some Baltimore birders went down there on December 7 and had good looks at the Harlequin Duck. All three scoter species were unusually abundant as were Brown Pelicans and Northern Gannets. American Pipits and Horned Larks were numerous at the very end of the Point. Fox Sparrows and Brown-headed Nuthatches were well seen nearby. Unfortunately the Cave Swallows were gone by then.
BBC Officers for 2003-04
President............................... Pete Webb
Vice President....................... Cathy Carroll
Treasurer.............................. Paula Warner
Recording Secretary.............Carol Schreter
Corresponding Secretary.... Roberta Ross
Membership Secretaries......Dorothy Gustafson
Nominating Committee-to be chosen by the board
Mining Limestone in the Everglades?
By Carol Schreter
In the Everglades of south Florida, home to the white ibis and the endangered wood stork, the numbers of nesting wading birds have declined by 93% in 70 years. Half of this extensive wetland has been drained, filled or diverted to meet the needs of a growing human population.
To "protect and restore" this rare saw grass prairie, in 2000 Congress authorized $8 billion for Everglades restoration.
Now, just two years later, the Army Corps of Engineers, with Bush administration approval, has issued permits to 10 different companies to mine the Everglades for limestone. This limestone will be crushed and used in building roads and parking lots.
The Mining Project
The first phase of the Lakebelt project will turn 5,000 acres of rare wetland habitat into a series of mining pits. Some areas slated for mining are just 1,100 feet from border of Everglades National Park -- primary foraging habitat for over 90% of wood storks nesting within the park.
Over several decades, proposed mining will extract 1.7 billion tons of limestone rock and destroy over 30 square miles of the Everglades, an area the size of Miami.
Then the Army Corps of Engineers proposes to build two fresh water reservoirs. One will contain drinking water for the south Florida population. The other will be used to rehydrate the Everglades. The so-called restoration, creating two reservoirs, will be funded with one billion dollars of the public money already appropriated by Congress.
Naturalists are clear that for wildlife, a reservoir is not the equivalent of wetlands. In addition, mining the Everglades violates the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty.
Officials from the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have stated that the proposed mining just outside of the park undermines Congressional intent to protect and restore the Everglades. But their objections were withdrawn at request of the White House.
U.S. Geological Survey experts say that the proposed reservoirs may not hold water as intended. Instead, they may encourage seepage of water out of the Everglades through underground aquifers, which the Congressionally funded restoration project was intended to prevent.
EPA scientists worry that the industrial process of mining could contaminate Miami-Dade County's drinking water aquifer with deadly bacteria.
Lakebelt project feasibility studies will take a decade, but the Bush administration is willing to allow mining to start now.
What to Do?
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed suit in federal court. This will be an expensive and lengthy legal battle. Watch their website for developments.
Alert other nature lovers about this sneak attack on the Everglades.
Alert your Congress people that Congressional intent is being subverted. The $8 billion authorized by Congress in 2000 was to be used to "protect and restore," not destroy, the Everglades.
Resource: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) www. nrdcwildplaces.org
Kross, Amy Goldman, Where Fish Go In Winter. (New York: Penguin Putnam Books), 1987.
During the summer, Ruth and I help with a reading program for young children held in the library of Durbin, West Virginia. We continually look for readings that may be of interest to the children. Recently we came across a dandy. It is Amy Goldman Koss's Where Fish Go In Winter. It is a book of fourteen poems on subjects about fish as well as "How Popcorn Pops", "Why Do Snakes Shed Their Skins", and so on. The book is written for children ages 6 - 9. My favorite is "Do Spiders Stick To Their Own Webs". If some day you'd happen to see me, I would be more than happy to recite it. A sample is:
HOW DO BIRDS FLY?
If I had wings, could I then fly,
And swoop and soar across the sky?
To fly, I'd need much more than wings,
'Cause wings are just the start of things.
Some birds have wings that are too small.
So ostriches can't fly at all!
A flying bird's proportioned right,
To make her swift and strong and light.
Her beak weighs less than teeth and jaws.
Her bones are hollow, head to claws.
With lungs and heart big for her size,
She hardly tires when she flies
And feathers are the perfect touch.
They keep her warm, but don't weigh much
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.
Back Yard Birding and Beyond
By Gail Frantz
Pretty Boy, Freeland
January 4: This morning, from the kitchen I heard a bunch of bird sounds, so got the binoculars and eased out on the porch. There is a very large silver maple in my back yard and it was loaded with at least 150 Cedar Waxwings. There are some small crab apples left on several of the trees, but I guess they will work on the new buds of the maple.
Let us hear about your Back Yard and Maryland Birding too!!!,
Call or write to:
13955 Old Hanover Rd.
Reisterstown MD 21136
To Baltimore Bird Club Home Page