in Print-version of Chip Notes
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PLEASE FILL OUT THE QUESTIONNAIRE INSIDE AND MAIL IT TO:
Paula Warner, BBC Treasurer 504 South Hanover Street Baltimore, Maryland 212 01
Or fax to: 401-244-6985
Hawk Watching in Cromwell Valley Park
By Jim Meyers
Hawk migration continues to be a growing interest nationwide, not only to birders but to non-birders alike. Many visitors to major hawk watch sites don't consider themselves as birders, they just come to "see lotsa hawks!"
Those of us who live in the Baltimore area are fortunate to have a number of hawk watching spots within a two or three hour drive. Hawk Mt. PA, Cape May, NJ, Ft. Smallwood, MD and Waggoner's Gap, PA are just a few.
Fortunately, one does not have to travel far at all to see at least some migrating hawks. The Baltimore area has long been known to get significant numbers of raptors moving south in autumn. Joy Wheeler's article, "Hawk Watching In Baltimore-1954 and Now" (Chip Notes -April May 2000) , informed us of the late Douglas Hackman's 1954 hawk watch in White Marsh, Baltimore County. Joy also listed Kevin Graff's backyard hawk watch in the Hamilton section of Baltimore city. Kevin tallied thousands of migrating birds of prey in the late 90's. Also noteworthy is the 1973 hawk migration study at Towson High School (Maryland Birdlife -March 1975).
Over the last several years a small but growing number of hawk watchers have been observing the autumn raptor flights at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County. Of particular interest are the mid-September Broad-winged Hawk flights, which can be spectacular. On Sept. 16th, 2001, we counted 2,288 Broad-winged Hawks, and the next day another 2,182 were counted! Eleven raptor species are regular migrants at Cromwell Valley. Occasionally rarities as such as the Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle are seen.
For the Fall 2004 season I plan to submit our hawk count to HMANA (Hawk Migration Association of North America) . Which brings me to the point of this article:
Please contact me if you're interested in joining us for this hawk count or if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.
8677 Oak Rd.
Baltimore, MD. 21234
BBC Covered Dish Supper
On Sunday January 7, thanks to Shirley Geddes, Helene Gardel and Jeanie Bowman, BBC members enjoyed a delicious meal in Towson at Baltimore County's Department of Aging. We were privileged to use the comfortable, roomy conference room and the well-appointed kitchen in the BYKOTA (Be Ye Kind One To Another) section.
Dinner started with wine and cheese. Followed by an out-of-this-world salmon chowder and salad with at least fifteen different entrees including aspics. Dessert included home-made cakes and brownies.
New members asked to introduce themselves included:
Claudia Burns (now taking Dr. Stott's course in VA. with Bryce Butler), Ann Davis (teaching at Roland Park Country School), Jane Emory (den mother at MOS Jr. Nature Camp 17 years ago), Greg Shupe & Gina Schrader (experienced birders), Petronella (Nell), and Van Helden (just moved here from Texas)
Hank Kaestner also presented his lecture, "Around the World Bird Watching Adventures in 2003." Hank gave his usual comprehensive and fascinating account of his birding experiences over the last twelve months.
Hank reviewed his background as a birder since his youth, and his career with McCormick as a spice-buyer which just happened to take him to a variety of exotic bird-rich locations around the globe. He recently retired but does spice-business trips on a consulting basis. He showed slides of his 2003 trips to places such as Madagascar, South Africa, Lesotho, Singapore, Japan, China, Amazonian Brazil, Finland, and Vermont. The talk was spiced with his lively style and good humor. For example, he reported seeing a picture of the Japanese Izu Island Thrush on a calendar in California. He took this as Divine guidance that he must stop there to see that bird on the way to his next destination. Needless to say, he did indeed stop and see the bird. His picture of the Orange-breasted Rockjumper in Lesotho was spectacular.
(Please contact Shirley Geddes if you left: A 10"dinner plate Alfred Meakin-England and/or a slotted serving spoon.)
Shirley Geddes & Steve Sanford
Board of Directors Meetings
By Carol Schreter
The BBC Board met on January 13 and February 10, 2004.
In January the Board appointed Mark Linardi, Joan Cwi and Dot Gustafson to lead an effort opposing the City's "Robert E. Lee Park Concept Plan" which threatens to close the footpath across the Light Rail line beside Lake Roland.
Gail Frantz described the new cyberspace store called Café Press. For every item ordered with the BBC logo, BBC is to receive $3.
In February, the Board authorized the Conservation Committee to write the C&O National Historical Park urging them to create Maryland's first Birding Trail -- instead of selling a 34-mile abandoned railway path along the C&O Canal.
In follow-up to December's spirited discussion about BBC's finances, mission and declining membership, we decided to undertake a membership survey this spring under the direction of Board members Joan Cwi and Paula Warner, who are both professional survey researchers.
At the January and February meetings, the Board discussed drafts of the questionnaire inserted in this April newsletter. To increase the rate of return, copies will also be available at the March and April lectures. Corresponding Secretary Roberta Ross will alert members by e-mail to watch for the questionnaire.
DID YOU COMPLETE AND RETURN YOUR BBC QUESTIONNAIRE?
PLEASE DO SO BY MAY 1!
West Nile Virus and Songbirds
By Carol Schreter
More than 110 species of birds have been infected by West Nile virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"There is no connection between bird feeding and West Nile virus," says Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. So why did six songbirds fall dead beneath my feeders in Baltimore, Maryland, in August 2003?
What Birds Died?
August 19, one Carolina Chickadee August 23, one House Finch August 28, two House Finch August 29, one House Finch August 30, one House Finch
On August 25 a male Goldfinch twice flew up 3 feet high, hit the side of the house and fell back onto the deck. This showed neurological damage, a likely sign of West Nile virus.
On August 28 I declared: This is an epidemic. Who will examine the dead?
Veterinarian Virginia Pierce at the Dept. of Agriculture Animal Health Lab in Frederick, Maryland, agreed to necropsy (autopsy) the next dead bird because: 1) we know so little about West Nile virus and songbirds; and 2) I was willing to pay a $30 fee.
Diagnosis: this first year House Finch died of a combination of fungal pneumonia and West Nile virus.
Aspergilis, a common airborne fungus, probably caused the pneumonia that weakened this bird. So under a microscope this House Finch did not show full-blown evidence of West Nile virus (i.e. enlarged brain or heart). But a tissue sample sent off to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab tested positive for West Nile virus.
What to Do?
1) Eliminate or treat standing water, where mosquitoes breed.
Mosquito larvae survive in backyard ponds with circulating water. Consider putting fish into a pond, as they eat the larvae. Or if you also want frogs to hatch there, put into the water a biological larvicide (Bt) targeted to kill mosquito larvae. Bacillus thurigienisis israelensis (Bti) is sold at hardware and bird supply stores. Put a piece of this donut shaped ring into the water monthly from early spring until late fall to prevent mosquitoes from hatching.
2) Dispose of dead birds away from wildlife.
West Nile can spread from dead birds to hawks and other carrion-eating predators.
3) Consider not feeding birds during the summer, until the first frost.
Research shows that West Nile virus can travel from bird to bird in a laboratory setting. Thus, it can spread at feeders. Perhaps birds eating in the wild are less concentrated. However, bird rehabilitators report that hawks and falcons can survive West Nile virus. Your feeder may save some songbirds while they recover from West Nile virus.
Project FeederWatch may be best positioned to determine if there is a connection between West Nile virus, backyard feeders and songbirds, as volunteers across the nation provide periodic backyard bird counts. Watch these websites for updates:
The federal Centers for Disease Control
- Project FeederWatch at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Field Trip Reports
Compiled by Cathy Carroll
For this issue of Chip Notes the field trip reports go back to November, 2003 and start with the Dorchester County Weekend. On Saturday, November 15th eighteen birders met Taylor McLean at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge for a morning of birding. It was a beautiful sunny day and the highlight of the morning was arguably the waterfowl and the Brown-headed Nuthatches. In the afternoon of this day, Kevin Graff ably took the lead and continued with the highlight being great looks at a Red-headed Woodpecker. In the evening, we all checked into our motel and met for dinner at a local diner and compared notes. In all 77 species were seen. A great day of birding was followed by another on Sunday when the birders met Harry Armistead at the motel for another day of touring Dorchester County. A wagon train of birders, including a couple from New Mexico, had a great day birding and talking with Harry. We saw many of the same birds seen the day before, so perhaps the highlight of this trip was a reverential drive by the last known Maryland nesting site for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in the late 50's.
On November 22, approximately ten birders, led by Kevin Graff, toured "Horsehead Wetlands" (officially Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center) and Terrapin Park on Kent Island on a day with perfect weather. Highlights included various waterfowl, especially Ruddy Ducks and Buffleheads; lots of Myrtle Warblers and Cedar Waxwings; and several Purple Finches. Perhaps the biggest thrill, though, was a falconer's Harris' Hawk cruising around Terrapin Park - not a wild bird, of course, but wonderful to watch.
On Saturday, January 17th, Pete Webb led eight birders around Frederick County on his annual search for Horned Larks, Lapland Longspur and any other good birds that can be found. The highlights this year would be 453 Horned Larks with two Lapland Longspurs amongst them at the traditional field on Oland Road. Also found were American Tree Sparrows at Lilypons Water Gardens, and later a Barred Owl calling and seen on the C&O Trail.
The Baltimore Bird Club scheduled walk February 7 at Marshy Point yielded very few waterfowl due to extensive ice. We were rewarded, however, with a light-morph Rough-Legged Hawk, ID'ed by Bob Rineer, and 4 Bald Eagles. Feeder birds at the visitor center included a Fox Sparrow and a Tree Sparrow. (Reported by Georgia McDonald)
On Saturday, February 14th the annual Cape Henlopen to Ocean City trip successfully occurred after a cancellation of the 2003 trip secondary to the promise of a winter storm - (remember the winter storm of 2003?) Eighteen birders met at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry parking lot in Delaware and Pete Webb led the group on an exciting trip that even included a rarities chase. What the highlights were depends upon who you talk with. A Razorbill, Purple Sandpiper, and Great Cormorants at the Indian River Inlet? American Oystercatchers at the 4th Street flats? Razorbills, Red-necked Grebe, King Eider at the Ocean City Inlet? Or, Eurasian Wigeon at the golf course ponds on Eagles Nest Road? Doesn't matter - it was a great trip.
On Saturday, February 28th Pete Webb was joined by six other birders on a trip to St. Mary's County and the Patuxent Naval Air Station led by Jim Swift. Shrimpie, the Kelp Gull, was in close view and looking dapper at his Seabreeze Restaurant haunt. By far, however, the trip highlight was a Short-eared Owl standing on an inactive and overgrown runway only twelve feet from the van being used to transport the group around the air base. It's large, round golden eyes, tiny ear tufts and dramatic streaking were beautiful. A life bird for three trip participants, another was flushed and it gave everyone a good look at it's stiff, slow wing flaps. In all about 70 species were seen including lots of waterfowl.
Baltimore Harbor Christmas Count
December 27, 2003
Compiled by Pete Webb
The twenty-fifth annual Baltimore Harbor Christmas Bird Count took place Saturday, December 27, 2003 with 15 observers in 8 parties counting 12,661 birds and 92 species.
The numbers for observers, parties and hours of observation, especially the foot-hours, are all new lows and many of the species totals with "new lows" are actually reflections of the all-time low coverage rather than population levels of the bird species reported. Any new highs (shown in bold italics), therefore, are especially significant given the scant coverage. Some of those new highs include both Great and Double-crested Cormorants, 3 Black Scoters (females, south harbor area), 2 Black Vultures (Essex area; years ago, any vultures at all were remarkable for the Count area on the coastal plain), and 66 Rusty Blackbirds split between the Fort Howard/Black Marsh area and nearby Hart-Miller Island. We start with one of those new highs, with the checklist in the current AOU order.
Canada Goose 1081 Carolina Wren 17 Mute Swan 12 Winter Wren 5 Gadwall 2 Marsh Wren 1 Am Wigeon 14 G C Kinglet 1 Black Duck 23 R C Kinglet 8 Mallard 224 Hermit Thrush 6 Northern Shoveler 83 Robin 186 G W Teal 1 Catbird 2 Canvasback 1590 Mockingbird 31 Redhead 1 Starling 544 G Scaup 9 Amer. Pipit 7 L Scaup 267 Myrtle Warbler 9 Scaup Sp. 100 Eastern Towhee 23 Scaup, Total 376 Tree Sparrow 13 Black Scoter 3 Field Sparrow 8 L-T Duck (Oldsquaw) 1 Savannah Sparrow 3 Bufflehead 227 Fox Sparrow 1 Com. Goldeneye 38 Song Sparrow 85 Hooded Merg 21 Swamp Sparrow 12 Red-br. Merg 206 White-throat Spar. 259 Ruddy Duck 405 Junco 91 Pheasant 2 Cardinal 50 R-T Loon 6 Red-wing Blkbird 630 Common Loon 3 Rusty Blackbird 66 P-B Grebe 6 Common Grackle 28 H Grebe 2 Cowbird 1 D-C Cormorant 294 House Finch 49 Great Cormorant 3 Goldfinch 32 G B Heron 24 House Sparrow 231 Black Vulture 2 SPECIES 92 Turkey Vulture 14 BIRDS 12661 Bald Eagle (adult) 6 YEAR 3 (immature) 2 DATE 38348 Bald Eagle (TOTAL) 9 Observers 15 Northern Harrier 2 Paid Obsv. 11 Sharp-shinned Hawk 11 Parties 8 Cooper's Hawk 1 START TIME 710 Red-shouldered Hawk 5 STOP TIME 1700 Red-tailed Hawk 6 Total Hours 43 Kestrel 3 Foot Hours 35 Merlin 1 Car Hours 1 Virginia Rail 1 Total Miles 18 Coot 53 Foot Miles 12 Killdeer 10 Min Temp 27 Western Sandpiper 17 Max Temp 51 Amer. Woodcock 1 Max Wind 10 Bonaparte's Gull 171 Direction NNW Ring-billed Gull 2771 Sky AM S Herring Gull 949 Sky PM S Lesser Black-back 2 Still Water F Great Black 124 Moving Water O Forster's Tern 10 Rock Pigeon 936 Observers: Mourning Dove 110 Ray Bourgeois Belted Kingfisher 6 Keith Costley Red-bellied Wpkr 23 Ralph Cullison Y B Sapsucker 1 Kevin Graff Downy Woodpecker 15 Mary Hollinger Hairy Woodpecker 5 Elise Meyer- Flicker 16 Bothling Blue Jay 51 Karen Morley Crow 101 Joe McLean Fish Crow 11 Taylor Mclean Crow Sp. 104 Jim Peters Crows total: 216 Gene Scarpulla Carolina Chickadee 49 Ed Smith Titmouse 19 Debbie Terry WB Nuthatch 3 Robin Todd Brown Creeper 1 David Walbeck
Baltimore Mid-Winter Count
Covering Baltimore City and County - January 24, 2004
Compiled by Pete Webb
Canada Goose 1670 Eastern Towhee 6 Mute Swan 16 Tree Sparrow 11 Wood Duck 21 Field Sparrow 23 Gadwall 13 Savannah Sparrow 13 Am Wigeon 24 Fox Sparrow 16 Black Duck 100 Song Sparrow 304 Mallard 896 Swamp Sparrow 10 N. Shoveler 1 White-Throated Sp. 679 N. Pintail 3 White-Crowned Sp. 2 Green-winged Teal 2 Junco 624 Canvasback 474 Cardinal 315 Redhead 12 Red-winged Blackbird 696 Ring-necked Duck 5 E Meadowlark 1 Greater Scaup 3 Rusty Blackbird 18 Lesser Scaup 20 Common Grackle 2733 Bufflehead 269 Cowbird 14 Goldeneye 39 House Finch 116 Hooded Marganser 36 Goldfinch 66 Common Merganser 18 House Sparrow 185 Ruddy Duck 89 Common Loon 2 89 SPECIES P B Grebe 6 45967 BIRDS Horned Grebe 1 D C Cormorant 17 24 Observers G B Heron 23 13 Parties Black Vulture 41 67 Party Hours Turkey Vulture 57 59 Foot Hours Bald Eagle (total) 7 7 Car Hours adult 2 4 Feeder Hours immature 1 3 "Owling, hours" unspecified 4 153 Party Miles Northern Harrier 11 44 Foot Miles Sharp-shinned Hawk 9 110 Car Miles Cooper's Hawk 5 0.5 "Owling, miles" Red Shoulder 14 530 Start Time Red-tailed Hawk 19 1800 Stop Time Kestrel 3 15 Min. Temp Coot 140 30 Max Temp Killdeer 9 7 Min Wind Ring-billed Gull 3124 17 Max Wind Herring Gull 6067 Lesser Black-back 11 Direction: WNW Glaucous Gull 1 Sky AM: MC Gt. Black-bk Gull 180 Sky PM: PC Rock Pigeon 658 1 to 2" snow cover Mourning Dove 252 Still water frozen, E. Screech-Owl 2 moving water partly open Kingfisher 5 flurries am Red Bellied Woodpecker 70 Y B Sapsucker 10 OBSERVERS Downy Woodpecker 75 Hairy Woodpecker 12 Stan Arnold Flicker 43 Denise Bayusik Pileated Woodpecker 15 Anne Brooks Blue Jay 50 Don Burggraf Am. Crow 654 Paul Canner Fish Crow 20 Cathy Carroll Crow Sp. 22072 Keith Eric Costley Car. Chickadee 115 Ralph Cullison Titmouse 84 Michelle Dunn W B Nuthatch 43 Bill Ellis Brown Creeper 13 Gail Frantz Carolina Wren 61 Kevin Graff Winter Wren 5 Elise Kreiss G C Kinglet 25 Paul Kreiss R C Kinglet 6 Charlie Kucera Bluebird 28 Jim Peters Hermit Thrush 6 Bob Rineer Robin 358 Bob Ringler Mockingbird 56 Steve Sanford Starling 1913 Gene Scarpulla American Pipit 1 Brian Sykes Cedar Waxwing 1 Pete Webb (compiler) Myrtle Warbler 24
Dr. Stott's Birding Course
By Claudia Burns
Claudia Burns took an Ornithology course with Dr Bill Stott, who left a very favorable impression on those who attended his "Waterfowl and Wetlands" Lecture in December's Tuesday lecture to the BBC. (Ed.)
Dr. Stott's course is called Ornithology I--An Introduction to the Study of Birds. It is billed (pardon the pun) as a college-level introductory course, but is not limited to beginners. It certainly contains plenty of information that is new and useful for birders who have enjoyed the activity for years but may not ever have formally studied biology, ornithology, etc.
Dr. Stott is a wonderful instructor and the course is worth the 1.5 rush-hour traffic drive to Fairfax. Books/reading and attendance are required, as are four field trips, but there are no tests--at least not for this course.
We had our first field trip on Saturday. It was quite successful and informative. Dr. Stott focuses on teaching, while of course also searching for birds. When identifying waterfowl he insists that we pay attention to such things as head and bill shape, rather than merely color. When identifying birds such as brown creepers and brown-headed nuthatches, he emphasizes flight patterns, habits and habitat.
Winter Escape from Baltimore
By Steve Sanford
In early February I was thoroughly sick of our unusually cold, snowy, icy, windy winter. Bet you were too! I longed for an escape. It occurred to me that one warm spot would be southern Arizona, and I also remembered hearing that there was a place near Albuquerque, NM where Rosy-Finches were abundant and easily accessible in winter. Pretty soon I was talking to Gail Frantz, and not long after that we got in touch with Bea Nicholls in the Tucson area, and not long after that we bought tickets to go out there for the week of March 4-11. Bea, of course, was active in the Baltimore Bird Club until she moved to warm, sunny Green Valley, AZ two years ago. Some of you may remember she organized a trip to Trinidad and Tobago and to Crane Creek, Ohio before her move, and came to most Lake Roland walks.
Bea picked up Gail and me at the Tucson airport, put us up in her new home, and we birded and traveled in her car. Thank you so much, Bea, and thanks to your patient non-birding husband Arthur.
The first two full days we birded around Madera Canyon, Continental, Patagonia Lake and the town of Patagonia, and Tumacacori. (Say "Tumacacori" three times fast - or even once for that matter!) We failed to find many special birds we were hoping for, such as a Rose-throated Becard, Elegant Trogon, and Rufous-backed Robin, but there were plenty of more common local birds, and the weather was delightful - sunny and about 70°. So, after a cold winter in Baltimore, who really cares! One of our birding treats was a host of unusually visible Verdins on the road to Madera Canyon.
Then we blasted off on a four-day, three-night expedition to New Mexico. We flew on two rocket ships - known unimaginatively to some as Interstate Routes 10 and 25 - to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, home of Elfego Baca. The Bosque is like Bombay Hook in the desert, and is famed for it's over-wintering Sandhill Cranes. The cranes had already left for the most part, but we did see and hear a few flocks in flight. And one flock in a field, watched over by a coyote, was a memorable sight. There were scads of waterfowl, especially Shovelers and Pintails. And we had great close-ups of a Roadrunner and a Yellow-headed Blackbird.
The main goal of the next day was the Rosy-Finches at Sandia Crest east of Albuquerque. We went to the end of Route 536 that goes most of the way to the top of Sandia Peak where there is, of course, a gift shop and restaurant. What else would you expect at 10,000 feet! The snow was several feet deep but the road was well-plowed (being a skiing area) and it was about 40° and sunny. From inside the shop we watched feeders where the Rosy-Finches usually come in for 5-10 minutes at a time several times a day in the winter. Sure enough, about 45 minutes after we arrived, an active flock of about twenty ravenous Rosy-Finches descended on one feeder like Nazis blitzing Poland. They appeared to be all Black Rosy-Finches except for one "Hepburn's" race of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. Most years this site gets some Brown-crested Rosy-Finches but they were absent this year. The predominance of Blacks was fine with me since I think they are obviously the prettiest of the Rosy-Finches, with their mainly black plumage highlighted with pink sides and a pale gray crown. In fact, I think they are the prettiest of American Finches - and not easy to see, especially if you're from Baltimore! Of course, some of you may remember that I was obsessed with seeing this species for years until I finally found one in the mountains of NE Utah in July 2001. (See Chip Notes, Oct 2001)
We decided to head for Taos for the night. On the way we followed Route 14, the Turquoise Trail, which wound through pinyon-juniper country. We hoped for Pinyon jay but didn't find any. Gail did get a good look at a Juniper Titmouse, which was new for her. We stopped in the tiny revived ghost town of Madrid, which was what Taos may have been many decades ago: a quaint, historic artists' colony. We found to our regret that Taos is a very congested, over-developed tourist trap. In fact, it was so congested, we decided not to even bother with taking a short detour to the heart of the alleged historic district.
Instead, we followed a route around the mountains to the north called the "Enchanted Circle." The scenery was wonderful. It was full of birds in good view, some of which were new for some us: Mountain Bluebird (close!), Mountain Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, Townsend's Solitaire, and Pygmy Nuthatch. A man in the pleasant town of Red River mentioned that he frequently saw some gray birds that actually dived into the Red River, which we were about to follow, and other streams. Hey, American Dippers! Well, I wish I could tell you we found some Dippers, but, alas, we did not, despite many stops along the waterways. Along the Rio Grande Gorge we were surprised to see a number of Common Goldeneyes. (Yes, the Rio Grande not only flows through New Mexico - it actually starts in Colorado.)
On the last morning we stopped again in Bosque del Apache and saw many of the same birds as before. A Western Meadowlark did oblige us with a little song to give a positive ID. Surprisingly, most meadowlarks farther south are Eastern Meadowlarks. The main thing that will stick in my mind, though, was seeing another Roadrunner - perched high in a tree!
We saw 112 species on this trip. Of course, if we had come in the April to August season, we would have seen a lot more exotic land birds, but the Rosy-Finches would have returned to their much less accessible breeding territories, and there would not be much waterfowl left. Here is a web site that tells all about the wonderful Rosy-Finch location near Albuquerque: http://kmlschneider.home.comcast.net/rosy.html. And if you're too young or old to remember the Disney TV series about Sheriff Elfego Baca in 1958, here's some info: http://www.southernnewmexico.com/Articles/Southwest/Socorro/Socorro/ElfegoBaca-tamingSocorro.html .
Birding in Costa Rica
By Irma Weinstein
In January of this year, I traveled to Costa Rica on a birding trip with Elderhostel. For the beginning of the trip, sixteen birders from all parts of the U.S. met in San Jose. Our tour guide, Frank, was an excellent birder as was Alberta, the bus driver.
We spent the first three days at Selva Verde Lodge on the Sarapique River which is in the Atlantic rainforest zone of Costa Rica. In spite of almost constant showers we saw four kinds of Kingfishers, Oropendolas and a bird I had seen in Tikal, the Collared Aracari. I also enjoyed seeing various tanagers, barbets and the Keel-billed Toucan.
We traveled on to Monteverde, where we experienced the cloud forest in the high central mountains of Costa Rico. Among a variety of woodpeckers, woodcreepers and wintering warblers we were thrilled to see the Resplendent Quetzal.
Carara National Park was the Pacific coast region and the third area that we visited. There were a variety of Parrots and Parakeet along with the beautiful Scarlet Macaw. We traveled by boat on the Tarcoles River where we saw many familiar wading birds including the oat-tailed Heron. The highlight of Carara was seeing and hearing the Three-wattled Bellbird.
In all, our group sighted over 249 species of birds.
If anyone is interested in my complete list please contact me.
River of Raptors
By Dixie Mullineaux and John Corame
Several years ago I heard Clay and Pat Sutton give a talk at Oregon Ridge on a trip they had taken to Mexico to witness the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of birds and butterflies migrating near the small town of Cardel on the Gulf coast. Soon after that I read Scott Weidensaul's book, Living on the Wind, which included a chapter on that very same migration. I was hooked. I knew I had to see this… the concept of extreme birding has always appealed to me. Who else do you know that went to Nebraska in the middle of winter to watch 250,000 Sandhill Cranes gather on the Platte River?
It didn't take much convincing for my husband, John, to start researching the Mexico travel books, and last October, we set off for two weeks of birding, sightseeing, and Mexican food. We opted to do it ourselves and not go on a tour to have more freedom and save money. You may recall my other article for Chip Notes was about Costa Rica without a list… we are casual birders; serious enough to go to far off places, but also too interested in the local culture to pass that up.
After surviving the ordeal of permanently losing John's luggage first thing in the airport when we arrived, then having some cash extorted from us by the local city policeman, we drove across Mexico and finally found the Hotel Bienvenido, where all the action is. Arriving hot and exhausted, we immediately and accidentally hooked up with a threesome of American guys who said we could tag along with them on a trip the next morning. Little did we know that we just latched on to an expert on shorebirds (who was doing this trip to gather information and photographs for his book), his father and brother, and their friend, who is one of the best guides in the area!
First, the scene at the Hotel is like this… you get up early and go to one of the local birding hotspots, usually not more than a half-hour away. When you return, you go "up on the roof" (4th story) about 10 a.m. You find a chair, plenty of liquid, a good sun hat, and watch. Facing the north, you begin to see birds come out of the clouds in a line, coming towards you. They then form a kettle, swirl around for a few minutes, then stream away to the south. Anything is possible… Turkey Vultures, Wood Storks, Anhingas, Pelicans, Osprey, Hawks, (Swainson's, Broadwing, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, Gray, Zone-tailed. Also present, but not in kettles, are Merlins, Peregrines, Mississippi Kites, Hook-billed Kites, Scissor-tailed and Swallow-tailed Flycatchers. When it is really swarming, you dare not take your binoculars down. You hear the counters in the background, chanting alternately in English and Spanish, clicking away on their hand held counters. One day we had 5,000 Turkey Vultures in less than 45 minutes. Spotting scopes are always available.
After lunch and siesta, you can drive about 8 miles inland to Chichicaxtle, where Pronatura has set up a viewing platform in the field of the local elementary school. They are educating the children about the migration and it's value to their community. The same types of birds are seen here, just with different perspective.
We did not have a spectacular day, which in the local's minds would be several hundred thousand birds. This is a sample of when we were there: This was a "slow" day according to the seasoned watchers:
Turkey Vulture 30,464, Osprey 43, Red-shouldered Hawk 2, Mississippi Kite 6, Broad-winged Hawk 47,452, Hook-billed Kite 4 , Swainson's Hawk 11,709, Northern Harrier 1, American Kestrel 46, Sharp-shinned Hawk 96, Merlin 4, Cooper's Hawk, 160 Peregrine Falcon 23, Gray Hawk 4, Zone Tailed Hawk 5: Total: 90,119 Just for perspective, the total to date was 2,290,795.
Meanwhile, there are other shows going on. At La Mancha Biological Station, highlights were Northern Jacana, Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Canivet's Emerald and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Black-headed Trogon, Vermilion Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, 9 Warblers, Scrub Euphonia, Yellow-winged Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Altimira and Baltimore Oriole, and Montezuma Oropendola.
Next morning, at Johnny Angel Beach, we had great views of Scissor-tailed and Fork-tailed Flycatchers. And an Aplomado Falcon that perched for us beautifully in the scope. Also, Collared, Snowy and Wilson's Plovers, and Mexican Sheartail Hummingbird.
Also close to Cardel is the tiny charming town of La Antigua, where you must find Tito and ask him for a boat ride down the river to see birds. At sunset, we got treated (for a fee, of course) to a private ride down the river to see Ringed, Belted, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, plus familiar herons, shorebirds and warblers, and a Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew. At one point Tito motioned for us to look up underneath a bridge we were passing under, and there we saw a Barn Owl on her nest, with three babies out of sight.
We took a day trip to Xalapa, where there is a reserve left at the top of the town. Our excellent guide for the day was expert in identifying the birds and also finding the best restaurant in town!
We eventually left Cardel and traveled south, deeper into the rainforest, where Hooded and Wilson's Warblers were abundant, and Northern Waterthrushes dabbled in puddles on the road. Four hours later, after bumping over dirt roads, we discovered that the hotel we were looking for was closed. But nearby, in the middle of nowhere, we happened upon some rustic lodging, right on a pristine beach. Frigatebirds and White Pelicans were plentiful. The down side was seeing large tracts of rainforest cleared to raise cattle - I'd heard about it; seeing it was devastating.
Back to Cardel for one more day on the roof and say our farewells. Stopping at a gas station on the way out of town we looked up to see still more streams and kettles, this time, almost all Swainson's hawks. We kept our eye on one that came close and closer to us, till finally it was just over our heads, naked eye. What a lovely way to say good-bye.
Smithsonian and National Zoo Activities
Bird Fest 2004:
On Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, the National Zoo will host an "International Migratory Bird Day" festival to welcome back migrant birds and celebrate their epic journeys. The festival will feature interactive displays by research and conservation organizations, hands-on activities and crafts for kids, live birds, a "bird-friendly" shade-grown coffee tasting, and performances by Evergreen Theater of Alberta, Canada. Admission is free. There will be something for everyone so bring the whole flock! Volunteers are needed. More details and an online volunteer form are available at
Smithsonian Ornithology Sampler:
"Birds of a Feather" is a mini-symposium held on Sunday, April 25 from 2:00 to 4:30 pm that will offer a rare opportunity to learn about birds and the innovative research being conducted by Smithsonian ornithologists. Following an introduction by Russ Greenberg, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, four Smithsonian scientists will give brief talks about the varied research they are conducting on birds around the world:
Carla Dove, a forensic scientist, reveals how she is able to identify birds from just a fragment of a feather. Rob Fleischer tells how he uses modern methods of DNA analysis to study relationships among birds on the family and species levels. Helen James, an avian paleo-ecologist, explains how she uses clues from fossils to reconstruct extinct species and to determine what they ate, how they lived, and how they evolved. Peter Marra explains how old-fashioned fieldwork and modern technologies can help us to better understand migration, and why so many migratory birds are in trouble. Tickets are available online at the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program's web site: http://residentassociates.org/com/feather.asp or by calling 202-357-3030 weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Birding Caroline County +
By Joel Martin
Some highlights from a half-day trip to Caroline County and Elliott Island on January 31: First I have to thank Glen and Shelly Lovelace for welcoming me to their home at 7:15 AM to see the Common Redpoll at their feeder. Not quite a Maryland bird (by a few hundred feet), but a life bird for me, thanks to the Lovelace's hospitality.
Since Glen is almost in Dorchester County I decided to make a quick run to Elliott Island to try once again for Rough-legged Hawk. I seem to have a blind spot for this species, at least in Maryland, and this excursion was no exception. Not a lot of birds of any kind were moving with the marsh frozen solid and lightly covered with snow. I was surprised when a drake Blue-winged Teal erupted. Also present were 2 Black-crowned Night-Herons, 2 Harriers and at least 4 Bald Eagles.
From there I drove back through the field bird areas north of Ridgely in Caroline County. There were scattered groups of Horned Larks, but no longspurs or Snow Buntings, or even any American Pipits along Mason Branch Road, where they were numerous this time last winter. On Cherry Lane was a mixed flock of a couple hundred blackbirds, mostly Redwings, but with a dozen or so Rusties and a few Common Grackles. Juncos, White-throated and Savannah Sparrows were numerous along the road edges. But the best Maryland bird of the day came as I was approaching the traditional longspur spot on Sparks Road. A large buteo flew out of the trees beside the road, then circled back in front of me -- a beautiful juvenile light morph Rough-legged Hawk! It circled behind the little woods and landed in a line of trees, where I was able to get the scope on it while it flew from perch to perch and kited in the strong wind. These are such big, beautiful, unique raptors.
So, not a big list today, but a life bird, two state birds and a couple of county birds. And the view of the frozen Chesapeake on the way home was spectacular.
Hello, Beginning Birders
By Georgia McDonald
Let me introduce myself. I am not a "hot-shot" birder. I don't know everything (yet), but I am pretty good with what you can see in Baltimore County. I am working three Atlas blocks, knowing that I know what I don't know and will holler quick as anything for assistance on something I can't ID. So far, I haven't been lucky enough to find anything that unusual. If you are going to put birding knowledge on a logarithmic scale of 1-10, I guess I might rate a 4. I don't know diddly about gulls in general. I guess I'll start looking at them when I run out of other birds.
Having spent many years in that state, I am acutely aware of beginning birder insecurities, of how many of us cringe with our lack of knowledge and keeps our mouth shut. After joining the BBC, I spent 8 years as an "inactive" member, maybe getting to 3 or 4 field trips a year in between the demands of a job and three young kids. Eventually I figured out that if I wrote all the field trips on the calendar as soon as the program book came out, I greatly increased my chances of getting out to see more birds.
Before joining the BBC, I was showing my children the big hawks in the sky at the Christmas tree farm. Five years later, I found out the "hawks" were vultures. My previous knowledge of vultures came from TV westerns in the late 50's. I was totally unaware vultures occurred in the east and that they really had no interest in me unless I had been already been dead a few days. We all have to begin somewhere.
I have stared and stared at a Carolina Wren in my yard, trying to decide if it was a Rock, a Carolina, a House, a Bewick's or what. It took a while to learn that you will NOT have a Rock or Bewick's Wren in a Baltimore County yard. That the cute little wren on the screen porch who lost its tail really had all the tail it needed because it was a Winter Wren, not a House or Carolina. We all have to begin somewhere. On a recent trip to Cape May, a nationally well known birder (who probably rates a "10" on that logarithmic scale) misidentified a Cooper's hawk, calling it a Sharp-shinned. We ALL make mistakes. If you miscall a bird--- no biggie, nobody dies, the world doesn't end, life goes on.
On BBC field trips, introduce yourself as a beginner and/or new member. You may find people trying harder to make sure you see the bird. In addition to BBC field trips, go out by yourself or with another beginner. You learn a great deal from puzzling out a bird on your own. And if you misidentify it (we've all done that at some time or other), somewhere down the road you will learn something that will show you your mistake.
Become familiar with your field guide(s). You will be more prepared to identify a bird when you see it. You will begin to "get a feel" for different appearances of the same bird. I remember seeing pictures of many lovely birds, knowing I would never see them in my drab corner of the world. Then, I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in my own back yard and a Bufflehead Duck in the middle of Loch Raven Reservoir. Impressed the heck out of my canoeing buddy by knowing immediately what the Bufflehead was.
Come out with me, either at Cromwell Valley or in one of my Atlas Blocks*. I enjoy the company and we can take our time so you have opportunity to see what YOU need to see. See you in the field. *
*Check your Baltimore Bird Club Program booklet for details.
Summer in Coastal Washington
By Elise Kreiss
Birding the Olympic Peninsula for a week in early August, we saw 111 species. Some birds we see on the east coat birds were a little more common. We enjoyed Wilson's Warblers; White-crowned Sparrows, and a Golden Eagle that really shone some mellow gold. West coast specialties included numerous Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Red Crossbills; and a variety of western warblers. We also had lovely cliff-side views that included Tufted Puffins, Heermann's Gulls, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets. Exciting surprises included two Leach's Storm Petrels floating on the water, close enough to see their slanted heads and caramel wing-stripes (from a small boat on a mini-pelagic in Neah Bay); also, a single Blue Grouse on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park cautiously crossing the road at nightfall. Magical moments included about 75 noisy Black Turnstones making their way down a drizzling beach. There were also shorebirds on migration, and a different variety of passerines.
But my most desired bird was the American Dipper. A kind Olympic Park volunteer drew us a map of a fast running stream under a bridge where we might find, "fishermen, kids drinking beer - - and maybe, a Dipper." With great luck, we found a family of four. They were little gray birds resting quietly on rocks in the stream; each itself looking like a round, slaty-colored stone. Until it moved. Each would bob up and down, warming up in place before moving along. You'd see them checking out the rock bases, and hopping into the water. You might see a bird's back just breaking the surface; or lose it altogether under the water.
It was a wonderful trip. I'd be delighted to share information on reference materials.
APR 6 (Tues) 7:30 pm Tuesday Evenings at Sherwood. The Brown-headed Cowbird, a Conservation Challenge, David Curson. (Original lecture was to be From Kruger to the Cape - Our South Africa Adventure, with Gail Mackiernan, which was switched to March.)
The APR 17 (Sat) 8:00 AM to 12:00 noon Saturday Monitoring Walks at Fort McHenry is CANCELED due to an Aquarium Clean-up Day which will necessitate having large numbers of volunteers working in the marsh.
The Following Trips Were Left Out of the Booklet:
MAY 5 (Wed) evening 6:00 8:00 Fort McHenry Wednesday Evenings. Meet at 6:00 outside the park at the Fort's gate (Fort Ave & Wallace St). Canceled if raining. Leader: Jim Peters, (410) 429-0966
JUL 7 (Wed) 9:30 - 12:00 noon First Wednesdays at Fort McHenry. Meet at Fort McHenry by statue of Orpheus. Canceled in bad weather (high winds, fog, rain, snow). Leader: Jim Peters (410) 429-0966
JUL 10 (Sat) 9:00 p.m. Family Birding at Banneker Park. Join Keith Costley for an easy hike around the trails of this historic site. Bring your grandchildren, sons or daughters ages 5 years and up to enjoy watching nesting Bluebirds, Wrens, Robins and many other natural happenings at this facility. The park also has a museum which you will visit. Directions: From 695... take US Rte 40 west to Rolling Road; turn left at Rolling Road to second traffic light; turn right at Old Frederick Road; proceed approximately 1.3 miles and turn right onto Oella Avenue. Continue 0.2 miles to park entrance on the left. Leader: Keith Eric Costley, (410) 521-5366 or e-mail
Back Yard Birding and Beyond
Back Yard Birding and Beyond
By Gail Frantz
Jan 9, Keith Eric Costley: Upon arriving at the park, I walked to the boat lake first and then along the boardwalk which passes along side several Magnolia trees. I saw a Red-tailed Hawk, two American Crows, lots of Mallard and over eighty Ring-billed Gull. I walked up hill toward the Pagoda when the crows started making a fuss near the pond. When I looked into the Magnolias I noticed whitewash on the main trunk of one of the trees - and the Great Horned Owl that dropped it, right above! The owl did not seem to mind me. Probably because there was a backhoe only forty feet away that made way more noise than me.
Jan 26, Cathy Carroll: ...with six inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground, while shoveling my backyard walk to the rear fence. I noticed House Sparrows chirping away in a large, dense pruned hedge in a neighbor's yard. An erect immature Cooper's Hawk was perched on the fence!
I backed away and went in for my binoculars and came back out in time to see the hawk for perhaps another ten seconds before it flew directly into a twenty-five foot tall Arborvitae. Within seconds the hawk flew out of the Arborvitae then beneath the deck roof of the neighbor's house before flying up to the roof of that house. When the bird took off again, it had a House Sparrow dangling from its talons. It flew down into the snow of an empty lot and within easy view began to eat its freshly caught meal. Quite a sight for the center of the city.
Jan 28, Georgia McDonald: We had a very busy raptor yard this month which included a mature Redtail, an immature Red-shoulder, a mature and an immature Cooper's and a mature Sharpie, all of whom include our yard on their regular rounds. We have moved the birdseed to more protected areas and the accipiters have to make zig-zag strafing runs to try to pluck any bird that sits on top of the bushes.80% of our yard birds are house sparrows and we hope that's all the raptors manage to get. We have had the Cooper's sitting calmly in the garden, eating its catch and ignoring my van as I drive up into the yard. The bird did not move until I opened the car door. I don't know if the buteos have ever had any luck in our yard.
Better than the hawks, however, has been the appearance of a Pileated Woodpecker. I have twice had visuals of an adult male, and you can hear Pileated calling in the early morning. We hope he will set up housekeeping in the neighborhood.A pox on this weather, I want to look for owls.
Feb 1, Mark Linardi observed two Great Horned Owls on. Two days later Mark and Cathy Carroll tried again but were not successful. During the rest of February one owl was sighted at least four times. Mark goes on to say that: We (Cathy Carroll) did see a number of other "good" birds. Highlights were several Golden-crowned Kinglets, a single Hermit Thrush and numerous Woodpeckers.
Feb 9, Paul Noell: I spotted a Lincoln's Sparrow. Then, out again today for four miles, hauling myself over countless fallen trees, trudging the crusted snow, but good for some goodies: Brown Creeper, Field Sparrow ("gray" variety-Sibley's), Song and White-throated Sparrow, Towhee, Sharpie, Mute and Tundra Swans, Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Coot, Black Duck, Gadwall, Hooded & Common Mergs, both Nuthatches, other assorted birds and a beautiful Red Fox.
Feb 23, Ruth Culbertson reports: I was surprised to have a beautiful Red-breasted Nuthatch at my feeder the last couple of days.
Let us hear about your Back Yard and Maryland Birding too!!!
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The Baltimore Bird Club offers 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.
"CafePress" Web Page:
Shireen Gonzaga has arranged a new web page on CafePress for the Baltimore Bird Club. The web page sells everything from T-shirts & sweat shirts to mugs, caps, notebooks and tote bags. There are baby clothes, stickers, license plate frames and even underwear! All come with the BBC logo designed by Don Culbertson. The club receives $3 for each item sold.
You may order online at The Baltimore Bird Club Store, CafePress: http://www.cafeshops.com/baltbirdclub or call in toll free orders on Mondays through Fridays between 8:00am -5:00pm (PST) at: 877-809-1659
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