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Minutes of the DVOC
May 1, 2008

President Paul Guris called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM. Twenty members and 3 guests were present. The minutes of the April 17 2008 meeting were accepted.

Committee Reports:

Membership: Chair Connie Goldman asked if anyone knew how to contact new member applicant Vanessa Schnauffer. She left the profile portion of her application blank and has not answered e-mails.

Conservation: Chair Debbie Beer described conservation issues in the boreal forests in the upper reaches of Canada. The boreal forest is one of the world’s largest intact forests, covering 1.4 billion acres, and supporting huge populations of wildlife. It provides vital breeding grounds for up to one-third of North America’s land birds (up to a billion warblers and 500 million or more sparrows) and 40% of its waterfowl.

As with so much habitat in North America, the Boreal Forest is under intense pressure for development of oil, gas, mining and logging. It is important to implement strong environmental laws now, before it is too late for this precious ecosystem. More details can be found on Audubon’s website http://www.audubon.org/campaign/overview.html or at www.borealbirds.org.

She also said that she receives regular e-mail bulletins on conservation issues from many organizations. If you would like to receive these bulletins, please give your name and e-mail address to Debbie and she’ll forward the bulletins to you.

Debbie asked members to pledge generously to the DVOC World Series of Birding team, the “Lagerhead Shrikes.” All proceeds go to support conservation. The projects that will be supported this year are Scott Weidensaul’s Saw-Whet Owl banding program, two additional banding projects conducted by Tom Bailey and Hannah Suthers, and a second summer intern for the Bird Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences. She also urged members to pledge to Team Bristlehead and The Loons, two additional WSB teams composed of club members.

Field Trip Reports: Rob Hynson asked for reports of recent field trips.

On Sunday April 20, Jeff Holt led a trip to Riverwinds and the National Park Dredge Spoils in Gloucester Co., NJ, across the river from Philadelphia. In Jeff’s absence, Bert Filemyr reported on the trip. Few birds made birding at Riverwinds rather slow. The water level at the Red Bank dredge spoils was too low for marsh birds, and Coots and Pied-billed Grebes, which have bred there in the past, were not found.

Steve Kacir reported on his trip to Chesapeake and Delaware Canal for rails and other night birds, which met at 3:30 AM on Saturday April 26. Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen and King Rail (still calling at 10 AM!) were excellent finds, as were night-singing Common Yellowthroat, Marsh Wren and Swamp Sparrow. Other good finds included Northern Bobwhite. As the sun rose, a good variety of ducks, waders and passerines were added to the mix. Nutria was a life mammal for all on the trip, but it was sad to see that this invasive alien pest had made it as far north as New Castle County.

Up-coming field trips:

Bill and Naomi Murphy will run a trip to Fort Washington State Park, PA for spring migrants on Sunday May 4. Bill and Naomi have tallied up to 28 species in prior spring migration periods. Meet at the Militia Hill hawk watch platform at 7:30 AM.

Colin Campbell’s annual 3-day trip to southern Delaware and northern Maryland will be run on May 9-11 (Fri. – Sun.). The trip starts at Bombay Hook NWR and continues to Trap Pond State Park, Nanticoke WMA and areas around Seaford, the Cypress Swamps in DE and MD, and the bayside areas. Interspersed throughout is a gourmet tour trying local delicacies such as crab, scrapple and muskrat. Not to be missed!

On Saturday May 17, Erica Brendel will lead a trip to Carpenter’s Woods in Philadelphia. The trip will meet at 6:30 AM at the intersection of Wayne Ave. and Sedgewick St. The trip will continue until 11 or 12 o’clock, or until the birds give out.

Art McMorris will run a trip to Ridley Creek State Park, PA for migrants and breeders on Sunday May 18. Kentucky and Hooded Warbler are usually found on this trip, as are Louisiana Waterthrush, Adadian Flycatcher, vireos, thrushes, and many others. Meet at 6:30 AM at the Ridley Creek bridge on Gradyville Road. The trip will last as long as the birds do, usually 11 or 12 o’clock.

Sandra Keller will lead a weekday trip to Glassboro Woods WMA, NJ, on Monday May 19. The trip will focus on southern swamp breeders such as Kentucky, Prothonotary and Hooded Warblers, Acadian Flycatcher and Scarlet Tanager. The trip will meet at 7 AM at Glassboro Woods WMA on Carpenter – the west (Rt. 47) end.

Details of all these trips are on the website: www.DVOC.org.

Programs: Art McMorris announced the next two programs. On May 15, Debra Shearwater will present “Penguins of the World,” and on June 5, Frank Windfelder will present “My Philly Big Year in 2007.”


Debbie Beer announced that the June 5 meeting will include a brief summary of members’ World Series of Birding and May Run results, to be presented by herself and
Frank Windfelder. Everyone who did a WSB, May Run or Big Day during May is encouraged to send their results, including a list of species found and some highlights (and lowlights), to Debbie or Frank, who will compile and present a summary. Complete reports will be posted on the website.

Paul Guris announced that there are still 3 spaces available on the pelagic portions of the May 29-June 1 club trip to North Carolina for “Surf and Turf Specialties.” Paul will lead the 2 pelagic trips that are part of that trip, and Adrian Binns will lead the land portions. There are also a number of spaces available on the Paulagics North Carolina pelagic trips the following weekend, on June 6, 7 and 8. Information on the club trip is available at www.DVOC.org; for the Paulagics trips, go to www.Paulagics.com.

Paul also announced that he and Anita were planning a 2-day land birding trip in southern California immediately preceding the Sept. 1-5 pelagic trip on The Searcher. One day will be spent at the Salton Sea and 1 day at the Laguna Mountains. Contact Paul or Anita if interested.

Paul urged everyone to help with scouting for the World Series of Birding. Please send all scouting information to Bert Filemyr. Bert will post the information on DVOC’s “World Series of Birding Scouting Notes” web page, where it will be available to all teams. Since all teams are raising money for conservation, increasing the number of species found by any team promotes conservation.

Local Notes:

Local observations were dominated by spring migrants.

Debbie Beer birded at Tinicum (John Heinz NWR, PA) recently and found first-of-year Wood Thrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo and Northern Waterthrush. Other good birds were Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle.

Also at Tinicum, Marty Dellwo saw Blue-headed Vireo, Ovenbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Blue-winged Warbler. Marty had an Eastern Kingbird on Kelly Drive in Philadelphia.

Steve Kacir found a Prairie Warbler singing at the bio pond on the Penn campus.

Steve reported that the count on his Montgomery County Big Year had reached 129 birds. His best recent birds were Black Scoter, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper and Killdeer.

Chuck Hetzel mentioned that as many as 10 Yellow Rails had bee reported recently on the bay side in Cape May county, NJ.

Paul Guris said that most of the Purple Finches which had spent the winter at his and Anita’s feeders in Green Lane, PA had left; only 2 remained.

Paul and Anita recently birded in Parvin State Park, NJ, and found Pine Warblers. A Prothonotary Warbler had also been sighted there but they did not see it. In southern Salem County, NJ they found 4 Wilson’s Snipe, a Great Horned Owl nest with an owlet in it, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Wood Thrush, Clapper Rail, Swamp Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow and Boat-tailed Grackle.

Debbie Beer reported that the Ospreys at the Philadelphia Navy Yard were on nest.

At Belleplain State Park, NJ, Bill Lane found Eastern Bluebird, Black-and-White Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler.

Erica Brendel reported that numerous Fish Crows were calling in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. A discussion of Fish Crow calls and similar-sounding American Crow vocalizations ensued, and it was stated that the nasal call that American Crow gives on territory is a single-note “ah,” as distinguished from the two-syllable “ah-ah” given by Fish Crows.

Ornithological Studies: Chair Art McMorris announced that tonight’s Ornithological Study was the last one scheduled until next fall. Instead of regular Orni Studies, we will hear the report of DVOC’s World Series of Birding team on May 15, and a summary of other World Series/May Run/Dig Day team results on June 5. We will then have informal meetings during the summer.

He then introduced Sarah Warner, who presented “Swamp Sparrows – a Mystery Unfolds.” Sarah is a graduate student at the University of Delaware studying the nesting ecology of Swamp, Seaside and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed sparrows. She discussed the two subspecies of Swamp Sparrow found locally: Melospiza georgiana georgiana (the nominate subspecies) and M. g. nigrescens, the “Coastal Plain” Swamp Sparrow. She described differences in morphology, plumage and vocalizations, and gave ID pointers. Provocatively, she said that the differences may be primarily dietary rather than genetic: there is little if any DNA sequence difference between the two subspecies, and Song Sparrows that live in inland vs. coastal plain habitats show plumage differences similar to what is seen in the Swamp Sparrows. If this is true, one would have to question whether georgiana is a valid subspecies.

Main Program: Art McMorris then introduced the main speaker, Bill Fintel, who presented “Antarctica and the Seabirds of the Southern Ocean.” Bill’s program was based on a 25-day trip that he, his wife Sally and 70+ others took in January 2007 to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. His talk was illustrated with superb photographs of seabirds, land birds, marine mammals and other flora and fauna of the Antarctic.

Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Art McMorris, Secretary