Minutes – March 17, 2022

Due to concerns of COVID-19, meetings will continue to be held virtually rather than in person at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Zoom Meeting: Instructions for meeting registration were announced on the website and weekly digest.

7:00 PM The Pre-Meeting discussed Woodcocks, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and other bird sightings.

Call to Order: President Gregg Gorton

Call to Order: 7:31 PM

Registrants: 45; 39 members, 6 non-members (34 signed on for the meeting, some with more than one person per device)

Gregg welcomed all to the meeting and introduced the officers. 

The minutes from March 3, 2022 were approved.

Committee Reports

Membership Committee: Linda Timlin for Nilesh Shah

No report

Field Trips – Linda Widdop

Email Linda Widdop, linda@techimpact.org, if interested in leading any field trips. 

Upcoming field trips:

  • March 20 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm – Winter Gulls at Glen Foerd led by Holger Plficke. 
  • April 5 @ 7:30 am – 8:30 am and continuing weekly on Tuesdays for 8 weeks – Spring Birding at Fox Chase Farm led by Linda Widdop. 
  • April 6 @ 7:30 am – 9:00 am (April, in May the trips start at 7) and continuing weekly on Wednesdays for 8 weeks – Wednesday Spring Bird Walks at Lorimer Park & Fox Chase Farm by Linda Widdop.
  • April 20 @ 7:00 am – 9:00 am and continuing weekly on Wednesdays for a few weeks – Wednesday Morning Walks at Houston Meadowwith George Armistead.
  • April 27 @ 7:30 am – 10:00 am and continuing weekly for 3 weeks – Wednesday Spring Migration walk at Fort Washington State Park with Martin Selzer, two or three in a row

Participants must follow all the COVID-19 Guidelines as posted on the website and must sign a participant release to attend the field trip.

Conservation – Anne Bekker

Following up on the last meeting’s announcement on the clearcutting of the woods at Cobbs Creek Golf course, Anne said that a lot of the acreage has been cut down already and the best we can hope for is that it doesn’t happen elsewhere and there is more oversight going forward. 

Philadelphia Botanical Club meeting on Thursday, 03/24 where Erica Fichman will speak about Philly Tree Plan with the goal of increased and equitable canopy coverage throughout the city. This is essential with all that is going on now. 

Gregg Gorton: Similar to the clearcutting at Cobb’s Creek, there is a plan by the Lower Merion School District to clear-cut trees for middle school ball fields on a 13-acre parcel of land called Oakwell, adjacent to Stoneleigh Garden, a Natural Lands Trust site in Rosemont, PA. Concerned citizens are opposing this. See: https://www.google.com/amp/chestercountyramblings.com

Billings – Art McMorris

Brian Quindlen (“BQ”) is the winner of the 2021 Bob Billings Award with 257 species. The award will be presented to BQ at a DVOC Zoom meeting on April 7th, with members of Bob Billings’s family present, and BQ will give us a brief talk about his Bob Billings Big Year effort.

An updated checklist for the Billings area has been posted on the website. It’s a composite checklist for three states – as each state updates its checklist, the Billings committee updates our composite checklist as well.

See https://dvoc.org/about/committees/billings/.


Judy Stepanaskie: The PA Game Commission recently sent an email to PA Birds asking people to report sightings on eBird of American Woodcock peenting. They are looking at conserving habitat for woodcocks. 

Barb Bassett – On April 9, Phil Witmer is leading a program titled, ‘Want to make your backyard healthier for birds?’ organized by the Radnor Conservancy. Meeting Location: The Willows Park – Upper Parking Lot. See event for more details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/want-to-make-your-backyard-healthier-for-birds-registration-293424790447

Navin Sasikumar: The Philadelphia area is participating in the City Nature Challenge again. The City Nature Challenge is a 4-day bioblitz type event where people in cities around the world compete to see who can see the most species of wildlife, make the most observations, and have the most people participating. If you live in Philadelphia or any of the counties that share a border with Philly (Delaware Co, Montgomery, Bucks in PA or Camden, Gloucester, Burlington in NJ), go out and take pictures of birds, mammals, insects, herps, plants, mushrooms, etc from April 29th to May 2nd and upload them to iNaturalist. More info: https://cncphilly.org/

Gregg Gorton: DVOC past president Frank Windfelder is not doing well and you should reach out to him if you can. 

Linda Widdop: Bird Safe Philly monitoring has officially begun for spring migration. Steve Maciejewski is out each morning monitoring a route in Center City for dead and injured birds. So far, 4 Woodcocks have been found. Other monitors will start their routes on April 1st. Please see birdsafephilly.org for information if you are interested in volunteering. The effort needs drivers to transport injured birds to rehab.

Linda Widdop: Bird Safe Philly also hosted a Volunteer Recognition event at The Discovery Center on Wednesday 03/16 to thank last year’s volunteers. The event included pizza, beer, and reports from the last year. Lots of fun and great looks at Common Merganser and Pied-billed Grebes on the reservoir.

Linda Rowan: Silver Lake Nature Center has started spring walks – starts at 7:30 am and lasts until about 9:30 or 10 am. The walks make a circuit of the park and you can get a good variety of birds on these walks. 

Linda Widdop: We sold out of the long-brimmed style hats and will be ordering more. However, we still have “trucker” style hats and visors available for immediate delivery for $20 each. Email linda@techimpact.org if you are interested. 

Local Notes (from the chat)

Steve Mattan: Piney Place, Southampton, NJ, Burlington County. 1. Eastern Phoebe has been in the yard calling this week. 2. American Woodcocks are still ‘peenting’. 3. Gold-crowned Kinglet 4. Pine Warbler(s) at suet feeder. 5 Yellow-rumped Warblers have been about all week. 6. Barred Owl has been calling this week.

Linda Widdop: Osprey over Pennypack creek at Fox Chase Farm this week. Eastern Phoebe has been present all week in addition to Chipping Sparrows. 

Anne Bekker: Eastern Phoebes have been around Northwest Philly since 03/05.

Katrina Rakowski: In her Queen Village yard, she had a Carolina Wren which is not common in that area. She also had two swans flying over Center City.

David Moyer: Had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Lower Merion yesterday. 

Barb Bassett: There have been many sightings of Common Ravens in southern Cape May county. A Common Raven and a Peregrine Falcon were fighting by the old magnesite water tower.

Linda Rowan: Two pairs of Wood Ducks in Levittown, Bucks County.

Programs: Barb Bassett

The next regular meeting will be on April 7th when Annie Novak will present, ‘A Thousand and One Nights: Exploring Nocturnal Bird Migration’. Annie is from New York and will discuss her new work, an illustrated narrative of the scientific understanding of nocturnal bird migration. Besides being an urban birder, she is also a rooftop gardener.

More information at https://dvoc.org/wp/activities/meetings/ for this and other upcoming meetings.

Evening Program

Mary Caswell Stoddard (Cassie) enthralled us with a visually stunning and highly informative presentation on color perception in birds, specifically her experiments with Broad-tailed Hummingbirds in the Rocky Mountains. In addition to describing her tests to study how these hummingbirds perceive UV light, she also delved into their courtship dives and how color plays a role in these mating rituals. In the second part of her presentation, Cassie explored avian eggs  – from patterns and color and how they play a role in brood parasitism, to their shapes and how those relate to flight. 

Some key highlights of the talk are below: 

  • Avian visual signals have many functions – mate choice, individual recognition, camouflage, etc
  • Similarly, eggs also play a role in visual signaling. They help with camouflage, individual recognition, and conversely, even deception by brood parasites. 
  • Many mammals’ vision is dichromatic meaning that they can only perceive two colors of light – blue and red. Some other mammals, including humans, are trichromatic – we can perceive red, green, and blue. Bees are also trichromatic, but they see blue, green, and ultraviolet. Birds, on the other hand, are tetrachromatic – they can see all three wavelengths we can see as well as ultraviolet. 
  • In experiments, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were able to distinguish nectar feeders with ultraviolet color signaling while the control group showed that they were not using olfactory cues. 
  • Cuckoos that are brood parasites mimic host eggs to avoid detection by the host. Each female cuckoo lays eggs of a specific pattern throughout her life and therefore has a specific host species. 
  • Stoddard et al. (in Science, 2017) analyzed the egg shapes of 1440 species to see if there was a correlation between egg shape and other factors. They found that egg shape may be correlated with wing shape but more studies are needed.  

Cassie also shared an article she wrote on the first Lesser Black-backed Gull to breed successfully in North America on Appledore Island, Maine. Its mate was a Herring Gull and the offspring of these two species is now known as Appledore Gull in North America. You can read more about it here.


After the presentation and questions, the meeting was adjourned at 9:30 pm. A handful of us stayed on to chat after the official meeting ended.