Minutes – March 21, 2024

This was a hybrid meeting. Our speaker was remote but we had a live audience in the BEES classroom and the meeting was also broadcast on Zoom and recorded and posted to YouTube. 

Perri Strawn and Navin Sasikumar filled in for Nilesh Shah as secretary.

Call to Order: President Barb Bassett

Call to Order: 7:30 PM

Navin introduced all the officers – Gregg Gorton, our immediate past president, was on Zoom, but we had no other officers or council members present in person or on Zoom. We had one guest in person at the Academy. 

Attendees: 12 in-person; 22 on Zoom. 

The minutes from the last meeting were approved.

Committee Reports

Membership – Rebecca Reicherter

No report.

Field Trips – Linda Widdop

If you wish to lead a field trip, contact Linda: linda@techimpact.org

The March 23rd walk at the Discovery Center led by Victor Lefevre has been canceled due to bad weather. 

Upcoming field trips:

  • March 28 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm – Lunch with Ducks at Philadelphia Navy Yard
  • April 03, April 10, and April 17 @ 7:30 am – 9:00 am – Wednesday Spring Bird Walks at Lorimer Park and Fox Chase Farm with Linda Widdop
  • April 04, April 11, and April 18 @ 8:00 am – 10:00 am – Thursday morning at Wetherill Park (Montco) with Martin Selzer
  • April 13 @ 8:30 am – 12:00 am – Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax, VA with Troy Bynum

Conservation – Perri Strawn

Perri Strawn gave an update on the situation regarding removal of 48+ heritage trees at FDR, planned as part of the ongoing implementation of the FDR “master plan” developed by the Fairmount Park Conservancy. As most know by now, the FPC has asked Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for a special exception to allow them to remove dozens of heritage trees to make room for installation of playing fields. On February 19, the ZBA held a session to enable public comment; 22 people (including Judy Stepanaskie from DVOC) spoke in opposition to the tree removal; 5 spoke in favor. Note that a petition was also submitted with 300 signatures in favor of the plan. The ZBA will announce its decision on the matter Wednesday, March 27 at 9:30 am at its regularly scheduled meeting. DVOC members with concerns or interests in other conservation-related topics, or land projects for which they believe DVOC input would be important, please email us at conservation@dvoc.org

Billings – Art McMorris

Art announced that Ethan Kang, the winner of the 2023 Billings Big Year award will receive his prize and give a short presentation at the meeting on April 18. Liz Billings and Karen Walter will be present at the meeting. Art encouraged members to attend the pre-meeting dinner at Asia on the Parkway.

Cassinia – Holger Pflicke

No report.


Victor Lefevre announced that there is now a page on the DVOC website that combines all the rare bird alerts from eBird for the DVOC Billings area into a single birds-eye view of rarities. Explore this page at https://dvoc.org/birding/ebird-reports/

Manny Dominguez announced that the Pennsylvania Bird Atlas 3 is in full swing and many birds are breeding already. We still need principal atlasers for a few blocks along the river near Pleasant Hill Park and the NE Water Treatment Plant. Manny, Tanya Burnett, and Victor have put together a page on the DVOC website which has resources related to the atlas including how to sign up to be a principal atlaser: https://dvoc.org/pba3. You can also email the Philly coordinators at Pba3.philadelphia@gmail.com.

Navin announced that the City Nature Challenge is happening again this spring from April 26th (Friday) to April 29th (Monday). The Philadelphia area includes Philly plus all the counties that border Philly – Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware counties in PA, and Camden, Gloucester, and Burlington counties in NJ. 

Local Notes

Bert Filemyr reported that a Eurasian Green-winged Teal – currently a subspecies of the Green-winged Teal, but with the potential to be elevated to full species – has been seen at Bombay Hook NWR in Delaware. 

Linda Timlin said that an American Woodcock flew into the window at her workplace near the Academy and unfortunately succumbed to its injuries and could not be rescued. She dropped the body off in the freezer at the Academy. 

Patrick McGill reported that two pairs of Common Ravens have been confirmed nesting in Northeast Philly. He also had a Horned Grebe at Heinz this past weekend. 

Perri Strawn said that John Harding reported 63 Bald Eagles feeding at Bombay Hook yesterday. Bert added that he witnessed it as well and said that 63 is probably a conservative count and that there were far too many eagles for him to count accurately. 

Manny Dominguez said that a few Ospreys have been at the Navy Yard; two were seen building nests this week.


Programs: Navin Sasikumar

Navin announced that the next meeting will be on April 11 in the BEES classroom. Note that this is not our usual first Thursday of the month meeting – we had to move this meeting because neither Navin nor Barb are going to be around on April 4th, which would have been our regular meeting date. Our speaker for the day, Sam Bucciarelli is the president of the Philadelphia Mycology Club, an environmental educator, and the Land Stewardship coordinator at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. In her presentation, Sam will take a deep dive into ecology to promote a healthy ecosystem where birds can thrive alongside other animals, insects, plant communities, and fungi. Learn about specific plants that can enhance your own yard’s ability to provide food and habitat for birds and other wildlife. 

More information on the Meetings page of the DVOC website for this and other upcoming meetings.

Evening Program

Dr. Sushma Reddy gave an engaging and highly informative talk about the evolution of birds in Madagascar. The island of Madagascar has been isolated from other land masses for about 80 million years – even before the non-avian dinosaurs died out in the K-Pg mass extinction event 66 million years ago. While non-flying mammals’ history in Madagascar can be traced to 4 separate colonization events, birds have arrived in Madagascar in multiple distinct events. A third of the birds are believed to have come from Africa, a third from Asia, and the last third are currently of unknown origin. Dr. Reddy also went into detail about the speciation of Vangas to fill many ecological niches on the island and how their bills differ widely as an adaptation to these niches. Many of these Vangas were formerly classified as Old World Warblers, Babblers, and Bulbuls but recent analysis has grouped them all as Vangas. You can read more about it in this paper by Reddy et al. 
Watch the full program here on the DVOC YouTube Channel.


After the presentation and some questions, the meeting was adjourned at 9:20 pm.