October, 2000 (Vol. XXIX, No. 10)
c/o Ginger Travis
5244 Old Woods Rd.
Hillsborough, NC 27278
Monday, October 23, 2000 at 7:30 p.m.
Program - The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, presented by Dan Frisk, refuge manager
Location - Binkley Baptist Church, the Lounge. Binkley is on the corner of Willow Drive at the 15-501 Bypass in Chapel Hill, near University Mall.
Pee Dee NWR has a bird list of 170 species, including Red-cockaded Woodpecker year round and waterfowl in winter; yet the refuge is way under-visited by Triangle birders. Pee Dee, near Wadesboro in south-central N.C., has the largest bottomland hardwood tract left in the N.C. piedmont (more than 3,000 acres), is on the registry of State Natural Heritage Areas, was recently identified as an Important Bird Area by the state Audubon Society, has an active MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) banding station, and is the site of a Christmas Bird Count. Dan Frisk will talk about birding Pee Dee and also about how the refuge is managed to create and maintain habitat for birds. See info at http://southeast.fws.gov/peedee/
We'll have refreshments at 7:15 p.m. - come early to grab a cookie and gab. And bring a friend. Meetings are open to all with an interest in birds.
Nov. 27 - The Nov. program will be presented by a world authority on the evolution of birds: Dr. Alan Feduccia of the UNC-CH biology department. He is often quoted in the debate about whether birds are direct descendents of dinosaurs. No, he says emphatically, persuasively and entertainingly. Come hear the evidence.
Also at the Nov. 27 meeting, the long-awaited print version of The Birder's Guide to the Triangle will on sale. CHBC member Karen Bearden spearheaded this worthy effort (which is a Wake Audubon project), and our club made a contribution toward printing costs. A host of local birders wrote up their favorite spots for this guide.
Saturday mornings, Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28. Destination is leader's choice. Trips leave the Glen Lennox parking lot (on the north side of Hwy. 54 just east of the 15-501 Bypass in Chapel Hill) at 7:30 a.m. sharp and return by noon. Beginners and visitors welcome! Reservations are not necessary, but if you want details on where you'll be going, call Doug Shadwick (942-0479). Bring binoculars, a scope if you have one, and boots or old tennis shoes, and be prepared for a hike.
Phil Johnson posted a historic message to Carolinabirds on Sept. 8: "All of you local "Mason Farmers" may find this interesting. I noted 8 WILD TURKEYS in the road on the Southeast corner of Silers Bog, just inside the edge of the Big Oak Woods. I don't believe any have been recorded there for a long time ???"
"A long time" is right. Will Cook said he believed the last records of turkeys at Mason Farm dated from the 1960s. And Haven Wiley, who has done field work at Mason Farm for more than 25 years, wrote, "Phil's sighting of turkeys is great news. In the '80s graduate students once saw a single turkey and once found some turkey tracks. When I first moved here in 1971, residents along Arboretum Drive just over Laurel Hill (then undeveloped) from Mason Farm had turkeys visiting their backyards. Also Athena Parker saw a turkey in her yard on top of Laurel Hill in the early '90s. Those are the only records I know of near Mason Farm since John Terres' book. Let's hope that Phil's observation portends the reestablishment of turkeys at Mason Farm!"
by Marsha Stephens
The Wild Bird Center located in the Eastgate Shopping Center, Chapel Hill, suffered major flood damage in late July, when 7 inches of rain fell overnight. The culvert that carries Bolin Creek under the shopping center was overwhelmed, and a torrent flowed through the parking lot, flooding the stores. More than 4 feet of water in the Wild Bird Center caused heart-wrenching loss of inventory and property, as well as the closing of the store for several weeks. Many concerned individuals came together to organize a fund-raising effort, which included a bird walk and raffle, in support of Cynthia Fox and Richard Billings, co-owners. The Friends of WBC recognized that while the store operation contributes to their livelihood, it also allows Cynthia, in particular, to be involved with her passion for birds and wildlife on a daily basis. From the care taken in selecting merchandise to her contributions to our community (serving as an information source, conducting bird walks, holding classes, volunteering for conservation efforts) to the pleasant store atmosphere and engaging manner with customers, she has a most positive impact on many lives. CHBC members may remember that Cynthia presented a program to our club several years ago.
The Bird Walk was held Saturday, September 9, 8:00 a.m., at Mason Farm Biological Reserve. Wild Bird Centers of America, Inc., the main office, agreed to match locally donated funds up to $5,000 and supplied some items for the raffle. Local merchants also contributed resources, refreshments and items for the raffle. Roughly 40 people from Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough, Pittsboro and Raleigh participated in the walk, and many more mailed in checks. The weather was cooperative and birding reasonable (Red-tailed Hawks; Pileated, Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers; warblers including Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Pine, Black and White, and American Redstart), plus a very nice Copperhead snake was sunning on the pathway. The effort was very successful. The total funds raised were $13,000 ($8,000 local with $5,000 matched).
After many, many hours of clean-up, reorganization, reordering and restocking, the Wild Bird Center is back up and running as well as ever, and is looking forward to a very merry Christmas season.
by Doug Shadwick
I had a chance to stop by Lake Crabtree Park early today [Sept. 19]. [Tropical system] Gordon seems to have dropped a number of interesting birds. The best was a Baird's Sandpiper in fresh juvenile plumage - it appeared very scaly on the back. A Stilt Sandpiper also stopped by and fed for a few minutes. The shorebirds were on the right-most point of the free play area (the large lawn on the right as one enters the park). Small pools formed by the rain and the short grass are attractive to the migrating shorebirds.
There were plenty of passerines moving hastily through the foliage. Warblers were present in many locations with a few each of Tennessee, Bay-breasted and Blackburnian Warblers in addition to more common migrants. The Boat House Parking lot is fairly open and allows for some quick unobstructed views of the birds as they careen through the trees and shrubs.
The best time to visit the park is at opening time (8 AM). The migrant birds are usually out and moving and shorebirds have not been flushed by dogs and hikers this early.
by Joseph Covington
At 8:15 this morning [Sept. 30] I saw an adult male Lawrence's Warbler at Lake Crabtree in Raleigh. It was in the first parking lot, on the right side, at eye level in the small trees-shrubs below the two very tall poplars that have lost most of their leaves. After losing it for 15 minutes, I saw it again briefly a few yards to the right. Then it moved off toward the right.
The bird was very easy to identify. Here's what I saw, in fairly good light: yellow forehead, bold black mask through the eye, black throat, bright yellow chest and belly, white undertail coverts, two bold white wing bars on "blue" wings. The bird was first seen with a Tennessee Warbler, and later with a chickadee and titmouse. . . .This Lawrence's looked just like the illustration in the Dunn Warbler book. It was almost like the bottom of the page illustration in the Nat. Geo. Guide except that the black throat was more bold and distinct.
by Jeff Pippen
While birding the Shepherd Nature Trail in Duke Forest today [Sept. 24], . . . I spotted a nice Blue-winged Warbler and my first NC "Brewster's Warbler". . . . "Brewster's Warbler" is the designation given to certain hybrids between Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers. This particular bird showed mostly white underparts with a little yellow smudge in the upper breast area. The wings had a large gold patch (like an adult male Golden-winged), but the head pattern was more like a Blue-winged. Neat bird!
by Randy Emmitt
Last Saturday [Sept. 9] while on the Dare County Butterfly Count I found something very interesting on a goldenrod. I heard this buzzing noise from the old road I was walking and found about 20 foot away a female Rubythroat fluttering away, wings open under the goldenrod blooms. I`d forgotten to bring binocs so I couldn`t see the entire story here.
Once Will Cook and Toni Rexrode caught up with me, we figured out there was the rump of a preying mantis pointing upward at the top of the flowers right above the hummer. Will and Toni talked me into saving the poor bird, so I ventured thru the high weeds to free it and get photos. I grabbed the goldenrod and turned it about only to find that the preying mantis had completely ripped open the neck of the poor little hummer.
Once seeing all the damage to the hummer I figured it was too late for a rescue and let the mantis put her out of her misery which took only another minute or so. This was something I`d never have thought would happen to a hummingbird. Will said he`d heard of it happening at feeders a few times.
Two photos of the hummer (NOT closeups) are at http://www.rlephoto.com/birds/hummer01.htm
by Bill Hilton
In my 17 years of studying Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, only once have I named one of the birds I have banded. The bird in question is outside my kitchen window right now [Sept. 26]. A young male, he is perched on a trap, blocking the entire entrance with his sausage-like body. I call him "Big Fat."
"Big Fat" has been hogging the feeders for weeks. He now resembles a sumo wrestler with feathers. Like sumo wrestlers, he is surprisingly agile. He has no trouble driving away his competitors.
"Big Fat" is banded and has a necklace of green dye. Assuming he can get clearance from the FAA, he should be taking off soon for the tropics.
If you live south or west of Hilton Pond [York, S.C.], please look for "Big Fat" during migration. You will recognize him easily. He is roughly the size of the Goodyear blimp.
P.S. If "Big Fat" comes to your feeder, please do not call him by that name unless you are willing to suffer the consequences. Instead, I suggest you call him "Sir!"
by Shelley Theye
Noticed some activity in the understory trees just outside the living room window yesterday AM [Sept. 6], saw some Black and White Warblers close up, and then more birds, so ran and got my binocs. Also saw Magnolia Warblers, imm. and male, and also male and female Am. Redstarts. They hung around at eye level for awhile ( the southwest side of our house is about 11' above ground level), then flew, followed them to west, NW side and watched them higher up in trees. Then they returned to original SW side. A few hours later saw more male and female Redstarts.
Also present were Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Chimney Swifts, and a first-fall male Scarlet Tanager eating Persimmons on a scraggly tree. Had yellow tinges on his dark wings. Also saw an imm. Cardinal try to fit a whole Persimmon in its bill, then mom flew up and showed him how to take smaller bites. A Pileated was hammering away on a branch with a young Red-bellied almost next to him watching with what seemed much interest.
Then all of a sudden, from out of nowhere it seemed, a flock of about 25 Mourning Doves flushed from the matted-down tall weeds right under the window I was at and flew up and over the house. Was startling to see this group flying right towards me.Turns out a doe had meandered over to where they were. Was a very busy yard day.
by Barb Brooks
While everyone is looking for warblers, I have continued to observe the vulture roost on the communications tower on I-40 near the Chapel Hill exit. Tiny warblers are too hard to spot at 65 mph. The roost seems to be a mix of black and turkey. Today [Sept. 29] they were in a small kettle taking off. It appears that their numbers are increasing. I have observed them sitting in the inclement rain we have had, although in the downpours, they seem to be somewhere else. They leave in the 7:30 a.m. range and begin to return around 4:30 p.m. They roost all up and down the tower. (Would hate to be the service tech). Will be watching for warblers this weekend, as life should get slower.
reprinted from the Washington Post
The Buick Open golf tournament was in Michigan, so why was the silvery song of a canyon wren--a bird never seen east of Texas--heard on the TV broadcast? Later last month, during a broadcast of the PGA Championship in Kentucky, birders picked up the thin whistle of a white-throated sparrow, not a bird of summer in the South. Last weekend, that sparrow called again in a place it does not belong--Ohio, during the NEC Invitational.
E-mails flew, between friends and on birding chat lists. Did you hear what I heard? Was it possible that CBS, which broadcast those tournaments, was dubbing in taped bird calls for viewers at home?
"They have used a [taped] cartridge at one time or another," said Leslie Ann Wade, vice president of communications for CBS Sports. Producers try to use local bird sounds--even putting out a dish of birdseed next to a microphone at tournament sites--but cannot always get "ambient sound," and therefore turn to tapes, she said.
(Spokesmen for ABC and NBC deny their networks use taped calls or even bird mikes, although some viewers say they heard some out-of-place birds during the ABC prime-time broadcast on Monday from California featuring Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.)
It is hard to know what to think about this. Some birders are thrilled that networks want to broadcast any bird sounds--and so what if they are misplaced? Everyone knows that TV dresses up the real world. Others, already down on golf courses because their manicured lawns are not bird-friendly, are more ambivalent. A few, though, are ticked off.
"It's deceitful and overkill--just how perfect do they want us to think it is out there?" Gaithersburg birder John Malcolm groused. "Why not dub in harp music and rainbows for certain crucial holes?"
"Besides," he added, "it messes up our harmless little hobby"--keeping lists of birds heard during golf tournaments.
Yes, lists. Birders are fanatic list-keepers. Lists are a way of pinning down a fleeting, sensory experience. They are a means of collecting birds, just as some people collect stamps or antiques, but without bringing them home. For some, they offer a vehicle to compete with other list-keepers.
A list of the types of lists birders keep would fill this newspaper, but here are a few: Birds in their yards. Birds in parking lots. Birds on telephone poles, outside the office window, on the commute to work.
Birds in commercials or movie soundtracks are a special favorite because they are so often wrong for the time or place. Birders know, for example, that the movie "The Last of the Mohicans," set in New York, was made in North Carolina because they can identify the calls. It was like seeing palm trees at the North Pole.
It is a special thrill to spot a mistake--a "kind of birders' one-upmanship," in the words of veteran Bethesda birder Lola Oberman. It shows they know their stuff. And these days, with good quality bird-song tapes so widely available, the fashion is to bird by ear, not just by sight.
YuLee Larner, a past president of the Virginia Society of Ornithology who lives in Staunton, became convinced something odd was going on when she noticed the sparrows at recent golf tournaments sang "the same thing over and over and over again."
Birds just don't do that. They vary their song. Besides, she pointed out, sparrows do not sing much in summer, after the springtime competition for territory and mates.
"It just seems funny to me," she said. "They try to make things sound natural, but a little bit of research would tell producers where birds would be. They probably didn't think people were paying any attention."
North Carolina birder Patricia Moore, who regularly leads bird walks, said she would rather hear no bird songs during golf tournaments than hear the incorrect ones.
"A wrong bird song would be the same as a misidentification of a Beethoven symphony," she said. "It would rub a musician the wrong way to have something in his music misidentified."
by Will Cook
The sixth Chatham County Fall Bird Count on 9/16/2000 went well, despite a near total lack of shorebirds and ducks. We ended up with 107 species, tied for second best after the fallout count of 115 last year, and 3887 birds, second best after last year's 4609. We had slightly more party-hours than last year with the same number of parties (13) and fewer counters (23).
Six species are new to the count: Snowy Egret (Ginger Travis and Lena Gallitano), Black-crowned Night-Heron (Josh Rose and Frank Rheindt), Willow/Alder (Traill's) Flycatcher (Will Cook and Toni Rexrode), Philadelphia Vireo (Doug Shadwick), Bay breasted Warbler (Cook and Rexrode), and Swamp Sparrow (Tom Palmer). Another outstanding early bird was a Red-breasted Nuthatch (Lisa Gosselin), which we also got last year. Though many groups had trouble finding any migrants, we did well overall, with an outstanding 21 species of warblers (second only to last year's 23). Toni and I had the best luck, finding 65 species total, including 16 warblers (my best for this count).
We set a bunch of record highs (which is not surprising considering how young the count is) and two record lows, Chestnut-sided Warbler (1) and Palm Warbler (missed).
NOTES: NC = New to Count, H= Record High, L=Record Low
Chatham County Fall Bird Count 9/16/2000
2 Pied-billed Grebe
99 Double-crested Cormorant
34 Great Blue Heron
71 Great Egret
2 Snowy Egret NC
7 Green Heron H
1 Black-crowned Night-Heron NC
24 Black Vulture H
142 Turkey Vulture H
99 Canada Goose H
9 Wood Duck
23 Osprey H
12 Bald Eagle 6 ad., 6 imm.
10 Sharp-shinned Hawk H
2 Cooper's Hawk
21 Red-shouldered Hawk
2 Broad-winged Hawk H
18 Red-tailed Hawk H
5 American Kestrel H
6 Wild Turkey
6 Northern Bobwhite
2 Solitary Sandpiper
1 Spotted Sandpiper
3 Caspian Tern
7 Rock Dove
108 Mourning Dove
12 Yellow-billed Cuckoo H
1 Eastern Screech-Owl
5 Great Horned Owl
3 Barred Owl
5 Whip-poor-will H
78 Chimney Swift
4 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
17 Belted Kingfisher H
29 Red-headed Woodpecker H
61 Red-bellied Woodpecker
63 Downy Woodpecker
8 Hairy Woodpecker
28 Northern Flicker
21 Pileated Woodpecker H
7 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 "Traill's" Flycatcher NC
1 Empidonax sp.
14 Eastern Phoebe
3 Great Crested Flycatcher
12 White-eyed Vireo
6 Blue-headed Vireo H
1 Yellow-throated Vireo L
1 Philadelphia Vireo NC
16 Red-eyed Vireo
175 Blue Jay
313 American Crow H
12 Fish Crow
283 Carolina Chickadee
279 Tufted Titmouse H
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
10 White-breasted Nuthatch
89 Brown-headed Nuthatch H
111 Carolina Wren
4 House Wren H
57 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher H
74 Eastern Bluebird
3 Swainson's Thrush H
10 Wood Thrush
18 American Robin
20 Gray Catbird
21 Northern Mockingbird
7 Brown Thrasher
72 European Starling
8 Cedar Waxwing
2 Blue-winged Warbler
5 Tennessee Warbler
2 Nashville Warbler
10 Northern Parula
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler L
15 Magnolia Warbler
5 Black-throated Blue Warbler
9 Black-throated Green Warbler H
2 Blackburnian Warbler
5 Yellow-throated Warbler H
380 Pine Warbler H
3 Prairie Warbler
2 Bay-breasted Warbler NC
1 Blackpoll Warbler
17 Black-and-white Warbler
13 American Redstart
1 Northern Waterthrush
25 Common Yellowthroat
2 Hooded Warbler
2 Canada Warbler H
21 Summer Tanager
24 Scarlet Tanager H
28 Eastern Towhee
17 Chipping Sparrow
8 Field Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow NC
157 Northern Cardinal
5 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
16 Blue Grosbeak
187 Indigo Bunting H
7 Red-winged Blackbird
100 Common Grackle
2 Baltimore Oriole
14 House Finch
95 American Goldfinch
TOTAL SPECIES 107
TOTAL INDIVIDUALS 3887
Regular Party Hours: Total 88.25 H
Party Hours: On Foot 72.75 H
Party Hours: By Car 4.5
Party Miles: By Boat 11 H
Party Miles: Total 99 L
Party Miles: On Foot 49 H
Party Miles: By Car 41 L
Party Miles: By Boat 9 H
Owling Hours 4; Owling Miles 5.6
(birds observed while owling will be separated out for the official NAMC report)
Weather in brief: low 46, high 70, no precipitation, mostly sunny, wind NW 5-10 mph
Counters and Areas:
Big Woods Road - Karen & Joe Bearden
Farrington Point, WOS, NE Cr. Impdt. - Will Cook, Toni Rexrode
Tody Goodwin Road - Claudia Egelhoff, Russell Herman, Lisa Gosselin
Vista Point, Seaforth - Chris Eley
Wilderness Island by canoe - Randy Emmitt, Glaeshia O'Rourke, Hart Pillow
751 bridge area - John Frederick, Tom Palmer
Hank's Chapel-Gum Springs Rd. - Rachel Harden
Bynum Ridge, Pokeberry Creek - Terry Logue
Parker's Creek SRA - Judy Murray
Harris and Jordan Dams - Bob & Rena Perkins
Ebenezer Point, Horton's Pond, Poplar Point - Josh Rose, Frank Rheindt
Old Hope Valley Farm Road - Doug Shadwick
Morgan Creek by kayak - Ginger Travis, Lena Gallitano
by Rob Bierregaard
[Oct. 10] Working with the Raptor Center at the Univ. of Minnesota, I put two satellite transmitters on a pair of Ospreys that were nesting on Martha's Vineyard in late June of this year. Mark Martell, director of the project, tagged a number of other birds on the east coast, from Florida to Maine.
In the small-world coincidence department, the female Osprey that Mark and I tagged in June spent an afternoon fishing in Lake Norman [near Charlotte], the large reservoir just 20 miles from my home. Hmmm, was she looking for me to seek some revenge for having strapped that backpack on her?
Some of the interesting results: how far inland many of the birds are migrating . . . and that the males banded in Maine, as well as the male from Martha's Vineyard, are still on or near their breeding grounds, while their females are well on their way to South America (or wherever they're heading).
Frank Enders: "Eric Dean says talk about them and they will come.. . . [Some inland Calif. sites where Black Rails were observed] had fairly stable water levels, maybe 1-2 inches deep, mostly dense cattails, some sites mixed sedge and rush. I found it interesting that most of the sites were quite different (dense cattail) in appearance and plant species than the usual coastal sites in California. So, too, maybe inland Carolina places with Black Rails will be different from the short grass at the upper end of salt marshes where we usually find this species. . . ."
Bob Lewis: "In July 1979 I discovered one in the Farrington marshes on what was then the Jordan Reservoir clear-cut, south of Chapel Hill. The land had been clear cut a few years earlier in preparation for Jordan Lake, and had filled a bit with rain water. (The Jordan dam was not closed yet.) The Farrington area had developed into a lovely marsh. Allen Bryan and two others (sorry, I forget who) came with me the next evening and we flushed one again. The previous evening I had gone there for some other reason and was astounded to hear one calling repeatedly, with no prompting from me (or anyone else; I was alone.) One evening a year later I came near sunset, played the Black Rail tape for maybe ten minutes, and had no response at all - so I thought. As I turned to go elsewhere, one flushed from virtually under my foot. Evidently it had walked up right next to me and I never heard a thing. So, two lessons: is there such a habitat in the Carolinas now anywhere? And, these guys can be really secretive.
John Fussell: "I haven't seen Greenview [Pond, near Raleigh] in years, so I don't know what the habitat is like these days. Probably some of you will remember that a Black Rail was on territory here for a few weeks in the late spring and early summer of 1978. I believe that the bird was not paired. Ironically, this was the first Black Rail I ever saw. I had heard many, many birds on the coast from 1974 to 1978, but had never seen the species until I saw the Greenview bird. By the way, I actually spent the night at Greenview one night, sitting in a lawn chair. I stayed awake all night. The Black Rail didn't call once during the night. However, it did call regularly in the mornings, after sunrise."
Kent Fiala: "The history of Black Rail distribution in North Carolina is briefly discussed in David Lee. 1999. Extinction, Extirpation, and Range Reduction of Breeding Birds in North Carolina: What Can Be Learned? Chat 63:103-122. To summarize in a few words, he speculates that prior to 1800 Black Rails did not nest in inland NC. 'It appears that Black Rails expanded their breeding distribution into inland sites as a result of post-Civil War agricultural practices and disappeared from those sites when agricultural practices changed.' The favorable agricultural conditions were wet meadows that were mowed annually for hay. The later change was that when horses were replaced with tractors, agricultural wetlands were drained because tractors don't work well in wet soils."
Calendar-year (Jan.-Dec.) dues for most individuals and families are $15; for students, $10. If you wish to renew for more than one year, multiply the annual dues rate times the number of years. Please send your check (payable to the Chapel Hill Bird Club) to club treasurer Fran Hommersand, 304 Spruce Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. If you have questions, please call Fran at 967-1745.
Jean Baker Stewart (Mrs. Pearson Stewart) of Chapel Hill, who also was the first volunteer tour guide at the NC Botanical Garden in the early '70s.
John Trott of Virginia, a CHBC member in the 1950s, who is well known for his many photographs in Birds of the Carolinas - including the cover shot of the Northern Cardinal.
President: Magnus Persmark (933-2255, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vice President (CH): Judy Murray (942-2985, email@example.com)
Vice President (RDU): Karen Bearden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Treasurer: Fran Hommersand (967-1745)
Field Trip Chairman: Doug Shadwick (942-0479)
Bulletin Editor: Ginger Travis (942-7746, email@example.com)