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Three Rivers Birding Club Newsletter

The Peregrine

Vol. 10, No. 4, July/August 2011

See "Eagles Around the World" on Aug. 3

If you love eagles ­ and who doesn't? ­ you'll learn more than you knew about these magnificent birds at the Three Rivers Birding Club meeting on Wednesday, August 3. Internationally known eagle researcher Todd Katzner will present a program titled "Conservation and Ecology of Eagles Around the World." The meeting will be held at the Phipps Garden Center, 1059 Shady Avenue in Shadyside. Doors will open at 6:30 PM for socializing, the business meeting begins at 7:30, and the program starts at 8. Dr. Katzner is a research assistant professor in the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources at West Virginia University. For 20 years he has studied wildlife, especially raptors, in North America, Kazakhstan, and other countries. His research has covered an exciting list of species including the Bearded Vulture, Eurasian Black Vulture, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Steppe Eagle, White-tailed Sea-Eagle, and Montagu's Harrier. Dr. Katzner's projects include GPS monitoring of Golden Eagles migrating along the Allegheny Front in Pennsylvania to determine their flight paths and to select wind turbine sites of lowest risk to the eagles. At right, he holds an eagle fitted with a GPS tracking device. For that work, he shared Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology's 2011 Conservation Award. Before opening his research center at West Virginia University, he was the Director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Read about his many research interests on the Katzner Lab website,

"Tweets from Magee 2011": Birders' Favorite Memories

(Editor's note: Sixty-six 3RBC members witnessed a great spectacle of migration at Magee Marsh, Ohio, in May, listing a combined total of 202 species in northwestern Ohio. Sue Solomon asked observers for their highlights, and she calls their comments "Tweets from Magee 2011". Shawn Collins, Jim Jeffries, and Jack Solomon share their experiences in essays starting on page 9.) * The Black-throated Blue is the most beautiful wood-warbler ­ Ken Behrens. * The Connecticut Warbler birdjam lasted all day while Jon Dunn assisted in finding the bird ­ Margie Kern. * Barn Owl through the scope was most unexpected, and a lifer ­ Jack Solomon. * Retinal damage due to five Blackburnians in one binocular field ­ a Tropical Birding guide. * It's not tropical, but we're birding as 20-mph winds forced Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo to eye level ­ a Tropical Birding guide. * Best new addition to "The Biggest Week in American Birding": Traveller's Cafe in the parking lot serving fresh hot coffee, breakfast, lunch, and from the grill, salmon with rosemary mayo. Yum! ­ Sue Solomon. * Metzger Marsh rarity: Tricolored Heron playing "Where's Waldo" in the reeds ­ Randi Gerrish. * Olive-sided Flycatcher and Mourning Warbler on the boardwalk, and Red-necked Phalarope at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge ­ Claire Staples. * Black Swamp Bird Observatory banding demonstration ­ many observers. * Best "fancy dinner" with 16 Pittsburghers at Island Grill for potato crusted walleye ­ Jack Solomon. * Best lunch and pie, Blackberry's Tavern ­ Luke Musher. Come join us in 2012 and find your most beautiful bird!

By Sue Solomon

COLORFUL MIGRANT ­ A Canada Warbler wearing its hallmark necklace was among 36 warbler species 3RBC birders saw at Magee Marsh, Ohio, in May 2011. Bob Greene took its portrait.

The Peregrine Our Birders Go West to a Magical Place

The trip to Magee Marsh and environs in Ohio has become a spring tradition for so many of us. For years and years, it was not all that well known to many Pittsburgh area birders. But not any more. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Birding Association inaugurated "The Biggest Week in American Birding" in 2010 and continued it this year. The secret is out, and the crowds have arrived. I asked around our membership and tried to find out who first started going to this place. Carol and Fred McCullough recall first visiting what was then Crane Creek State Park with the Brooks Bird Club in 1991. Some years later, Jack and Sue Solomon started going there, perhaps around 1997. Gradually, they talked to other members, urging them to come, and soon a growing number of 3RBC members were traveling to Ohio each spring. The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It has 2,202 acres located off Highway 2 west of Port Clinton. Nestled in a narrow strip of forest between the Lake Erie shore and the large marsh, this narrow strip is a critical stopover for migrating birds prior to crossing Lake Erie. It is truly a magical place in the first two weeks of May. This site was originally Crane Creek State Park, but was transferred to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in 2009. For birders, the best part of it is the boardwalk trail. Northwestern Ohio has many other locations that offer great birding. The surrounding farm fields often have wet spots that attract shore birds in huge numbers. Nearby Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge has a brand new visitor's center and a great network of trails that are sometimes just as active as the boardwalk in Magee Marsh. Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area provides more opportunities for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and passerines. This year, I took my first trip to Oak Openings, a city park near the Toledo airport. Special sand dune habitats are preserved here in a series of open fields, scrubland, and open forest that produce such specialties as Red-headed Woodpecker, Summer Tanager, and Lark Sparrow. There are many other parks, wildlife areas, and refuges nearby that I haven't yet explored. I didn't make my first trip until 2007. Paul Hess and I traveled there on a Sunday afternoon after a Harrison Hills Park outing. Motel rooms were very reasonable, even cheap, and were readily available without a reservation. I have made repeat trips in 2008, 2009, and 2011. This year, I arrived on May 18, due to my daughter's wedding in Arizona. (Obviously, my daughter is not a birder or she would never have set a date during the spring migration!) This year, more than 60 3RBC members were at Magee Marsh for at least one day. The popularity of Magee Marsh in the prime period of migration produces some problems for Steve Thomas, our outings coordinator. With most of our regular outing leaders going to Ohio, Steve had to work hard to get leaders for local outings. "The Biggest Week in American Birding" has been a great success for Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the ABA. More than 1,000 birders registered for the event, including birders from 44 states and 4 countries! Tropical Birding, a worldwide bird tour operation, supplied guides that patrolled the boardwalk, helping birders identify and spot birds. (Among the guides was West Mifflin's own Ken Behrens, who specializes in tours to Africa

President's Message

Published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, November Send articles and/or illustrations to: Paul Hess, Editor [email protected] 1412 Hawthorne Street, Natrona Heights, PA 15065 Send ideas or items for the website to: Julia Pahountis-Opacic, Webmaster [email protected] Send questions and suggestions to: Jim Valimont, President [email protected] 31 Deborah Lynn Court, Cheswick, PA 15024 Suggest or volunteer to lead outings to: Steve Thomas, Outings Director [email protected] 309 Center Avenue, Aspinwall, PA 15215 Report bird sightings to: Mike Fialkovich, Bird Reports Editor [email protected] 805 Beulah Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235 Send other correspondence to: Sherron and Pat Lynch, Co-Secretaries [email protected] 195 Hill Haven Lane, Wexford, PA 15090-8834 Membership: $5 Student-Youth, $15 Individual, $20 Family, $50 Contributing, $100 Sustaining Send check to Three Rivers Birding Club c/o Bob Machesney, Treasurer 105 Lindley Lane, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 Copyright © Three Rivers Birding Club. All rights reserved. (Photographers and illustrators retain their copyrights.)

Three Rivers Birding Club Newsletter

The Peregrine

By Jim Valimont

for Tropical Birding.) Yes, it's crowded on the boardwalk and sometimes impassible when a good bird is sighted. Sure, the motel rates have gone up now that it's an event. But I'm going to be there again as many times as I can at this magical place, and I hope that more of you decide to go and see what it is all about.

Look for improvements to the 3RBC website in the coming months! The appearance of the website will change to a cleaner format with lots of opportunities for photographs from our members. There will be a "members only" section of the website that will require members to sign up and obtain a password. Members can elect to receive email notices when new issues of the The Peregrine are available for view. They can also elect to receive reminders for our meetings and outings. There will be a forum where members can plan car pooling for meetings and outings. For members who elect to view their newsletter on line instead of receiving a printed copy, they will receive a discount on their annual membership. The membership form will soon be changed to show the discount. We urge all members to please include an email address on your next membership renewal so that we can begin activating the "members only" part of the new website as soon as possible.

Website Upgrade Coming


The Peregrine Fall Migrants Promise Some Exciting Birding

By Steve Thomas, Outings Director

Fridays, August 26 and September 23 ­ Sewickley Heights Borough Park: In collaboration with the Fern Hollow Nature Center at the park, these bird walks will be led by Bob VanNewkirk (412-366-1694 or email [email protected]). The walks will begin at 8 AM starting from the upper parking lot. See the 3RBC website ( for directions. Be prepared for muddy trails, and bring water and a lunch. We will bird the park and along Little Sewickley Creek Road. Warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, and vireos will be our targets. Sunday, September 4 ­ Boyce-Mayview Park: Join Patti Kaminski (412-831-8041) for an outing at an increasingly popular birding location. In addition to a beautiful wetland area, there are woods and open fields. We'll begin our walk at 7:30 AM in a small parking area off of Boyce Road. Take Route 19 south past South Hills Village (on your left). Continue a few miles past Upper St. Clair High School (on your right) until you reach Boyce Road; turn right onto Boyce, go past Boyce Middle School and then about 1 mile downhill past Friendship Village (on your left). At the bottom of the hill on your right is the entrance to the parking area, adjacent to a small pizza shop. Saturday, September 17 ­ Harrison Hills Park: Meet leader Jim Valimont (412-828-5338) at 8 AM at this Allegheny County park off Freeport Road between Natrona Heights and Freeport. We will meet at a new location. As you enter the park, bear right at the fork and proceed to the parking lot at the end of the road. This morning we will visit the large pond and woodlands and meadows around it, which are often a fall migrant hot spot. Late September or Early October (date to be announced) ­ Frick Park: Join leaders Jack and Sue Solomon (412-521-3365) for this fall outing. The park is an excellent migrant trap that can sometimes have a great variety of warblers. Meet at the Frick Environmental Center parking lot off Beechwood Boulevard at 7:30 AM. The Environmental Center is at 2005 Beechwood, just north of Forbes Avenue, in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill section. Sunday, October 2 ­ Harrison Hills Park: Meet leader Jim Valimont (412-828-5338) at 8 AM at the park off Freeport Road between Natrona Heights and Freeport. We will again meet at the new location. As you enter the park, bear right at the fork and proceed to the parking lot at the end of the road. This area around the pond has produced such species as Orange-crowned Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Swamp Sparrow in October. Sunday, October 16 ­ Pymatuning Area: Meet leader Bob VanNewkirk (412-366-1694 or email [email protected]) at the Pymatuning Wildlife Learning Center (Waterfowl Museum) at 9 AM for this all-day outing. We should see plenty of waterfowl, Bald Eagles, and migrant songbirds. Take I-79 north to Route 6, and go west to Linesville. Turn left at the light in Linesville where the sign points toward the Pymatuning spillway. The sign for the center will be on the left, past the fish hatchery and before the spillway. Bring a lunch or join us for lunch at the Spillway Inn. DELIGHTFUL DUO ­ These Great Horned Owlets were at home in Allegheny County's Harrison Hills Park this spring. Doug Bauman found an adult on April 27, then he, Steve Gosser, Cris Hamilton, and Bob Greene saw the owlets on April 30. Cris took this portrait. See Doug's blog,

Outings to Come

We'll Miss Two Favorites

Chuck Tague, award-winning naturalist, writer, and educator, and his capable wife, Joan, have been very important to 3RBC's success. They left Pittsburgh in June to live in Florida year-round, and we hope they'll return for many visits to our area. Chuck is a prolific author, whose "Bird Watch" articles have appeared in The Peregrine since 2006. He has presented programs to our club and to many other groups, and he led some of our most memorable outings. Chuck has taught us much about every aspect of nature, from fungi to caterpillars, in a way that was great fun ­ the best way to learn. Don't miss his Nature Observer's Journal at, and write to him at [email protected] Joan, the wonder-woman, an ace birder in her own right, was a co-leader of the club's activities annually at Magee Marsh and an effective assistant leader on every outing she attended. When I was 3RBC's president and needed production work for The Peregrine, Joan volunteered just as she did for Chuck's much-missed Nature Observer News. When we needed help on the 3RBC web site, Joan volunteered for that, too, and has done both ever since. Chuck Tague, Joan Tague: I know of no better exponents of our club's mission statement: "To gather in friendship, to enjoy the wonders of nature and to share our passion for birds!"

By Jack Solomon


The Peregrine

Bird Watch

Orange-breasted Chat

By Chuck Tague

Yellow-breasted Chats have an effective survival strategy. Not a leaf moves as this bulky songbird skulks through the brush. If danger approaches, the chat peers from behind the outer layer of foliage. With leaves above and below and another hanging down to break up its silhouette, the chat carefully evaluates any creature, large or small. The bird instinctively positions itself for maximum concealment, its body aligned at the proper angle in relationship to the sun, the leaves, and the intruder's search- YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT ­ Yellow-breasted Chats are sometimes orange-breasted, and Chuck Tague explains how the color relates to a chat's diet in "Bird Watch." He ing eyes. photographed this one at Hillman State Park in Washington County on June 2, 2009. Sunlight streams through the foliage. Shades of dark green reflect off the upper plum"Someone's in the bushes imitating a crow." I should have known age. A diffused yellow glare washes the space below. Although it was a chat. the chat is seldom quiet during the breeding season, it carefully I scanned where I thought I heard the call. A blaze-orange spaces its loud alarms. A natural ventriloquist, its chee-ucks and ball in the shrub flashed at me like a traffic cone. I focused and mews further confuse the interloper. saw the unmistakable white spectacles and thick beak of a YellowI've seen chats do this many times, although I've heard them breasted Chat. He cautiously peered out at me from behind a leaf, scold me on many more occasions. Usually I search without findcrouched between two branches in his "I'm invisible and invining the elusive chatterbox. When I discover a chat it's usually as I cible" pose. With an orange breast instead of yellow, his strategy scan for some other bird. I've unsuccessfully searched for so many failed. chats that I seldom try. An internet search of "Yellow-breasted Chat" turned up The chat's scientific name is Icteria virens. The generic name nothing on the bird but an astounding number of chat rooms about means "yellow" or "jaundiced"; the species designation, virens, "breast." I was doomed to find the answer the old way, in my means green. This seemingly contradictory combination perfectly books. In A Field Guide to Warblers of North America (1997), describes the Yellow-breasted Chat; olive above and bright yellow Jon Dunn describes the chat's "chin and throat, down through below. The exact shades were fine-tuned over millennia to minilower breast, deep bright yellow." Dunn adds in parentheses, "In mize its visibility. some variants tinted or blotched with orange-yellow, possibly diet Many animals are dark over light. This combination, called related." counter-shading, eliminates shadows. The darkest colors are on In a subsequent section Dunn refers to a study by Mulvihill top where illumination is brightest; the lightest shades on the and others. (That's Bob Mulvihill and the staff at Powdermill bottom where light is weak. The telltale dimensional shape is Nature Reserve.) "Orange-breasted variants found locally appear converted to an inconspicuous, even-toned flatness. to result from a diet rich in honeysuckle (Lonerica) before the late Not only are chats counter-shaded but the green/yellow comsummer prebasic molt." Adult Yellow-breasted Chats replace all of bination effectively mimics light as it passes through deciduous their worn feathers in one annual molt between July and October. leaves during photosynthesis. The upper surface reflects blueThis coincides with the fruiting period of Morrow Honeysuckle. green light waves. The unreflected waves filter through and most Mulvihill's research focused on Cedar Waxwings with orange are absorbed. Lighter yellow-green waves pass through creating a instead of yellow tail tips. Waxwings are fruit-eating songbirds diffused wash below. Other forest and scrubland warblers have a named for red "tabs" on the end of the secondary flight feathers. similar pattern as do most vireos plus some tanagers and flycatchOnly adults have red feather tips, but all waxwings have a band ers. across their tail tip, like a brush dipped into yellow paint. In the On June 2, 2009, a dissonant racket from some disturbed 1960s banders at Powdermill, and observers across the eastern birds in Hillman State Park attracted my attention. It was prime United States, noticed juvenile Cedar Waxwings with orange chat habitat. In June an intruder always brings out the ferocity of instead of yellow tail tips. The color returned to normal with the nesting songbirds. A Common Yellowthroat spat and a cardinal next annual molt. The aberrant tails have no apparent effect on the scolded with loud, sharp chips. A Blue-winged Warbler landed on waxwings' social status or their ability to survive. a honeysuckle and raised his head feathers as he flitted in a wide Researchers found rhodoxanthin, a carotenoid pigment, circle. A towhee chewinked from the tree line. responsible for the aberrant tail feathers. Only some waxwings The symphony of admonitions continued, but one by one in their first basic plumage show the variant color. The normal voices dropped out until there was only an oddly phrased chee-uck. yellow returned with the next molt. Adult waxwings do not molt "That catbird sounds flat," I thought as I waited for it to finish. during the honeysuckles' fruiting season. The string of squawks and borrowed phrases never came. I've said something like that often, "That Blue Jay has no resonance," or continued on page 5


The Peregrine Another Great Spring for Migration Lovers

Yellow Creek State Park ­ April 9: Twelve birders, two Indiana University of Pennsylvania professors, and students from their biology labs arrived for the joint 3RBC-Todd Bird Club outing. Birds were scarce at the park office but a Golden-crowned Kinglet sang over the human chatter. Our first stop at the maintenance building produced the usual Tree Swallows, but Steve Gosser spotted the morning's only Eastern Meadowlark here. Waterfowl on the lake included 3 Canada Geese, 4 Wood Ducks, an American Black Duck, 3 Mallards, 2 Blue-winged Teal, 2 Green-winged Teal, 28 Ring-necked Ducks, 4 Lesser Scaup, 8 Buffleheads, 44 Red-breasted Mergansers, and 6 Ruddy Ducks. We observed 3 Bonaparte's Gulls and one Ring-billed Gull flying over the lake. A Brown Thrasher sang heartily from an apple tree while a pair of Eastern Bluebirds foraged on the same tree. Our 8 Double-crested Cormorants included 3 on a snag in the water, others on the shore, and a few swimming. Near the north shore were 4 Hooded Mergansers. At our stop at the boat launch we saw a Forster's Tern flying along the north shore and a total of 90 American Coots on the lawn and in Little Yellow cove. A Belted Kingfisher rattled near Little Yellow, and a Common Loon was spending much more time under water than above. Waterfowl here included 5 Canvasbacks, a Redhead, 6 Lesser Scaup, more Buffleheads, and several Ruddy Ducks. Two Pied-billed Grebes hugged the shoreline near the cattails. Our next stop in the main recreational area brought the first of the day's 2 Cooper's Hawks, well as 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and 2 Swamp Sparrows singing in the marsh. Next we headed to the beach, where we were treated to the sight of 3 adult Bald Eagles in the air at one time. Two Ospreys were also present. A walk to the observatory yielded a Red-bellied Woodpecker, our resident Brown Creeper, 3 Golden-crowned Kinglets, and sev-

Outings Revisited

SHOWING OFF HIS NAME ­ Many Yellow-rumped Warblers were among species found on the April 23 outing at BoyceMayview and Wingfield Pines. (photograph by Tom Moeller) eral Black-capped Chickadees. From the observatory we estimated that 250 Tree Swallows were feeding over the water, but we were also able to spot 2 Barn Swallows in their midst. For the entire list seen that day, go to, click on "Events," then select "Outings Reports," scroll down to April 9 and click on "Yellow Creek." Thanks to all the 3RBC'ers who helped the biology students by sharing their scopes and their knowledge. Eight of us ­ Randi and Sarah Gerrish, Tom Glover, Steve Gosser, Judy and Tony Schryer, and Roger and I ­ ended the outing at the Golden Dragon Chinese Buffet where we had a great time reliving birding adventures and sharing plans for future trips. ­by leader Margaret Higbee continued on page 6 Chats live in a dangerous world. Cooper's Hawks patrol wooded edges. Screech-owls peer from tree cavities, looking for nests to pillage after dark. Grackles, crows, jays, snakes, chipmunks, opossums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, feral cats, and other opportunistic predators stalk the brush. Female cowbirds wait for an opportunity to replace a chat's egg with one of their own. By autumn the chats migrate across the Gulf of Mexico. They must survive the winter in unfamiliar surroundings. In spring they again cross the Gulf. Each stop along the way presents unexpected challenges. Their ability to blend with their surroundings serves them well. Since 1960, Yellow-breasted Chats have declined in eastern North America, mostly due to forest regeneration and urban sprawl. Could Morrow Honeysuckle also be a factor? Perhaps the aberrant orange feathers are more often noticed in waxwings because the color variation doesn't influence survival. Maybe the chat I observed is a lucky individual that survived in spite of its compromised ability to conceal itself. The balance in nature is complex and fine-tuned over time. Changes in the makeup of any community have consequences. Could the change in a songbird's color be another negative consequence of an introduced plant?

Bird Watch

continued from page 4 Researchers isolated the rhodoxanthin's source as Morrow Honeysuckle fruit. This aggressively invasive shrub was widely planted for wildlife since the early 1960s, about the time orange tails first appeared. Otto Jennings in Wildflowers of Western Pennsylvania (1953) considered Morrow Honeysuckle as "occasionally naturalized in roadside thickets and around farmsteads." However, it's listed in the Vascular Flora of Pennsylvania (Rhoads 1993) as a species that has recently expanded its range significantly. Honeysuckles were extensively planted in Hillman State Park in Washington County. It fruits from June through August. Morrow Honeysuckle is native to Japan. Interestingly, Japanese Waxwings, Bombycilla japonica, have red tail tips. Observers noticed the color switch to a lesser degree in other species. It occurs in Yellow-breasted Chats with enough frequency to deserve mention in the warbler field guide. Although primarily an insectivore during the breeding season, chats feed extensively on summer fruits such as strawberries, blackberries, mulberries, and honeysuckle.


The Peregrine

continued from page 5

Outings Revisited

Woodcock Walk ­ April 13: Sixteen people participated, and we had a very good night. Before going to see the woodcocks, everybody had great views of the Great Blue Heron colony on the Allegheny River island at Harmar Township. The herons were really active, and we also saw a flock of at least 20 Double-crested Cormorants perched in the island's trees. When we got to the woodcock site, we heard peenting behind us and in front of us, and saw the birds' silhouettes fluttering all around us in their display flights. It was a perfect sunset and another great outing. ­by leader Tommy Byrnes Boyce-Mayview Park and Wingfield Pines ­ April 23: We had 10 participants, and, in spite of a forecast for severe weather, we had a splendid day. The weather surprised us all by not raining. It turned out to be a bright, sunny day! Highlights, some first of the season for many or all of our participants, included 8 warbler species: many Yellow, many Yellowrumped, 1 Blackburnian, many Yellow-throated, 5 Pine (some very close and in full song), 2 Palm, 1 Black-and-white (heard only), and 1 Louisiana Waterthrush. We found 1 Eastern Kingbird, 1 Blue-headed Vireo, 5 Rubycrowned Kinglets, and 1 Orchard Oriole (male!). Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were almost everywhere, and there were many Chimney Swifts, Tree, Northern Rough-winged, and Barn Swallows. Our sparrows included many White-throated and 1 White-crowned. Two hawk species made the list: 1 Cooper's and 2 Red-tailed. Our waterbirds included 6 Wood Ducks, 3 Blue-winged Teal, 2 Great Blue Herons, 1 Green Heron, and 1 Spotted Sandpiper. Our group tallied about 50 species. Thanks to everyone who came out! It was a lot of fun. ­by leader Shawn Collins Sewickley Heights Park ­ April 27: Running a few minutes early can be a good thing. Soon after starting up the road into Sewickley Heights Park, I saw another early arrival outside of her car with binoculars pointing skyward. There, high in the treetops, was the first bird of the outing, a Cerulean Warbler! Not a bad start to the day. Thirteen birders led by Bob VanNewkirk were excited to hit the muddy trails in search of returning warblers and songbirds. It was a treat to spot the brilliant colors of Scarlet Tanagers, American Goldfinches, and Eastern Bluebirds and hear the beautiful song of the Wood Thrush after such a long, drab winter. Our first-of-season birds were popping up everywhere: Red-eyed Vireo, Hooded Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. A Broad-winged Hawk was spotted soaring with what first appeared to be a stick grasped in its talons, but after one sharpeyed birder noticed that the "stick" was flexible, we realized that it was a large snake. We also had a Cooper's Hawk and Red-tailed Hawks. On the way to Walker Park, we had our first Great Blue Heron standing still as a statue along Little Sewickley Creek. Farther along, it took patience to track down the singers, but we finally saw a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes along the stream. Another call caught our attention, and soon we were studying a very active American Redstart. Bob was running us through our paces. He had to leave early to attend a luncheon in his wife's honor. It was not going to be a typical Sewickley Heights birding marathon.

As we gathered at Morrow-Pontefrac Park, a car stopped in the roadway and an excited woman jumped out to ask if we were bird watching. She told us about a bird that she had never seen in Pennsylvania before and gave us directions to find it. After a few inquiries and some field guide study, it was determined that her mystery bird was a Great Blue Heron. She left pleased to learn the bird's identity and to share what she felt was a rare sighting. It's nice to think that she may have been inspired to take the time to notice more birds in the future. Resuming our search, we soon had our first Indigo Bunting, Yellow-throated Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Belted Kingfisher. Bob took his leave and the five remaining birders hiked on to the Edgeworth Dump. There we added Yellow Warblers and Barn Swallows. A pair of Northern Mockingbirds were perched on a pile of stumps along the brushy edge of the open area. An American Crow flew too close for their liking and one of the Mockingbirds flashed its white wing patches and chased the larger bird away from their chosen territory. The Ohio River was running too high for any waterfowl. The only additions there were one low-flying Double-crested Cormorant and a distant unidentified gull. Despite the lack of waterfowl, we still listed 53 species for the day including 7 warblers: Cerulean, Hooded, Blue-winged, American Redstart, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated and Yellow. The return hike through Pontefrac Park gave us a Baltimore Oriole. The vibrant orange of the oriole contrasted beautifully with the vivid green of new leaves. A nice way to end the day! ­by participant Sheree Daugherty Frick Park ­ April 30: Roughly 20 birders gathered in the parking lot by the Environmental Center on a cloudy Saturday morning to find out if this would be the day the spring warblers arrived. Towhees were already in the park, as were Scarlet Tanagers. But would the warblers be there? A Blue-headed Vireo was spotted near the entrance, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched for a long while on a bare branch near the trailhead. The trail itself was not productive at first, although some of the usual suspects, American Robin and Northern Cardinal, were easily seen. But after a short distance, a mixed flock of warblers answered the big question of the outing. Blackburnian, Nashville, Yellowrumped, and Chestnut-sided Warblers were among the day's protagonists. Black-throated Green and Worm-eating Warblers were heard but not seen, along with a Warbling Vireo. A Blue-winged Warbler was also heard, but remained elusive until suddenly perching just off the trail where the group stood. He couldn't have been more cooperative, singing in a ray of sunlight near the top of a thicket just above eye-level, affording everyone great views. In the lower part of the park, an excellent male Yellow Warbler was seen along part of Nine Mile Run. Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds sang in the marsh. Baltimore Oriole and American Goldfinch were also present. Chimney Swifts pirouetted through the air, endlessly chittering amongst themselves, an occasional Northern Rough-winged Swallow accompanying them. At one point no fewer than four Red-tailed Hawks were seen soaring. Near the end of the morning, several group members honed in on an unidentified sparrow in the bushes, presumed to be a shy Field Sparrow, but no one came away with a good enough look to confirm it. Jack Solomon recited a lyric from an Irish song, appropriating it to describe the morning in Frick. "It's a place where the cares of continued on page 7


The Peregrine

and a Northern Parula. By now we had a baker's dozen warbler species. Baltimore Orioles and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak joined our list, and a Warbling Vireo treated us with its song. In spite of rain most of the group moved on to Pontefrac Park to find an Indigo Bunting. At the Edgeworth Dump a Yellow Warbler was discovered along with an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a Green Heron, a White-eyed Vireo, and a Spotted Sandpiper foraging along a rain puddle. A last stop was made at Wagner's Hollow where a gnatcatcher finally turned up and the 15th warbler species of the day was heard, a Chestnut-sided. The species list totaled 65. Rain and cold cannot stop the birds from finding their "daily bread" to survive, and such weather should not discourage birders from finding these wonders of Nature. ­by participant Tom Moeller Boyce-Mayview Park ­ May 7: The weather decided to play some jokes on our outing today. All 14 members thought it was going to be a nice sunny day, but the clouds came in while we were meeting, and it drizzled and turned gray most of the day. When we met in the parking lot, we were greeted by singing Wood Thrushes, and an Ovenbird chimed in. At the parking area we also had 2 White-throated Sparrows, Northern Cardinal, and Tufted Titmouse. As we headed up Bird Meadow Drive, we found a House Wren, Field Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, and we enjoyed a nice show of 4 Eastern Kingbirds working the field. Two male Baltimore Orioles were in the field collecting nesting material and flew right by us. We watched them return to their females, and we spotted a first-year male as well. A Red-eyed Vireo gave us all a nice show, coming out of hiding and ending up in a leafless tree. On our way to the upper field, Eastern Towhees sang all around, and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were calling as well. We had a dozen American Goldfinches, more Field Sparrows, Yellow Warblers everywhere, and a Common Yellowthroat. We also had our first Brown Thrasher calling from the edge. A White-eyed Vireo was singing at the edge and gave us a nice display. The birds became silent as rain came on, and we walked on the Upland Trail. The trail is usually quite a bird buffet, but we were still hungry! A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak broke our bad luck, a female joined him, and they gave us a welcome treat. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was added, as well as more Wood Thrushes and a few Wild Turkeys. We heard a bird call, and three participants said it was a Mourning Warbler. We played the call of the Mourning Warbler, and yes, it was a match, but he did not want to show himself. One Yellow-throated Vireo decided to appear. As we were walking, 4 Least Flycatchers were calling around us, as well as a Hooded Warbler. Farther down we heard the Bluewinged Warbler's call. Heading to the wetlands, we had great views of Barn and Tree Swallows hawking the fields and one Red-tailed Hawk perched on a bluebird nesting box. As we were walking, we heard and then saw a Black-throated Green Warbler and heard a Scarlet Tanager. A few Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, and the usual Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds were present around the pond. Walking back to our cars, we added another Scarlet Tanager, Gray Catbird, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Carolina Wren. Half the group went to visit Wingfield Pines, since it was less than a mile down the road. As we parked, our first bird was a very cooperative Palm Warbler. Walking down to the ponds, we added continued on page 8

A WELCOME SIGHT ­ A Kentucky Warbler is a highlight of any spring outing, and birders saw and heard this one at Sewickley Heights Park on May 4. (photograph by Tom Moeller)

continued from page 6

Outings Revisited

tomorrow must wait until today is done." The season for warblers and other spring migrants had finally arrived, and I couldn't have agreed more. ­by participant Frank Izaguirre Frick Park ­ May 1: Seventeen of us started the traditional Frick outing with a hike to the meadow atop Clayton Hill. Chuck Herrold rushed up the hill, breathlessly announcing: "There's a fallout of warblers on Riverview Hill." Birding was slow where we were, so we changed plans and sped (as fast as birders speed) to the Riverview dog run area. A visitor from Texas spotted his life Hooded Warbler for the group. Below it an Ovenbird was parading. Northern Parula, Blackburnian, and Yellow Warblers, were among the 10+ species flitting about, to the delight of all. We ended the day with 64 species. Watch the 3RBC website for the entire list. ­by co-leader Sue Solomon Sewickley Heights Borough Park ­ May 4: The cold, wet, overcast morning did not bode well for a good birding day, and a sparse count of birds during the first half-hour added to the gloom. However, birding is never predictable as the nine birders who joined leader Bob VanNewkirk found out. Walking down the entrance road near the Gravel Path, we spotted a Veery on the road, our first good find. Then at the path a Kentucky Warbler appeared and stayed to perform its song for us for many moments. A Black-throated Blue Warbler was next up, and the mood of the group picked up, too. Warblers began to gather over our heads. In quick succession we saw a Blackburnian, Yellow-rumped, and Cerulean along with a Red-eyed Vireo and a Red-bellied Woodpecker at its nest hole. Before we left the park, we also spotted a Hooded, Black-throated Green, and Nashville Warbler as well as a Scarlet Tanager, two Purple Finches, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Surprisingly, no Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were seen. The group moved on to Walker Park where our warbler count increased with a Louisiana Waterthrush, a Common Yellowthroat, a male and a female American Redstart, a Yellow-throated Warbler,


The Peregrine

Outings Revisited

continued from page 7 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, and a nice showy Orchard Oriole along with his female counterpart. We also added Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Two Green Herons sat still nearby allowing for many photographs. At the ponds, we saw many Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, and many Lesser Yellowlegs. We also added Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, Eastern Phoebe, Wood Duck, a Mallard with 11 ducklings, 2 Belted Kingfishers, Cooper's Hawk, Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and all participants' first-of-the-season Tennessee Warbler. Baltimore Orioles were in the sycamores, and seeing such a mixture of swallows hawking insects above the ponds, coming within inches of your head, was quite the experience! Also we had 4 Queen Snakes basking on a drain tube. That was a life reptile! ­by leader Shawn Collins North Park ­ May 8: Our club had a very successful birding walk. The trail leading up from the Nature Center to the upper fields yielded many good birds. One tree had 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, 2 Indigo Buntings, 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1 Palm Warbler, and 1 Red-eyed Vireo all eating at the same time. I'm not sure what they were picking out, but it was a sight to see all those birds in one tree! My highlight was seeing the orange variant of a Scarlet Tanager. The entire group thought it was an oriole, but it was a tanager. Our 14 warbler species were 2 Nashville, 1 Northern Parula, 1 Blue-winged, 1 American Redstart, 2 Chestnut-sided, 1 Palm, 1 Black-throated Green, 1 Black-throated Blue, 2 Black-and-white, 1 Yellow-throated, 1 Common Yellowthroat, 5+ Yellow, 2 Yellowrumped, and 2 Hooded. Other nice birds included a Cooper's Hawk, an Eastern Kingbird, an Eastern Phoebe, 2 Yellow-throated Vireos, many Gray Catbirds, many Wood Thrushes singing, and 7 Baltimore Orioles We also had seven sparrow species: 3 White-crowned, 2 White-throated, 1 Lincoln's, 1 Savannah, 2 Chipping, and many Field and Song. ­by leader Shawn Collins Sewickley Heights Park ­ May 11: After what seemed like days of endless rain, eight birders gathered on a perfect spring morning to search for warblers and other things with wings at Sewickley Heights Park. As our leader, Bob VanNewkirk, led us down the road from the upper parking lot, even the birds seemed happy to see the sun again, and we heard singing everywhere. As we walked, we noted an Eastern Bluebird, American Redstarts, and Scarlet Tanagers as well as Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Blackpoll Warbler, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler. Two male Hooded Warblers chased each other around trees and zipped back and forth across the road. Farther down, we were treated to the sight of a Hooded Warbler taking a bath in a small pool. Bob had heard a Kentucky Warbler at the start of the Gravel Path but a Tennessee popped up instead. No complaints there! "Eagle-eye" Melissa Little looked deep into the woods and came up with a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Like a middle-aged couple sharing dessert at a restaurant, the two cuckoos sat sedately on either side of a large tent caterpillar nest, reaching into the torn nest and picking out hairy delicacies. A lovely Baltimore Oriole serenaded us at the beginning of the Pipeline Trail, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker emerged out of his nesting hole in a tree. We wondered if he was feeding his mate sitting on eggs. April Claus spotted a flash of orange in a massive White Oak ­ another Baltimore Oriole? No ­ this was the "Fire-throat!" We watched gleefully as the Blackburnian Warbler ignored us completely and proceeded to bathe leisurely at the edge of the pool below the oak. An Indigo Bunting was singing at the edge of the upper meadow, and we heard snatches of song from a Nashville Warbler. As we searched for the unseen singer, Dick Nugent discovered a Black-billed Cuckoo. This one was also methodically destroying a tent caterpillar nest. Most birds whack these caterpillars several times to dislodge the hairy bristles, but the cuckoo simply tossed them back like peanuts. We continued our walk in the woods, adding Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, and Cerulean to our growing list of warblers. We caught a glimpse of a Great Crested Flycatcher and observed a black rat snake wrapped around a branch low to the ground. A few of us went on to explore Little Sewickley Creek where we found an Acadian Flycatcher and our first hawk of the day, a Red-tailed. We discovered a Louisiana Warbler at Walker Creek and were thrilled to see a Swainson's Thrush in plain view, ambling along at the edge of the creek. A Yellow-throated Vireo called out several times, and an Eastern Wood-Pewee was also heard. A single White-crowned Sparrow foraged on the ground. Pontefrac Park produced our first Warbling Vireos and Yellow-throated Warblers, and at the Edgeworth Dump we added lots of Yellow Warblers, some Barn Swallows, and a couple of Rough-winged Swallows. We caught a distant view of Doublecrested Cormorants above the dam. The last bird of the day was a Broad-winged Hawk circling over Pontefrac Park, the perfect ending to the day. High hopes in the morning had certainly been realized! We had 68 species for the day, including 16 warbler species. ­ by participant Debbie Kalbfleisch (Outings after mid-May will be published in the September issue of The Peregrine and posted on the 3RBC website.)

We Marveled at Warblers

Birdwatchers can never get enough warblers, and the promise of a presentation by Chuck Tague, one of our favorite naturalists, brought out a good crowd for our June 1 program. Sixty-six members and visitors came to the meeting to learn more about these gorgeous little avian creatures on a sunny, hot, and summerlike evening. Chuck's topic was "Wood Warblers--The History and Natural History of North America's Most Fascinating Bird Family," and he concentrated mainly on the 36 species of warblers found in Pennsylvania. He confirmed things that we already knew about them, taught us a tremendous amount of information that we didn't know, and impressed us with the vast amount of knowledge that he possesses on the subject. The history lesson included more than 25 fascinating men and women who either found or named or described or had a warbler named after them. They ranged from the familiar names such as Audubon and Wilson to less well-known naturalists, ornithologists, physicians, ministers, and collectors of bird specimens. Anyone who knows Chuck Tague is familiar with his spectacular nature photography. This program was no exception. From

Meeting Minutes

By Pat and Sherron Lynch, Co-secretaries

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"Disneyland for Birders"

Magee Marsh Memories: a Look Back at May 2011

By Shawn Collins

Someone asked me, "How many years have you been birding and you haven't been to Magee Marsh?" Well in my defense, I never wanted to drive three hours to see birds I can see around Pittsburgh. Then in November I bought my first DSLR camera, and began taking photographs. I was also seeing many photos taken by birding pals at Magee Marsh, and then my good birding pal and 3RBC member Donna Foyle e-mailed me some of her photos from last year. I was SOLD! It was an easy drive, and I was full of anticipation and anxiety at the same time. As I parked and looked around, all I saw were birds, people pointing, and people with bins up to their eyes. I hurried to the boardwalk, and as soon as I made it to the platform, I just looked around. At eye level was a Black-throated Green Warbler, then in quick succession a Blackburnian, Cape May, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Now, I had gotten all their photos and thought, I've only been here 10 minutes. Why on earth haven't I been here in the past, and why am I only staying two days? Within minutes I see familiar faces ­ Jack and Sue Solomon, Sheree Daugherty, and Marsha Wagner-Vlah. We swapped stories, and I was just bug-eyed. I said, "This is Disneyland for Birders." I really was that little kid running around an amusement park. Yes I had seen all these birds before, but not like this. Not pointblank, not so close that you can almost touch them. It really was a wonderful experience. Some of my favorite warblers were so common, I began thinking, "Oh, it's just another Chestnut-sided Warbler" or "It's only a Bay-breasted Warbler again." When does anyone say this? Never...but here! Besides the warblers, vireos, thrushes, and cuckoos were all present. One of my best moments was seeing a Veery out in the open, sitting there posing for pictures. Did I mention he was about five feet from me? More highlights were a singing Prothonotary Warbler a few feet from me, an Eastern Screech-Owl, Northern Waterthrush, and Swainson's Thrush all making it easy to photograph them. A pesky Canada Warbler wouldn't sit still until he found a nice bug ­ and then I was able to get some good photos of him. Cris Hamilton gave me a tip on the Canada, and he was right there where she told me to go! Taking a break from Magee Marsh, I decided to go to Ottawa Wildlife Refuge which is next door, and went to Metzger Marsh a little farther down the road. I got to add Trumpeter Swan, Mute Swan, and more birds I hadn't seen at Magee. On our way back we stopped at a flooded field on Ottawa-Lucas Road and added American Pipit, Dark-eyed Junco, Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Least Sandpiper. There were also a lot of Blackpolls singing in the outlying woods where we were parked looking into the fields. A nice group of nine of us retired for dinner and swapped stories of what we saw, didn't see, still wanted to see, etc. Day two wasn't as good as day one, but we got to add more birds to our list ­ and who can get tired of warblers and other migrants hanging around close by? Yes, I will be there next year, this time for a week. After my two days, I ended with 114 species, including 24 species of warblers. Only one word can describe this place, the atmosphere, and the birds: Amazing! How many days till next May? If you want to view my photos, see them at com/pghdjshawn in folders titled Magee Marsh day 1 and day 2.

PURE GOLD ­ We don't often see Prothonotary Warblers in the Pittsburgh area, but they are present regularly at Magee Marsh, where Bob Greene photographed this one in May 2011.

A Monumental Month for Birding

The month of May was off to a great start. I had just returned from Florida where I tracked the ethereal, luminescent Painted Bunting through its breeding grounds on Amelia Island. I also had a chance to film the raucous mating rituals of Royal Terns along the deserted shores of Florida's northeastern barrier islands. Now, the time had come for something completely different as I headed to northwestern Ohio, to the land of the famed Black Swamp, to the wetlands along the porous southern shoreline of Lake Erie. Spring was the time to arrive, because in May the marshlands become a magical place. As if governed by a celestial clock, these wetlands transform themselves into the resting and feeding grounds for over 300 species of birds; many of them migrants that stop here before crossing a big open body of water on their way to their breeding grounds in Canada. During the first two weeks in May, countless birds drop down from the sky in visible waves to adorn the forested beach ridge of Magee Marsh ­ for early May is the time of the great warbler migration. At Magee Marsh, up to 37 species of warblers can easily be seen, even without binoculars. The ancient "black swamp" comes alive with the sounds of the songbirds, and the wetlands seem to pulsate with the exuberance of the arriving migrants. Magee Marsh provides the opportunity for magnificent, up-close sightings for both the experienced birder and the novice alike. We know that these tiny warblers had already accomplished an incredible feat! They had made an immense journey just to reach this spot. We also know that this location was programmed into thousands of generations of their ancestors. Some of the warblers have been previously tagged, documenting the fact that many of these small, colorful songbirds continue to return here again and again throughout their lifetimes ­ flying north from the forests of South and Central America, dressed in their finest feathered hues,

By Jim Jeffries

continued on page 10


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Magee Marsh Memories

continued from page 9 prepared for a summer of breeding in the forests of Canada. Recently, a parallel, human migration has been observed at Magee Marsh, and its size seems to be growing. This May heralded the second annual "Biggest Week in American Birding." Birders have migrated to Magee Marsh in record numbers to watch the warblers return and to observe the hundreds of other species of colorful bird life that can be found draping the forests, fields and wetlands of the Magee Marsh, the Black Swamp Observatory and the neighboring Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. At the forefront of the human migration are those who live their lives pursuing birds. The marsh has become a mecca for the birding experts and those who write about, film, and document birds and epic avian migrations. Along the boardwalks and trails that wind through the wetlands, a growing community of birders congregated. This human gathering provided an atmosphere where it was easy to mingle and learn from many of the "legends" of birding. During the days I spent at Magee Marsh this May, I was able to talk to and birdwatch alongside Kenn Kaufman. Kaufman is clearly the leader of this "Biggest Week in American Birding," and these wetlands have become his home. He can easily be found among the birders. He also autographed my collection of his books, including his newly released Field Guide to Advanced Birding, and my personal favorite, his autobiographical Kingbird Highway. Greg Miller was there too, willing to talk to anyone about his exploits in that popular book for birders, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession. Miller told me about his visit to a Hollywood film set that had cast Jack Black to play his part in a forthcoming film adaptation. He also mentioned that Steve Martin will be in the cast. We agreed that the soon-to-be-released film will likely increase the popularity of birding. Along the marsh boardwalk and later at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, I talked with another legendary birder, Richard Crossley, who is likely to change the way we observe and identify birds. He showed me his new book, The Crossley ID Guide, which he thinks could serve as a template for the future of natural history identification guides in the 21st century. He also told me that he would be speaking in Pittsburgh on May 16 and invited me to come to his lecture at the National Aviary. His offer was one I could not refuse. (Editor's note: Jim's report on the lecture will appear in the next issue of The Peregrine.) ***

Thanks for the Experts' Help

Although a trip to Magee Marsh has been on my annual May agenda for 15 or 20 years, I didn't think it could be improved until last year when two major changes took place: Kim and Kenn Kaufman and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory staff and volunteers started "The Biggest Week in American Birding," and 10 expert guides from Tropical Birding (tropical started volunteering as spotters and bird finders along the boardwalk, and as outing leaders there and to other hot spots. These TB guys, including Pittsburgh's own Ken Behrens (see the November/December 2010 issue of The Peregrine), are actually there in smaller numbers before and after the event during the entire month of May, helping hapless birders like me and a lot of you find the bird. They have skill and endless patience in getting us duffers to see that rarity or highly desired species, and powerful green lasers that they carefully keep in the vicinity of but never on or too near the bird. And they have terrific people skills; heck, they even laughed at my jokes. Their presence improved the experience for me immensely. Many others I talked to said the same. They do it for free ­ although the event is invaluable to them, in their own words, for expanding the pie of potential clients for them and other birding tour guides. I agree: Few things can make someone want to see more birds than seeing one's first Black-throated Green Warbler on the boardwalk, one inch from a man's boot tip, or a Prothonotary Warbler building its nest five feet away in a dead tree. I saw them, and Geoff Malosh photographed the Prothonotary as I watched. But having a TB expert there to help with tough calls or less easily findable birds, like when they got the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Philadelphia Vireo for me, is a giant move forward. When they ID vocalizations that have me baffled and stymied, like when they helped me distinguish among the tricky high-frequency songs (e.g., Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted Warbler), it just changes my birding world for the better. Kudos to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory staff, Tropical Birding, and the other sponsors including Kaufman Field Guides, the staff of the adjacent Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Visitor Center, and the staff of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (Ohio Division of Wildlife) for an incredible event that lives up to its high-reaching, maybe even grandiose, name: "The Biggest Week in American Birding."

By Jack Solomon

SUBTLE BUT STUNNING ­ The soft "earth tones" of a male Baybreasted Warbler make up a color combination that's unique in the wood-warbler family ­ no bright yellows here, but breathtaking just the same. (photographed at Magee Marsh by Geoff Malosh)


The Peregrine

RARE PAIR ­ These Ross's Geese on a pond at Imperial gave us the fourth Allegheny County record. Cory DeStein discovered them on February 28, 2011, when they arrived on a strong cold front that plunged temperatures from 60 degrees to 30 degrees on the same day. Interestingly, they were found again the next day in the county's northwestern area where they lingered to March 14. Geoff Malosh photographed them, and you can read more about these sightings on Geoff's website at

Ross's Geese Visited Us in February-March 2011

Tundra Swans migrating over Allegheny County included 4 over Moon Township 2/27 (GM), 50 over Barking Slopes in Plum 3/5 (PM), and 80-100 over Imperial 3/15 (GM). A flock of 46 Snow Geese flew over Findlay Township 2/27 (GM). Snow Geese are rare here, and a flock of this size is extremely rare. One was at the Moody Road ponds 3/1 (GM). Two Ross's Geese at a new pond in front of a warehouse at Imperial 2/28 (CD) provided the fourth county record and the first for the Imperial Grasslands. They relocated to a golf course pond in Bell Acres where they remained until 3/14 (v.o.). Single Mallard x Black Duck hybrids were at Emsworth 2/20 (MV) and North Park 3/20 (MV). Three Gadwalls were at Imperial 2/25 (MV), increasing to 6 by 2/26 (MV, SC); 4 remained 2/27 (GM) and 5 on 2/28 (CD). Others were 3 at Blawnox 2/27 (DY), one at Imperial 3/1 (GG), 5 at Brunots Island 3/13 (MV) and 2 at Moody Road 3/18 (MV). American Wigeon reports began at the end of February and included 3 at Aspinwall 2/27 (DY), 4 at Cheswick 2/27 (DY), 3 at Creighton 2/27 (DY), and 4 at Imperial 2/28 (CD). Singles were at Blawnox and Fox Chapel 3/5 (AH, PM), 2 were at Beechwood Farms 3/13 (STh, SuT), and 2 were at Moody Road in Findlay Township 3/18 (MV). Two Northern Shovelers were at Moody Road 3/18 (MV), and one was at Wingfield Pines 3/22 (JM). Canvasbacks included 3 at Sewickley 2/20 (MV), one at the Pittsburgh Point through 2/23 (GM), and singles at Blawnox and Cheswick 2/26 (DY). The only March report was one at Imperial 3/4-14 (MV, GM, et al.). A Redhead was at Emsworth 2/20 (MV), and a nice count of 30 were at Moody Road 3/14 (MV). A White-winged Scoter was on the Allegheny River at Blawnox 2/12 -3/6 (DY et al.). A female Long-tailed Duck continued from January just downstream from the Point in Pittsburgh 2/9-13 (GM et al.). A female also continued from January at Fox Chapel 2/13 (AH, PM), and a female stayed at Imperial from 3/9-25 (GM, MV, et al.). Interestingly, a male was found at a nearby pond off Moody Road in Findlay Township 3/26 (MV), the day after the long-staying female left Imperial. A Common Goldeneye at Emsworth 3/13 (MV) was the lone report. A Red-breasted Merganser was at Emsworth 2/13 (MV), one was at Duck Hollow 2/13 (TM, NM), 2 were there 2/15 (TM,

Birds in the Three Rivers Area

By Mike Fialkovich, Bird Reports Editor

NM) with one remaining through March (TM, NM, JS, SS). A Common Merganser at Imperial 2/28 was the first occurrence for that location (CD), and 2 were at Brunots Island 3/5 (SD). Two Ruddy Ducks were at the Pittsburgh Point 2/23 (GM) and 2/26 (ST) and 2 were at Imperial from 3/2 (CD) through the month. Most of those species of waterfowl continued regularly through March. A Ring-necked Pheasant was found at the PennDOT Wetlands in Upper St. Clair 2/16 (JM), and 2 were at Frick Park 3/16 (DWe), the first at that location for many years. A Horned Grebe was at the Pittsburgh Point 2/5 (DY). Pied-billed Grebes and Horned Grebes were reported regularly at various locations through March. Seven Great Blue Herons were on nests at the rookery on an island in the Allegheny River in Harmar Township 3/20 (AH, PM). Eight were on nests at Boyce-Mayview Park 3/26 (GG). An early Osprey flew over East Liberty 3/14 (DY). Two Bald Eagles were at Dashields Dam 2/6 (SC) and an immature was at Duck Hollow 2/10 (TM, NM). A pair was at the nest in Crescent Township 3/27 (GM) that was discovered last year. A Red-shouldered Hawk was at Dashields 2/6 (SC), one was in Fox Chapel 2/20 (TM, NM), and they were present at regular breeding sites in Pine Township (PL, SL) and Beechwood Farms (STh, SuT) in March. A leucistic Red-tailed Hawk was noted on a nest in Pittsburgh's North Side in late March (OM). A Merlin was spotted in Robinson Township 3/19 (GM). A Lesser Yellowlegs was at Duck Hollow 3/21 (TM, NM). The first returning Killdeer reports came from Imperial 2/20 (MV) and North Park 2/24 (PL, SL). A Wilson's Snipe was at Wingfield Pines 2/18 (CD) and 4 were at Imperial 3/11 (MV) where they continued through March. Four American Woodcocks were displaying at Imperial 2/28 (DW, ST) where they continued through March, and one was displaying at Mount Calvary Cemetery in McKees Rocks 3/9 (SV). An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Point in January remained 2/4-5 (GM, DY). Maximum Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull totals for the winter were only around 800 and 200 respectively 2/9 (GM). A Great Horned Owl was found on a nest in Crescent Township 3/23 (BS) and one was seen in Warrendale 3/14 (STi). A Northern Saw-whet Owl was flushed out of a tree that was being cut down at Beechwood Farms 3/14 and was heard calling late at night 3/20-21 (BSh). An Eastern Phoebe reported at Wingfield Pines all winter was last noted 2/19 (DW, ST). The first spring arrival was reported continued on page 12


The Peregrine

Birds in the Three Rivers Area

continued from page 11 at Pine Township 3/18 (PL, SL). A Northern Shrike at Imperial, listed in the previous report, was still there 2/20 (DW, ST). An American Crow was observed on a roof of a house in Penn Hills 3/19 with an American Robin in its bill. It proceeded to pluck the robin until another crow landed near it. The first crow picked up the robin and flew off with it (MF). Fish Crow reports include one at Duck Hollow 3/21-22 where it was harassing the Lesser Yellowlegs reported above (TM, NM), one in Squirrel Hill 3/26 (JS), and 2 there 3/30 (CD). Two Common Ravens were in the Brunots Island/Woods Run area 2/5 (PB, MV) and 3/25 (MV). A Yellow-rumped Warbler was at Wingfield Pines 2/26 (JM) and this species continued through March at that location with a high count of 5 on 3/26 (GG). An early Eastern Towhee was at Salamander Park in Fox Chapel 2/26 (MF). A Fox Sparrow in Pine Township 2/28 (PL, SL) was a bit early, 2 were at Boyce-Mayview Park 3/16-17 (DW, ST), one continued in Pine Township 3/20 (PL, SL), 2 were at Frick Park 3/21 (JS, SS), and 4 were at North Park 3/23 (POB). A White-crowned Sparrow was found at the wetlands along the Allegheny River in Fox Chapel 2/26 (AH, PM), and one was at Boyce-Mayview Park 3/17 and 3/23 (DW, ST). Rusty Blackbirds were at Wingfield Pines through March with a high count of 10 on 3/30 (JM). A Common Grackle continued from January at a feeder in Upper St. Clair to 2/20 (DW, ST), and a flock of 30 appeared there 2/22 (DW, ST). Those and single birds in O'Hara Township 2/24 (PB) and Blawnox 2/26 (AH, PM) were probably migrants. Small numbers of Brownheaded Cowbirds continued through February at a feeder in Upper St. Clair (ST), and one was in Shaler Twp. 2/18 (JH). Single Purple Finches were reported at Natrona Heights 3/14 (PH) and Pine Township 3/21 (PL, SL). A few northern finch reports were surprising. Three Common Redpolls fed on birch catkins along Moody Road in Findlay Township 2/26 (MV), and one visited a feeder in Pine Township 3/25 through the end of the month (PL, SL). A few Pine Siskins continued from last season, including 2 in Harmar Township through March (JV) and up to 4 in Pine Township in March (PL, SL). Observers: Paul Brown, Shawn Collins, Sheree Daugherty, Cory DeStein, Mike Fialkovich, Gigi Gerben, Amy Henrici, Paul Hess, Joyce Hoffmann, Pat Lynch, Sherron Lynch, Jeff McDonald, Pat McShea, Geoff Malosh, Oscar Miller, Nancy Moeller, Tom Moeller, Philip O'Brien (POB), Brian Shema (BSh), Becky Smith, Jack Solomon, Sue Solomon, Shannon Thompson, Steve Thomas (STh), Sue Thomas (SuT), Steve Tirone (STi), Jim Valimont, Susanne Varley, Mark Vass, Dan Weeks (DWe), Dave Wilton, Dan Yagusic, various observers (v.o.).

A Narrow Escape

My wife and I found a shorebird that turned out to be a Lesser Yellowlegs at Duck Hollow along the Monongahela River on March 21, the first full day of spring. This was after a week of viewing winter ducks, Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and Roughlegged Hawks at Pymatuning, Lawrence County, and Moraine State Park. After finding the bird, we watched it and took photos for at least a half-hour trying to identify it. Our birding minds were just not ready for shorebirds. The bird stayed on a rock in the water all that time, only moving its head and bobbing now and again. Obviously it was resting. A rain shower poured down and we left for about 15 minutes. I came back alone to check on the bird after the shower, and I arrived just in time. The yellowlegs seemed to be "waking up" from its rest, now bobbing much more, and stretching out its neck, which it had contracted while resting. It flew the 10 feet to the shore of the mudflats and stretched its wings straight up over its back the way I have seen other shorebirds do. It pecked a few times as it walked among the rocks on shore ­ nothing vigorous, just a few pecks here and there. Then the drama began. I noticed a black bird coming down toward the shorebird. It was a crow aiming directly for the yellowlegs. However, it was not an American Crow; its calls had the nasal twang of a FISH Crow! The sandpiper took off, chased doggedly by the crow. In spite of evasive maneuvers by the yellowlegs, the crow kept after it. As it flew, the shorebird showed a white butt and side and white up its underwing, and, naturally, it was giving a sharp alarm call. The little bird flew high toward the Homestead Grays Bridge, where it seemed to lose the crow. Feeling safe, the yellowlegs came back down to the mudflats and landed ­ but suddenly the Fish Crow was right on its heels. This time the yellowlegs took off, calling and heading toward the bridge, and never came back. The crow joined a companion crow and headed downriver, too. The following day we spotted the Fish Crow still hanging around Duck Hollow. It was being very vocal, crossing the river to a tree next to the parking lot, cawing all the way and cawing in the tree as if it were the boss now. Happily, it never did catch that Lesser Yellowlegs.

By Tom Moeller

Meeting Minutes

continued from page 8 the details like the rictal bristles for catching flying insects on the American Redstart to the almost visible crown on the Orangecrowned Warbler, the photos were gorgeous. Chuck's warbler masterpiece was so thorough that it left the audience with very few questions. Do we see a new book about warblers in your future, Chuck? Chuck and Joan Tague have left Pittsburgh to make their permanent home on the Atlantic coast of Florida. We send them off with our best wishes and certainly expect to be able to keep intouch with them through the marvels of e-mail and the Internet. (Complete minutes are posted on the 3RBC website.)

GREAT ESCAPE ­ Tom and Nancy Moeller watched a dramatic encounter between the Lesser Yellowlegs at left and the Fish Crow at right on March 21, 2011, at Duck Hollow on the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh. The yellowlegs escaped a lively chase by the crow. Tom photographed them and describes the event above.



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