WRENDERINGS The Newsletter of the Harford Bird Club

Volume 17 Number 1

January - February 2004

"Acquainting folks to the wild birds and birding life of Harford County"


Christmas Bird Count Results
Good Birds Warm Winter Birders
Calendar of Events
Harford Bird Club Field Notes...
Harford Birdlife Nov. 16, 2003 - Jan. 15, 2004
FIELD TRIPS March - May 2004

Christmas Bird Count Results

The 32nd Annual Rock Run Christmas Bird Count was held on Monday December 29, 2003 and 33 birders scoured the countryside for avian species. The weather was mostly sunny and mild with temperatures ranging from 21 to 55 degrees. In the early morning there was frost and frozen ground. Water was open on ponds and rivers. Overall there was a paucity of birds. We managed 94 species for a total of 28,529 individual birds. A Brown Thrasher was noted during the count week but not on count day. Because of the terror alert status we could not access the dam at Fisherman's Park. Gull numbers were way down. Seven groups went owling and found the usual suspects. But the Perry Point group called in a Northern Saw-Whet Owl up close and personal.

1. Oakwood: Bill Pfingsten (23 species) found a vulture roost 71 Black and 25 Turkey Vultures.

2. Rowlandville: Les Eastman, Beth Hill and Wyatt Wallace (51 species) - This trio found the only Snow Goose, American Wigeon and Barred Owl for the count. They also had 12 of the 23 E. Bluebirds on the count.

3. Colora: No coverage.

4. Bainbridge: Scott DeBruyne & Colleen Kretzchmar (43 species)-This duo found some good sparrows including 12 American Tree, 8 Field and 13 White-crowned Sparrows.

5. Perrypoint: Russ Kovach, Dave Ziolkowski, Holly Ponzillo & Maddie Fisher (74 species) - This group not only had the highest count of the day, but had a N. Saw-Whet Owl about 3 feet from them! Thankfully they had the only Mute Swan (3). Merlin and Rusty Blackbird were other good birds for the day.

6. Swan Creek: Tom Congersky (27 species) - Birds were scarce but Tom found the count's only Gray Catbird.

7. Havre de Grace: Rick Cheicante (54 species) - With raging flu symptoms, this veteran managed 6 hours in the field, 5.5 miles on foot. He added the only N. Shoveler, N. Pintail, Green-winged Teal and Horned Lark (30) for the count.

8. Aldino: Mike Burchett & Muksit Jamil (42 species) - This rookie team spotted 2 N. Harrier the only ones for the count.

9. Susquehanna: Mark Johnson & Suzanne Procell (47 species) - These two veteran birders found 2 Wood Duck and the most Golden-crowned Kinglets 16. A feeder counter in the area, Marsha Webb, added 2 Purple Finch among others to the total.

10. Rolling Green: Dave Webb & Jean Wheeler (58 species) - A personal best for this team and the 2nd highest on the count. They had the days' only phoebe and Fox Sparrow.

11 a. Deer Creek: Macrina Seitz & Carol Flora (25 species). The ladies found the only Wild Turkey (4) on the count in many years. Way to go!

11 b. Darlington: Jon Cupp & Bill Collins (37 species) Getting as closed to the Dam as possible, the guys spotted 35 Tundra Swan and 10 A. Bald Eagles, the most on the count.

11 c. Conowingo Dam: No access

12. Dublin: Jean & Larry Fry, Eileen Frey & Colleen Webster (39 species) - This dynamic group found the lone Pine Siskin of the day. They also spotted a good number of raptors including; 2 A-B.Eagle, 1 Sharp-shinned, 1 Cooper's, 2 Red-shouldered, 3 Red-tailed and 1 A. Kestrel. Sadly this Rock Run count is probably the "swan song" for the Fry's. You will be missed.

13. River Flats: Dennis & Kristin Kirkwood, Peter Jay, Gary & Barbara Pensell & Philip McKnight (46 species) These hardy souls spent 6.5 hours in a boat searching the river for all things avian. The numbers of waterfowl and gull were down but they still found 1 Double-crested Cormorant, 215 Canvasback, 90 Bufflehead, 27 Hooded Merganser,4 Red-breasted Merganser and 12 Ruddy Duck.

Even though the birds were scarce, a good time was had by all. Once again we ended the count at Lorna Wortman's for hot stew and homemade bread. Thanks Lorna for hosting the "tally rally". Thanks also to Jean Williams for assisting Lorna.

Next year's CBC will be on Monday December 27, 2004. Mark your calendars!

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Good Birds Warm Winter Birders

Oh the joy of winter! Brutal cold, ice and snow and winter avian specialties! What do you have at your feeders? Pine Siskins and Purple Finches have been seen at feeders around the county. Redpolls have been spotted in Maryland but not yet in Harford County. Keep watching those feeders.

There has been a change in the program for the Friday March 5 meeting. Our speaker will be our very own Dave Ziolkowski! Dave will present a natural history talk and slide show on "Trailside Nature or Things to Watch When Birds Are Scarce". Dave is always an interesting, dynamic speaker, so please try to come.

Please try and join us for dinner prior to the meeting. See the reservation form on the last page of the newsletter.

The Harford Bird Club annual awards will be presented at the meeting. Jean Wheeler

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Calendar of Events

March 5 March Dinner Meeting
March 16 Deadline - Harford Birdlife
March 23 Deadline - Wrenderings
April 17 Earth Day
May 7 May Dinner Meeting
May 8 May Count
June 11 - 14 MOS Conference 2004

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Harford Bird Club Field Notes...

'In Memoriam... - William A. Koch, III, died on December 13, 2003 at the Brethren Retirement Community in New Oxford, Pa. at the age of 86. He had been a member of the Harford Bird Club since 1986. Mr. Koch was born in Chicago and was a resident of Aberdeen for more than fifty years. An extended biography of Mr. Koch will appear next issue.

Welcome New Members - The Harford Bird Club would like to extend a warm welcome to our newest members:

Donna and George Yorkston

Barbara Bilsborough - Long-time member, club secretary and bird bander for many years at Harford Glen, has recently been placed in Copper Ridge, a facility that cares for people with Alzheimer's or dementia. Her new address is Copper Ridge, Room C-16, 710 Obrecht Road, Sykesville, MD 21784. When I last spoke with her, she was delighted to hear from someone from the club, so probably she would enjoy some cards or notes. Jean Williams .

Earth Day - First call for volunteers! Meet-and-greet event on April 17 from 9:30 to 4:00. Great fun that's both educational and PR. Contact Debby Stewart at (410-879-2364) for more information and to sign on as a volunteer.

MOS Conference 2004 - June 11 - 13 at Washington College. For the latest, logon to: www.mdbirds.org.

Special Thanks - To Master Danny Webb. His specially formulated "lard treats" have been the talk of chickadees, titmice, Downy Woodpeckers and juncoes everywhere a winning raffle ticket has been able to put one. Thanks, Danny!

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Image of a Wren over outline of Harford County
Harford Birdlife
Nov. 16, 2003 - Jan. 15, 2004
by Dave Webb

The reporting period began with many people bemoaning an apparent scarcity of birds and delayed migration. For example, Dublin feeder watcher LW noted that her first Dark-eyed Juncos didn't appear until Nov. 18. But eventually reports started picking up, and by the end of the period we treated to a minor irruption of winter finches. For example, CS saw a pair of Purple Finches at the Edgewood Area of APG on Nov. 21. Soon afterwards they turned up at feeders in Creswell (high count 7, Nov. 30 - Jan 15, RC), Cooptown (2, Jan 12, MH), and Webster (Dec. 4 - Jan 15, DW). Pine Siskins made their first appearance as single flyovers at Webster on Nov. 16 (DW), and a pair briefly visited a Creswell feeder on Nov. 30 (RC). The siskin irruption began in earnest on Jan 7 when small flocks came to feeders in Pylesville (JLF) and Bright Oaks (LD). Within a week, they had returned to feeders at Creswell (RC) and Webster (DW). JLF stated that their siskins showed up nearly every day until the end of the reporting period, with a maximum count of a dozen on Jan 15.

Another highlight was the widespread distribution of Bald Eagles. Continued evidence of their population recovery were sightings from the central and western side of the county, including Bright Oaks (single, Dec. 26, LD), Street (pair, Jan 11, SG), Fallston (pair, Jan 15, JC), and Jarrettsville (single, Jan 9, SF). From their stronghold along the eastern waterways came reports of one at Gunpowder SP on Nov. 21 (DZ), 2 at Pooles Island on Nov. 24 (BM), another pair at APG-EA on Dec. 2 (CS), 6 at Swan Harbor on Jan 11 (RC), and 9 at Conowingo on Jan 12 (JC). GF counted a high of 13 Bald Eagles at the dam on Dec. 5.

Certainly the most documented bird was an immature Red-headed Woodpecker, seen along the south end of APG-EA's Hoadley Road. The bird was discovered on Nov. 24 by LE, who watched it from within 20 feet. A day later, CS observed it caching seeds and berries in the top of a dead poplar tree, and on the next day DS watched it chase a Red-bellied Woodpecker from tree to tree. CS documented the immature Red-headed Woodpecker on a regular basis until mid-Jan, and even saw an adult bird with it on Dec. 15.

As Paul Harvey once said, "And now, the rest of the story …"

LOONS & GREBES: The only sightings of these birds were from Nov. 27, when CS found 7 Common Loons, 1 Red-throated Loon and 2 Horned Grebes on the Bush River from APG-EA.

WATERFOWL: JLF heard Tundra Swans migrating over a fog-enshrouded Pylesville on Nov 24, and late at night on Nov 29. Large flocks included 100 on the Bush River on Dec 2 (CS), and 140 on Dipper Creek at APG-AA on Jan 2 (DW). LE saw a pair of Mute Swans on the Gunpowder River on Nov 27, and DW found another pair in the Spesutie Narrows on Jan 2. A gaggle of migrating Snow Geese called above the fog near Dipper Creek on Nov 24 (DW), and just two days later, RK spotted a lone Snow Goose with several Canada Geese in a drainage ditch near Hickory. The only notable inland reports of ducks came from Lake Mitten, where JLF counted 5 Bufflehead on Nov 30 and 7 Hooded Mergansers on Dec 11. High numbers for dabblers were 26 American Black Ducks (Dec 4, Gunpowder River, CS), and 40 each of Gadwall and American Wigeon (Jan 3, Spesutie Narrows, RC). For divers, high counts included 500 Common Mergansers (Jan 12, Susquehanna River, CS); 12 Red-breasted Mergansers (Jan 12, Conowingo Dam, LC); 200 Lesser Scaup (Nov 24, Gunpowder River, LE); 177 Ring-necked Ducks, 75 Canvasbacks, and 25 Ruddy Ducks (Jan 2, Spesutie Narrows, DW); and 25 Bufflehead (Nov 24, Pooles Island, BM). RC found the only Greater Scaup and Redhead on Jan 3, both singles in the Spesutie Narrows.

VULTURES & HAWKS: JC found a high of 15 Black Vultures at Conowingo Dam on Jan 12, a small number compared to previous winters. CS spotted Northern Harriers at several locations on APG-EA thru Dec, including a pair over the Gunpowder River on Dec 6. He also caught glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon there on Nov 21. On Jan 1, RK & DZ observed a Sharp-shinned Hawk unsuccessfully pursue a Red-bellied Woodpecker in a short sprint through woodlands at Gunpowder SP. Another Sharpie stalked the backyard feeders of JLF in Pylesville on Jan 6 & 15. A female Cooper's Hawk hunted the Joppatowne area for much of the period until Christmas (DZ), while another Cooper's Hawk flew over DB's house in Street on Jan 11. LD noted up to 2 Red-shouldered Hawks in his Bright Oaks yard between Dec 31 and Jan 15. Indeed the rarest sighting of the period was logged by RK, who on Dec 19 discovered a Rough-legged Hawk soaring over I-95 Exit 74 at Joppa.

GULLS: No uncommon species were reported, due in part to the security-related closure of Fisherman's Park for nearly three weeks starting in late Dec. However, CS estimated 1000 Laughing Gulls on the Gunpowder River on Nov 17, quite an impressive number this far north in Maryland!

OWLS: Barred Owls were heard calling in Pylesville on the mornings of Dec 31 and Jan 3 (JLF), and one was seen perched in a treetop at Street on Dec 28 (DB). At Gunpowder SP, DZ heard a pair of Great Horned Owls, and saw the male "nuptial feeding" in the late afternoon of Nov 21. This courtship behavior is marked by the male bringing food offerings to a prospective female, in hopes that she will accept him and eventually mate. (This same ritual is practiced by humans.)

WOODPECKERS & KINGFISHER: Backyard Pileated Woodpeckers are always a treat, and that's just what JLF observed on Nov 18 & 25 in Pylesville. DW also had one in his Webster woodlot on New Year's Eve. Then on Jan 14, he found pileateds at 3 different locations in the hurricane-ravaged Chelsea region of APG. Numerous reports were received of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at feeders, including single birds at Creswell (Nov 30, RC), Street (Nov 30, LW), and Bright Oaks (Jan 4 & 15, LD). JLF reported up to two sapsuckers near their Pylesville home for much of the reporting period, and added that this year's sapsucker "crop" was the best they'd seen in several years. All sightings of Belted Kingfishers came from the larger bodies of water in the eastern half of the county -CS spotted a pair at Lapidum on Nov 26, and a single bird along the Gunpowder River on Jan 1. MW also found a single kingfisher on Dec 31 in the marshes of Swan Creek.

FLYCATCHERS, NUTHATCHES & WRENS: On Christmas Eve, DZ saw our only Eastern Phoebe perched right outside of his house in Joppatowne. Individual Brown Creepers showed up at feeders in Creswell on Nov 30 (RC), Pylesville on Dec 11 & 18 (JLF), and Bright Oaks on Jan 4 (LD). JLF and MH hosted up to 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches at their respective Pylesville and Cooptown backyards throughout most of the reporting period. LE also saw one at his house near Susquehanna SP on Jan 7, while DW found a flock of 5 in Churchville on Dec 24. DZ and RK discovered an overwintering House Wren skulking in a hedgerow at Gunpower SP on Jan 1.

THRUSHES & MIMIDS: Eastern Bluebirds visited several Harford backyards, including singles in Dublin on Nov. 22 (LW) and Pylesville on Dec. 18 (JLF), and 5 in Street on Jan 6 (DB). CS found two large flocks of bluebirds totaling 35 birds at APG-EA on Nov. 25. Between Nov. 18 and Dec. 20, JLF had several flocks of American Robins visit their Pylesville neighborhood, ranging from 5 to 15 birds. The high count for robins was 20, seen by BV in Vale Hills on Nov. 17. DB noted a Hermit Thrush at her bird bath in Street everyday from Jan 9-13, and CS found 5 of them feeding in the snowplow clearings scattered about APG-EA on Dec. 6. DB also found a pair of Ruby-crowned Kinglets in laurel thickets on her property on Dec. 28, while on the same day CS found one along the Gunpowder River. DW saw a single ruby-crown foraging in downtown Havre de Grace on Jan 8. Golden-crowned Kinglet reports included a pair in Pylesville on Dec. 11 (JLF), and a trio at Gunpowder SP on New Year's Day (RK & DZ). Single Gray Catbirds were found at Mullins Park on Dec. 31 (DW), and at Swan Harbor on Jan 11 (RC). The only Brown Thrasher discovered was one at Chelsea on Jan 14 (DW).

WAXWINGS & WARBLERS: Several large flocks of Cedar Waxwings were reported throughout the period from Pylesville (JLF), with a high count of 60 on Nov. 18. CS saw 30 of them at APG-EA on Nov. 27, and RC found a flock of 6 on Jan 11 at Swan Harbor. Single Yellow-rumped Warblers showed up at a couple of backyards - DB in Street saw hers at a bird bath on Jan 2, and LD in Bright Oaks watched his eating suet just two days later. By mid-October most Northern Parulas have migrated through our area en route to wintering grounds in the West Indies and Central America. So GF's account of a female parula on Dec. 4 along the Mason-Dixon Trail at Conowingo is truly exceptional. This hardy bird was foraging on the ground in the company of a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

SPARROWS: Fox Sparrows were reported from several locations, including single birds at Gunpowder SP (Nov. 16, PP), Creswell (Nov. 30, RC), Lake Mitten (Nov. 30, JLF), and APG-EA (Dec. 2 & 6, CS). DZ & RK had a nice day sparrow "hunting" in Joppatowne on Jan 1, turning up a pair of Fox Sparrows, 11 Swamp Sparrows, 7 Field Sparrows, and 45 American Tree Sparrows. DZ also found our first-arriving American Tree Sparrows there, a flock of 4 on Nov. 21. Other single-digit flocks of tree sparrows were later spotted at APG-EA (Nov. 27, CS), Mullins Park (Dec. 31, DW), and Perryman (Jan 3, RC). RC found our only two Savannah Sparrows, and a high count of 15 White-crowned Sparrows at Perryman on Jan 3. Small white-crown flocks also showed up at Gunpowder SP in Joppatowne on Nov 21 (DZ), and at Level on Dec 21 (DW). RC's feeders in Creswell must have tasty seed, as up to 2 Chipping Sparrows decided to overwinter there instead of head south to warmer climates.

BLACKBIRDS: At the south end of Hoadley Road on APG-EA, CS found the only Rusty Blackbirds -- a pair on Dec 4, and a single female feeding on the ground on Dec 15.

We conclude this column with an account of aggravated assault and kidnapping in Pylesville. On Jan 9, a Blue Jay visited JLF's backyard with the innocuous intent of ingesting a meal of sunflower seeds. Without provocation or warning, a Cooper's Hawk ambushed the jay, piercing it with razored talons and pinning it to the ground. The hawk began to defeather his prey and tear at its flesh, while the terrified jay squawked helplessly. Then the hawk clutched the jay tightly, and flew off with it. As the two disappeared from sight, the jay could by heard crying in vain for help. Despite plenty of clues left behind at the crime scene, investigators have not yet made an arrest in this case and can only assume the worst for the victim.

Contributors: Debbie Bowers (DB), Rick Cheicante (RC), Jon Cupp, Sr (JC), Lynn Davis (LD), Les Eastman (LE), Greg Futral (GF), Jean & Larry Fry (JLF), Steve Grossi (SG), Marjorie Heagy (MH), Sam Jones (SJ), Russ Kovach (RK), Barry Marsh (BM), Phil Powers (PP), Don Soubie (DS), Chris Starling (CS), Bethany Vangrin (BV), Dave Webb (DW), Marsha Webb (MW), Linda Weeks (LW), and Dave Ziolkowski (DZ).

Please email your sightings of the usual and the unusual to porzana@comcast.net, or snailmail them to Dave Webb, 4141 Quail Way, Havre de Grace, 21078. The timeframe for the next column is Jan 16 thru Mar 15. My thanks to everyone who contributed to this report, and to retiring columnist Jean Fry for all of her hard work these past four years.

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February - March 2004

Saturday, February 21: Maryland And Delaware Shore: A perennial favorite of local birders this full day adventure visits some of Delmarva's birding mega-hotspots in search of winter waifs and northern strays. Target birds include Northern Gannet, Eiders, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Snowy Owl, Great Cormorant, and Brown-headed Nuthatch. Bring lunch and warm, comfortable clothing. Meet at the MD 155 and I-95 park-n-ride at 6:30 a.m. Contact leader Les Eastman at les@birdtreks.com for more information.

Saturday, March 6: Swan Harbor: This recently acquired park on the Oakington Peninsula offers 469 acres of bay side rolling farmland, undeveloped woodland, and brushy meadows. Possibility for Bald Eagle, Wilson's Snipe, a good mix of ducks, and wintering sparrows. Meet at the park headquarters at the end of the entrance road at 8:00 a.m. Contact leader Lynn Davis at lynnd@ iximd.com for more details.

Wednesday, March 10: Timberdoodle watch: The first in a pair of early evening trips the American Woodcock, a seemingly confused, and exceedingly plump, little shorebird that prefers wooded fields and forest. Hear them call and watch them spring into a mating ritual that includes musical twitters, an upward spiraling flight followed by a "falling leaf"-like descent, and pumps and rushes once back on terra firma. Dress warmly and meet the team of Powers and Bowers at the east end of the Aberdeen Wal-mart parking lot at 6:00 p.m. Contact both Phil and Debbie at bowerspub@hotmail.com and birdsinmd@prodigy.net for more details.

Sunday, March 14: Loch Raven Reservoir: Join Dave Larkin and Phil Powers to explore one of Baltimore's most scenic waterscapes. Just 6 miles north of downtown Towson, this water reservoir and its surrounding forest is a magnet for pine-loving songbirds and waterfowl. Ring-necked Duck, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Fox Sparrow are likely to be seen. Meet leaders at 7:30 a.m. at the MD 152 and MD 147 park-n-ride. Contact dlarkin@towson.edu for details.

Wednesday, March 17: Timberdoodle watch: The second early evening trip of a pair. See March 10 for description.

Sunday, March 21: Harford Waterfowl Tour: Marvel at thousands of Lesser Scaup and search for species that are tough to find locally, such as Surf Scoter, Redhead, Long-tailed Duck, and Northern Shoveler. Beginners interested in learning the basics of waterfowl identification and experienced watchers searching for rarities will enjoy this morning trip to the Gunpowder River and Havre de Grace. Scopes are helpful, although not necessary. Dress warmly and MUST BRING PHOTO ID. Meet at 6:00 a.m. in back lot of the Rt. 40 McDonald's in Edgewood. Contact trip leader Dave Webb at 410-939-3537 for trip details.

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Please return to Eileen Nack, 8 Cresmont Drive, Aberdeen MD 21001 by Friday February 27, 2004. __________ Number of adults ( at $11.00 each ) __________ Number of children 12 and under ( at $7.00 each ) Please make checks payable to Harford County MOS. _______________________________ Print your name(s) Include address and phone number if you would like transportation to the meeting. _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ TEL:___________________________

Please send any comments to Les Eastman.
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