Bimonthly Membership Meeting
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
7:30 PM -- 10:00 PM
Phipps Garden Center, Shady Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Ninety-seven individuals attended 3RBC's February 2019 meeting, which featured a presentation by Aidan Place, a remarkably accomplished young birder. His presentation, an Israeli Bird Race for Conservation, told the story of his participation in an international birding challenge in Israel that raised money to help fight bird poaching in Eurasia. Three individuals were welcomed as first time attendees.

President Sheree Daugherty called the meeting to order at 7:30 pm, her first as president. She asked attendees to turn off cell phones; reminded everyone to sign up for door prizes; called attention to the free, not-to-be-returned magazines and periodicals; and thanked and recognized all those who brought snacks for the food table. She then made the following announcements:

    • Bob VanNewkirk, the club's former president, fell on the ice outside his back door and broke his leg. The unfortunate accident happened about a week ago, so Bob is out of commission for a while. Two get-well cards were circulated, and many contributed comments.

    • A further consequence of Bob's accident: he was to lead the joint 3RBC/Fern Hollow Nature Center (FHNC) outing on February 16. Susie Moffatt, of FHNC, spoke, and told the attendees that she and April Claus will be at the outing, but, since both she and April are intermediate level birders, they would greatly welcome the presence of at least one experienced birder. She asked anyone interested to contact her. Birding takes place at Sewickley Heights Park, upper parking lot, beginning at 9:00 am sharp and ending around 11:30 am. A bonus! A pot luck lunch will follow, featuring lots of yummy food! Check the website for details.

    • President Daugherty thanked Steve Thomas for agreeing to take over the job of documenting the club's meetings and outings history. She also thanked Mike Fialkovich, who had done this job since the club's inception. She also thanked Steve and Suzanne Thomas for helping Tom Moeller with the work of folding and mailing The Peregrine, a thankless but vital task.

    • 3RBC member Johanna Sholder announced that the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program has two more openings for its upcoming class. She highly recommended participating in the statewide partnership initiative that aims to connect people with their local ecosystems through intensive natural science training and local conservation service work.

    • As many members have already heard, Phipps Conservatory - owner of the facility where 3RBC holds its meetings - is planning a major reconstruction/renovation of the Garden Center, a project that will probably take at least one year. This work will impact the club in major ways in the upcoming months. First and most important, the club will be forced to relocate its meetings during the construction period; the new location will be at another Phipps facility, Botany Hall in Oakland near the Conservatory's main structures. We expect to begin using this new location in the fall of 2019, probably for the October meeting. This change will necessitate changes on our part, and we will have to adapt. One change that we know about already: no food is permitted in the new location. Although we will be perhaps be inconvenienced in the short term, after all this is done, we will be meeting in a brand new space! In advance of this move, and as we find things out, we will make announcements at meetings and post all the details in The Peregrine, on the club's website and on our social media outlets. Check these places often!

President Daugherty then turned the business portion of the meeting over to the club's new vice president, Mike Fialkovich who made announcements and called for reports as follows:

    The Peregrine's editor Paul Hess was unable to attend, so Mike announced that the upcoming issue would contain articles as follows: President Daugherty on getting involved in conservation through birding; Brian Shema reports on Christmas Bird Count results; Tom Moeller, whose Observations column will be on how birds keep warm in winter; Claire Staples writes an exciting essay about her recent birding experiences in Argentina, with gorgeous photos; and of course, many excellent photos by a number of club members.

    • Treasurer Tom Moeller gave the financial report. He disclosed that the club now has 302 memberships, which translates into more than 400 individual members! Because of the healthy membership, we are very financially secure at this time. He reminded us that the US Post Office had recently raised postage rates, but following a logic inexplicable to ordinary mortals, has actually reduced the rate for the second ounce, resulting in a lower postage rate for newsletter mailings saving the club $2.25 per mailing. "A penny saved is a penny earned," saith the Treasurer.

    • Webmaster Tom Moeller reported that by year's end he at long last finished the task of posting all the past club minutes on the website. He thanked Pat and Sherron Lynch and Frank Moone for their work on compiling them. To go along with the past minutes, Mike Fialkovich provided two additional data sets for posting. The first is a listing of all of Mike's Allegheny County Bird Lists, going back to the club's origin. The second is the club's complete outings history, also going back to the beginning. Tom reported that links to these now exist on the club site. A new item on the website is a birding report by Pat and Sherron Lynch, who escaped January's cold on their trip to Jamaica, where they found 111 species, including 39 life birds. Luckily they made it back in time for the Polar Vortex! On the Facebook page, there will be an interesting webinar series from Penn State, on hawks, called 'Hawk Talk: Hoo's In Your Backyard.' These are two hour-long sessions, one at noon and repeating at 7:00 pm, February 12. You can also find an interesting story about a half-male, half-female Cardinal (called bilateral gynandromorphism), and several other interesting stories.

    • Steve Thomas, the club's Outings Coordinator, reported that we are now moving into the spring outing season.

          - Saturday, February 16, Sewickley Heights Borough Park. Join Susie Moffatt and April Claus for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Meet at the upper parking lot to bird from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm. There will be a pot luck luncheon afterwards at the Fern Hollow Nature Center. Please bring something to share with the group.

          - Wednesday, March 20 and 27, Woodcock Walk participants meet leader Tom Byrnes off exit 11 of Route 28 at 7:00 am. Be prepared for a muddy walk and bring a flashlight.

          - Sunday, March 24, Moraine State Park outing leader Michael David will meet participants at the Moraine State Park Day Use area (south shore) in the first parking lot on the right at 8:30 am for our first visit of the year to Moraine State Park. Waterfowl and early spring migrants can make this outing a highlight of the season. Allow for one hour driving time from Pittsburgh.

          - Sunday, March 31, Pymatuning State Park, leader Bob VanNewkirk, 8:30 am, all-day outing, meet in the parking lot of the former site of the Pymatuning Wildlife Learning Center (Waterfowl Museum) which is located at 12590 Hartstown Road, Linesville, PA. Since this is an early spring outing, monitor the club's website in case of inclement weather.

          - In April outings really start gearing up, with offerings including: Yellow Creek, Raccoon State Park, Sewickley Heights Park, Frick Park and Glade Run in April, and in May, Deer Lakes, Presque Isle, Sewickley Heights Park, Cook Forest, Harrison Hills, and more, ending up with our annual Picnic at the end of June. This year the picnic will be held at Harrison Hills Park, at the pavilion that is near the Nature Center. As always, check the website or Facebook for details.

    • Mike Fialkovich presented the recent bird sightings report for Allegheny County. Since his last report, new bird sightings highlights include the following: Tundra Swans flying over Greenfield and Duck Hollow; a late Snow Goose at Hampton, Allegheny Cemetery, and along the Allegheny at Sharpsburg; Gadwall at Findlay and Harmar Townships; Northern Pintail at Imperial; a very late Ruby-throated Hummingbird at a feeder in Ross Township, December 6; Killdeer in South Park; Turkey Vultures have been wide spread, with 35 sighted at Jefferson Borough and 27 in Franklin Park; Eastern Phoebe at Boyce-Mayview Park; Red-breasted Nuthatches have been widespread; Winter Wrens reported on the Christmas Bird Count; a very late Grey Catbird in Monroeville; Purple Finches in Indiana Township, Fox Chapel, and North Park; late Eastern Towhees at Harrison Hills, Penn Hills, O'Hara Township, and Fox Chapel; late Field Sparrows at Pine Township, Indiana Township, Frick Park, Jefferson Borough, North Park, and Boyce Park; Swamp Sparrow at Fox Chapel; White-crown Sparrows at Findlay Township; late Red-winged Blackbirds in Pine Township; an Eastern Meadowlark at Imperial; and a very late Cape May Warbler at a feeder in O'Hara Township; Rough-legged Hawk in Findlay Township; Paul Hess sighted a Northern Goshawk at his house in Natrona Heights; Merlin in Schenley Park, Killbuck Township, North Park; Northern Shrike at Imperial; and Pine Siskins have been reported at feeders throughout the area.

Vice President Fialkovich then turned the meeting over to Tessa Rhinehart, who introduced her friend Aidan Place, a remarkably accomplished young birder. She told us that Aidan grew up in western Pennsylvania but has birded all over the globe; at the age of 20, he has visited 35 countries. Last year he lived on his own in Bosnia Herzegovina. He is in Pittsburgh presently, getting a biology degree at CMU.

His presentation, an Israeli Bird Race for Conservation, tells the story of his participation in an international birding challenge in Israel in March 2018 that raised money to help fight bird poaching in Eurasia. The competition is part of Champions of the Flyway, a now well-known fund and awareness raising event in global birding and conservation circles. The race is a 24 hour contest to see as many bird species as possible in a given area. Contestant teams are international, with many countries represented. Teams are charged with raising money for bird conservation.
Aidan Place
This year's competition was to raise funds to combat bird poaching in the Mediterranean Basin, an uncommon practice to most North Americans, but which is a huge issue in this part of the world. Twenty-five million birds are poached annually, with Egypt, Italy, and Lebanon the leading offenders. Surprisingly, most are for food, though sport hunting and the cage-bird trade also significantly contribute. The most notorious example of small birds being used as cuisine is in France, where the Ortolan Bunting, a tiny songbird that summers across Western Europe and winters in Africa, is considered a vulnerable species. It is eaten by the millions, a featured item in both ordinary and extremely high-end restaurants. European eating establishments - in France and elsewhere - often feature birds that they know are illegally caught. A local tradition reveals the internal struggle - that eaters know they are doing something shameful, but do it anyhow: French diners, before eating Ortolan Bunting, cover their heads with a napkin, so god won't see them partaking of the unworthy act of eating this beautiful songbird.

Birds like quail are popular targets, usually caught by using a mist net, or - even worse - the gruesome glue stick. The European Goldfinch is bought and sold as a pet in incredible numbers in the cage-bird trade in Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus, Bosnia, Serbia, and Albania. (Some of the money raised by the competition was used in Serbia and Croatia to combat Goldfinch poaching.)

The main problems in this area are corruption, poverty and lack of law enforcement infrastructure, all of which worsened after the region's civil war of the 90's. Another problem for conservation is apathy on the part of political and regional leaders, who have been quoted as saying, "they do not care" about the fate of the songbirds that they are having for dinner.

The reason that conservation is especially important in this area is that Israel is located on a major flyway - migrants from Africa come up the Red Sea - so saving the birds that come through this area is, in effect, saving the birds of the areas that these birds come from or return to as well. Sights unusual to the North American birder - such as very large flocks of eagles - are common here, as migrating birds are funneled through Israel. Birders are treated to not only migrants, but to unusual desert birds as well.

As was expected, and despite many adventures, the team completed the competition, seeing a wide array of birds, photos of many which Aidan showed the attendees. His three person team finished a with 147 species, and raised $6,000 for the cause, a respectable first effort indeed, ending 13th in a field of 32. (For reference, the winners saw186 species.)

Following the presentation, President Daugherty announced that the next meeting will be held on April 3 at the Phipps Garden Center, 1059 Shady Avenue in Shadyside. The evening's presentation will be given by Mike Fialkovich, 3RBC's new vice president, who recently completed a tour of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas to see the area's famous bird and other wildlife specialties. Mike will tell us about that exciting trip and share his beautiful photographs of birds, other wildlife, and plants. Doors open at 6:30 pm for socializing, and the business meeting begins at 7:30 pm sharp, with the program starting at 8:00.

President Daugherty adjourned the meeting.

— prepared by Frank Moone on 2-17-2019

Image Gallery

Mission of 3RBC

To gather in friendship, to enjoy the wonders of nature and to share our passion for birds!

© Photo Credits:
Sherron Lynch, Tom Moeller, Brian Shema, and Chuck Tague