Bimonthly Membership Meeting
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
7:30 PM -- 10:00 PM
Phipps Garden Center, Shady Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Ninety-one individuals attended 3RBC's April 2019 meeting, which featured a presentation by club vice president, Mike Fialkovich. His presentation recounted his tour of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas last fall to see the area's famous bird and other wildlife specialties and featured his beautiful photographs of birds, other wildlife, and many plants. Five individuals were welcomed as first time attendees.

President Sheree Daugherty called the meeting to order at 7:30 pm. 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:

• Award winning photos from the 2018 Audubon Photography Contest will be on display at Jennings Environmental Education Center from April 3-24, 2019, hosted by the Bartramian Audubon Society. This is one of the most prestigious awards in nature photography. The winning photographers and stunning photographs were selected from more than 8,000 entries submitted by photographers from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 10 Canadian provinces. The display includes the Grand Prize winner, winners in the Professional, Amateur, and Youth divisions, and other images from the top 100 entries. Jennings is the only location in western Pennsylvania where this traveling exhibit can be seen. Contact the folks at the Bartramian Audubon for more information (

Other announcements were made by various members.

• Members who wish to take advantage of a wonderful multi-day birding opportunity should consider participating in the Brooks Bird Club's Annual West Virginia Foray, scheduled to be held on June 7-15 in Elkins, West Virginia. The Foray is held each June in a different region of West Virginia. There will be classes and field work in birds, ferns, mosses, flowers, grasses, trees, geology, fungi, butterflies, herptiles and small mammals, as well as two excellent speakers. At a cost of only $250 for the entire experience, including all meals (!), the Foray is an excellent value! For more information, visit

• Fern Hollow Nature Center's Susie Moffett announced that the center will host its sixth annual Big Day of Birding on April 27, running from 6:00am to 7:00pm. This year's area has been expanded. Teams who wish to compete must register in advance. There is no charge to participate. For information, visit

• The Steel Valley Trail Council is sponsoring the Raptor Row Ride, a bicycle ride on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail to celebrate the success of the raptors nesting near the trail. The ride will include a visit to the Osprey nest just past Kennywood Park and to the Hays Bald Eagle nest. Experienced 3RBC members and others will be at the various raptor nest sites and most, if not all, sites will have scopes available for close up viewing of the nest sites and any raptors that may be present. This ride is a fundraiser for the Steel Valley Trail Council. For more information, please visit

• 3RBC member and National Aviary volunteer Jim Jeffries announced that the Aviary is in need of docents. Those who might be interested should visit the Aviary's website,

• Jack Solomon made three announcements:

    - Last year Aidan Place's birding team, the "ABA - Leica Subadult Wheatears" (as the team is called) recorded a respectable 134 species and raised $5,400 for the 2018 Champions of the Flyway contest for bird conservation. This year's race is for bird conservation and ending the horrific poisoning and killing of vultures in the African Rift Valley. Go to the ABA's site ( to make a contribution or for more information.

    - Many 3RBC members - about 60 from western Pennsylvania and/or 3RBC - attend the festivities at The Biggest Week in American Birding, a birding festival in northwest Ohio, "the Warbler Capital of the World." The official festival is from May 3-12, and good birding and companionship with other - often expert - birders is the norm. Please consider attending and connecting with your fellow 3RBC birders while there.

    - Croatian artist Maxo Vanka painted a series of striking murals on the walls of St. Nicholas Church in Millvale in 1937 and 1941. Combining religion with strong social commentary, the murals are reminiscent of the social realism style murals of that period, notably by Diego Rivera, among others. Some of Vanka's amazing murals feature birds, and Vanka himself had an interest in birds, so church docent and accomplished cellist David Bennet is developing a tour of the murals - to be held sometime this summer - highlighting the bird theme. As a special treat, the tour will conclude with cello music performed in the sanctuary by David. Those on the tour will be asked to make a small donation for the upkeep of the murals. As an added bonus, Jack is organizing a dinner to take place at a nearby restaurant before the tour. Contact him for details.

The Peregrine's Editor Paul Hess previewed the upcoming issue.

    —    The newsletter will carry an article about the theme of this year's Champions of the Flyway contest for bird conservation. As Jack Solomon noted, Aidan Place's birding team is once again participating. The article will talk about the race and the horrific poisoning and killing of critically endangered vultures in the African Rift Valley.

    —    The "President's Message" in this issue will feature Sheree Daugherty's informative article about bird identification and feather anatomy, and what to call the common bird features you see. It will be especially helpful to beginning birders.

    —    Tom Moeller's "Observations" column provides a thorough examination of one of the most fascinating (and often hated) birds, the Cowbird. While we may not like them, these are highly interesting birds!

    —    The club's Program Coordinator Dave Brooke has penned a nice article, accompanied by beautiful photos of a recent trip to Florida.

    —    Kate St. John offers an article about a trip to Hawaii that she and other 3RBC members took recently. The highlight was seeing very rare birds that only exist in a tiny geographical area.

    —    3RBC member and expert photographer Cris Hamilton has a series of pictures that feature detailed views of a Red-bellied Woodpecker's tongue, showing tiny inward-facing barbs that facilitate feeding.

    —    The life of Bill Thompson III will be eulogized in an article noting his recent passing in March at the age of 57. Bill was publisher and editor of Bird Watcher's Digest and the author of numerous books on birds and nature and made a memorable presentation to the club, made notable by his singing and guitar playing.

• Treasurer Tom Moeller gave the financial report. He disclosed that the club now has 309 memberships, which translates into more than 400 individual members! He noted that this growth is a testament to the fact that 3RBC is one fine place to have a pleasant social experience while learning about birding. As he reported last meeting, because of the healthy membership, the club is financially secure at this time.

• Webmaster Tom Moeller reported that after adding all the club's meeting minutes from its beginning, all the club histories, and all the Allegheny County bird sightings, he has now added a page dedicated to the discovery by Lowell Burket of the three-species warbler and news articles that this momentous event has engendered. One story of note concerns Dr. David Toews, who was contacted by Lowell Burket in May 2018 to help work out the problem of his odd warbler. As a result of his work here and other research, David will be receiving the Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Award given by the American Ornithological Society. The award recognizes outstanding and promising work by an ornithologist early in his or her career and who shows distinct promise for future leadership in the field. Tom also noted that the Facebook page is up to date; he thanked Jack Solomon and Frank Izaguirre for helping with responses.

• Steve Thomas, the club's Outings Coordinator, reported that we are now in the spring outing season with more than a dozen outings offered. Outings in April and May include these:

    -   Saturday, April 6, Yellow Creek State Park
    -   Wednesday, April 10, Woodcock Walk
    -   Saturday, April 20, Raccoon Creek State Park
    -   Friday, April 26, Sewickley Heights Borough Park
    -   Saturday, April 27, Frick Park
    -   Sunday, April 28, Glade Run Lake Park
    -   Friday, May 3, Moraine State Park - North Shore
    -   Saturday, May 4, Deer Lakes Park
    -   Friday, May 10, Presque Isle State Park
    -   Friday, May 10, Sewickley Heights Borough Park
    -   Saturday, May 11, Cook Forest
    -   Saturday, May 11, Frick Park
    -   Saturday, May 18, Harrison Hills Park

Also, remember the club's 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 outing details.

• Mike Fialkovich presented the recent bird sightings report for Allegheny County. He announced that early migrants have returned and are moving through, including Eastern Towhee, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Phoebe and Chipping Sparrows. Since his last report, new bird sightings highlights include the following: Tundra Swans heard over Verona at night; Snow Goose in Sharpsburg and North Park; American Wigeon in Imperial, Findlay Township, Wingfield Pines and Duck Hollow; Blue-winged Teal at Wingfield Pines; Gadwall at Duck Hollow; Northern Shovelers at Imperial; Northern Pintail at Imperial; Redheads at Imperial; Long-tailed Duck in Cheswick and Aspinwall Marina; Horned Grebe at Duck Hollow; Red-necked Grebe at Fox Chapel Harbor and Tarentum; Common Loons at North Park and Duck Hollow; Northern Goshawk at Natrona Heights; Merlin at North Park, Schenley Park, Shaler and Bethel Park; Osprey in Duquesne; Bonaparte's Gull at Duck Hollow and Natrona Heights Dam; Wilson's Snipe at Wingfield Pines; American Woodcock at Wingfield Pines and Boyce-Mayview Park; Barred Owl at Boyce-Mayview Park; Northern Shrike at Imperial; Winter Wrens at Frick Park; Ruby-crowned Kinglet at a feeder next to Frick Park (very unusual for this time of year!); Grey Catbird in Monroeville; Purple Finches in Pine Township; Eastern Towhee in Harrison Hills Park; Chipping Sparrows in Cheswick; Field Sparrows at Pine Township; Vesper Sparrows at Pine Township; Pine Siskins at North Park, Bethel Park and elsewhere; and Rusty Blackbird in Pine Township.

• Program Coordinator Dave Brooke announced that Julie Zickefoose will be the featured speaker at the club's next meeting. The artist, writer, naturalist, and author will discuss her book, Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest, on Wednesday, June 5. Doors open at 6:30 PM for socializing, a business meeting begins at 7:30, and the program starts at 8:00.

Mark VanderVen then cleverly introduced his friend and fellow birder and the evening's speaker, 3RBC Vice President Mike Fialkovich. Mark asked the audience a series of humorous and entertaining trivia questions about Mike, awarding prizes to those with the correct answers.

Mike then presented a program featuring highlights of his recently completed tour of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas to see the area's famous bird and other wildlife specialties. Mike explained that this part of Texas is rich in ecology and home to both many year-round birds as well as uncommon breeding birds, and it is one of the premier birding hotspots in the country. Known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the lower four counties of Texas contain a documented 1,200 plants, 300 butterflies, and approximately 700 vertebrates, of which at least 520 are birds. The region hosts some of the grandest assortment of birds found in North America when considering residents, rarities, and migrants. It is a truly unique area of the world where several major biomes converge. Geologic and geographic changes, coupled with evolutionary adaptation, have resulted in many plant and animal communities in the four most southern counties of Texas. Many of these are found in and protected by the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Mike Fialkovich
Mike explained that the climate is semi-arid, with less than 20 inches of annual rainfall. The forest is a subtropical, with scrub forest intermixed, and is very dense, virtually impenetrable, yet the trees are not very tall. Many are legumes that produce pods with seeds - perfect for bird feeding. The dominant trees are Sabal Palms, Texas Ebony, cedar, elm and mesquite. While Mike is a consummate birder, he is also an all-around naturalist. So, in addition to many fine photos of birds, his presentation featured photos of a large number of the plants, animals and insects - especially butterflies - that abound in this area. Some of the birds he showed us included Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Common Pauraque, Plain Chachalaca, Green Kingfisher, Green Parakeet, and Red-crowned Parrot, among many, many others.

As Mike and his group birded, they stopped at several World Birding Centers, designated as such by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and their local communities. These consist of nine key areas for experiencing the bird life in South Texas. The tour's first stop was the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, which preserves the last remaining stand of Sabal Palms in Texas; once covering 40,000 acres, this last stand of the palms now occupies less than 50 acres. Among the sites he visited was one that didn't always exist: World Bird Center Estero Llano Grande State Park is a recently created wetland/marsh. His tour concluded in another World Bird Center, Resaca de la Palma State Park. Before dams and water control structures significantly reduced the flow of the Rio Grande, periodic floods cut shifting channels into the delta creating crescent-shaped oxbows, referred to in the Valley as resacas. These resacas, complemented by dense bottomland hardwood forest, are characteristic of the Mid-Valley Riparian Woodlands biotic community. This habitat is particularly favored by birds such as chachalacas and Green Jays, as well as another endangered and elusive cat, the jaguarundi. Spanish moss clings to cedar, elm, and Texas Ebony. Found throughout the delta, brush-bordered resacas typical of this community attract many of the Neotropical migrants and waterfowl that funnel through the Valley on their way to and from Central and South America.

Following Mike's presentation, President Daugherty adjourned the meeting.

— prepared by Frank Moone on 4-14-2019

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