Bimonthly Membership Meeting
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
7:30 PM -- 10:00 PM
Phipps Garden Center, Shady Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Seventy-six individuals attended 3RBC's February meeting - the first of the 2020 decade - which featured Brian Shema, giving his presentation featuring bird behavior and adaptations, titled "Birds from Eco-tours to North, Central and South America."

Seven first-time attendees were in the audience.

3RBC 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 announcements and called for announcements/reports from the floor:

•  President Daugherty reminded the attendees that Phipps Conservatory is planning a very extensive reconstruction and renovation of its Garden Center, where the club meets. After many fits and starts, it seems that construction will actually begin sometime in early 2021. The good news for 3RBC is that we will be able to remain in our present location through all of 2020. The club has executed a contract with Phipps through December 2020, so our meeting space is secure through then. As we have been saying, after that, and during the lengthy construction project, the club will most probably meet at Botany Hall on the Phipps campus in Oakland's Schenley Park. Details will be provided as they are revealed!

•  Sheree announced that The Peregrine is now being sent to 103 email addresses. A third of the club's members are getting the magazine electronically! This saves trees, printing and postage costs, and makes the tedious job of folding and mailing much lighter. (the latter much appreciated by our team of Tom Moeller and Suzanne and Steve Thomas, who do the work!)

•  President Daugherty officially recognized and thanked Gabi Hughes, who was among the attendees. She thanked her for her contribution to the club by providing invaluable hours of behind the scenes editorial work preparing The Peregrine for publication. Thanks, Gabi!

•  The Peregrine's editor Paul Hess was unable to attend, so, on his behalf, Sheree gave his report and previewed the upcoming March/April Peregrine. Issue highlights include:

    -  President's Message Sheree noted that she set aside the article she had originally intended to write for this issue when the Painted Bunting showed up. Instead, she thought it would be a good time to use her President's Message to reemphasize the ABA Code of Birding Ethics. Circumstances make birder etiquette and behavior an especially timely topic given the arrival of the colorful visitant at an O'Hara Township feeder, where more than 400 eager birders (and counting!) have made the pilgrimage to see this rare visitor. She noted that the issue is ongoing since it looks like the bird will overwinter at the feeder. She urged everyone to see the bird but follow best practices, especially when the bird is on someone else's property.

    -  Tom's Observations column will tell about the fascinations of birding at Machias Seal Island off Maine. He'll have terrific photos in The Peregrine and in his online gallery.

    -  Brian Shema has a summary of the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count, and there will be recaps of the South Hills and Buffalo Creek Valley CBCs as well.

    -  Jim Valimont has an article, with good photos by a participant, about his recent trip to Peru.

    -  Frank Izaguirre has an article, with photos, about his recent visit to the Florida Keys, where the highlight was a super-rare Antillean Palm-Swift from the Caribbean.

    -  An interesting short article about a Great Horned Owl diving into a pond in Fawn Township - too dark to tell whether it caught a bullfrog or a fish.

    -  Lots of other short articles with interesting photos.

    -  Paul reports that he had one small compensation today: a flock of five or six Tundra Swans flew over his house this morning, going north; he heard them from his office, and by the time he ran to the front porch, they were partly hidden by bare branches and he couldn't get a precise count. Early migrants already, Paul thinks they sense lots of open water up north.

•  Treasurer Tom Moeller gave the financial report. He noted that the club remains vital and prosperous; after losing memberships to relocations, non-renewals, and even one death, we have gained others - including four more tonight! We now have 317 memberships, which translates into well over 400 individual members and proves we are a growing and vibrant club. As always, he thanked both those who have renewed and those who have just started this year!

•  Webmaster Tom Moeller informed the audience that our site contains a link to a story about a rare Bald Eagle sighting in Japan. A Japanese friend of 3RBC member Trini Regaspi sent her an article on a Bald Eagle appearing in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, on January 27, 2020, the first reported Bald Eagle in Japan! Hokkaido has a large population of Steller's Sea Eagles, but now there is a new species there. Westerners yearn to see Asian birds that may fly east to Alaska or the West Coast and record them as ABA sightings, but this is a North American bird that flew west to Japan, giving Japanese birders a treat. Regaspi provided the link to the Japanese paper. The club's listing is the first of this rare Japanese event! An exclusive international first!

•  Steve Thomas, the club's Outings Coordinator, was not able to attend, so Sheree gave his report on the club's many early spring outings. She reminded everyone to always check the club's website or the Facebook page for details should the weather be iffy! She also asked everyone to recall that the club's outings are its greatest achievement, the reason it exists, with more than thirty events presented annually, all free, each one to a productive birding location, and each one led by an experienced birder. No other organization can claim this historic achievement! (And all done by volunteers! No wonder we have so many members!)

    -  Wednesday, March 18 - Woodcock Walk
    -  Sunday, March 29 - Pymatuning State Park
    -  Saturday, April 4 - Yellow Creek State Park
    -  Wednesdays, April 8 and 15 - Woodcock Walk
    -  Sunday, April 11 - Moraine State Park
    -  Saturday, April 18 - Raccoon Creek State Park
    -  Friday, April 24 - Sewickley Heights Borough Park
    -  Sunday, April 25 - Frick Park
    -  Sunday, April 26 - Glade Run Lake Park
    -  Friday, May 1 - Sewickley Heights Borough Park
    -  Saturday, May 2 - Harrison Hills
    -  Sunday, May 17 - State Game Lands 95 - Glade Dam Lake
    -  Sunday, June 14 - Annual 3RBC Picnic at Harrison Hills

•  3RBC Vice President Mike Fialkovich presented the recent bird sightings report for Allegheny County. Blue-winged Teal at Wingfield Pines (not common here in the winter); 88 Wild Turkeys at Imperial; Killdeer at South Park and Oakmont; Turkey Vultures have been widespread; Eastern Phoebe at Duck Hollow and Beechwood Farms; Blue-headed Vireo at Allegheny Cemetery (unusual); late Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Blawnox, Hampton Township, Wingfield Pines (Golden-crowned Kinglets winter here, usually not Ruby-crowned); Hermit Thrush at Beechwood and Kilbuck Township; Gray Catbird at South Park; Brown Thrasher at Gibsonia; Chipping Sparrow at O'Hara Township and Harrison Hills Park; late Red-winged Blackbirds at Imperial, Oakmont, Wingfield Pines; Common Grackle at Chatham College; Brown-headed Cowbirds at Natrona Heights; Ovenbird in Downtown Pittsburgh; Ross's Goose in Findlay Township at Janoski's Farm; Tundra Swan over Natrona Heights and Hampton Township; Northern Pintail at Wingfield Pines; Long-tailed Duck at Emsworth Dam on the Ohio River; on Christmas Day a flock of up to 16 Sandhill Cranes was seen flying over various parts of northern Allegheny County, and a few days later over Fox Chapel; Merlin at various locations; Red-headed Woodpecker at Allegheny Cemetery; Northern Shrike at Imperial; Marsh Wren at Wingfield Pines; and a Painted Bunting at Brian Shema's feeder in O'Hara Township.

•  Program Coordinator Dave Brooke announced that the club's next meeting will be held on April 1, 2020. The speaker will be Tessa Rhinehart, a key member of the University of Pittsburgh team that developed a new technology to track and count birds, who will tell us about the research and its importance. Tessa's program is titled "Eavesdropping on Birds." It appears that we have an extraordinary new digital method in our midst for counting bird species' numbers and their preferred habitats. It succeeds on a scale impossible for birders to achieve by our traditional methods of walking along paths or driving along breeding bird survey routes. Using new methods, Tessa puts together an extraordinary amount of digital information, the sum of which allows scientists to estimate not only how many of each species are present but also indicates the habitats they prefer - important knowledge for conservation. As a research programmer in Pitt's Biological Sciences Department, Tessa is an important participant in developing this advanced computational method of recognizing bird songs and collecting population data. She is pursuing a master's degree in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, majoring in energy and environment.
The meeting will be held at the Phipps Garden Center, 1059 Shady Avenue in Shadyside. Doors open at 6:30 PM for socializing, business meeting at 7:30, and program starts at 8:00.
Brian Shema
•  3RBC Vice President Mike Fialkovich introduced his friend of twenty years and the evening's speaker, Brian Shema. Well known to most of those in attendance as well as to the conservation community, Brian Shema is the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) Operations Director and unofficial bird guide. Before his promotion to Operations Director to oversee all of ASWP's activities, Brian was ASWP's Conservation Director from 2005 to 2016. He has a bachelor's degree in wildlife science from Penn State University, where he served on a research team investigating Louisiana Waterthrush ecology. He has served as Regional Coordinator for the second Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas project, 2004-2009; was named one of 40 Under 40 by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, which recognizes environmental leaders under the age of 40; was part of a project to restore barn owls to this area; is part of the Chimney Swift Research Group and wrote an article for the Chimney Swift Conservation Association newsletter about the Chimney Swift project that he oversees here in the Pittsburgh area, where ASWP has installed 150 Chimney Swift towers, and is often interviewed by local television stations about Bald Eagles. To many present tonight he is the person responsible for doing all the work that went into putting together the tours that they have enjoyed.

Brian started by addressing his anxiety over preparing a presentation; how to talk about birds to such expert birders as those present tonight, to talk about a travel program to a savvy audience who include many with whom he has travelled? He decided tell his story from the viewpoint of a bird or migrating birds as they follow their various paths. He presented dazzling photos and told fascinating stories about the western hemisphere's incredible diversity of birds from the point of view of a migrating flock, starting deep in South America. His program "Birds from Eco-tours to North, Central, and South America," did not merely spotlight his tours but gave us detailed and fascinating looks at birds' behaviors and ecological adaptations to the many different environments birds must face. His presentation evoked the bird's psyche; he tried to make us feel how the bird felt as it experienced the urge to migrate, the lightness and readiness for flight, the way the muscles flex as the bird banks left and right.

Shema went on to discuss why birds migrate - 40% of birds do. For the birds he discussed, migrating gave them a breeding advantage: tropical birds that migrate raise more offspring than those that do not. Though many migrate, the ways they do it, the techniques they employ, the directions they take are very different. The individual characteristics necessary to each bird's survival dictate the types of habitat it must migrate through in order to have the food supply necessary to survive the trip. Throughout his talk Shema showed many excellent examples of the great variety of approaches and survival techniques used by migrating birds that he saw on his tours. He has led birding trips for more than 15 years to places including California, Arizona, Texas, South Florida, Belize, Costa Rica and Ecuador.

After his talk, Brian took many questions from the audience

Following the presentation, President Daugherty adjourned the meeting.

— prepared by Frank Moone on 2-17-2020

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