Bimonthly Membership Meeting
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
7:30 PM -- 10:00 PM
Virtual Zoom Platform from Pittsburgh, PA

At least 75 computers were logged on to 3RBC's February 2021 meeting, with several of those shared by more than one person. In total, at least 86 individuals viewed the club's fourth virtual Zoom meeting, which featured a presentation by Dr. Sarah Sargent, executive director of the Erie Bird Observatory (EBO), titled "Erie Bird Observatory: Bird Monitoring and Conservation in Northwest Pennsylvania."

3RBC President Sheree Daugherty called the meeting to order at 7:30pm. She and other club officers made the following announcements and reports.

    •  Sheree began by thanking all those who have regularly participated in the club's Zoom meetings. Because the health and well-being of the clubs members is a top priority, 3RBC will continue to hold virtual meetings until such time as it is safe to once again meet face-to-face. She noted an unhappy anniversary - it has been one year since the club held its last face-to-face meeting.

    •  She reminded everyone of an important feature of Zoom-meeting etiquette: once the meeting has gotten underway, the meeting hosts (Tom, Suzanne and Steve) mute everyone's microphones except the speaker's. This is important: 70-100 computers are logged on; if the microphones aren't muted, there will be a great deal of cumulative "noise" in the meeting's audio - chair scrapings, coughs, throat clearings, etc. Please do not unmute yourself unless you wish to address the whole group!

    •  President Daugherty announced that the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (PSO) is accepting proposals from undergrads and graduate students for research grants. She asked that anyone who might be eligible for one of PSO's annual research grants should go to the PSO website for information on how to apply.

    •  The Peregrine Editor Paul Hess was unable to attend, so Sheree delivered his report, highlighting a few Peregrine topics from the upcoming March-April issue:

    Sheree's President's Message will tell us about the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology and why our members should join to learn more about our state's birds. She also will have a tribute to our own club's growing membership even without the face-to-face interaction we love.

    Steve Thomas, of course, will need to lament again that our outings must continue to be postponed, as with clubs around the world. Hang in there, Steve, we trust that you'll be back in action before too long!

    Tom Moeller's Observations column will tell us about a place worthy of a visit in one of the greatest hot spots in the US: southeastern Arizona. Specifically, Tom describes his visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. By the way, our members always like to read about other members' birding trips and ideas of where and when to find good birds. If you have taken an enjoyable trip to see birds and would like to share it with our other members, please contact Paul.

    The Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count report - and several other reports that Paul has viewed - show some remarkable rarities. You'll find all of these in next issue.

    And, finally, you'll find some interesting short notes by Frank Izaguirre and Steve Gosser about their amazing Christmas Bird Count discoveries.

    •  Next, Tom Moeller gave his treasurer's report. He reported that the club now has 328 memberships, totaling more than 400 individual members, and that folks continue to flock to birding as a pastime. He noted that, as always, our deep gratitude goes out to our loyal and generous members, who continue to keep the club's finances in the black.

    •  Webmaster Tom Moeller explained that Birding magazine's featured bird of the year is the Pileated Woodpecker, and that the club's own Frank Izaguirre has written a fine article about his experience viewing a Pileated demolishing a stump in Frick Park. Tom received permission from Birding to present the article on the club's website. He urged everyone to check it out!

    He also noted that the club's main page also has a link to an amusing new bird video, entitled "Birds Can Dance." This video was produced by the same group who created the "Bird Song Opera" video, also on our site.

    Finally, our Facebook page has a story out of New York City about a Snowy Owl which recently appeared in Central Park, the first such sighting since 1890, more than 130 years ago!

    •  Outings Coordinator Steve Thomas once again, sadly, reported that the club is still postponing outings due to the pandemic emergency and the potential danger to leaders and attendees. The club will resume its outing schedule as soon as it is safe to do so. He did remind everyone that this weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, beginning on Friday and ending on Monday, and that this is a good way to safely get in four days of birding.

    •  3RBC Vice President Mike Fialkovich next relayed recent bird sightings and reported the following: American Wigeon at Imperial; Green-winged Teal at Imperial, North Park and on the Ohio at Western Penitentiary; Common Mergansers on the Ohio at Western Penitentiary, with a few Red-breasted Mergansers with them, as well as few Scaup; a large flock of Killdeer at Sharpsburg; Wigeon, Teal, Northern Shoveler and Wilson's Snipe at Imperial; Turkey Vultures have been seen throughout the area this winter; a few Black Vultures were seen at Franklin Park and Fox Chapel; Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Deer Lake; Grey Catbird in Squirrel Hill; Chipping Sparrow in Pine Township; Field Sparrows at Hartwood Acres, Harrison Hills Park and North Park; Fox Sparrows at feeders in Upper St. Claire and Indiana Township; Lincoln Sparrows in Pine Township; White-crowned Sparrows in Indiana Township, Allegheny Cemetery and Imperial; Female Oregon Dark-eyed Junco in Indiana Township; Red-winged Blackbirds in Squirrel Hill throughout January; Common Grackle in Harmar Township, Squirrel Hill and Natrona Heights; Brown-headed Cowbird at Beechwood Farms, Harmar Township and Pine Township; Baltimore Oriole in Oakland; Tundra Swan flocks over Sheridan Park, McKees Rocks, Hampton Township, and North Park, with an immature bird found in a field in Clinton and at Janoski's Farm; Blue-morph Snow Goose at Tarentum; Northern Shoveler at Imperial; Northern Pintail at North Park and on the Ohio near Brunot's Island; Gadwall at Imperial; Surf Scoters at The Point, Tarentum and Sewickley; White-winged Sparrows at The Point and Aspinwall; Black Scoters at Leetsdale, Blawnox and the Highland Park Bridge; Long-tailed Duck at Oakmont and on the Ohio near the Casino; Ruddy Duck at The Point; Lesser Black-backed Gull at Emsworth Dam and The Point (with pink feet rather than yellow! a possible hybrid? or just an unusual color variant?); Black-crowned Night-Heron at Duck Hollow; Common Loon on the Ohio near Western Penitentiary; Merlin and Red-Shouldered Hawk in Schenley Park; Fish Crow at Chatham University and Duck Hollow; Common Redpolls at Imperial, Janoski's Farm, North Park and Bethel Park; Evening Grosbeaks at North Park, Marshall Township, West Deer Township and Harrison Hills Park; and finally, Rusty Blackbirds at Upper St. Claire and Pine Township.

    •  Program Coordinator Dave Brooke noted that the club's next meeting - also on Zoom - will be Wednesday, April 7, 2021, and will feature the presentation, "Birding Spain," presented by Carlos Sanchez, birding tour guide in Central and South America. He will present a comprehensive look at the birds of this European country situated on a major migratory flyway. Carlos will guide us from Sierra de Gredos Mountains in central Spain southwest to grasslands and forests in Extremadura, south to the wetlands of Doñana National Park, and finally east to Castille-La Mancha. We'll see such birds as White-capped Dipper and Citril Finch, a variety of nesting raptors, Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck, and nesting waterbirds.

    Carlos Sanchez, a native of Miami, Florida, has led tours at Bellavista Lodge in Ecuador and at Cristalino Jungle Lodge in Brazil. He graduated from the University of Miami, and then accepted a position doing pelagic bird surveys in the Gulf of Mexico on a NOAA ship - the Gordon Gunter. He has birded throughout Florida, as well as in Costa Rica and Australia. He has lead tours from Costa Rica to Cuba and from Brazil to Madagascar.

    As usual, this will be a Zoom meeting online starting at 7:00 PM, giving access time to log on. The business meeting will begin at 7:30 PM, and Carlos' presentation will start at 8:00 PM. Details on joining the meeting (Zoom passwords and other instructions) will be supplied.

Dave next introduced Sarah Sargent, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Erie Bird Observatory. She told us how the Observatory is working to preserve Presque Isle's environmental treasure in a program titled "Erie Bird Observatory: Bird Monitoring and Conservation in Northwest Pennsylvania." Dr. Sargent is the co-founder of EBO and has spent more than 30 years working to further ecology and conservation goals.

Sarah began by noting that most of 3RBC's members are well-acquainted with the Erie area in general, and Presque Isle in particular, since it is one of the region's premier birding spots. Because it is home to a wonderful diversity of avian species, the work that EBO does in the area is especially important.
Sarah Sargent
Sarah Sargent
Sarah Sargent, Mary Birdsong, and Laura-Marie Koitsch, the three women who founded EBO, had all worked on various projects in the area since 2007. EBO was formed so that all three could continue their projects under the umbrella of a single organization; but they also saw the creation of EBO as an opportunity to build more community involvement with birds at Presque Isle and its surrounds and sharpen the focus on this region. An important component of EBO's work is banding migrant birds to monitor their timing and numbers. Over the years, tens of thousands have been banded, with more than 22,000 birds banded to date under Sarah's banding permit alone! Her presentation to the club outlined work being done by EBO in several areas.

Landbird Monitoring - Landbird monitoring is accomplished by banding. What is banding? Banding is a method used by scientists to study birds, whereby birds are safely caught and given an identification band - a small aluminum ring that fits around the bird's leg like a bracelet. The band is engraved with a unique number, allowing scientists to keep track of each individual bird. No other bird will have the same number!

Why Do Scientists Band Birds? Putting a band with a unique number on a bird allows scientists to keep track of each individual bird when it's caught again. This is important for answering questions - testing hypotheses - about birds. Some of the questions bird banding allows scientists to answer include: How long do birds live? Where do birds go? What birds are present at a particular site? How are bird population numbers changing over time? How many baby birds were born each year?

Other things that may be studied include territorial behavior, mate fidelity, territory size and fidelity, reproductive behavior (Which bird builds the nest? Feeds the young? How often?). Answering these questions provides information that is useful in protecting birds and their habitats.

The birds to be banded are gently caught in soft, fine nets, called mist-nets. These nets are stretched between two poles, usually hidden amongst trees and bushes. Ideally, the birds cannot see the nets so, they fly into them. Scientists carefully remove the birds from the nets so they can be banded and then released unharmed.

Who Bands Birds? Scientists from bird observatories, government agencies, research organizations, and graduate schools band birds as part of their research programs. In order to band birds in our country, you must have a permit to do so, and you must also be trained in safe banding procedures. All of the banding data any scientist in North America collects is submitted to and kept by the Bird Banding Laboratory of the US Department of the Interior, Patuxent, Maryland. It is available for public scientific access.

Since 2016 EBO has been attaching small lightweight transmitters called nanotags to the backs of several species of passerines. Like the bird band that it wears on its leg, the nanotag on its back is also unique to the individual. These tags send out unique signals or "codes" that tower arrays set up throughout the western hemisphere can detect; researchers can also detect the codes using hand-held receivers.

The frequency and location of the "pings" received from the tagged birds can help researchers answer many questions concerning migration and the current issues facing migratory birds, particularly stopover ecology. By gaining a better understanding of how the birds use the habitat along the shoreline of Lake Erie during migration, EBO helps local lawmakers and homeowners make informed decisions on how to protect and conserve critical stopover habitats.

In Spring 2018, EBO began collaborating with researchers at Carnegie Museum's Powdermill Avian Research Center and at the Lights Out Cleveland group (part of the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative) on a project attempting to better understand the long-term effects of window collisions on migrating birds. In Cleveland researchers banded and tagged birds that were rehabbed after colliding with downtown buildings during migration. EBO then attempted to tag the same species on the same day at its banding station, its birds acting as the control group to which the migratory behavior of the rehabbed birds will be compared.

Shorebird and Seabird Monitoring - A team has been working since 2012 to improve habitat, specifically at Gull Point, removing invasive plant species and making the Great Lakes palustrine sand plane more beneficial to foraging migrant and potential nesting birds.

As a result of habitat work and an overall increase in the population, the federally endangered Piping Plover successfully nested at Gull Point in 2017 after a dearth of more than 60 years. These small birds were regular nesters at Gull Point through the 1950s. When they were listed as endangered in 1986, the Great Lakes population of Piping Plovers consisted of approximately 17 pairs. In 2017, 76 pairs were recorded.

State-endangered Common Terns have also attempted nesting at Gull Point after years of absence. In 2015 a colony of eight nests fell to predation or high water. In 2016 two nests were made, with one reaching hatch, but both nests were predated. No chicks successfully fledged.

Marshbird Monitoring - As Presque Isle formed over the millennia, the enclosed ponds began to form and then slowly filled in with marshy vegetation. Today the park contains near 3,500 acres, with approximately 2,000 acres of that in wetlands.<

These emergent marshes are a fairly rare habitat in Pennsylvania, a heavily forested state. Consequently, our marshes are home to very specialized birds that use only those habitats for breeding. As a case in point, Presque Isle now has the state's largest population of Least Bitterns.

When Presque Isle Park first started a program of extensive invasive plant removal in 2012, phragmites - a common reed which had taken over the marshes - was targeted. To date, efforts at removing it have been very successful. Since EBO began marsh bird monitoring prior to the remediation efforts, it has been able to provide before-and-after data (in 2017 they upped their efforts and began a yearly monitoring of the marshes, now conducted each summer). A quick comparison between today and 2010 shows a significant increase in marsh birds now. It is exciting to know that the restoration efforts seem to be working! In particular, the Least Bittern, a very rare species throughout Pennsylvania, is about three times as common now compared to 2011.

Waterbird Monitoring - EBO started this program in 2019. Its purpose is to assess the effects of invasive species plant control on waterbird use of the area. There are many areas to monitor, so volunteers are especially welcome here! EBO provides training for volunteers.

Osprey Nesting Platforms - Osprey are large birds of prey that catch fish on large bodies of water. Their nests are large collections of sticks built on tall structures near the water where they hunt. They sometimes choose to build nests on man-made structures such as utility poles, and if there are active power lines strung on the poles, the nests or even the birds themselves can bridge between lines, causing fires, power outages, and death to the birds.

To deter ospreys from nesting on active utility poles, EBO partners with First Energy, an electric utility covering parts of four states, and the First Energy Foundation to provide nest platforms where they are needed in Pennsylvania, to deter ospreys from nesting on active utility poles. EBO involves the community by asking the public at large to report locations where ospreys are attempting to build nests on a utility pole. EBO will provide location information to the utility, and provide a new, separate pole and platform for the power company to install adjacent to the "live" power pole. Deflectors are put in place on the crossbar of the original pole to keep the osprey from continuing to build there.

The most critical piece of information is, of course, the exact location. A pole number is ideal, or if it not safe or feasible to get close enough to record the number, then the geographic coordinates. Most cell phone mapping apps provide latitude and longitude. Also include a description of what you see. A few sticks on top of a cross bar? Adult ospreys arriving carrying sticks? A large pile of sticks? A completed nest? Finally, add the date you observed the nest or birds and your name and contact information.

Other Projects - EBO is active with the conservation and local community in several other ways. One recent EBO project of note involved surveying those who come to the Erie region to bird to help determine the economic impact of birding on the region. EBO also participates in the prestigious Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. This initiative is a continent-wide collaborative project incepted in 1989 that involves a sophisticated sharing of avian data in a prescribed format usable to many researchers.

Sarah closed by reminding the audience that EBO is supported by membership and charitable contributions. By visiting EBO's website,, viewers can learn how to help this important group's efforts.

After the talk, Sarah took several questions.

Sheree thanked Sarah for her presentation and EBO's excellent work. She wished everyone well, cautioned us to stay safe, and adjourned the meeting.

— prepared by Frank Moone on 2-7-2021

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