Bimonthly Membership Meeting
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
7:30 PM -- 8:30 PM
Virtual Zoom Platform from Pittsburgh, PA

At least 71 computers were logged on to 3RBC's April 2021 meeting, with several of those shared by more than one person. In total, at least 85 individuals viewed the club's fifth virtual Zoom meeting, which featured a presentation by Carlos Sanchez, who presented "Birding in Spain," a look at the birds of this European country situated on a major migratory flyway.

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 everyone for participating in this and previous Zoom meetings. She noted that this is an exciting time of year for birders, and that seeing returning migrants is like seeing old friends that we haven't seen for a year. She added that even a few warblers have been reported.

    •  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! She reminded everyone that questions should be typed into Zoom's 'Chat' feature and will be addressed at the meeting's end.

    •  Peregrine Editor Paul Hess highlighted the content of the upcoming May-June issue of The Peregrine.

    Without telling us specifics, he teased everyone to especially note the announcement and summary of the club's upcoming June meeting presentation about fire hawks, which he believes will be a most engaging presentation. This is a subject that has fascinated him for quite a while, and will be of great interest to all. Plan to attend this Zoom meeting in June!

    Sheree's President's Message will look back at some of the club's most memorable in-person programs. She nostalgically recalls many tremendous memories and reminds us what fun we will have when we resume our regular meetings.

    Tom Moeller's Observations column deals with grackles, a bird of the American blackbird family. They may not be everyone's favorite bird, but he tells us how fascinating they are.

    Mike Fialkovich's Allegheny Roundup will cover the December/January period, which included a large variety of waterfowl. The article will be accompanied by a photo collection of birds seen in various places in Allegheny County, including some rarities, such as a Tennessee Warbler spotted in February!

    Paul also mentioned that he is hoping to start a new regular feature, Notes From Birders, which will contain information submitted by club members and others recounting their personal experiences, interesting sightings, and other birdy things of interest. He encouraged everyone to take a look at the article to get an idea of what it's about, and to submit their observations and thoughts for future inclusion.

    •  Next, Tom Moeller gave his treasurer's report. He reported that the club's membership numbers since February are up again! Memberships now total 334, resulting in more than 475 individual members who enjoy birding. Tom surmised that, as a result of pandemic restrictions, more and more folks have turned to birding as an enjoyable pastime. He noted that recently two members had added extra money to their regular dues to help out those who are pinched financially due to the Covid crisis. In addition, several other members have upgraded their memberships, demonstrating what a caring and generous birding club we are privileged to have. He expressed his gratitude to our loyal and kind-hearted members who keep us in the black!

    •  Webmaster Tom Moeller reported that he has set up a page on the club's website which contains recordings of all of our Zoom meeting (except for the second meeting, whose recording was flawed by technical problems). So if anyone missed a program, or wants to see one again (like the Christmas Slide Slam), click on the appropriate link.

    The club's Facebook page contains news of a possibly exciting find. In October 2020, a promising sighting of a Burket's Warbler hybrid was reported in the Costa Rican wintering grounds! You will recall that a three-genera hybrid was discovered by Lowell Burket in Blair County and banded there in 2018. A bird that looks very much like the one discovered here was spotted in Central America; however, this bird had no ID band on its leg, so it is not the same bird spotted here. Is it a close relative? A brother or sister? Could this be another hybrid?

    The club's Facebook page has also been chronicling the growing number of eagles in the Pittsburgh area, including our Hayes eagles and a possible romance going on in North Park?

    •  Outings Coordinator Steve Thomas reported that, due to the Covid emergency, the club's outings are still on hold. As the area's vaccine roll-out continues, he expects things to change in the future. Stay tuned!

    •  3RBC Vice President Mike Fialkovich next relayed recent bird sightings and reported that there was a wide variety of waterfowl on the river this winter, due to the freezing of the Great Lakes and bodies of water to the north, which forced birds down to our area, which made for many varieties for our enjoyment. In particular, there were White-winged and Black Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Redheads. The following were reported: Tundra Swans reported flying over Indiana Township, Squirrel Hill, Bellevue and Oakmont; American Wigeon at the Highland Park Bridge; Greater Scaup at Dashields Dam; Common Goldeneye at Blawnox; Northern Shoveler at Wingfield Pines; Redheads at Harmar Township; Canvasback reported on the rivers; White-winged Scoter at the Point, Natrona Heights, and Chapel Harbor; Black Scoter at Oakmont, and at locations from the Highland Park Dam to Natrona Heights; Long-tailed Ducks at Blawnox; Ruddy Ducks at Brunot's Island; Red-necked Grebe on the Allegheny; Common Loons at Dashields Dam; Iceland Gull at the Point; Glaucous Gulls at the Point and the Highland Park Bridge; Lesser Black-backed Gulls at the Point and Duck Hollow; Bonaparte's Gull at the Point and in Lawrenceville; Caspian Tern at Dashields Dam; Black Vultures at Mt. Lebanon; Great Egret at Dashields Dam; Barred Owl at Frick Park; Fish Crow at Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park; Marsh Wren at Wingfield Pines; Winter Wrens at Frick Park; Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Franklin Park; Gray Catbird in Squirrel Hill; Lapland Longspur at Findley Township; Redpolls at Wexford, Pine Township; Fox Sparrow at Upper St. Clair; White-crowned Sparrows at Imperial and Duck Hollow; Oregon Junco at Indiana Township; Baltimore Oriole at Oakland; Tennessee Warbler at Oakland; and Rusty Blackbirds at Findley Township, Pine Township, Wingfield Pines and Schenley Park.

    •  Program Coordinator Dave Brooke noted that the club's next meeting - also on Zoom - will be Wednesday, June 2, 2021, and will feature Mark Bonta's presentation, "Firehawks: Arsonists or Land Managers." Following our recent practice, 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 Mark Bonta's presentation will start at 8:00 PM. Details on joining the meeting (Zoom passcodes and other instructions) will be supplied.

Dave next introduced the evening's speaker. 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 to do 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.

Carlos presented an overview of some of the birds found in three provinces in southern Spain:
Carlos Sanchez
Carlos Sanchez
Extremadura - Lying in southwest Spain, Extremadura is bordered to the north and east by Castile and Leon, to the south by Andalucía and to the west by Portugal.

Andalucía - This region covers the entire southern area of mainland Spain and includes the Costa del Sol, Costa Tropical, Costa de Almeíra and Costa de la Luz. This is probably the region which typifies Spain in the minds of many, from beaches to quaint whitewashed villages, flamenco to fiestas.

Castille-La Mancha - Situated in the heart of mainland Spain, this landlocked area is the second largest region in Spain and hugs Madrid, the country's capital. This region consists of arid, sparsely populated mountainous land that is dotted with vineyards and castles.

Carlos explained that Spain is the most bird-diverse country in Europe, and many birders from the United Kingdom and elsewhere spend time in España, since it provides an opportunity to see subtropical birds. Spain is to them and other northern Europeans what Texas is to Americans. Of course, because of the multiplicity of languages and cultures in Europe, birding there is a bit more complicated than birding here.

Carlos's virtual tour began in Madrid. A thirty-minute drive to the northwest finds the Bulls of Guisando, ancient granite carvings featured in Cervantes' Don Quixote. The pre-Roman Bulls are a good birding site: found here are Eurasian Golden Oriole, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Turtle-Dove, and European Bee-eater, and many others. In the spring, the area is alive with song. Continuing through the area, it is apparent by the still fully functional, 2,000-year-old Roman roads that humans have been living here for a very, very long time. Because of this long history, wildlife and human habitats have become well-integrated.

Also here are the Sierra de Gredos Mountains, which are the southernmost range limits for many bird species found throughout Europe. In what is essentially an alpine experience, Bluethroats can be found singing, as well as European Pied Flycatchers, Dunnock, Eurasian Jays, Dippers, and Crested Tit, a close cousin to Arizona's Bridled Titmouse.

There are also many birds unlike anything we have here, such as the Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, a member of the bird family that includes the European Robin. In these granite mountains are also Water Pipits and Ortolan Buntings (which are highly prizes as a food item in France, but, thankfully, not so in Spain). Also found here are classic European birds, including the Common Chaffinch, Eurasian Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, European Greenfinch and Goldfinch. On the mammal side, large herds of Iberian Ibex are common, frequently walking around in parking lots.

Leaving the Gredos Mountains and continuing southward we come to Extremadura, which means 'extreme' in Spanish. It's called this because the land is not very fertile, and consequently has not been developed as much as other parts of Spain. Agriculture there is mostly herding of sheep and goats and low-intensity farming, which has created a very interesting landscape. Here can be seen hundreds of Eurasian Griffons, Peregrine Falcons, Black Storks, Egyptian Vultures and a diverse group of raptors that make the cliff faces their nesting grounds. Also nesting here are three species of swifts - Common, Alpine and Pallid. The rock faces also host Blue Rock-Thrushes, Eurasian Wrens, Cirl Buntings, and the nest parasite, Great Spotted Cuckoo (which has become highly endangered due to climate change).

Because people have been living here for so long, quite a few bird species exploit the human habitat and frequently are found in the middle of cities and towns in this area; Lesser Kestrel, Jackdaws, and White Storks are common, as are a variety of finches and swifts. This is the home range of the Spanish Eagle, a bird found only in Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura.

This area also features steppes, short grass prairies similar to those found in eastern Colorado. Birds here include the Corn Bunting (related to our sparrows), the European Bee-eater, the crow-sized European Roller, and the Great Bustard, one of the world's heaviest flying birds.

Leaving Extremadura, Carlos took us southward to Andalucía, a very important area for migration, since nearly half of the birds of Europe fly through here. The birdiest area in Spain, it also features the largest wetland in western Europe, found in Doñana National Park. Here - essentially the Everglades of western Europe - are found a great concentration of waterbirds, including Great Reed Warblers, Whiskered Terns, and Purple Herons. One of the most recognizable birds found here is the Greater Flamingo, which is very numerous in Spain. In fact, the dance - flamenco - comes from the Spanish word for flamingo. Also found in the saline pools here are Slender-billed Gulls (endemic to the Mediterranean). Among the many other shore birds are Pied Avocets and Kentish Plovers. Doñana National Park also features many endangered bird species, including the White-headed Duck, a close relative of our Ruddy Duck. It was feared that introduced Ruddy Ducks would hybridize White-headed Ducks out of existence, but that threat has, fortunately, not come to pass. Also here are Marbled Teal, found only in the Mediterranean area and unrelated to any of our ducks. While not a bird, the park is also home to the critically endangered Spanish lynx, which feeds only on wild hares.

As in other parts of Spain, nature and humankind are well-integrated here, and birds can be found living in close proximity to human habitations. Birds such as the Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin are common and nest in the area's many vineyards.

From Andalucía, we traveled northeast to Castile-La Mancha, probably the most American-looking region in our virtual tour. The ecosystem is very much like that found in North Dakota and eastern Montana, featuring large agricultural areas dotted with many saline, brackish-water pools, a giant nursery for waterbirds, such as Greater Flamingos and Eared Grebes. Oddly, there are no herons, nor egrets nesting here, since there are almost no large fish in the pools. Some of the bigger pools do host Common Kingfishers, a bird about the size of an American Pygmy Kingfisher, and Black-winged Stilts are common among the shore birds, as are many ducks, including Red-crested Pochards, White-headed Ducks, Graylag Geese, and Common Pochards. In Spain's smallest national park - Tablas de Daimiel National Park - is found a bird unrelated to anything else in the world, called the Bearded Reedling (formerly known as the Bearded tit), a small, sexually dimorphic reed-bed passerine.

Carlos finished his virtual tour at the windmills of Campo de Criptana, also featured in Cervantes' classic, Don Quixote, as were the Bulls of Guisando which began our Spanish adventure.

After the talk, Carlos took several questions.

Sheree thanked Carlos for his presentation. She wished everyone well, cautioned us to stay safe, and adjourned the meeting.

— prepared by Frank Moone on 4-9-2021

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