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Minutes of the DVOC
February 16, 2012

President Art McMorris called the meeting to order at 7:33 PM. Twenty-four members and fourteen guests were present, including a large contingent from the Haddonfield Historical Society.

The minutes of the 2 February 2012 meeting were approved as submitted.

President Art McMorris welcomed and introduced Mrs. Elizabeth Billings to the club.


Bob Billings Big Year:
President Art McMorris presented information about and origin of the Bob Billings Big Year Award and introduced Bob’s Billings’s widow Mrs. Elizabeth Billings to the club.

As described on the DVOC Website: http://www.dvoc.org/Committees/BillingsAward/BillingsAward.htm

“John R. (“Bob”) Billings was a member of DVOC for 44 years, from 1965 until his death in 2009. In his will, he left the club $2,000 to be invested, with the interest being used to give an annual award of $200 to the person who recorded the largest number of birds in the calendar year. He left it up to the club to determine the rules for the competition. The club has raised additional funds, aided by a $1,000 matching challenge from Hart Rufe, to add to the investment, so that the award can be given annually in perpetuity.”

Art went on to note that 2011 was the first year of the Bob Billings Big Year Competition. Participants in the competition included Mike Fritz, Ken Tischner, Steve Kacir, Steve Mattan and Sandra Keller.

Art presented the 2011 Bob Billings Big Year Award and a check for $200 to Mike Fritz who won the competition with an impressive total of 363 bird species seen within the Delaware Valley as defined by the DVOC territory described within the current DVOC Delaware Valley Birds Checklist.

Congratulations go to Mike Fritz on winning the first Bob Billings Big Year Award.

Paul Guris took photos of Mike Fritz, Liz Billings and President Art McMorris, which can be seen on the DVOC website.

President Art McMorris announced that DVOC Council had approved membership for Adam Hymans of Philadelphia, PA; Ann Marie Morrison of Absecon, NJ and John C. Thele of Harleysville, PA. Our three newest members to the club were welcomed in absentia.

Editor Dave Long announced that the next issue of Cassinia will be a double issue, so that all previous submissions can be printed. Currently Cassinia is 4-5 issues behind, and Dave is looking to get the publication back on track. Anyone with articles or other submissions for Cassinia should speak with Dave or email him.

New Bins for New Birders (NB4NB):
Chairperson Paul Guris announced that the committee has received two new requests for donations of binoculars that still need to be discussed in committee before any further announcements can be made.

Chairperson and Vice President Phil Witmer announced that the Pennsylvania House and Senate have passed a Marcellus Shale Bill. The bill will provide some money to environmental organizations, but was described by Phil Witmer as not being a good bill. Phil suggests that all interested parties should contact their state legislators and the PA Governor and let them know of their dissatisfaction with the state’s position on exploitation of the Marcellus Shale.
Phil Witmer announced that National Audubon’s Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island is accepting applications for scholarships for both teen and adult programs. The deadline is March 1. More information is available online:

Field Trips:
Committee member Bob Horton conducted the trip reports and trip announcements:
Trip Reports:
February 5 – Delaware City, DE: A trip around the freshwater ponds of Delaware City. Colin Campbell led this trip and they reported a good diversity of ducks and some Bald Eagles.
Trip Announcements:
February 18 – Indian River Inlet and Points North, DE: This DVOC trip is a joint field trip with Wyncote Audubon and consists of a search for wintering waterfowl, gulls, seabirds and other late winter visitors. Besides birding Indian River Inlet and Rehoboth Bay, the trip will stop at Silver Lake, Cape Henlopen State Park, Prime Hook and Bombay Hook. Leader is Martin Selzer.
February 20 – North Shore (NJ) President’s Day Field Trip: This trip will explore the North Shore of New Jersey focusing on coastal species such as Razorbills and Black-headed Gulls. Leader is Sandra Keller.
February 25 (rescheduled from Feb 4) – Photography Field Trip to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (NJ): This trip was rescheduled due to conflicts arising from a pelagic seabird trip. Leader is Steve Kacir.
March 4 – Pinelands Birding, Franklin Parker Preserve, NJ Field Trip: This trip will explore the NJ Pine Barrens and look for winter specialties. Leader is Tony Croasdale.
Vice President Phil Witmer announced the upcoming programs.
On March 1, Frank Windfelder will present “The Fabulous Ipswich Sparrow”
On March 15, Keith Bildstein will present “Movement Ecology of Scavenging Birds of Prey.”
On April 5, Matthew Halley will present “Multiple Male Feeders at Nests of the Veery – a new perspective on the nesting behavior of Wilson's enigmatic thrush.”
On May 3, Steve Kacir will present “Bush Camping and Spotlighting: A Queensland Adventure” about his trip to Australia.
A tentative date of May 17 has been set for Dr. Edwin Scholes III to present a program detailing his studies of New Guinea’s Birds of Paradise.
On June 7, Terry Master will present “Riparian Songbirds: Canaries in an Aquatic Coal Mine.”


Paul Guris announced that Wes Biggs will be leading tours of the Dry Tortugas with three April trips and 2 trips in early May. The trips will be about $200 less than the nearest competitor and Wes has said he will knock off another $100 for DVOC members who sign up within the next week. The trips will explore Florida, Key West and pelagic birding around the Tortugas. Target species include Bridled Tern, Audubon’s Shearwater, Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Red-footed Booby and Frigatebirds. More information is available at: http://floridanaturetours.net/

Bonnie Witmer announced that on Saturday Feb 18 an Environmental Summit at John Heinz NWR will be led by PA State Representative Gregory S Vitali. The Summit begins at 9:15AM and will detail legislation about backed by Governor Corbett dealing with run-off, climate change, composting and other environmental issues.
More information can be found on Representative Vitali’s website: http://www.pahouse.com/Vitali/
Or at the website for Delco Concerned Citizens for Environmental Change (DCCEC): http://delcoenvironmental.tripod.com/

Nancy Bilheimer announced that there will be a protest in favor of a moratorium on Marcellus Shale exploitation.

Edie Parnum announced that on February 18, the Friends of Heinz and PA Young Birders are organizing a Great Backyard Bird Count at John Heinz NWR starting at 9:00AM. More details here: http://www.facebook.com/events/102526839871541/

Local Notes:

Lamar Corlis reported that a Pileated Woodpecker was seen and heard at his school in Delaware County, which is near Media and Ridley Creek. The school’s horticulture teacher photographed a pair there last Spring.

Gregg Gorton reported that Shortridge Park near Narberth and Wynnewood has had a number of raptor species over the years, but a third or fourth year Bald Eagle flying over the park last Saturday was the first recorded for the property and was species #140 for the site.

Al Bilheimer announced that the Core Creek Bald Eagles were on their nest.
Linda Widdop announced that a wing discovered at Peace Valley Park in Bucks County, PA was a Ring-necked Pheasant wing not an owl wing.

Paul Guris summarized the results of his See Life Paulagics winter pelagic trips, noting that the waters had been unseasonably warm. The trip out of Belmar, NJ had 40 Dovekies less than 12 miles offshore, Common Murres which have become a common sighting in the Belmar area though that species is a former NJ Review species and still on the NY Review List. The trip out of Freeport, NY found 86 Common Murres. Hundreds of Razorbills were tallied for both of those trips, and the Freeport trip has around 400 Razorbills including one at the inlet. Paul noted that the NY Bight area has been especially good for alcids in recent years, including the rocky bottom a few hundred yards offshore at Shrewsbury Rocks and the Hudson River Valley. More and more alcids have overwintered in this area each year. The trip out of Cape May, NJ encountered over 700 Dovekies, 18 Atlantic Puffins, Northern Fulmars and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Usually these trips find Dovekies at the temperature break, but this year the water was so warm that the Dovekies were scattered and became harder to find around forty miles offshore where they normally are just beginning to be encountered during a pelagic trip. The trip out of Lewes, DE tallied around 400 Dovekies and an adult Thayer’s Gull, while never being more than 28 miles offshore.

George Armistead announced that Todd Fellenbaum found a female Black Scoter behind the Walmart at Columbus Blvd in Philadelphia.

Chris Walters reported that a Dovekie was on a small rock in sight of Montauk Lighthouse recently, and that the bird was picked up by birders then released. Paul Guris noted that Dovekies found under similar circumstances are usually sick or starving, adding that during the Cape May trip Dovekies were seen being eaten by Great Black-backed Gulls and that a dead Dovekie being picked at by a Herring Gull was netted and brought on board the ship. During the Lewes, DE trip a Great Black-backed Gull went after a Dovekie and grabbed it off the surface of the water. Steve Kacir added that he has photos of a Northern Fulmar eating a Dovekie. Mike Fritz added that he photographed a pair of gulls engaged in a Dovekie tug-of-war. Mike noted that usually the Dovekies are not found inshore but that the warm water has them inhabiting inshore waters that are used by gulls, putting the Dovekies in contact with the gulls. Paul Guris noted that the wintering gulls usually are attracted to scallop boats. Art McMorris noted that the Dovekies would be looking for plankton, and Paul Guris commented that the temperature break is usually key for winter plankton blooms.

Ornithological Moments:

Chairperson Rob Bierregaard introduced tonight’s Ornithological Moment speaker, Art McMorris. Art McMorris presented “Snowy Owls: Age, Sex and Plumage.”

Main Program:

Vice President Phil Witmer introduced tonight’s speaker, Nate Rice. Nate Rice presented “Field Work in Vietnam.”

During the preamble for his talk “Field Work in Vietnam,” Nate Rice mentioned that 2012 is the Bicentennial of the Academy of Natural Sciences, noting that the Academy is the oldest Natural History Museum in the Western Hemisphere and that it is older than some European museums. In June will be Bird Month for the Academy of Natural Sciences, and will feature a bird weekend on June 9-10, collections and study skins on display as well as study skin demonstrations. Nate announced that he would like to have the DVOC involved with collection items contributed by Witmer Stone and a DVOC table at the weekend event. Art McMorris let Nate know that DVOC is definitely interested in pursuing such opportunities.
More details on the Academy’s Bicentennial Celebrations can be found here:
Nate Rice also mentioned that the Academy of Natural Sciences is now part of Drexel University. Nate is getting staff and hopes to be able to be more involved field work and with the DVOC in the future.
The rest of Nate’s presentation detailed his fieldwork in Vietnam.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Respectfully submitted,

Stephen E.T. Kacir, Secretary