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Minutes of the DVOC
March 7, 2013

President Art McMorris called the meeting to order at 7:34 PM. Twenty-five members and nine guests were in attendance.

The minutes of the 21 February 2013 meeting were approved as submitted.

President Art McMorris welcomed guests including Liz Billings, the widow of Bob Billings, and Bob & Liz’s daughter Karen Walter.


Witmer Stone Award Selection Committee:

President Art McMorris announced that Gregg Gorton and Nikolas Haass have joined Chairperson Steve Kacir on the Witmer Stone Award Selection Committee, and thanked them for joining the committee.

Membership Committee:

Chairperson Bonnie Witmer announced the newest members of the DVOC: Cindy Ferguson and Jack Beltz. Bonnie read the applications for DVOC membership from Anne Bekker and Michael Sonkowsky.


President Art McMorris announced that Webmaster and Archivist Bert Filemyr had uploaded a complete digital run of Cassinia to the DVOC website, and put up an online archive of the Abstracts of Meetings from Cassinia. Bert indicated that the complete run entailed about 4400 pages scanned. Art thanked Bert for providing this resource.

Bob Billings Big Year Committee:

Chairperson Art McMorris reminded members that they needed to contact the committee if they wanted to be eligible to compete in the 2013 Billings Big Year Competition.

Conservation Committee:

Chairperson Phil Witmer announced that a link to sign a petition to continue the moratorium on the horseshoe crab harvest in Delaware Bay has been added to the DVOC website. Members can either visit the main page of the DVOC website and click the link or go directly to the petition at the website below:

Field Trip Committee:

Committee Member Marty Dellwo conducted the field trip reports:
Trip Reports:
No Reports, as there had not been any field trips since the last meeting.
Trip Announcements:
9 March 2013 – Barnegat Light, NJ. Leader is Chris Walters. This half-day field trip is especially well suited for new members and students, though all are welcome to attend. The trip will focus on Barnegat Light’s specialties including: Common Eiders, Harlequin Ducks, Purple Sandpipers, Ipswich Sparrow and Snow Bunting as well as the usual assortment of ducks and loons.
21 APR 2013 – Franklin Parker Preserve. Leader is Tony Croasdale. Tony is uncertain whether Emile De Vito, who usually acts as a leader and roving historian for this trip will be able to attend this year. At this point, it is uncertain that this trip will be led this year.
Ornithological Moments Committee:
Chairperson Rob Bierregaard announced that he would be presenting an Ornithological Moment at the 21 MAR 2013 meeting that would talk about the Rift Valley Migrations in Israel, where thousands of cranes migrate through. Chris Walters will present an Ornithological Moment about Mew Gull identification on 4 APR 2013.

Vice President Phil Witmer announced the upcoming programs.

March 21: Sally Ann Sims will present "Room to Move? Piping Plover Nesting Habitat and Sea Level Rise in Rhode Island."

April 4: Greg Budney of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds will give a talk.

April 18: Steve Kacir will present "New South Wales: Australian Surf & Turf.”

Mike O’Brien announced that the seniors of Holy Family Home Nursing Home are selling bluebird houses. The bluebird houses are high quality and cost $35 each with a discounted price of $20 for individuals or nature centers that would like to purchase six or more, allowing nature centers to put them up for sale at a profit. The birdhouses are all handmade by seniors at the nursing home.
Mike O’Brien announced that he is seeking donations of books about birding or gardening and donations of binoculars or scopes for Holy Family Home Nursing Home. Please contact Mike if you would like to help.
Mike O’Brien reported that work on repairing the wildlife drive at the Brigantine Division of Edwin B Forsythe NWR has been progressing, and that the refuge hopes to complete repairs and open the drive by the end of the month. Mike announced that he would be going to the refuge soon to check Wood Duck boxes, and said anyone interested in joining him should contact him.
Bob Mercer announced that on May 18 there would be a Bristol Marsh Bio-Blitz, and that the organizers are looking for someone to survey birds that day. Please contact Bob if you are interested.
Bob Mercer announced that an exhibit designer is looking for a scientific and educational advisor to build a design team and place a bid in response to a Request For Proposal by the Philadelphia Waterworks Exhibits. Please contact Bob if you are interested.
Paul Guris announced that on April 14 a five-day long pelagic repositioning cruise from San Diego to Vancouver would take place. As this journey is aboard a cruise ship, this is the sort of pelagic birding where scopes are necessary, and Paul noted that scope use is possible even with fifteen-foot seas. Possible sea birds include Cook’s Petrel, Murphy’s Petrel and Hawaiian Petrel. Those already going may visit Victoria for Skylark during a 5-6hr stop. The exterior cabins allow birding from the balconies of the cabins. As this is a repositioning cruise, the pricing is reasonable, with interior cabins running around $500 for the trip.
Phil Witmer announced that he was seeking short programs for the summer informal meetings. Any members interested in giving a short program should contact Phil.

Local Notes:

Bert Filemyr reported that the female Rufous Hummingbird that appeared at his feeders on 16 October 2012 was still present and has been undergoing an interesting molt, where most of the upper overtail coverts molted out and exposed bright rufous red coloration in the tail feathers. Four days later, and those molted feathers were already returning. Bert will be providing a link in the next DVOC Weekly Digest that will allow members to easily access photos that display the molt progression. Bert noted that this bird is truly spending the entire winter in his yard, and that it seemed unlikely that the hummingbird would leave any time soon due to the active molt. Art mentioned that at times migrating birds will begin to molt, then delay molting to migrate and begin again after migration.

Paul Guris saw an adult Iceland Gull at Spruce Run Reservoir on February 24. That day, he also counted 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Green Lane Reservoir, a personal high count for the site. On March 6, a Pine Siskin returned to Paul and Anita’s feeders.

Erica Brendel announced that a new pair of Eastern Screech-owls had been discovered at Carpenter’s Woods.

Chris Walters mentioned a second-hand report that he’d received via Win Shafer of a Le Conte’s Sparrow in Delaware County near Newtown Square.

Marty Dellwo saw two Red-throated Loons on the Delaware River at Glen Foerd, one in Philadelphia and the other across the river in NJ. At Pennypack on the Delaware, Marty enjoyed 4-5 American Woodcocks calling and displaying in the “factory area.”

Bob Billings Big Year Short Presentation:

President Art McMorris gave a short overview of the Bob Billings Big Year Competition and its origins, noting that a donation by Bob Billings of $2000 started the fund, which was augmented by donations to make sure that the club could continue to award a prize of $200 annually for the competition. Art went on to summarize the rules of the competition and the past history then introduced the winner of the 2012 Bob Billings Big Year Competition: Ken Tischner. Ken Tischner listed a record 369 species for the Bob Billings Big Year Competition territory in 2012. Both Liz Billings and her daughter Karen Walter were introduced to the club, and Bert Filemyr took photos of Ken, Liz and Karen along with President Art McMorris and the plaque for the Bob Billings Big Year Award.

Afterwards, Ken presented a short overview of his big year along with tips for those interested in attempting such an endeavor. Ken noted that 393 species were reported for the competition territory, and he missed 24 species. Ken said that he was able to find 312 species just with weekend birding. Ken said that the most important tool for a big year attempt was the internet, followed in importance by money for gas, time, a “get out of jail free card,” hearing, sight and ability to walk. Ken found no lifebirds for his big year, and had every bird that he saw independently confirmed by others except for Black-capped Petrel. White Ibis was his most difficult bird to see, which took seven trips. Only two of his birds were “heard-only” birds: Barred Owl and Black Rail. Ken recommended going for rarities first, followed by focusing on birds specific to their season. Ken said that anyone attempting this competition should be done by early October and simply chase additional rarities as they come up through the rest of the year. Ken had found 192 species by the end of February, and was at 312 at the end of May. His list included six species of hummingbirds (but not a “secret” Black-chinned Hummingbird), Hoary Redpoll (another “secret” bird), 300 White-winged Crossbills, 150 Cave Swallows, mating Wild Turkeys and three species of dove in Cape May (all seen on wires). Ken noted that his 43 years of birding informed his big year efforts. Ken thanked his wife first and foremost. Then Ken acknowledged that Mike Fritz was an invaluable resource for Ken’s successful Billings Big Year, and thanked Paul Guris for helping him get the rare seabirds.

Art McMorris also thanked the Billings family.

Main Program:

Vice President Phil Witmer introduced the evening’s speaker, Rob Bierregaard. Rob Bierregaard presented a thoroughly informative look at Barred Owls in his talk “Sex (and Owls and Mice) and the City.”


The meeting was adjourned at 9:41PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Stephen E.T. Kacir, Secretary