Current Newsletter - Mecklenburg Audubon Society

January 2015
Volume 20 (5)
Audubon News
Mecklenburg Audubon Society | P.O. Box 221093, Charlotte, NC 28223
Confessions of a Bird Trip Leader
What’s Inside
Thursday, February 5th Confessions1
Field Trips
Which Chickadee?
Coffee, Dairy & Birds
Calling all Tweeters
Wood Thrush
Upcoming Events
2/5 Boyce Park
2/5 Monthly Meeting
2/7 West Branch NP
2/8 Woodcock Walk
2/13-16 GBBC
2/14 Beginner’s Birdwalk
2/21 McDowell Prairie
2/26 Four-mile Creek Grnwy.
2/28 Ribbonwalk NP
Tyvola Senior Center
Join us for the February meeting as regional ornithologist and
world trekker Simon Thompson will
share Confessions of a Bird Trip
Leader. This you must hear and
won’t want to miss!
Simon Thompson owns and
operates Ventures, Inc., a bird
watching and natural history tour
company based in Asheville, NC
and leads small groups of naturalists and birders both within North
America and to many locations
throughout the world. Ventures
also runs day trips throughout
North and South Carolina and
offers weekend and longer trips
to many of the top birding sites
throughout the US. He is the
ornithologist at Chimney Rock
Park, where he leads bird walks,
and is active with both the Elisha
Mitchell Audubon Society and the
newly-formed Henderson County
Bird Club. He and his partner Chris
operate the Asheville Wild Birds
Unlimited store, so the next time
you’re in the high country, pop in
and say Hi!
So trek on over to the Tyvola
Senior Center (2225 Tyvola Road.)
at 7:15 PM. Refreshments and fellowship from 6:45 PM.
3/1 Beginner’s Bird Walk
3/5 Monthly Meeting
Who’s New?
Janet Link
Lea Ogundiran
Happy Hunting - ton Beach State Park - January 2015
Audubon News
Page 1
Field Trips
All Mecklenburg Audubon Field Trips are free and open to the public. Directions
can be found on the Mecklenburg Audubon website -
Please remember to contact the trip leaders several days before the trip. If you don’t,
you may not receive information about last minute changes or cancellations. Also, if
they don’t know you are coming, they might leave without you!!
Thursday, February 5: James Boyce Park
1/2 Day • Easy • Contact:: Tom Ledford [[email protected]]
This heavily wooded park backs up to McAlpine Creek Greenway
which is not accessible at the moment due to construction. We’ll
meet in the parking lot at 8:30 AM.
Saturday February 7: West Branch Nature Preserve
1/2 Day • Moderate • Contact: Jeff Lemons [[email protected]]
White-crowned Sparrow
©Jeff Lemons
Meet at Parking area at intersection of June Washam Rd and south
end of Shearer Rd at 7:45 AM (sunrise 7:17 AM). We will walk the
greenway, hike the trail through woods around the marsh and check
the field for sparrows. Wear boots. Early Birds will meet at 6:30 AM in
same parking area. We will hike back to marsh and take sunrise at
the marsh overlook.
Sunday, February 8: Woodcock Walk Sherman Branch
Evening • Easy • Contact: Taylor Piephoff [[email protected]]
Sleep in this morning as this one starts at 5:00 P.M. The birds are
almost guaranteed, sometimes landing as close as 30-40 feet. Bring
a flashlight for the walk back to the cars. Meet at parking area off
Rocky River Church Rd at 5:30 PM.
Saturday, February 14 – Beginner Bird Walk - Latta Prairie
American Woodcock
1/2 Day • Easy • Contact: Marica Howden [[email protected]]
This will be a two-mile walk on dirt and gravel roads. We’ll have
power line right-of-way, woods and prairie/field. Good spot for yellow-breasted chat, indigo bunting, blue grosbeak and prairie warbler.
We’ll start at 8:30 AM in the parking lot to the right just inside the gate
of Latta Nature Preserve.
Saturday, February 21 – McDowell Prairie & Copperhead Island
1/2 Day • Moderate • Contact: Ron Clark [[email protected]]
Ring-necked Duck
©Jeff Lemons
Sunday March 1: Beginner Bird
Walk – Four-mile Creek
1/2 Day • Easy
Contact: Bill & Laura Blakesley
[[email protected]]
This walk is designed for new
birders, but anyone can come.
Binoculars will be provided, if
needed. Meet at 8:30 AM in the
Johnston Road Parking Lot.
Audubon News
The prairie is a 2-mile walk through fields and woods edges. Sturdy
shoes are suggested. Then we’ll go to nearby Copperhead Island to
scope Lake Wylie for waterfowl. We’ll meet at 8:30 AM in a new spot.
Turn right on Shopton Road off Hwy 49. In 0.7 miles, turn left on Four
Horse Road. Follow it about 3/4 mile to the green gate on the right.
Thursday, February 26 – Four Mile Creek Greenway
1/2 Day • Easy • Contact: Ron Clark [[email protected]]
We’ll cover a two-mile stretch walking through a variety of habitats.
Meet at 8:30 in the parking lot on Johnston Rd.
Saturday, February 28: Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve
1/2 Day • Moderate • Contact: Ron Clark [[email protected]]
This area is mostly wooded, and includes three ponds and a large
field. We’ll cover about 1 1/2 miles. Meet at 8:30 AM in the parking lot
on Hoyt Hinson Rd.
Page 2
Show Birds Some
on Valentine’s Weekend:
Join the Great Backyard Bird Count!
Give Mother Nature a valentine
this year and show how much
you care about birds by counting
them for the Great Backyard Bird
Count (GBBC). The 18th annual
count is taking place February 13
through 16. Anyone in the world
can count birds at any location
for at least 15 minutes on one or
more days of the count and enter
their sightings at www.BirdCount.
org. The information gathered
by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track changes in bird
populations on a massive scale.
The GBBC is a joint project of the
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and
the National Audubon Society
with partner Bird Studies Canada.
Bird watchers fell in love with
the magnificent Snowy Owl during the last count when the birds
were reported in unprecedented
numbers across southeastern
Canada, the Great Lakes states,
the Northeast, and down the Atlantic Coast. Expect Snowy Owls
to show up in higher numbers during this year’s GBBC, too.
“It’s called an ‘echo flight,’”
explains Marshall Iliff, eBird Project Leader at the Cornell Lab
of Ornithology. “After a huge
irruption like we had last winter,
the following year often yields
higher-than-usual numbers as
well. The abundance of lemmings
that produced last year’s Snowy
Owl irruption likely continued or
emerged in new areas of eastern
Canada, more owls may have
stayed east after last year’s irrupAudubon News
tion, and some of last year’s birds
that came south are returning.”
“This may also be a big year for
finches,” notes Audubon Chief
Scientist Gary Langham. “GBBC
participants in North America
should be on the lookout for
larger numbers of Pine Siskins and
redpolls. These birds also push
farther south when pine cone
seed crops fail in the far north of
Bird watchers from 135 countries
participated in the 2014 count,
documenting nearly 4,300 species on more than 144,000 bird
checklists–that’s about 43% of all
the bird species in the world! In
addition to the U.S. and Canada,
India, Australia, and Mexico led
the way with the greatest number
of checklists submitted.
“We especially want to encourage people to share their love
of birds and bird watching with
someone new this year,” says Dick
Cannings at Bird Studies Canada.
“Take your sweetheart, a child,
a neighbor, or a coworker with
you while you count birds for the
GBBC. Share your passion and
you may fledge a brand new bird
The Great Backyard Bird Count
is a great way for people of all
ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and show some
love for the birds this Valentine”s
Day. Participation is free and
easy. To learn more about how to
join the count, download instruc-
tions, a slide show, web buttons,
and other materials, visit www.
Counting is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
1. Register for the count or use
your existing login name and
password. If you have never participated in the Great Backyard
Bird Count or any other Cornell
Lab citizen-science project, you’ll
need to create a new account. If
you already created an account
for last year’s GBBC, or if you’re already registered with eBird or another Cornell Lab citizen-science
project, you can use your existing
login information.
2. Count birds for at least 15
minutes on one or more days
of the GBBC. You can count for
longer than that if you wish! Count
birds in as many places and on as
many days as you like—one day,
two days, or all four days. Submit
a separate checklist for each new
day, for each new location, or for
the same location if you counted
at a different time of day. Estimate the number of individuals of
each species you saw during your
count period.
3. Enter your results on the
GBBC website by clicking “Submit Observations” on the home
page. If you already participate in
the eBird citizen-science project,
please use eBird to submit your
sightings during the GBBC. Your
checklists will count toward the
Page 3
The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
and the Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) can
be confusing species for eastern bird watchers to identify. The ranges of these species do not overlap much, so
for many people a quick look at a range map will show
which species are most likely to occur at their feeders.
But for those who live in the narrow strip across the eastcentral United States in the zone of overlap, the chickadees pose a serious identification challenge. To complicate the identification problem the species have been
known to hybridize in the overlap zone.
Black-capped Chickadee
Is it a Black-capped or Carolina Chickadee?
Songs and Calls
A small (avg. 5.25” long), acrobatic bird with longer tail and (to
some observers) a proportionately
larger head. The lower edge of
the black bib is less defined and
appears uneven. Mostly white on
nape of neck
The smallest (avg. 4.75” long)
North American chickadee with a
proportionately smaller head and
shorter tail.
Near the zone of overlap, birds
have been known to learn each
other’s vocalizations, and hybrids
tend to deliver odd-sounding
variations. A bird located near the
zone of overlap that sings both
songs, or sings “odd-sounding”
songs, cannot be positively identified in the field
In fresh plumage (usually in the
autumn) the greater wing coverts
and secondaries are broadly
edged in white.
The white patch on the wing is
more exaggerated.
The outer tail feathers are more
broadly edged with white on the
Black-capped Chickadee.
Sexes are similar.
The bib is smaller and well
defined (there is a neat line of
separation between the bib and
belly). Mostly grayish on nape of
The greater wing coverts are
more uniformly gray and show
less white.
The cinnamon-buff coloring under the wings is less developed on
the Carolina Chickadee (but fresh
adults in the northeast part of its
range show brighter cinnamon
and can be confused with Blackcapped Chickadee)
Sexes are similar.
The Black-capped Chickadee’s
call is a lower and slower chicka-dee-dee-dee. It functions as a
contact call, one that serves to
keep the winter flock together
when birds cannot see one another. Its song is a clear fee-bee.
A loud version is given during
territory skirmishes, a soft version is
given during mate feeding.
The Carolina Chickadee’s call is
a higher and faster chick-a-deedee-dee. It also has a four note
song, fee-bee-fee-bay.
Carolina Chickadee
Audubon News
Page 4
As most of you know, Mecklenburg Audubon has been
serving Birds & Beans Coffee at all MAS meetings and has
been selling this coffee to both members and at external
events. Simply put, we feel that Birds & Beans Coffee is
the most bird-friendly coffee on the market. The following is an excerpted version of a press release from Birds &
Beans that discusses how organic dairy products further
help migratory songbirds such as MAS’ adopted species,
the Wood Thrush.
Drinking Bird Friendly® Coffee with Organic Dairy Products Helps
Protect Migratory Songbirds in Peril
A new survey confirms that the
growth in acreage of organic
dairy farms in the U.S. and Bird
Friendly® coffee farms in Latin
America is protecting habitat for
migratory birds. Coffee from Bird
Friendly® farms with a drop of
U.S. organic milk or cream is the
easiest thing to do to help stop
population declines of migratory
songbirds and degradation of the
environment we share with them.
Neotropical migratory songbirds
face habitat loss on both ends
of their migratory range. In the
northern breeding zones landscapes have lost forests to clearing and hedgerows and wood
lots to industrial agriculture. In the
tropics, large-scale deforestation
has destroyed rainforest for farming and for modernized coffee
plantations that grow their plants
in full sun with massive doses of
chemical fertilizers, pesticides
and herbicides. Sun-grown coffee brands include Starbucks,
Folgers, and Maxwell House. The
North American Bird Conservation
Initiative’s 2014 State of the Birds
Report names Neotropical migratory songbirds and grassland
breeding birds as two groups of
species facing the steepest population declines. However there
is hope, these birds are gaining
both breeding and wintering
habitat thanks to USDA Organic
Audubon News
dairy farms and Bird Friendly®
coffee farms.
The official Bird Friendly® certification from the Smithsonian
Migratory Bird Center combines
USDA Organic standards with
requirements for forest shade
cover, multilayered canopy, and
the presence of epiphytes. There
are now more than 20,000 acres
of Bird Friendly® coffee farms in
Latin America. Birds & Beans Coffee, which only sells Bird Friendly®
certified coffee, has grown sales
by over 50% annually over the
past five years.
Significant growth in organic
dairy acreage is also a hopeful
sign of the future for these species. As overall organic farm
acreage in the United States has
doubled since 2003, a significant
portion of that growth has been
driven by the popularity of dairy
products, such as those sold by
the firm, Organic Valley. Birds &
Beans sponsored surveys in 2014
of Bird Friendly coffee farms in Nicaragua and USDA organic dairy
farms in Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Vermont. Trained
field biologists from a variety of
organizations went to the farms to
‘certify the certifications’ and to
see just how much of a difference
truly sustainable family farming
can make for bird conservation.
The surveys conducted on farms
in Nicaragua that supply Birds &
Beans Coffee found more than
130 species of birds, including vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, tanagers,
and orioles. The survey team also
found several warblers, including high numbers of Tennessee,
Chestnut-sided, Black-throated
Green and Wilson’s warblers, as
well as Golden-winged Warblers—
a candidate species for Endangered listing in the U.S.
Many of these same species
also showed up in the bird surveys
on Organic Valley dairy farms in
the Midwest and East that found
more than 50 at-risk breeding bird
species. Specific species found in
the Organic Valley surveys included Indigo Buntings, American
Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles, Wood
Thrush, and Black-and-White,
Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided,
and Black-throated Green warblers. These farms are also all virContinued on page 6
Page 5
Calling all Tweeters
Sue Heritage is a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator
and a member of Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina. She has
been rehabbing birds, mammals
and reptiles for about 18 years.
Although not a birder she has
recently become involved with
Mecklenburg Audubon.
There are only two songbird
rehabilitation sites in the Charlotte
area, One is Carolina Waterfowl
Rescue and the other is Sue. Carolina Waterfowl Rescue typically
refers songbirds to her because
they deal with hundreds of waterfowl each season.
Sue needs help fielding the hundreds of bird calls during breeding
season. With no interns nor volunteers and feeding and caring for
baby birds becomes quite overwhelming! All too often she has to
turn bird calls away.
Working with these tiny, vulnerable creatures is challenging
but rewarding.
Sue is looking for
volunteers who
would be able to
give a few hours
a week caring for
these birds. It is not
glamourous. Much
of the time is spent
cleaning cages
and preparing
food. Baby birds,
depending on their age, must be
fed every 15-30 min. That involves
preparing food, cleaning cages
and feeding repeatedly. The time
passes quickly and it’s a great
opportunity to get to know these
birds up close and personal.
If you are interested in being
covered in baby bird formula,
working with mealworms and
dealing with bird poop, then this
is the job for you!!
Contact Sue if are interested in
volunteering a few hours of your
time for a noble cause. Here’s her
contact information:
Sue Heritage
[email protected]
Home phone is 704 568-6767
Cell phone is 704 577-8889
MAS Executive Board
Jill Palmer [[email protected]]
Vice President:
Leslie Wieser [[email protected]]
Dave Hooten [[email protected]]
Ken Kneidel [[email protected]]
Continued from page 5
Organic Diary
Field Trips:
Jim Guyton [[email protected]]
tual sanctuaries for grassland birds
of great conservation concern,
including grasshopper sparrows
and bobolinks.
Christy Hill [[email protected]]
The coffee and dairy farms
surveyed and those with similar
certifications provide extremely
valuable habitat for Neotropical
migratory songbirds at both ends
of their range. Some of our most
vibrant and beautiful birds are
getting a conservation boost at a
critical time when they most need
it. Sustainable farming is good for
birds, farmers, workers and the
environment we all share. Call
Audubon News
Lauren Schexnider [lauren.schexnider@gmail.
Jan Fowler [[email protected]]
Chris Hanna [[email protected]]
Bill Duston [[email protected]]
it ‘Coffee Cup Conservation’ drinking, great-tasting coffee from
Bird Friendly® farms with some
Organic Valley dairy products
is an easy step to take to help
conservation and the migratory
songbirds we love.
Members at Large:
Jim Pugh [[email protected]]
Bill Rowse [[email protected]]
Judy Walker [[email protected]]
Audubon News is published monthly from September through May by the Mecklenburg Audubon
Society, a chapter of National Audubon. Local
members receive the newsletter via postal mail
and/or electronic mail. It is also posted on the
Mecklenburg Audubon website -
For further information, visit
Page 6
Meet the MAS’s Adopted Species
The Wood Thrush
ries and small fruits are eaten at
all seasons. Young are fed mostly
insects but also some berries.
Feeding Behavior
Forages mostly on ground,
usually in forest undergrowth but
occasionally on open lawns. Will
use its bill to flip leaf-litter aside as
it seeks insects. Feeds on berries
up in shrubs and trees.
Seemingly not as shy as the other brown thrushes, not as bold as
the Robin, the Wood Thrush seems
intermediate between those two
related groups. It sometimes nests
in suburbs and city parks, and
it is still common in many eastern woodlands, where its flutelike songs add music to summer
mornings. However, numbers of
Wood Thrushes have declined
seriously in recent decades, focusing the attention of conservationists on the problems facing our
migratory birds.
Mainly deciduous woodlands.
Breeds in the understory of woodlands, mostly deciduous but
sometimes mixed, in areas with
tall trees. More numerous in damp
forest and near streams than in
drier woods; will nest in suburban
areas where there are enough
large trees. In migration, found
in various kinds of woodland.
Winters in understory of lowland
tropical forest.
Male arrives first on breeding
grounds, establishes territory, and
defends it by singing. Often reacts
aggressively to other thrushes in
territory, such as Robin or Veery.
In courtship, male may chase female in fast circular flights among
the trees. Nest: Placed in vertical
fork of tree (usually deciduous)
or saddled on horizontal branch,
usually about 10-15’ above the
ground, sometimes lower, rarely as
high as 50’. Nest (built by female)
is rather like Robin’s nest, an open
cup of grass, leaves, moss, weeds,
bark strips, mixed with mud; has
lining of soft material such as
rootlets. Often adds pieces of
white paper or other trash to nest.
Eggs: Usually 3-4. Pale greenish
blue, unmarked. Incubation is by
female only, 13-14 days. Young:
Both parents feed nestlings. Young
leave the nest about 12 days af-
ter hatching. 1-2 broods per year.
Usually 3-4. Pale greenish blue,
unmarked. Incubation is by
female only, 13-14 days. Young:
Both parents feed nestlings.
Young leave the nest about 12
days after hatching. 1-2 broods
per year.
Both parents feed nestlings.
Young leave the nest about 12
days after hatching. 1-2 broods
per year.
Numbers have declined seriously in recent decades. Cowbirds lay many eggs in their nests,
so the thrushes often raise mainly
cowbirds, with few young of
their own. As forests are cut into
smaller fragments, it apparently
becomes easier for cowbirds to
penetrate these small woodlots
and find more of the thrush nests.
The Wood Thrush is probably also
losing wintering habitat in the
Migrates mostly at night. Many
migrate across Gulf of Mexico in
spring and fall.
Feeding Diet
Mostly insects and berries.
Feeds on many insects, especially
in breeding season, including
beetles, caterpillars, ants, crickets,
moths, and many others; also spiders, earthworms, and snails. BerAudubon News
Page 7
Avian Courtship
Understanding courtship behavior of birds can help birders
recognize how birds act in their
backyard, and with practice it is
possible to identify birds based
on their mating behavior. Furthermore, if a birder recognizes the
courtship rituals of a bird, they
can learn to look nearby for the
other bird that the displaying bird
is hoping to impress.
Why Use Courtship Behavior
The ultimate purpose of courtship is to attract a receptive
mate, but there are actually
several other purposes behind
the courtship behavior of different bird species. The intricate
moves of a courtship dance and
the recognizable bird sounds and
songs used to attract mates can
help distinguish species so birds
are sure to choose compatible
mates. Different courtship behaviors also serve to reduce territorial
aggression between birds, letting them relax together to form
a pair bond. Depending on the
type of behavior, how the birds
react in courtship can also display strength, health and mating
desirability, allowing different birds
to choose the best partners and
ensure viable offspring.
Types of Courtship Behavior
There are several different
types of courtship rituals that bird
species can use for finding a
mate. Most species will use several methods, but they can vary
greatly between different birds.
Singing: Singing is one of the
most common ways birds attract
a mate. The intricacy of the song,
or the variety of different songs
one bird can produce, help to
advertise its maturity and intelligence – desirable characteristics
for a healthy mate. Singing can
also advertise the boundaries of
one bird’s territory, warning off
competition. For some species,
only one gender (usually the
male) will sing, while other species
may create a duet as part of the
bonding ritual.
Displays: Flamboyant plumage
colors and elaborate displays
of prominent feathers, skin sacs
or body shape can show off
how strong and healthy a bird
is, advertising its suitability as a
mate. Peafowl are one of the
best known bird species for their
stunning display with the males’
extensive fan, though other birds
may use subtle changes in posture to show off their plumage to
the best effect.
Dancing: Physical movements,
from daring dives to intricate
sequences including wing flaps,
head dips, or different steps can
be part of a courtship ritual. In
many species, the male alone will
dance for his female while she
observes his actions, while in other
species both partners will interact
with one another. Dance mistakes
show inexperience or hesitancy
and would likely not lead to a
successful mating.
Western Grebe Courtship Dance
© marlin harms
Audubon News
Preening: Close contact between male and female birds can
be part of the courtship rituals to
help diffuse their normal spatial
Prothonotary Warbler ©Jeff Lemons
boundaries and aggression. The
birds may lightly preen one another, sit with their bodies touching or
otherwise lean on one another to
show that they are not intending
to harm their partner.
Feeding: Offering food is another common courtship behavior for many species. Typically a
male may bring a morsel to the
female, demonstrating he is able
not only to find food, but he can
share it and is able to provide for
her while she incubates eggs or
tends the brood. For some species
the male may just bring food and
transfer it to the female for her to
feed, while in other species will
place a seed or insect directly in
her mouth just as he might be expected to do when helping feed
hungry nestlings.
Building: Some birds seek to attract a mate by showing off their
architectural skills. Constructing
nests before the female arrives
is a way for males to claim territory and show the suitable nesting areas they can defend. They
may also decorate the nest with
pebbles, moss, flowers or even litter to make it more eye-catching.
The female may then choose the
nest she prefers, or she may still
build her own after mating with
her chosen male.
There are many ways that birds
seek to attract a mate, and
understanding bird courtship
behavior can help birders better
appreciate the complexity of the
bird relationships forming in their
Page 8