Bimonthly Membership Meeting
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
7:30 PM — 10:00 PM
Phipps Garden Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Eighty individuals attended 3RBC's February meeting, which featured a fascinating and enthusiastic presentation on the evolution of dinosaurs to modern birds. Of those at this meeting, five were first-time attendees.

President Bob VanNewkirk called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM and shared one announcement.

• President VanNewkirk reminded the attendees that, at the club’s prior meeting in December, 3RBC emeritus president, Jack Solomon, had asked those who were interested in forming a new young birders’ club to contact him for further conversations. Since then, Mr. Solomon convened a January 8 meeting of interested parties at the new Frick Environmental Center, located in Frick Park. Based on an email from Mr. Solomon, President VanNewkirk summarized the meeting as follows:

Thanks to the generosity of the staff at Frick Environmental Center (FEC), who facilitated the meeting, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC), sixteen people were able to meet at the brand-new, spacious and comfortable facility to consider whether they wanted to be involved in the formation of a young birders club. The real question before the group was how to go about it. The FEC’s park naturalist opened the meeting with a welcome to all present, followed by introductions. Both the FEC’s and PPC’s enthusiasm for environmental education and youth related activities guaranteed that the project had their support, and that the young birders group had a place to have meetings if it should ever form. Gabi Hughes, naturalist at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP), talked about efforts directed at young birders currently underway as a part of ASWP’s Master Birders training program. Master Birders, once trained, are required to volunteer for Audubon, and some will be assigned to work with ASWP’s Junior Birders program. The foundation of this program is a special class to which children from 6 to 16 have been invited to attend for five Saturdays, beginning January 21, 2017. Ms. Hughes also welcomed the possibility of cooperation and coordination with any organization that might arise from the meeting at hand. As the meeting drew to a close, Mr. Solomon called for someone to assume at least temporary responsibility for the task of moving all the ideas and goals that had been expressed toward the concrete reality of a functioning young birders club. Mark VanderVen, a local birder, agreed to take this is on; but he asked for help from at least one other person. Matt Webb accepted that second position. As soon as Mr. Solomon hears anything from these two, he will make sure that the information is posted on the club’s website. In the meantime, interested parties should contact Mr. Solomon directly.

President VanNewkirk then turned the meeting over to Vice President Sheree Daugherty, who conducted the business portion of the meeting. She began by asking for comments and announcements from the floor.

• Roy Bires, who is usually concerned with the Osprey nest in Duquesne, or the Hays Eagle nest, made an announcement regarding the Steel Valley Trail Council, a volunteer organization that maintains part of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. The group is responsible for the section starting at the Glenwood Bridge to and through McKeesport, including the Waterfront in Homestead, West Mifflin, and the Duquesne area. The group holds an annual fund raiser, and this year’s event will focus on the birds of prey present on this section of the trail. Emphasis will be placed on the Bald Eagles’ nest at the Glenwood Bridge, a Great Horned Owl's nest at the Homestead Grays Bridge, a Red-tailed Hawk nest opposite Duck Hollow, and an Osprey nest near Kennywood Park. The event is a pay-to-participate bicycle ride, this year called the Raptors Road Ride. The group is looking for volunteer expert birders to be located at the four nest locations along the trail. Each expert birder, with a spotting scope, will point out the nests to the bike riders and provide other salient birding information. Bob Mulvihill and Roger and Margaret Higbee have already volunteered, but others are still needed. The date is Saturday, April 29, from 10:00 AM till 2:00 PM. Those interested in volunteering should contact Mr. Bires at rebires@aol.com.

• Ryan Tomazin made two announcements. First, on the drive to the meeting on the Boulevard of the Allies in the vicinity of Panther Hollow, he made an estimated Crow count, tallying 12,000 to 15,000 birds. He described how he counts such large numbers of birds using photos and videos. Second, the Brooks Bird Club's 78th Annual Foray is coming up. The Foray is held each June in a different region of West Virginia suitable for bird and natural history studies. The purpose is to offer members and students the chance to be in the field and take part in an ecological study of a selected area. The program is planned so that everyone can pursue his/her own interests. There are classes and field work in birds, ferns, mosses, flowers, grasses, trees, geology, fungi, butterflies, herptiles and small mammals. The interdependence of all living things is stressed. This year’s Foray will be held at the Lost River Camp in Hardy County, West Virginia. An article about the Foray will be appearing in Bird Watcher’s Digest. Paul Hess reminded everyone that this is a nationally known, highly regarded event. For more information, please refer to the upcoming article in The Peregrine.

• Bob Mulvihill, of the National Aviary, announced that the Aviary will be offering Act 48 teacher training sessions on February 18, 2017. Mr. Mulvihill will also be leading bus tours again this year, with the first one — a day trip to Pymatuning and back — happening on March 25. On May 20 and 21, the Aviary will offer its first overnight bus trip to Magee Marsh. This trip will occur after the major crowds have left. For more information on these and other events, refer to the National Aviary’s website.

• Mr Mulvihill also announced that he will be starting up his owl banding activities at Sewickley Heights Park, beginning February 17 and continuing every Wednesday and Friday night thereafter until the end of March. The hours run from just before dark until midnight.

• Pat Lynch noted that he was passing the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s 2016 Trustee Award trophy to Paul Hess. Mr. Lynch commented that the passing of the award to Mr. Hess was especially appropriate, given that Mr. Hess is probably the club’s most well-known member, and that his reputation among birders is well established. The award was presented to the club in late 2016.

Ms. Daugherty then called for reports.

• Paul Hess, editor of The Peregrine, highlighted several of the newsletter’s upcoming features. Articles of note included: the second installment of Bob VanNewkirk's adventure in Africa; Tom Moeller’s piece on leucism in birds — a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the feathers; more information about the Brooks Bird Club Foray (mentioned above); Jeff Cohen’s article on a birding festival in Hawaii; a report on the various Christmas Bird Counts; and an article by Jack Solomon on the young birders project. Mr. Hess also thanked the newsletter's new copy editor, Patience Fisher, for her excellent work.

• Tom Moeller, the club's treasurer, relayed that 3RBC has 285 memberships, and expressed his — and the club's — gratitude for the quick and generous renewal by many of the members.

• Steve Thomas, the club’s outings coordinator, reported that the club will sponsor seventeen outings this spring, with two brand new offerings: the first a Schenley Park outing led by Kate St. John, and second, a Tom’s Run outing. A Great Backyard Bird Count weekend outing — led by Bob Van Newkirk — will be held at Sewickley Heights Park on February 18, and, on the same day, another at Frick Park, this one led by Matt Webb. He reminded the club’s members to check the club’s website for an outings list and details.

• Mike Fialkovich presented the recent bird sightings report for Allegheny County. Since his last report some of the bird highlights included: a Snow Goose seen flying over Schenley Park in January; several Tundra Swans over Greenfield, and three at Duck Hollow; Common Loon around the Highland Park Bridge and on both sides of Brunot’s Island; Northern Shoveler; Northern Pintail at South Park and Wingfield Pines; Gadwall at Imperial and elsewhere; Redhead in Finley Township; Canvasback at Emsworth Dam; Surf Scoter around Highland Park Bridge; Merlin at Schenley Park Golf Course, Blawnox, Penn Hills and Homewood Cemetery; Lesser Black-backed Gulls at the Point; Bonaparte Gulls at McKees Rocks and the Point; a Rufous Hummingbird, banded by Bob Mulvihill in Brookline; Common Raven; Fish Crow; Pine Siskin; a very late Eastern Phoebe in Imperial; Hermit Thrush at Beechwood Farms; Gray Catbird; Chipping Sparrow at Frick Park; Field Sparrows; Fox Sparrows; Red-winged Blackbirds; Common Grackle; Brown-headed Cowbirds; a sub species of Dark-eyed Junco — Cassiar Junco, usually found in western Canada — at Beechwood Farms; and a bird whose range is eastern Asia, a Slaty-backed Gull in Erie.

• Vice President Daugherty announced that next meeting on April 5, 2017, will feature a second-time speaker, Jeffrey Hall. His talk is entitled “Blue-footed, Red-billed, and Magnificent: a Galapagos Adventure.”

• Following an entertaining introduction by Bob Mulvihill, Matthew C. Lamanna began his presentation, entitled “The Origin of Modern Birds: New Fossil Evidence from China and Antarctica.”

Dr. Lamanna is Assistant Curator, Section of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. His talk covered the fascinating story of the origin of birds and chronicled his teams’ discoveries of Chinese and Antarctic Cretaceous birds and their implications for the rise of modern avians

Comprising over 10,000 species, modern birds (Neornithes) are today’s most diverse group of land-living backboned animals. Nevertheless, the origins of modern birds and their evolution from toothed, long-tailed ancestors of the Cretaceous Period (the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era, or Age of Dinosaurs) remain poorly understood. Expeditions led by Lamanna and colleagues have uncovered dozens of exquisitely preserved avian fossils — many of them including soft tissues such as feathers and skin — from ~120 million-year-old lake sediments in the Changma Basin of northwestern Gansu Province, China. An overwhelming majority of these specimens belong to Gansus yumenensis, a semi-aquatic bird that, despite its great antiquity, is thought to be closely related to Neornithes. More recently, Lamanna and a different group of collaborators have conducted expeditions to the latest Cretaceous exposures in the James Ross Basin of the Antarctic Peninsula in search of what may be the world’s most ancient neornithines.

Following his enthusiastic and informative presentation, Dr. Lamanna passed around fossils and replicas of fossils and answered many questions from a throng of curious birders.

Following the presentation, President VanNewkirk adjourned the meeting.

— prepared by Frank Moone on 2-15-2017

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, Brian Shema, Chuck Tague