Thursday, August 21, 2014

A DVOC Youth Birding Scholarship Celebration

The weather on August 9, 2014 was perfect for a picnic, and provided a gorgeous day for birding.  Luckily, DVOC had both of those items on the schedule that day.  A blessedly cool morning greeted DVOC Field Trip Leaders at the Snyder Road Pavilion in Green Lane Park.  As the mist rose off Green Lane Reservoir, I bought a delicious brownie to supplement my breakfast of granola bar and coffee.  My fellow field trip leaders were all present: Andy Curtis, Joe Greco, Paul Guris, Joe Hudson.  We were quite prepared for a big turnout, but the low numbers of birders present made for easy carpooling.  A big tip of the hat goes out to Dick & Shelly Bell and Nanette Guida, who made our early morning start worthwhile.  Paul Guris and I consulted on where to bird, and pretty much simultaneously proposed Fulshaw Craeg Preserve, a Natural Lands Trust property.  As luck would have it, this site was not even a contender for the morning field trip, but the low numbers of birders and the cool temperatures made forest birding a natural choice.  With four of us in Paul’s car and Andy’s truck carrying the rest (with room to spare!), we drove up the Unami Creek Valley. 

Presently, we arrived at Fulshaw Craeg Preserve, a lesser-known gem of a location in the heart of Montgomery County, PA.  The cool morning had the birds sleeping in later than the birders, but we soon turned up a good number of Common Yellowthroats.  These were undoubtedly family groups, and a number of the birds were scruffy looking juvenile yellowthroats.  Some late singers were still making their presences known: Red-eyed Vireos, Tufted Titmouse, American Goldfinches, Carolina Wrens, Eastern Wood-pewee and Gray Catbird.  Incidentally, this late summer seems to have a number of singing Gray Catbirds around.  Rounding out the morning concert were calling White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Purple Martin and more.  A Northern Waterthrush popped up at the creek’s edge, and later gave stunning (if all too brief) views as it perched from a low-hanging branch at the wetland’s edge.  A Pileated Woodpecker called, and Paul Guris tried to get its attention with a Barred Owl imitation.  During that time we heard an Eastern Screech-owl, which turned out to be Dick Bell doing his own owl impression while investigating a hole in a tree trunk.  As the morning warmed, the insects became more active.  Widow Skimmers and other dragonflies demanded attention, and a few butterflies took advantage of the abundant flowers.  A Ruby-throated Hummingbird flew in to nectar on Cardinal Flower, then sped on its way.  


On the way out, we spotted a juvenile Northern Water Snake.  Its head was resting on the surface of the water, while most of its body was underneath a small rock.  The snake took one look at us, and reeled its long body in under the rock, disappearing completely.  Andy Curtis overturned the rock, and for a moment it seemed the snake had somehow disappeared on us.  Then, shooting through a cloud of silt, the snake made its way towards the stream crossing.  With crayfish exploding downstream ahead of it, the juvenile Northern Water Snake weaved its way past the rocks of the stream crossing and disappeared downstream.  As we made our way back to the cars, Paul Guris took a contingent of the field trip participants in pursuit of a family of Indigo Buntings.  These birds were noisy but elusive.  They were challenging to see, if easy to hear.  We got back to the cars and started heading towards Whites Mill Preservation Area, but had to make a stop at the creek crossing where Paul spotted a Broad-winged Hawk perched across from the bridge.  Everyone got to see the bird, which showed off its banded tail nicely when it flew over the lead car to land on the other side of the bridge.  Unfortunately, the Broad-winged Hawk did not linger, soon heading deeper into the woods and out of view.

By the time we’d arrived at Whites Mill Preservation Area, the heat of the day had really set in, and the insects were responding accordingly.  Few birds were singing, only an Orchard Oriole, two Carolina Wrens and an Eastern Wood-pewee.  A Mute Swan lounged at the far end of the marsh, while two young Wood Ducks plied the waters then hid among the lily pads.  A couple Green Herons hunted at the water’s edge near the observation deck.  We took advantage of the heat to focus on insects, enjoying the abundance of odonates, including Lily Pad Forktail, a species that until recently lacked modern records for the county.  Less easily missed species included Slaty Skimmer, Eastern Pondhawk, Eastern Amberwing, Eastern Forktail and Common Whitetail.  Other insects of note were also available and cooperative for photography: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Least Skipper, Eight-spotted Forester Moth and syrphid flies which are native pollinators that look like bees.  All the while the Green Frogs played their banjo calls and Eastern Painted Turtles basked in the ample sunlight.  After Andy Curtis outfitted a local young fisherman with some of his homemade custom fishing lures, we were on our way back to the Snyder Road Pavilion at Green Lane Park, with visions of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers at the forefront of our minds.

Fred Susie manned the grill, and provided a hearty repast to all who attended the picnic lunch.  I ate more than I’ve eaten in one sitting since December, and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.   Mary Bowler and Anita Guris were on task, recruiting boaters, bicyclists and joggers to donate a little cash to DVOC in exchange for burgers, hot dogs and chips that were provided by sponsors: Utz and Clemens FoodGroup.  Plus there were delicious confections of all sorts provided by Queen Bee Pastry, including the ever-popular Cheesecake Truffles.  Everyone had a great time with stories, socializing and food.  All the while, Halloween Pennants (a gorgeous dragonfly species) mated shamelessly at the water’s edge.  Strangely, an Eastern Bluebird was seen collecting nest material nearby.  A Green Heron fished the far end of Deep Creek Lake while we enjoyed more traditional picnic fare.  In no time at all, 1:00pm was upon us, and the afternoon field trips were organized in short order.  Paul Guris led a dragonfly walk that explored the habitat around Deep Creek Lake.  Meanwhile, I assembled a small crew of birders in two cars with grassland birds as our goal.  

My afternoon trip was attended by John, Lisa and Jay Familetti, Nanette Guida, Cindy Ahern, Mick Jeitner and Linda Rowan.  I had Joe Hudson along as a co-leader, and Mick and Linda graciously drove the second car.  In more time than it takes to tell, we’d traveled from Green Lane Park to the grasslands of Palm, PA – a little patch of grassland habitat in Montgomery County, which has attracted Blue Grosbeak and Dickcissel in the past.  The afternoon sun was fierce, and the temperature was just hot enough to keep the bird activity on the subdued side, while the insects delighted in the summer weather.  Butterflies and dragonflies were plentiful, and a katydid mistook my green t-shirt for a bush, flying right onto me and spending a little time on my abdomen before moving on.  There were birds about, of course: Red-winged Blackbirds, American Goldfinches, Turkey Vultures, Barn Swallows.  A couple Red-tailed Hawks soared across the sky and one perched on a nearby utility pole.  Indigo Buntings were still singing, perhaps defending territories on which they were guarding their second or third clutches of eggs.  At the field’s edge, Eastern Towhee and Northern Mockingbird put in brief occurrences.  Before too long, the familiar “bwink, bwink” call of Bobolinks reached my ears, and Mick Jeitner was able to spot them as they sped across the landscape.  A second small group of Bobolinks gave better views as they flew along the field, with distant woodlots providing some nice green contrast to their yellow plumage.  All the Bobolinks we saw were yellow: females, young birds or adult males already in winter plumage.  We used up the remainder of our limited time admiring the surrounding wildlife: Monarchs, Clouded Sulfurs, Black Swallowtails, Chipping Sparrow, Chimney Swift, Gray Catbird and more.  Unfortunately, to return on time for the award ceremony, we had to pull ourselves away from the landscape and its birds.  Back on the road, we made it just in time for the award ceremony, which was fortuitous since our group included one of the guests of honor, his parents, and the DVOC Youth Birding Committee Chairperson.

During the award ceremony, I played the role of club photographer, and I will let Anita Guris’s prose (edited only to a minor degree) relate the events of that portion of the day:

DVOC was well represented and we have at least one or two people interested in joining the club.  Luckily I made some flyers up touting DVOC membership so people could learn more about our great club.

Mary Bowler went above and beyond to pull people in off their park bike rides, walks, and even from the mens room! Yes for real!  I also had some success with luring people into our little soiree, and people were quite generous and hungry.

I wish to thank Mary for her generous donation of foods, drinks, charcoal, lighter fluid and time, as well as her friend Fred Susie for manning the grill.  I want to thank Barbara Granger for the best sauerkraut ever and for coming to the event on her birthday, it was wonderful to spend time with you on your special day. 

The Familetti family contributed a huge amount of burgers, buns, water ice, water, Gatorade and high-energy positive attitudes to the event.  They were gracious and very engaging.

Our thanks go out to Steve Kacir for heading up the field trip fun in the morning and for all your ongoing support every day in every way. Our nature walk leaders were fabulous. Steve Kacir, Joe Hudson and Paul Guris.  Local birders Joe Greco and Andy Curtis kindly helped on the walks, and DVOC thanks them for helping us out.

I would also like to say that the folks that showed up for the ceremony were wonderful, attentive and caring. David Sabatine, father of the late Adam Sabatine for whom the award is named, was quite emotional, as you can all imagine, but our members are a great bunch that made him feel welcome and honored.  Especially young Jay - our scholarship recipient.  He was just a joy to behold. I will send his contact information to anyone that wishes to have it.  His speech, telling us how he began birding and what it means to him, was touching, and made many of the audience cry.  David and his sister both said to me that young Jay reminded them of Adam, with his energy and enthusiasm for birds.  He made us all so very proud.  His lovely mother, Lisa thanked us for assisting him in going to this camp as she said it would not have been possible without our funding assistance.

Jay was thrilled to meet George Armistead and Bill Schmoker because they both will be at camp this whole week.  I told him to listen attentively to both of these mentors because they are the best of the best. 

During the ceremony Cindy gave more background on the development of the award and encouraged continuing support for youth birding.

Below is the report for the fundraising effort.  I donated all the purchases I made for this event as did Mary.  Making this a successful fundraiser.  My contribution was about $385 total including the gifts for Jay, the hot dogs purchased, the paper products, baked goods from Queen Bee Pastry, and the balance of $25 for the full day rental of the park pavilion.  DVOC paid $75 for the 4 hour rental of the pavilion.  Mary's contribution was approximately $142.00.  Edie Parnum gave $20 money to buy Bananas for the event, which all the bikers loved! Sandra Keller gave $20 directly to DVOC to help with the scholarship fund. Thanks Edie, and Sandra! So our combined contributions for this effort were $622.00, and this doesn't include the money the Familetti's contributed for the foods they brought.

Cindy brought a food basket to raffle off, but there weren't really enough people present to make this work.  She kindly gifted the basket to me.  Thank you Cindy, I very much appreciate this kind gesture.

The total raised from Saturday's affair was $355.00 in cash, $24.51 in a credit card payment. For a total of $379.51. 

Joe Hudson also gave me a check for $50 to help with the “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” DVD Expenses - and I will remove the cost of the DVDs sold to him and hold the rest until all the DVDs are sold, since I've been too ill to really put forth the effort.  So far I've sold 13 DVDs at varying costs (6 at $15, the remaining at $10) with a profit to the Scholarship fund of $100 even.  

So the total raised thus far for the Scholarship fund by this effort and the DVD sales comes to $ 479.51

I sincerely thank everyone involved that made this first award ceremony a great success!  

After the award ceremony, a number of us retired to Paul & Anita’s house for some much deserved rest and relaxation out of the sun.  Truly, it was a delightful day, and if you weren’t there we missed you, and you certainly missed out on a fun time.  I, personally, would love to see DVOC do some more of these events that combine our passion for birds and birding with opportunities to get to know each other better and have some fun and socialize.  The heart of the origin of DVOC is camaraderie: look at the old photos and you’ll see our founders out birding in three-piece suits with hip flasks – together.  There is no better opportunity to learn from each other than at events like this, where we can do a little birding but also ask each other questions and talk about things that interest us. 

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank a bunch of people who contributed to the event and towards making the day so much fun.

Thanks to the DVOC Youth Birding Committee for taking the lead on this and putting together a lovely event, especially Anita Guris, Mary Bowler, Joe Hudson, Cindy Ahern, Barbara Granger, Edie Parnum and Sandra Keller.

Thanks to everyone in DVOC and outside of the club who volunteered to help with field trips for the day: Paul Guris, Andy Curtis, Joe Greco, and Joe Hudson.  Especially, I’d like to thank Andy & Joe who are not DVOC members, but helped lead the field trips and tolerated my many emails as I tried to organize the day’s events. 

I’d like to thank Fred Susie for manning the grill!  Great job!  I have no idea how I ate so much, and it was all delicious.  DVOC really appreciates your assistance on the event. 

Thanks to John and Lisa Familetti for all their help on the event and for sharing their day with us.  To Jay Familetti, thanks for the stirring speech and wonderful attitude and cooperating for photos.  I hope Camp Avocet was everything you’d have wanted it to be. 

Thanks to the Sabatines, especially David Sabatine, who gave a heartwarming and emotional speech, but also to David’s sister Kathleen and his sister-in-law Patty who joined us to celebrate Adam’s memory and pass on his enthusiasm to the next generation of birders.  Thank you all so much!

Thanks to American Birding Association (ABA) luminaries George Armistead and Bill Schmoker for joining us, and hanging out afterwards.  I’m looking forward to some more partnerships between DVOC and ABA in the future.

Thanks to our sponsors: Utz, Clemens FoodGroup, and Queen Bee Pastry.

Thanks to Mick Jeitner and Linda Rowan for supporting the DVOC Youth Birding Committee and also for heading up the second car in the afternoon field trips.  Also, people need to bird with Mick, he’s got sharp eyes.  I could hear those Bobolinks, but he’s the one who spots them first.

Thanks to DVOC Council and Officers for helping get things off the ground, especially Treasurer Bert Filemyr who also helped publicize the event.  Likewise, I’d like to thank everyone in DVOC who made it out to Green Lane for the day.  Let’s do this again soon!

Finally, one more thank-you to Mary Bowler and Anita Guris who really put their hearts and souls into making the day a success.  You two are an amazing team!

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