The next NVBC GENERAL MEETING will be held April 17, 2019. 

Madagascar’s Biodiversity: Vangas and Couas and Lemurs, Oh My! Speaker Libby Lyons. Join Libby Lyons as she describes how she joined her daughter, a lemur researcher, for two and a half weeks exploring the biodiversity of Madagascar in July 2018. Libby will share her photos to illustrate how the biodiversity differs across the island’s dry western tropical deciduous forests, mid- and low-altitude eastern rainforests, and the southern spinybush forests, with attention not only to birds, but also to plants, lemurs, tenrecs, chameleons, and those masters of camouflage, the leaf-tailed geckos. She will describe endemic groups of birds – couas, asities, mesites, tetrakas, and ground rollers – and her favorite, the vangas, a diverse family that challenges Darwin’s finches in the spectacular diversity of their body size, bill shape and food preferences. She will also touch on the ecology of various lemurs as well as on current efforts to conserve Malagasy biodiversity.
       Libby Lyons is a long-time Arlington resident who works on
international science cooperation for the National Science Foundation. She
takes her binoculars wherever she travels for work. Although her training
was in plant science, she now considers herself a bird enthusiast and a
lapsed botanist.

Early bird refreshments start at 7:30 PM. Any contributions of food or beverage will be most gratefully received. There will be a drawing for door prizes. Northern Virginia Bird Club pins will be available for members who
would like to buy them ($5 each).
MEETING PLACE: St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 4000 Lorcom Lane,
Arlington, 22207.

Previous Meetings  –

Native Plants and Bird Conservation, Home and Abroad. Matt Bright, the Earth Sangha’s Conservation Manager, as he discusses how native plants are important to bird conservation, and how the Earth Sangha is working both in the DC area and in the Dominican Republic to protect migratory birds through the propagation and conservation of native plant species. Matt will explain how native plants play a critical role in supporting birds and what practical steps homeowners can take to protect and promote birds in their gardens.
        In partnership with the Virginia Society of Ornithology, the Earth Sangha has begun conducting bird counts in conservation sites in the western Dominican Republic. Matt will share some of the initial data and discuss some of the considerations and challenges they have encountered thus far.

Matt Bright has worked full-time at Earth Sangha since 2011. Matt
works on plant propagation, conservation, and restoration here in Northern Virginia and in the rural Dominican Republic. He is a Certified Horticulturist with theVirginia Nursery and Landscape Association, a member of the
Virginia Native Plant Society and the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists.


Birds, Birding and Conservation in Guatemala, speaker Rob Cahill. Although less frequently visited by birders than other Central American countries, Guatemala is rich in diversity with over 730 species. Nearly one third of the country of Guatemala is designated Important Bird Areas. Rob Cahill will introduce us to the birds of Guatemala with a special focus on regional endemic species. Rob will also share about community based conservation projects that both help at risk communities and enhance landscapes for birds. His organization, Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC), believes that holistic human and community development through education and capacity building is the key to conservation and development in Guatemala’s central highlands. Education, especially for young women, is key to building peace in this region. CCFC instructs students in grades one through nine in their Kids and Birds environmental education program. CCFC protects cloud forests and alleviates poverty in 110 tiny remote mountain villages that border the remaining cloud forests and cloud forest fragments of the region.

Rob is a founding director of Community Cloud Forest Conservation. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison (B.A.) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) Since coming to Guatemala in 2001, Rob and his wife Tara have specialized in environmental education and agroecology in the Q’eqchi’ Maya context. Rob and his son John Cahill are the eBird editors for the country of Guatemala. The Cahills have led Virginia Society of Ornithology birding trips in Guatemala for the last 3 years. 




Costa Rica Through Multiple Lenses:  Costa Rica is an easy to reach and easy to travel destination for any birder wanting to expand their horizons beyond North America. About as large as West Virginia, but more than 900 bird species can be found in Costa Rica. Our April program will highlight several areas of Costa Rica with great birds and great wildlife. The program will have three parts: Gerry Hawkins will present on southwest Costa Rica and the Oso Peninsula, Bill Young will discuss Rancho Naturalista and the highlands and Joanne Hutton and David Farner, using photos taken by Powell Hutton, will cover the Cano Negro wetlands and northern Costa Rica. Each presentation will highlight the birds and other wildlife found in each location.
Bill Young has traveled to Costa Rica several times, most recently to Rancho Naturalist and the highlands in 2017 and 2018.
Gerry Hawkins made a couple trips to Costa Rica in 2014 and 2015, particularly to the Oso Peninsula in southwest Costa Rica.Joanne Powell and David Farner traveled to several locations in Costa Rica, including Cano Negro and Bosque de Paz in 2017.

Checking in with Virginia’s Breeding Birds Thirty Years Later –  Speaker: Dr. Ashley Peele In the mid- to late-1980s, Virginia conducted its first breeding bird atlas (BBA) project to assess the status and distribution of breeding bird populations. This year (2018), we will dive into the third year of the second Virginia BBA project. Since the inception of the second BBA project, the Virginia birding community has contributed thousands of birding hours. The resulting data has already provided a revealing look into how breeding bird populations have changed over the last thirty years. State Atlas Coordinator, Dr. Ashley Peele, will highlight some of these changes, share interesting species and volunteer highlights, and discuss important needs for the remaining three years of this project. Join us to learn more about this exciting conservation project and how you can get involved. Dr. Peele is an avian ecologist, who became interested in studying wildlife biology after a childhood spent running around the biodiverse lakes and swamps of Florida. Her mentor at Ohio Wesleyan University introduced her to the world of field ornithology and she learned to mist-net, band, and sample the plumage of wild birds. This experience set her on a lifelong path of study and research on avian ecology and conservation. In 2015, she completed her doctorate in avian ecology, after  pending five years studying population dynamics of  Neotropical migratory songbirds in Jamaica. She currently is State Director of the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Project and a research associate at  Virginia Tech’s Conservation Management Institute. Early bird refreshments start at 7:30 pm. Any contributions of food or beverage will be most gratefully received. There will be a drawing for door prizes. Northern Virginia Bird Club pins will be available for members who would like to buy them ($5 each). is a new website created by Ashley Bradford and Bill Young to provide information about the natural history of Monticello Park in Alexandria. Monticello is one of the best places in the Washington Metro Area to see migrating songbirds during the spring. The site will feature detailed species accounts of the birds and plants at the park. It will also include a virtual tour of Monticello, lists of resources in more than a dozen subject areas, natural history articles by Eric Dinerstein, and more. A unique feature will be daily bird checklists for April and May, showing which species you are likely to see on each date. The site is scheduled to go online during the first quarter of 2018, and Bill will give a brief presentation to introduce you to it.

Wood Thrush Research and Conservation
Speaker: Dana McCoskey
Dana McCoskey assisted with the research of Wood Thrushes on their wintering grounds in Costa Rica and then conducted her graduate research with the thrushes on their Indiana breeding grounds as part of a larger Smithsonian Institution project. At George Mason University, she used DNA sequencing and barcoding to develop a novel method to study migratory bird diets and identify prey species that the thrushes in Indiana forage on in different types of forests. Dana’s presentation will focus on Wood Thrush research and conservation.

       Dana McCoskey is a fish and wildlife ecologist who spent over ten years in the field conducting research on migratory animals, monitoring threatened and endangered species, and studying the effects of land use practices such as forestry, fire, and renewable energy development on animal populations. This work took her into the forests, streams, refuges, and back country of Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Nevada, Indiana, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Costa Rica. She is a board member of the DC Audubon Society focused on bird conservation and education. She currently works for Allegheny Science and Technology supporting environmental research initiatives onsite in the US Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office.

Early bird refreshments start at 7:30 PM. Any contributions of food or beverage will be most gratefully received. There will be a drawing for door prizes. Northern Virginia Bird Club pins will be available for members who would like to buy them ($5 each).

MEETING PLACE:  St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 4000 Lorcom Lane, Arlington, 22207

A Birding Year In and Around Japan
Speaker: Libby Lyons

A Birding Year In and Around Japan

Libby Lyons is a long-time Arlington resident who had the chance to live in Japan in 2016.   She explored that amazing country with a focus on fauna, flora, fabric and food. She birded from Hokkaido with its Steller’s Sea Eagles and Japanese Cranes to Kyushu with the sunrise spectacle of an eddy of 10,000 cranes, and to Okinawa viewing the elusive Okinawa Rail. She also took birding forays (often in conjunction with work trips) to Thailand, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Libby was a biology professor for ten years before she joined the National Science Foundation 20 years ago. She will present a travelogue peppered with scientific tidbits, e.g., the decline of such rare species as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, the syntax of Japanese Tits and conservation attitudes in East Asia.

MEETING PLACE: St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 4000 Lorcom Lane,  Arlington, VA.

Our general meetings are open to members of NVABC and the general public and are held at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 4000 Lorcom Lane, Arlington VA.
It is a
t the intersection of Lorcom Lane and Military Rd. From the intersection of Spout Run Pkwy and Lorcom Lane go about a half mile on Lorcom to the second traffic light. Turn left onto Military Rd and enter the first driveway on the right. There is parking at the back entrance of the Church and a bigger lot up the driveway. On-street parking is also available.  Enter by the back door facing Military Rd leading to the Undercroft where our meetings are held.  Our meetings start at 8:00 and there is a meet and greet social for early arrivals from 7:30. For a map of the location, please click <HERE>.

A Million Penguins  Watching Penguins in the Antarctic.
Speaker William Young

In 2016, Bill Young took a cruise from southern Argentina to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula. On the trip, he saw an estimated one million penguins from seven species. His presentation will focus on each of the species, with special emphasis on their biology and behavior and on the environmental issues affecting them. Penguins are found as far north as the Galapagos Islands, but to see large numbers of them, you need to travel to more southerly waters. Bill is a writer from Arlington and has traveled to all seven continents to observe birds and wildlife. In 2014, his book The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat was published by Dover Publications. The book contains 99 essays which look at the realtionship between birds and a broad range of subjects, including biology, ecology, literature, music, history, linguistics, politics, sports, entertainment, and other areas. His natural history videos on his YouTube channel have had tens of thousands of views. Last year, he was honored by having a species of snail-killing fly named after him — Dictya youngi.

What do Birds Eat – Examining bird-insect food webs to improve avian conservation efforts
Ashley Kennedy

Although insects serve as a vital food source for most terrestrial bird species, particularly while breeding, we still don’t know much about which insects birds prefer as prey. To address this, Doug Tallamy’s lab at the University of Delaware has launched a citizen science project inviting birders across the country to contribute photos of birds with insects in their bills. A better understanding of avian food webs will help us better manage landscapes for avian conservation.  Join Ashley as she provides some insight into this important component of bird conservation.

Every good birder knows that birds eat fruits, nuts, and insects, but many people underestimate the importance of the latter. Even birds that are described as primarily frugivorous, granivorous, or nectarivorous rely on insects during the breeding season and will dramatically change their foraging patterns during that time to take advantage of the varied proteins, fats, and nutrients insects provide. Field guides and other references, however, rarely provide details as to which kinds of insects are the most important in birds’ diets.

Most studies to date only provide order-level identification of prey (e.g., “beetles”, “caterpillars”), but this broad categorization implies that all beetles or all caterpillars are equally important to birds. Would a chickadee rather eat a smooth, green inchworm, or a toxic monarch caterpillar— or a densely hairy “woolly bear”? Intuitively, we might guess the inchworm would be the preferred choice, but until we have the data to back it up, this is just speculation.

Ultimately, the lab hopes to be able to answer questions like “Do house wrens in Montana prefer the same types of insects as house wrens in Pennsylvania?” or “Do eastern bluebirds feed their second brood the same insects as the first?” Currently they have about 3,000 photos of a desired 10,000-plus.

Ashley Kennedy is a PhD student in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. She is also a Northern Virginia native whose interest in birds and insects began right here! Along with her advisor Doug Tallamy, she is investigating birds’ dietary choices and hopes that a better understanding of “what birds eat” will help guide future bird conservation efforts.


Taiwan: Birds, Culture and More…..

Join club members Diane Marton and Joanna Taylor on their journey this past April around Taiwan and its offshore island Lanyu. They were on a Tropical Birding tour led by guide and photographer Charley Hesse.

Swinhoe’s Pheasant by Charley Hesse

Swinhoe’s Pheasant by Charley Hesse

Taiwan, an island nation thrust out of the ocean floor along the Pacific “ring of fire’, sports stunningly beautiful mountain peaks and seascapes in its small area. Dubbed Formosa or “beautiful island” by the early Portuguese explorers, it claims a high number of endemic plant and animal species, with birds being no exception. The number is continually rising as endemic subspecies are promoted to full species status.

Early bird refreshments start at 7:30 and will include some Chinese finger foods. Any other contributions of food or beverage will be most gratefully received. There will be a drawing for door prizes. Northern Virginia Bird Club pins will be available for members wishing to buy them ($5 each).

DIRECTIONS : Are listed on Page 5 of the Siskin.
NVBC Meetings are usually held at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 4000 Lorcom Ln,
Arlington 22207, at the intersection of Lorcom Ln and Military Rd. From the
intersection of Spout Run Pkwy and Lorcom Ln, go about a half mile on
Lorcom to the second traffic light. Turn left onto Military Rd and enter the first
driveway on the right. There is some parking near the Church’s back entrance
and a bigger lot up the driveway. There is on-street parking. Enter at the back door
facing Military Rd which leads to the Undercroft where the meeting is held. VA. begining at 8:00 pm, with a social period for early arrivals beginning at 7:30. For a map of the location, click


Why and How DDT was banned, 1972; The Role of Patuxent and the Benefits that Followed by Dr. Charles Wurster

DDTWarsCoverEverybody knows that DDT was banned long ago, but few know the long-term results. In some ways the ban was just the beginning. DDT contamination had become worldwide, concentrating up food chains and causing birds to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke in the nests. Critically important experiments proved the direct connection between DDT and eggshell thinning. There are now 25 times as many Bald Eagles in the lower 48 as there were in 1970, and the data are similar for Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Brown Pelicans, Cooper’s Hawks and others. There is no greater victory for birds in the past half century, but it is not generally recognized because it came so gradually over the past 40 years. There were few headlines, and often the credit for the eagle recovery has been attributed in the media to Rachel Carson, “Congress”, legislation, and the Endangered Species Act. All false. The ban made it possible. It’s a great story that Dr. Wurster only came to appreciate as he researched his book DDT Wars: Rescuing our National Bird, Preventing Cancer and Creating the Environmental Defense Fund, written because it seemed to be getting lost to history. There are also many other benefits that came from the DDT ban, which he outlined in his presentation.

Dr. Charles Wurster was born and raised in Philadelphia, went to Haverford College,University of Delaware, and received a PhD in chemistry from Stanford University (1957). CWursterHe is a lifelong birder, which got him interested in DDT. Beginning in 1963 he helped organize the scientific case against DDT, and in 1967 became one of the founders of the Environmental Defense Fund, EDF. He remains on the Board of Trustees today. For 35 years he was on the faculty (environmental sciences) at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Our meetings begin at 8:00 pm, with a social period for early bird arrivals starting at 7:30. Any contributions of food or beverage will be most gratefully received. There will be a drawing for door prizes. Northern Virginia Bird Club pins will be available for members who would like to buy them ($5 each).