Newsletter of the Delaware Ornithological Society
 The Flyer 
Volume 54 | Number 8 | April 2023
Next meeting: April 19!

Letter from the President

A profile of DOS President Mike Moore.As breeding season approaches, I have one thing on my mind: millions of baby European Starlings. This invasive species was released in New York City in the 1890s by Shakespeare enthusiasts. About 60 released birds have since turned into 150 million throughout North America. It's about time we solve the starling problem.

I am remodeling my house with the solution in mind: adopting as many starlings out of the wild as possible. Starlings make wonderful pets and can even learn to talk. Every spare room I have will be converted into a top of the line aviary, except for my basement. I plan to turn that into a large scale mealworm farm. Starlings love mealworms and I'm going to need a lot of them. Plus, all my food waste will become mealworm food, so the whole operation will be so sustainable! I'm not worried at all about the smell.

As DOS President, I encourage all our members to follow suit and turn extra rooms into homes for our new favorite pet bird. No one needs a second or third bathroom anyway. And best of all, my massive flock will be great deterrents for unwanted house guests. Non-birders just can't appreciate the musicality of starling song!

 -Michael Moore, DOS President

Accident on Newark Reservoir Spurs Conservation Efforts

The pedestrian path at the Newark Reservoir was closed this week to remove a car that had driven into the water. The vehicle belonged to Howard Turner, the owner of Goose Pursuit, a waterfowl management company that eliminates bothersome geese and ducks on a fee-for-service basis. He explains, “Like any other day, I drove my car up the pedestrian path and made a counterclockwise loop around the reservoir. As I neared the far end, I approached a flock of Canada geese on the path. The birds held their ground and made it obvious they weren’t going to leave without a struggle.”

Howard reported trying all of his typical tactics to spook the geese, including shaking a giant coffee can full of coins, throwing rocks, deploying a remote-controlled car, and blasting Red Hot Chili Peppers. “I would have sent my dogs after them, but Cocoa and Muffin were having a spa day at the groomer,” Howard explained. “When I honked my horn, the geese got irate and started honking back! At that point, I just got plain mad. How dare they mock me?!” In a fit of rage, Howard slammed on the gas and rapidly accelerated toward the geese, but in the moment before impact, he swerved, sending the Goose Pursuit vehicle into the icy waters of the reservoir. As the vehicle rapidly filled with water, Howard described his panic, “I couldn’t open my driver’s door against the weight of the water. I thought I was going to drown.”

As the vehicle sank under the water’s surface, some unlikely heroes came to Howard’s rescue. “I was running out of air and slamming my fists on the window when I saw a trio of dark shapes appear in the murky waters,” explained Howard. Three double-crested cormorants approached the submerged vehicle and used their powerful beaks to break through the glass of the driver’s side window. “I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was a miracle!” recalled Howard. Howard managed to swim to the shoreline where a bystander called 9-1-1. From that moment forward, Howard vowed to never again harass wildlife. “I am now devoting my life to protecting our feathered friends,” he explained. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

Since his harrowing experience, Howard Turner has started a GoFundMe page whose efforts have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to conserve waterfowl habitat and restore existing natural spaces through invasive species removal and installation of native plants.

Gym Enthusiasts Flock to Birdwatching

When you think of birdwatchers, the image of sculpted hardcore fitness enthusiasts generally isn’t the first thing to come to mind. But local gym owner, Tom Ross, has started a new trend coined “Buff Birding.”

Tom Ross owns Tom’s Fitness Emporium in Pike Creek. During the pandemic, revenue plummeted. “I was really concerned for a year or two,” he explained. “I didn’t think we’d be able to pay the rent and figured we’d have to shut down.” 

After pandemic restrictions were lifted, clientele returned but not to the same pre-pandemic levels. “I knew I had to come up with an innovative idea to encourage more turnout at the gym. It wasn’t until I was going on a hike at White Clay that it hit me. I saw a group of birdwatchers, and about half of them were lugging around fancy camera gear. I thought to myself - that gear looks heavy! I bet those folks could bench press 100lbs without a sweat.” 

Following this eureka moment, Tom invested in used camera gear. “The bigger and bulkier the lenses, the better,” he explained. “Strength training through super telephoto optics could be a revolutionary new fitness trend!”

With strategic advertising and partnering with the Delaware Ornithological Society, “Buff Birding” was born. 

“I wasn’t so sure about the whole birding thing,” explained long-time gym member Cindy Robertson. “I decided to give it a try for a couple weeks in May, and it turned my world upside down. I mean, look how awesome my arms look now!” When asked about her favorite bird to photograph for fitness, Cindy replied, “Definitely the warblers. When you’re holding a 20lb lens above your head for 20 minutes to try and focus on this flitty little thing that never holds still, you start to feel your arms burn and shake. And when that happens, you know you’re building muscle!”

Since the start of Buff Birders the group has grown to over 40 individuals. If you’d like to join, stop by Tom’s Fitness Emporium or email them to sign up for their next trip. 
Renew your membership now!

April 19 Meeting:

"Which Native Birds Would Be The Tastiest?"
April 15 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm EDT

Join us this month for a hearty, and probably heated, discussion about which of our native birds would be the most delicious if we didn't have the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

We'll finish up the meeting with a vote for tastiest bird. Come hungry! Market hunting recipe suggestions also welcome.

The meeting is in person at Ashland Nature Center.

Upcoming Field Trips

Brandywine Art Museum Open Exhibit
April 1-30, 10am - 4pm

Barred owl by Chris Bennett. A barred owl perched overhead, surrounded by branches and green leaves.
Join us at the Brandywine Art Museum for the newest exhibit, “From Gouache to Guano”. We will explore the ways in which bird poop can be viewed in an artistic light. Come see the colorful pointillism-inspired droppings from robins and the spectacular explosive displays by ospreys as they splatter their bowel contents onto canvas in a manner that would make Jackson Pollock proud. The exhibit will be on display through the end of April.
Ducks From Below at Ashton Tract
April 15 @ 9am EDT

Saltmarsh at sunrise by Tim Freiday. A beautiful purple and pink cloudy sky blankets a dimly lit view of saltmarsh. A paved road cuts through the foreground at an angle.
Come to Ashton Tract on April 15 where we will endeavor to identify ducks from below. We will quietly wade into the marsh and observe common waterfowl from an underwater perspective. See mallards dabble into the aquatic vegetation and dive among the ring-necked and ruddy ducks. Please bring your own snorkel and goggles as there is a limited supply available for participants.

Cocoa Puffs Re-imagined

General Mills cereal company has revamped the childhood favorite Cocoa Puffs with a new version intended to appeal to older audiences. “Consumer surveys have indicated a strong desire for healthier options on the market,” explained product developer Elena Allenwood. “People love the chocolate flavoring in their breakfast cereal, but they want something higher in protein content to sustain them through their busy workdays.”

General Mills turned to their team of scientists to develop a cereal that delivers a chocolatey flavor combined with nutritional content aligned with current dietary guidelines. After experimenting with a variety of protein-based sources, none of their beta products could replicate the crunch and mouthfeel of the original Cocoa Puffs. It wasn’t until the team turned to unconventional protein sources that a solution was discovered. “We were trying to think outside the (cereal) box, and I asked our team what the Cocoa Puffs mascot, Sonny the Cuckoo, would eat,” explained the lead dietary scientist who is also an avid birder. “Caterpillars!! Sonny eats caterpillars!”

Mike Moore, president of the Delaware Ornithological Society, tested the redesigned Cocoa Puffs. “They were surprisingly good. The cocoa-covered caterpillars had a nice snap when you bit into them. Even better, they never got soggy in the milk.”

The new cereal has had a warm reception from consumers. “Apparently not only are adults purchasing the product for the added health benefits, but kids are begging their parents to buy it too,” says the General Mills marketing director. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat caterpillars for breakfast?”

Binocular Technology Advances
Field of Birding


Rammstein Optics, a German binocular manufacturer, has introduced a new model to the market, the Raptor ZX2. The Raptor ZX2 is a 10x42 binocular with superior performance even at low light levels. But what makes this new model even more impressive is its ability to transmit live images to other Raptor ZX2 binoculars that are paired with the master binocular.

Prior to release, the hawk watch at Ashland Nature Center served as a beta tester. David Brown used the new binoculars extensively over the 2022 hawk watch season and was able to provide critical feedback to the manufacturer. David demonstrated, “When I get on an interesting hawk and I want other visitors to get on my bird, it can be difficult to explain the exact location, especially on cloudless days. But with the Raptor ZX2, I simply press this button on the side of the binocular, and it sends a live video feed to the eyepieces of other Raptor ZX2 binoculars.” The Raptor ZX2 can pair with up to eight different binoculars within a radius of 500 feet. “Now if there is ever any question about the ID of a particular bird, I can easily get other eyes on it, and we can have a real-time discussion based on its physical appearance and flight pattern,” explained David. “I think this technology can revolutionize birding and get more people interested in watching birds.”

When asked if there were any drawbacks to the new technology, David paused. “Well, there is one issue,” he explained. “Watch this.” David started scanning the skies with his Raptor ZX2 and finally settled on an airplane off in the distance. Within a minute, David’s phone buzzed with an incoming text message from his supervisor. The text message read, “Are you looking at planes again? Get back to work!” David grimaced and panned his binoculars away from the plane to focus on a turkey vulture soaring over Hunter’s Field.
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Fossil T-rex Discovered in Frederica


Scientists say the remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex represent the most well-preserved dinosaur species to date. The discovery was made near Frederica when farmers were preparing the site for spring planting. Following excavation, the fossils were taken to the University of Delaware for analysis. “As soon as we fully unearthed this specimen, I knew we had something special,” explained paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant. “Portions of the soft tissues mineralized to form fossil, which is an extremely rare phenomenon. Structures that are normally lost to the process of decay have been preserved.”

Researchers at the University of Delaware used computed tomography, or CT, to scan the fossils and reveal the details of the mineralized soft tissues. “When I first saw the scans, I was shocked,” said UD’s Dr. Vogel. “They show what appears to be a syrinx. The syrinx is the vocal structure unique to birds that is located between the trachea and the bronchi. This special vocal organ allows birds to make sounds unlike any other creature on Earth.”

Based on the reconstructions generated from the CT scans, Dr. Vogel’s lab was able to create a life-sized model of the T-rex syrinx using a 3D printer. “By simply passing air through this model, we will be the first humans ever to hear the vocalizations of the T-rex,” said Dr. Vogel excitedly as he gestured to his model, which looked like a two-foot-tall Y-shaped structure. Dr. Vogel gingerly placed the syrinx model into a tube-shaped enclosure and pressed a switch. “I have just turned on the wind tunnel, and now I need to orient the model to maximize air flow,” he paused, twisting the model. Immediately a strange buzzy, repetitious noise emanated from the wind tunnel.

Analysis of the sound waveforms generated by the model revealed that T-rex vocalizations were nothing like the echoing roars and guttural rumbles that the movie industry uses to represent these creatures. In fact, the T-rex calls most closely resemble the ‘peent!’ of modern-day woodcocks. “These findings completely change our view of dinosaurs and reveal that sound played a critical role in the lives of these fascinating animals,” explained Dr. Vogel. “One could fathom that dinosaur songs were used much like bird songs to defend territories, attract mates, and communicate. If the T-rex vocalized like the modern-day woodcock, who’s to say the similarities end there?” 

House Wren
Commandeers Mini-Van


Newark resident Becky Douglas’ family vehicle was vandalized last Thursday. “I was only gone a few minutes to buy some odds and ends at Acme,” reports Becky, describing her shopping trip that led up to the incident. “I left my passenger side window open a crack, and I didn’t think it’d be a problem.” When Becky returned to her vehicle after picking up bread, eggs, milk, and ice cream, she was astonished by the abundant twigs that had been crammed into the back passenger seats. “I was like holy smoke! What is going on here?” says Becky.

Thinking it was a prank, Becky phoned local officials. When Sergeant Stevens arrived on the scene, he immediately knew the cause of the vandalism. “Ma’am, it appears a house wren has erected habitation inside your vehicle,” explained Sergeant Stevens. Upon closer inspection, the officer discovered a clutch of eggs buried deep within the tangle of twigs. “It is unlawful to remove the eggs or damage the nest due to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so you will be forced to temporarily surrender your vehicle to this house wren until all young have hatched and fledged the nest,” explained the officer. Becky Douglas reportedly used a ride share service to get to a nearby car rental. “I don’t mind helping the wildlife,” Becky explained. “But I really hope they don’t leave too much poop in there when it’s all said and done.”

Tri-State Under Lockdown


Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research was on high alert last week when the facility was overrun with newly hatched Chinese praying mantises. The incident was first brought to the attention of the organization’s executive director, Lisa Smith, on Thursday afternoon.

“When a volunteer rushed into my office and said there was something I should see, never in a million years did I think the walls of the food prep kitchen would literally be crawling,” she explained. When questioned about the source of the insects, Anita Moos elaborated, “We often keep the egg cases of the Chinese praying mantis in our freezer. Come springtime, we put them in a fine mesh bag and warm them up. Once they hatch, it’s an excellent food source for our injured and orphaned baby birds. It not only eliminates an invasive insect from our surrounding natural areas, but it’s also a budget-friendly way to provide nutrition to our insect-loving birds.”

Authorities at the scene say the freezer where the egg cases were stored failed some time Wednesday night, and when a volunteer accessed the freezer on Thursday, the praying mantises poured out of the freezer. “It was like a scene from a horror movie,” said the volunteer. “I jumped up on the table and started screaming. I didn’t know what to do!” Tri-State was on lockdown through the end of the week as an exterminator was called to the scene to deal with the infestation.

Voices from the Public

2023 marks the Year of the Rabbit. What are your thoughts?

Cooper’s Hawk: “Delicious”

Barred Owl: “I love fast food!”

Black Vulture: “Much more filling than the year of the rat.”
Want to see your photos in the Flyer? Submit them to [email protected]!

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