Birding at The Woodlands: You Never Know What You'll See!

This is especially true as right now is prime time for migration! All kinds of birds, from eagles to songbirds, are crossing continents, some by day, some by night. Some make shorter journeys, not leaving the country, yet others will travel all the way to Argentina! Some birds, like the Northern Rough-winged Swallow will leave the Northeast for now, and others, like the White-throated Sparrow will join us for the winter.

 This same Red-tailed Hawk is shown in the video later in the blog. Photo taken at the Woodlands by Toribird.

This same Red-tailed Hawk is shown in the video later in the blog. Photo taken at the Woodlands by Toribird.

Many warblers are currently on the move. However, they can be a real challenge to identify in the fall as almost all have changed from their bright spring colors to drab, olive-green plumage with significantly less variation between species. However, two warblers that are still easy to recognize are the Black-throated Blue and Black-and-White Warblers. These little birds are passing through Philly on their way South. Both are conveniently well-described by their names: the male Black-throated Blue Warbler has a steely-blue back, a black throat and mask, and white underparts.  Black-and-White Warblers are simply striped black and white. They like to act like little woodpeckers, crawling vertically on trees. 

 An Osprey striking a pose for the camera. Photo by Toribird.

An Osprey striking a pose for the camera. Photo by Toribird.

Many species of birds of prey are also traveling right now. Keep your eyes to the sky, as many will be flyovers, just trying to cover distance and not hunting or landing. You could see Bald Eagles and Ospreys, or falcons like American Kestrels and Merlins. Many hawks like the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk will also be passing through. Keep in mind, though, that most will be in flight, and sometimes distant or backlit. Test your ID skills on these migrants, but don't fret if you can't always pin down a species. Sometimes, they are best left as the ever-common Black Dot in the Sky Bird.

Speaking of hawks, check out this video of a Red-tailed Hawk, a common bird in Philly, eating a chipmunk at the Woodlands! 

I caught the resident cemetery Red-tail eating a light dinner of a chipmunk in September 2018.

Interested in coming on one of my (Toribird’s) bird walks? I will be leading two on Sunday, October 21 as part of Halloween Family Fun Day. They are geared for beginner birders, but all skill levels are always welcome! We can expect to see birds like flickers, starlings, robins, and House Finches, among others. If you’ve wanted to try birding the Woodlands but have been a bit hesitant, a guided walk could be a good way to start. 

Written by Toribird

The Haseltine Family: Modern Art Moguls

Surrounded by lovely, lily-gilded stone lies Elizabeth Holmes Haseltine under the impersonal moniker "Mother." Born in Pittsburgh in 1842 to attorney and businessman Joseph and his wife Esther Holmes Hoge, Elizabeth was also the granddaughter on both sides of two Presbyterian preachers. In 1863 in Pittsburgh, she married Philadelphia-born Charles Haseltine, the scion of an old New England family and the brother of artist William Stanley Haseltine. He was a merchant who left the University of Pennsylvania after two years to start his professional life. Charles' interests are better documented than his wife's; like many upper class men of his day, he was a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Union League, and the Art Club. He was the owner of the international art house, Haseltine Art Galleries, and was known as a prominent international art dealer. Haseltine handled some of Thomas Eakins' early works, including "The Gross Clinic" and "The Agnew Clinic" which were first exhibited at Haseltine Art Galleries.

 The Haseltine Gallery used to stand at 1416-18 Chestnut Street.

The Haseltine Gallery used to stand at 1416-18 Chestnut Street.

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The couple had three daughters and lived comfortably at 1707 Spruce Street with domestic servants. The middle daughter Elizabeth, "Lillie," died at age 14 and is buried to the left of her mother in the Haseltine plot. Elizabeth died in March 1891 at age 50 of acute laryngitis at a resort in Coronado Beach, CA where she visited the Pacific Ocean for the first time with her husband. It is likely that they stayed at the Hotel del Coronado as the "Del" was completed in 1888. (The Del's founders built the seaside resort in what was a barren landscape to market luxury resort vacations to the Gilded Age bourgeoisie.) The funeral took place in April in Philadelphia at the Second (now First, after a 1949 merger) Presbyterian Church at Walnut and 21st Street, a Henry Augustus Sims design from 1872.


 Grave Gardens in the Haseltine Family Plot.

Grave Gardens in the Haseltine Family Plot.

Written by Amy Lambert, current Grave Gardener of Elizabeth Haseltine. "I'm honored to design and grow a tribute garden to dear Elizabeth." The Haseltines are buried in Section L - 44

 

 

Birding at The Woodlands: Breeding Season and the Promise of Migration

In the last episode of Birding at the Woodlands, we saw that breeding season was fast approaching. We can now see the offspring of the birds who were working so hard to build a nest and care for their babies! Though out of the nest, these fledglings  are not independent. You can often find them begging for food by chirping and fluttering their wings. Even though there are many older babies already out and about, there are many songbird families with younger birds still in the nest. Also, plenty of birds have more than one clutch (a group of eggs) each year, so there will be fledglings to see all summer! 

So, let's have a look at how to tell young songbirds from their parents, since seeing cute, fuzzy babies is one of the best parts of summer birding!

 Photo from Wikipedia Commons by M.L. Haen

Photo from Wikipedia Commons by M.L. Haen

There are two main ways to identify a young bird, such as the robin pictured above: the beak and the tail (remember it as the two extremities - beak and tail). Baby songbirds have soft, yellow flaps of skin in the corner of their beak, sometimes called "bird lips". Also, they have very stubby tails, as their feathers are still growing in. There are other ways to tell, like stubby wings and left-over fuzz, but the extremities are the easiest to spot. 

Summer is not the most popular time to go birding, likely because birds are in 'stealth mode' so that predators can't find their nests or babies. Additionally, birds have already paired up, so there is no need to sing for a mate. It also just seems like birds don't care for heat!

 Northern Rough-winged Swallow, a summer resident of The Woodlands. Photo by Toribird.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, a summer resident of The Woodlands. Photo by Toribird.

Despite this, and in addition to seeing cute babies, migration is not far off! Shorebirds are one of the first migrant groups, beginning to travel around mid-August, but warblers, hawks, and others will soon follow. Migration is always an exiting part of the birding year, so definitely check out some local birding spots in the next month. While shorebirds are rarely seen from The Woodlands, due to our lack of, well, shore, they are easy to see on the mudflats of John Heinz, a wildlife refuge near the Philadelphia Airport. Also, the Woodlands is a great place for warblers, and you should be able to catch a migrating hawk or two as well. 


Written by Toribird

Birding at The Woodlands: A BRAND NEW ZINE & Early Summer Birding

Welcome to the first edition of our "Birding at The Woodlands" blog series! Resident birding expert, "Toribird" will be reporting on recent birding news happening at The Woodlands over the next few months. Stay tuned for updates all things zines, birds, and of course, TORIBIRD!


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 I (Victoria, "Toribird") have spent the last couple months working on a zine-guide to birds of The Woodlands. I got my start here when Jessica Baumert and I teamed up to catch an escaped parakeet. During the hours-long process, Jessica realized that I love birds and birding, and I was offered an internship at The Woodlands. 

 Toribird (left) with zine illustrator Jess Ruggiero (right) at the Zine Release Party.

Toribird (left) with zine illustrator Jess Ruggiero (right) at the Zine Release Party.

The zine was one of a few birding projects that I have worked on here. We began with birding tips shared on our blog. Then, I led two bird walks and taught how to make pinecone-bird feeders on Halloween Family Fun Day. I also led a lantern-lit walk on the Winter Solstice. 

Just recently, on the evening of May 22nd, my zine had its launch party. The illustrator, Jess Ruggiero attended, and I really enjoyed getting to meet her! As part of the festivities, I led two bird walks. Jess went along for one, and she seemed very exited to see the birds that she had spent so much time drawing; I liked sharing them with her.

Despite rain threatening, a nice group showed up.  They were an interested, supportive, group and a pleasure to lead on the walks! All in all, I had lots of fun chatting and sharing what I knew, and I think all our visitors had fun too!

If you're interested in purchasing a copy of the Guide to Birding at The Woodlands Zine, you can pick one up for $5 at an upcoming Woodlands Event. You can also donate $5 to The Woodlands and have a copy mailed to you. Donations can be made here.


Walks and parties aside, let's have a look at what's going on bird-wise at the Woodlands right now:

Spring migration is pretty much over. However, this means that each and every one of our summer residents are here. Some examples of birds that have returned are Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Grey Catbird, Yellow Warbler, and Chipping Sparrow. These birds are all common at The Woodlands during the warmer months of the year. See if you can spot them! 

Additionally, many songbirds are building nests and laying eggs right now. If you see a bird carrying rope, mud, grass, or other materials, you can know that it is busy constructing a cozy nest. Follow it and try to find their nest! Also, several birds are singing to attract a mate and defend their territory, though not as many as earlier in the year. Soon, you will be able to see this year's hatchlings. 

Here is a list of birds that are easy to see at the Woodlands right now:

 American Robin resting its wings on a headstone at The Woodlands. Photo by Toribird. 

American Robin resting its wings on a headstone at The Woodlands. Photo by Toribird. 

  • Ring-billed Gull - look for them near the river
  • Mourning Dove
  • Chimney Swift 
  • Northern Flicker - A woodpecker, though that is not in its name
  • Eastern Kingbird - They seem to like sitting on top of headstones and catching bugs from there 
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • American Robin 
  • Grey Catbird - A well-named bird, as it is grey with a call that sounds like a nasal 'meow'
  • European Starling - An invasive bird introduced from Europe
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Brown-headed Cowbird - A brood parasite, laying its eggs in other birds' nests

Looking for even more birding fun? Find out which type of bird YOU are based on your personality with my quiz. You can take the quiz here.  

Written by: Victoria Sindlinger

William Bartram's Travels and the Early Naturalist's Library

By Joel Fry

William Bartram's reputation as a botanist, naturalist, and explorer has endured in the modern world largely due to his single, classic book: Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws… Printed by James & Johnson, Philadelphia, 1791. William Hamilton had an extensive library and owned  at least two copies of the book authored by his friend. One of his copies is now housed at the Sterling Morton Library at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL and offers an interesting glimpse into the naturalist's library.

 A Map of the Coast of East Florida drawn by William Bartram for  Travels. (Image: J ohn Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library)

A Map of the Coast of East Florida drawn by William Bartram for Travels. (Image: John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library)

In vivid text, Travels recounts Bartram’s southern explorations from 1773 to 1776, and documents his encounters with the natural world and with the native and colonial inhabitants of the English colonies along the Southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Bartram’s descriptions of Florida and the South captured readers internationally during his life and the book continues to be read widely in modern times. Bartram’s Travels was an unprecedented mix of literary genres—part travel book, part scientific record and description — a romantic narrative, an ethnography of Southern native peoples, and an exposition by Bartram on natural and theological philosophy.

The publication of Travels in Philadelphia in the 1790s was an expensive undertaking. A large book, running over 522 text pages with an additional introduction, the original edition included illustrations and a map by William Bartram. It took two subscription efforts to get the book to print, in what was a risky publishing effort in post-revolution Philadelphia. The first subscription effort for the book in 1786, by the Quaker printer Enoch Story, Jr. failed, perhaps for financial reasons, but also in part because William Bartram suffered a life-threatening fall and compound fracture at the ankle while gathering bald cypress seeds at Bartram’s Garden in fall 1786. It took over a year for Bartram to recover. A second broader national subscription for Travels in 1790 by the new firm of Joseph James & Benjamin Johnson in Philadelphia succeeding in seeing the book to print in summer 1791.

It has recently been discovered that Bartram’s Travels was issued in Philadelphia in more than one version. The standard version distributed to most subscribers had frontispiece, map and 7 illustrations. In early 1792 retail copies were also offered for sale with the option of “extra Plates, (eight in number)… either plain or coloured.” These extra plates were larger in size and were folded in thirds to be bound in the book. Currently only 5 sets of these extra illustrations are known.

 James Trenchard engravings of two William Bartram drawings from the set of 8 rare extra plates:  “Bignonia Bracteata" (left) modernly known as  Pinckneya  or fevertree and “Franklinia alatamaha” (Image: American  Philosophical Socitey Library)

James Trenchard engravings of two William Bartram drawings from the set of 8 rare extra plates:  “Bignonia Bracteata" (left) modernly known as Pinckneya or fevertree and “Franklinia alatamaha” (Image: American  Philosophical Socitey Library)

It is not surprising that William Hamilton of The Woodlands seems to have owned at least two copies of the original Philadelphia edition of Bartram’s Travels. “The Woodlands Household Accounts” record payment September 8, 1792: “Bartrams Travels 11 [shillings]   3 [pence]”

 Travels as advertised in Dobson and Claypoole's Daily Advertiser, January 4, 1792. (Image courtesy of Jim Green of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Travels as advertised in Dobson and Claypoole's Daily Advertiser, January 4, 1792. (Image courtesy of Jim Green of the Library Company of Philadelphia

This is the equivalent of the $2.00 price for a bound copy of William Bartram’s Travels, but it isn’t known if Hamilton was a subscriber or if he purchased a retail copy in 1792. [Accounts were frequently paid long after the fact in the 18th century.]

So far no trace of this first Hamilton owned copy of Bartram’s Travels has surfaced. A second, fine copy of Travels, with the standard plates colored, and bound with the 8 extra plates colored was presented by William Bartram to William Hamilton in 1799. This presentation copy from 1799 is now owned by the Sterling Morton Library at the Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.

The Hamilton extra-illustrated copy of Travels, contains a rare copy of William Hamilton’s bookplate under the front cover, engraved with the Hamilton family arms and “W. Hamilton.” William Hamilton was certainly a collector of books, as well as plants, art, statuary and more. Recent research by Villanova students turned up a dozen volumes in Philadelphia area special collections libraries with the Hamilton bookplate or signature. But Hamilton likely owned dozens or even hundreds of volumes on botany, gardening and natural history. One book signed and with the W. Hamilton bookplate is now part of a collection of Bartram family books donated to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in the 1890s by a Bartram descendant. That book. Thomas Martyn, The language of botany…, London: 1796 is a standard dictionary of botanic terms in English. It was probably loaned to William Bartram or another Bartram family member and never returned to Hamilton.

 William Hamilton's bookplate, engraved with the Hamilton family arms and “W. Hamilton," graces the inside cover of the copy of  Travels  held at Morton Arboretum. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

William Hamilton's bookplate, engraved with the Hamilton family arms and “W. Hamilton," graces the inside cover of the copy of Travels held at Morton Arboretum. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

The title page is signed by Hamilton on the upper right; “W. Hamilton’s Book give to him by the Author, June 9th, 1799.” No other documentation about this gift from William Bartram to William Hamilton survives. It may be Hamilton had lost or loaned his original copy of Travels, or he may have wanted an additional copy with the rare extra engraved plates?

It is clear that William Hamilton closely read this copy of Travels, as there are small annotations on several pages – including the addition of the scientific names “Gordonia Franklini” and “Pinckneya” on page 16, where the description of Franklinia was printed facing the two folded extra-illustrations of “Franklinia alatamaha” and “Bignonia bracteata” [modern Pinckneya bracteata, or fevertree].

 "W. Hamilton's Book given to him by the Author June 9th, 1799" is inscribed on the cover page. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

"W. Hamilton's Book given to him by the Author June 9th, 1799" is inscribed on the cover page. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

Other notes by Hamilton in his extra-illustrated copy of Travels also comment or annotate some of the rarest plants that William Bartram encountered in his trip. And of course there is evidence that Hamilton was growing some of William Bartram’s southern plant discoveries in the garden at The Woodlands. One of the seed packets recently recovered from the attic of The Woodlands was labeled “Hydrangea quercifolia, Bartram’s Travels” and oakleaf hydrangea was another new plant described and illustrated by Bartram in the book. 

 Hamilton’s note of the scientific name “ Gordonia Franklini ” for Franklinia references part of a rare illustrated collection of new plants from Paris, published by the botanist Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle in 1791. And the genus name  Pinckney  was not published as a scientific name until 1803 by the French botanist André Michaux. Hamilton may have learned of both these then current scientific names from Michaux’s  Flora .  Note the Franklinia plate folded to the right (as shown in the image above). (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

Hamilton’s note of the scientific name “Gordonia Franklini” for Franklinia references part of a rare illustrated collection of new plants from Paris, published by the botanist Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle in 1791. And the genus name Pinckney was not published as a scientific name until 1803 by the French botanist André Michaux. Hamilton may have learned of both these then current scientific names from Michaux’s Flora.  Note the Franklinia plate folded to the right (as shown in the image above). (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

 A note by Hamilton reads, "“This is a Species of a Shrub supposed by Michaux to be Befaria before described in this work page —.” Interestingly, this plant has gone through three spellings, “Befaria”, “Besaria”, and “Bejaria”. It is now officially called  Bejaria racemosa , flyweed, a flowering shrub from Florida discovered by William Bartram. Flyweed as “Befaria hirsuta” was listed for sale as a greenhouse plant in Bartram  Catalogues  from 1807 onward. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

A note by Hamilton reads, "“This is a Species of a Shrub supposed by Michaux to be Befaria before described in this work page —.” Interestingly, this plant has gone through three spellings, “Befaria”, “Besaria”, and “Bejaria”. It is now officially called Bejaria racemosa, flyweed, a flowering shrub from Florida discovered by William Bartram. Flyweed as “Befaria hirsuta” was listed for sale as a greenhouse plant in Bartram Catalogues from 1807 onward. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

Hamilton's inscriptions are telling; he only made notations in the botanic sections of Travels, indicating little interest  in sections dealing with birds and wildlife, or in the parts dealing with Native peoples — the Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee.

 Handwritten “Errata” by William Bartram, slipped in at the end of Hamilton's copy of the book. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

Handwritten “Errata” by William Bartram, slipped in at the end of Hamilton's copy of the book. (Image courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library)

A group of  scholars, including Nancy Hoffmann, Bill Cahill, Alina Josan and Joel Fry, are currently working to research and locate copies of the 1791 edition of William Bartram’s Travels, collating a census of copies, and looking for owner’s names, annotations, binding, and general history. The researchers have located over 125 copies, mainly in special collections libraries in the US, and have visited 56 or more copies. Many or most of the copies seem to be subscription copies, and a third or more have a similar original binding. Many of the owners who signed copies were substantial citizens in the early U.S, and local lending libraries around Philadelphia also held a number of copies. Only four are now know bound with the extra plates seen in William Hamilton’s copy at the Morton Arboretum. As of yet, the researchers don’t have a firm knowledge of how many copies of the 1791 Philadelphia edition were printed, but they estimate that it might be on the order of 400 or 500 total. 

The lasting fame of Travels is probably due to the widespread European reprints of the book, which began to appear in 1792, a year after the Philadelphia printing. There were English editions of Travels in London in 1792 and 1794, Dublin: 1793; translations into German with editions in Berlin and Vienna: 1793; a Dutch translated edition in Haarlem, 1794-1797; and French translated editions from Paris: 1799 and 1801. These European editions were all based on the 1791 subscription version and copied the standard illustrations, but never included the 8 extra plates.

Stay tuned as we highlight more of the fascinating botanical connections between these two sites!

Previous Posts: 
Introducing the Two Williams
Found in the Floorboards: 200 Year Old Seed Packets

Upcoming Posts: 
Think Local Swap Global: 18th Century Approaches to Plant Collecting
From Seed Shack to Plant Palace: Evolutions in Greenhouse Technologies
The 19th Century Commercial Nursery