I often walk to work through the heart of Schenley Park to get my morning dose of birds. As always I take notes on what I see -- long lists of birds with asterisks for new arrivals.
On May 6 my notebook has nine short words with a circle around them, "Found nearly dead ash tree. Possible EAB. Oh no!"
"EAB" is shorthand for emerald ash borer, a deadly bug that has wiped out North American ash trees since it arrived in Michigan in 2002. Other than treating single trees with systemic pesticide there is nothing that can stop this bug. It spells doom for parks and forests.
I learned the signs of EAB from April Claus on a January walk through Sewickley Heights Park, so I was pretty sure of my diagnosis. But someone more skilled than me needed to investigate.
It took me a week to tell an expert because I left town on a five-day birding trip. When I returned I kept an eye out for people working in the park. As it turns out the first person I found was one of the two best people to tell: Phil Gruszka, Director of Park Management and Maintenance for the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy and a certified arborist.
He teamed up with City Forester David Jahn (the other best person to tell) and they looked through the park and took bark samples from several trees. News of their efforts appeared here under "Eagle Eyes in Schenley Park" on the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy blog.
Months passed. I didn't think about emerald ash borers. Then last weekend I found another tree with even more striking symptoms and emailed Phil with the location of this new tree. He wrote back, "We are confirming it in many locations now. Schenley Park is hard hit, Riverview Park is not far behind."
Oh no! Schenley Park's ash trees are doomed. Oh so sad!
(photo of an Emerald Ash Borer, with size reference and trunk damage, from the Florida Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Click the photo to see its original in context.)