At last the crocuses are (or rather… were) blooming in Pittsburgh, though not in my yard.
Yesterday was a sunny and breezy day with a high of 50F. I took a long walk in Schenley Park and found nothing blooming except a small selection of snowdrops and crocuses at Phipps Conservatory’s outdoor garden.
Today it has already snowed a little, tonight will be 15F and the cold will continue through Tuesday so these flowers won’t last.
A few days ago I looked out my office window and saw two American robins perched on the dumpsters at Central Catholic High School. As I watched, one dove into a dumpster and disappeared. Soon it flew out of the flap opening on the left and the other robin dove in.
What is this? I’m used to seeing crows, gulls and even house sparrows at dumpsters … but robins??
I tried to photograph the robins but always missed so I’ve had to settle for a snapshot of the dumpsters with a green symbol for the robins’ favorite pre-dive perch.
Last night (Mar 19) at around 9:30pm, @CathyPelican107 tweeted me with news that there were now five eggs at the Gulf Tower. By the time I looked Dori was clamped down on the eggs and I couldn’t count them so I checked the WildEarth video archives.
During the 8:00pm hour Dori stood up and appeared to deposit an egg in the nest. It was really hard to see! Eventually she settled down with the egg alongside of her (above), presumably allowing it to dry.
Later she stood up to rearrange the eggs and I was able to count 5 in these two screen shots.
This afternoon you can clearly count five.
Meanwhile at Pitt, Dorothy spends a lot of time at the nest looking as if she will lay an egg … and then she doesn’t.
Don’t worry. Her median first egg date is March 23. She has plenty of time.
(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Gulf Tower and University of Pittsburgh)
p.s. The fact that I mentioned Dorothy hasn’t laid an egg will probably prompt her to do so immediately … just to prove me wrong!
This morning NPR has news of a newly identified dinosaur that lived 66 to 72 million years ago.
Bones of “the chicken from Hell” were first discovered more than a decade ago by Tyler Lyson at the Hell Creek formation in the Dakotas. Specimens made their way into museum collections and intrigued Matt Lamanna at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History who suspected this was an oviraptorosaurian theropod dinosaur (bird ancestor!) similar to those found in Asia.
Now Lamanna and his team — Hans-Dieter Sues, Emma Schachner and Tyler Lyson — have figured out what animal made these bones and published their findings in PLOS One. It was Anzu wyliei, an enormous 500-pound feathered dinosaur with a bony crest on its head.
This illustration by the Carnegie’s Mark Klingler shows what it looked like. Wow!
If you’ve been keeping track of intense downpour events for the past 50 years as NOAA has, you’ve noticed that they are more frequent in Pittsburgh than they used to be. This will only get worse.
According to NOAA’s National Climate Assessment, by mid-century the frequency and intensity of heavy rain events will increase dramatically in some parts of the country, especially in Washington, Idaho and western Montana. The bluest locations on the map will experience two or more additional days per year of record rainfall.
Pittsburgh is not exempt. We’ll see an increase in downpours and there will be an even higher frequency north and south of us. Watch out, Cleveland and West Virginia!
For Allegheny County this map is particularly scary because of our old combined sewer infrastructure (sewage + storm water) that overflows into the rivers after as little as 1/10″ of rainfall. If you visit our rivers you’ve seen the toilet paper. The situation is so bad that Allegheny County is under a 2007 EPA consent decree to fix it. We are not the only city with this problem!
Obviously, the time to fix our sewers is now and the solution has to handle more rain that we get today.
Click here to read more about downpours on NOAA’s website and here for information on Allegheny County’s wet weather problem.
(map from Climate.gov. Click on the image to see the original map and accompanying article)
The males pump their heads, raise their crests, toss their heads forward as if to unfurl their hoods, and waggle their heads side to side. “Look at my white crest!”
They also throw their heads back and point their beaks to the sky. As they bring their heads upright they say “Merg-merrrrrg!” Listen to the video. They sound like frogs!
So why does the hooded merganser have a hood? Relentless female selection. The ladies are so impressed by a good head toss that they pick the guys with the biggest, whitest hoods. The guys with little hoods never have kids.
This morning (March 17) around 11:15am sharp-eyed observers noticed that Dori had laid her fourth egg when Louie came for a bowing visit at the Gulf Tower.
Here they are discussing the fourth egg, no doubt.
But Dori is so tired that she forgot to pull it under her. Ooops! … Or maybe she’s letting this one dry.
Not to worry. This isn’t the first time an egg has been outside her “sphere.” When she was a first-time mother she sat like this for a few hours, then woke up and rearranged the eggs. They all hatched successfully.
In fact, there were never any snakes in Ireland since the last glacial maximum. St. Patrick’s legend may actually refer to the rise of Christianity and the end of Druid snake symbols.
In recent years biologists in Guam are trying to accomplish St. Patrick’s legendary feat. Invasive brown tree snakes are devastating the island’s native birds. The snakes must go. So far the most ingenious plan has been to air drop 2,000 mice wearing tiny parachutes. The mice were dead bait laced with a very small dose of acetaminophen that kills the brown tree snake but nothing else.
There was no need for St. Patrick to eradicate this grass snake from Ireland. Photographed in Europe, it cannot cross the sea.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
(photo from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license. Click on the image to see the original)