Small brown birds at the feeder in Indiana County, PA, early February 2014 (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
What bird is that?
There’s a small brown bird at the feeder and there’s no one to help you identify it.
Don’t you wish you had a personal assistant to help you?
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s free Merlin Bird ID app for Android and iPhone does just that. Introduced in 2014, the app gets smarter every year. It uses the simple information you already know — your location, the date and the words “small,” “brown,” and “at the bird feeder” — to narrow your choices and identify the bird.
(screenshot from Merlin Bird ID app, Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
You can even take a picture with your cellphone and ask Merlin what it is.
Merlin’s answer is a list of the most likely suspects with photos, sounds and descriptions. It even tells you if the bird is uncommon or rare for your date and location. That’s one of the best clues you’ll find anywhere because an “uncommon” species in March can become “common” in May.
Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. We hope to see migrating waterfowl on the river and and walk the beginning of nearby lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, scopes (for river watching), and field guides if you have them.
(photo of a red-breasted merganser at Duck Hollow, March 2017, by Tom Moeller)
UPDATE, JAN 17: No More Reservations accepted. The tour is full.
Let’s go birding indoors!
Join me for a guided tour of the National Aviary with Aviary docent (and Falconuts founder) John English.
When: Sunday January 22, 10:00am to noon. Stay longer if you wish and browse on your own.
Where: The National Aviary
700 Arch Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
** Meet at the Concierge Desk inside the East Entrance on Arch Street. **
Who: This outing is limited to 25 people, first come first served. You must register by leaving a comment on this blog post by Jan 16 5pm. Include your name + email address and the names of everyone coming with you. (Note: Your information will not appear on the website. The comment will come to me alone.)
Cost: $10.00, cash or check only. (Check made out to the National Aviary.)
* For this special event, admission is free to all who’ve pre-registered.
* Add-ons: Bird shows and feedings will cost the normal rate.
Hope you can make it! I’m looking forward to seeing you.
For directions and information about the National Aviary, see their website at www.aviary.org
Remember, reservations are required so post a comment to reserve your space today!
UPDATE, JAN 17: The tour is full!
(photo of Hyacinth Macaw at the National Aviary by Christopher Rice at Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
Great horned owl about to capture a skunk, diorama at Carnegie Museum (photo by Kate St.John)
Looking for birds in the winter can be cold and disappointing so here’s a warm and rewarding outing for early January.
Let’s go on a scavenger hunt at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Sunday, 8 January 2017, 1:00pm to 3:00pm. We’ll meet in the big hallway(*) between the Art and Natural History Museums.
There are plenty of birds to see. From Bird Hall to dioramas and dinosaurs, birds are present in many of the displays. I’ll give you an introduction to the floor plan. Then we’ll spend an hour or more identifying everything with feathers on the second floor. This is an especially good area for a scavenger hunt because the birds aren’t always labeled in the displays.
Pictured here are two examples from the first floor dioramas. Above, a great horned owl is about to capture a skunk. Below, a common eider stands near her nest, made from her breast feathers.
Detail of eider duck diorama, Carnegie Museum (photo by Kate St.John)
After the scavenger hunt we can stay as long as we like. I’ll show you some cool things at Bird Hall and some “hidden” birds on the first and third floors.