Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Mar 21 2017

Your Wizard For Identifying Birds

 

What bird is that? Small brown birds at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

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.

To Identify a bird, answer 5 questions (screenshot from Merlin Bird ID app)

(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.

Watch the video below to see how Merlin works, then download the app.

Merlin’s a wizard at identifying birds!

 

p.s.  What birds are at Marcy Cunkelman’s feeder shown above?  She took the photo in Indiana County, PA, in early February 2014.

(bird photo by Marcy Cunkelman, Merlin Bird ID screenshot and video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

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Mar 19 2017

Gray weather at Duck Hollow today

Published by under Books & Events

Duck Hollow outing, 19 March 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Duck Hollow outing, 19 March 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Seven of us braved the chilly gray weather at Duck Hollow this morning.

We saw 23 species including two female common mergansers on the river as we were leaving.

Best Birds were three belted kingfishers — one female plus two (presumably) males who chased each other every time they got near her.

Mike Cornell kept a checklist and so did I, though we didn’t count the mallards and ring-billed gulls.

Here’s my checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35284767

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Mar 18 2017

See You At Duck Hollow Tomorrow, March 19

Published by under Books & Events

Red-breasted merganser hen at Duck Hollow, March 2017 (photo by Tom Moeller)

Red-breasted merganser hen at Duck Hollow, March 2017 (photo by Tom Moeller)

Oh my!  I should have posted this last Monday.  (It’s been a busy week.)

Just a reminder that I’ll be leading an outing at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park tomorrow. Hope to see you there.

Sunday March 19, 2017 — 8:30am – 10:30am

Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park Bird and Nature Walk

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)

 

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Jan 13 2017

Don’t Miss This Outing, Jan 22

Published by under Books & Events

African penguin at the National Aviary (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

African penguin at the National Aviary (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATE, JAN 17: No More Reservations accepted. The tour is full.

You may have missed my announcement about the National Aviary outing on Sunday January 22 — but don’t miss the event!

It’s a private tour. Only $10!  Openings still available.  Sign-up soon!

Click here for details…

Let’s Go To The Aviary, January 22!

 

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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Jan 09 2017

Let’s Go To The Aviary, January 22!

Published by under Books & Events

Hyacinth macaw at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh (photo by Christopher Westfield via Wikimedia Commons)
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)

 

 

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Jan 02 2017

Reminder: Scavenger Hunt on Jan 8

Barn owl taxidermy mount in case, Carnegie Museum (photo by Kate St.John) Just a reminder that I’m holding an Scavenger Hunt outing at Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Sunday, 8 January 2017, 1:00pm to 3:00pm.

Meet me in the big hallway on the first floor between the Art and Natural History Museums at 1:00pm.  It’s the “Museum of Art Lobby” on this map.

After a brief introduction we’ll go up-and-down to the back of the 2nd floor where we’ll hunt for birds in the dioramas.

Hope to see you there.

 

Note:  If you’re not a museum member there’s a fee to get in:
Adults $19.95
Seniors (65+) $14.95
Students with ID and children 3-18 $11.95

 

Click here for admission information and here for directions.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Dec 25 2016

Merry Christmas!

Published by under Books & Events

Christmas ornaments (photo by Kate St. John)

Christmas ornaments (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Happy Holidays to all!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Dec 24 2016

Light Outdoors, Flowers Within

Published by under Books & Events

Phipps Winter Light Garden (photo linked from Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden)

Phipps Winter Light Garden (photo linked from Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden)

When the holiday rush is over take some time to visit Phipps Conservatory’s Winter Flower Show and Light Garden, open through January 8.

The Light Garden begins to glow at 5:00p and is open until 11:00p. Click on Phipps’ photo above to see a 3D tour of the lights.

The flowers indoors are gorgeous as always, especially the Broderie Room.  This photo from Wikimedia Commons is even better at full size.  Click on the photo to get the full effect.

Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower Show 2015, Broderie Garden (Featured photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower Show 2015, Broderie Garden (Featured photo by Dllu on Wikimedia Commons)

For more details, visit Phipps’ website for the Winter Flower Show and Light Garden.

 

(photo credits:  Light Garden linked from Phipps Conservatory website.  Broderie Room by Dllu is a Featured Photo at Wikimedia Commons.  Click on each image to see its original.)

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Dec 21 2016

Solstice

Winter sunset at Kuznetsk Alatau, South Siberia (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Winter sunset at Kuznetsk Alatau, South Siberia (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

By the time you read this, the winter solstice will have passed.

The sun paused it’s southward journey today at 5:44 AM Eastern Time and is already moving north.

Soon the days will be getting longer and the birds will begin to sing.

Listen for the song sparrow.  What day will he sing his first song?

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. click on the image to see the original)

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Dec 13 2016

Let’s Go On A Scavenger Hunt

Great horned owl about to capture a skunk, diorama at Carnegie Museum (photo by Kate St.John)

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.

Common Eider diorama, Carnegie Museum (photo by Kate St.John)

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.

The museum is open from noon to 5:00pm on Sundays.  There is an admission fee for non-members with discounts for seniors, children, and students with ID.    Click here for admission information and here for directions.

Hope to see you there on Sunday, January 8.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

(*) The meeting place is on the first floor, called the Museum of Art Lobby on this map.  It has benches along the edges and a wall of windows overlooking the outdoor sculpture garden.

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