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)
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)
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:
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)
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 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.)
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)
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.
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.
Scanning the field for birds (photo by Gary Peeples www.fws.gov/asheville/ via Wikimedia Commons)
‘Tis the season to count birds.
The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is an annual year-end tradition of tallying birds, now in its 117th year. Each count is a 7-mile radius circle manned by volunteers who count the birds they see in a single 24-hour period.
There are 14 counts planned for the Pittsburgh area between now and early January. See the table below for the list and click here for a map of the local count circles compiled by Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary.
It’s easy to participate and no experience is necessary! You can count at your own feeders or go out in the field, paired with another birder.
Call the compiler ahead of time to let him know you’re coming, especially if the count will be held over the holidays. The Pittsburgh Count on December 31 has so many participants that each section has its own compiler. Click here for the sections and contacts.
I’ll be counting in the Pittsburgh circle.
I hope to see you in the field.
UPDATE on 12/5/2016! The Imperial CBC is on Sunday 12/18/2016, not on 12/28. The table below has been corrected.
2016 Christmas Bird Counts in the Pittsburgh Area
Mary A Koeneke
|Buffalo Creek Valley
|Pittsburgh South Hills
||Roger & Margaret Higbee
There are compilers for each section of the circle. Click here for details.
Read more about the Christmas Bird Count here at audubon.org.
(photo by Gary Peeples www.fws.gov/asheville/ via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
Enfant écrivant by Henriette Brown (image from Wikimedia Commons)
Tomorrow Outside My Window will be nine years old.
On anniversaries I like to look back at the past year’s high points. There were quite a few.
- Three posts, written in prior years, continue as perennial favorites. Search engines must be sending folks to these articles when they ask questions such as:
- Have You Seen Any Blue Jays Lately? written on 26 Feb 2012 has attracted 165 answers.
- Glow In The Dark from 8 October 2011 answers the question: What is that glowing green color in the wood? 94 comments.
- Falcon or Hawk? from 19 April 2011 tells the difference between red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons, a useful thing to know. 65 people have commented.
Spring 2016: Drama at the Pitt peregrine nest kept thousands of you glued to your seats, checking in frequently, and commenting on the latest twists and turns. The new female peregrine, Hope, surprised us several times.
Since 2007 I’ve written 3,265 articles and you’ve commented 15,246 times.
Thank you, my readers, for 9 years together at Outside My Window.
You keep me going every day!
(painting of Enfant écrivant (A Girl Writing) by Henriette Brown, c. 1860-1880 from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original.)
p.s. The bird in the painting is a European goldfinch.
Jack-o-Lantern (photo by Evan Swigart via Wikimedia Commons)
Most of the year pumpkins are hard to find but on Halloween they’re everywhere. Why do we carve them and why are they called jack-o-lanterns?
The answers combine swamp gas, a holy day and a New World squash.
Swamp gas: At night in the peat bogs there’s an ephemeral light caused by the oxidation of swamp gases phosphine, diphosphane, and methane. Called will-o’-the-wisp (William of the Wisp) or jack-o’-lantern (Jack of the Lantern) it was thought to be the light of a trickster who lured people to follow him into the swamp. The flickering light would go out and those following would be lost.
A Holy Day: In the 9th century the Roman Church moved All Saints’ Day (also called All Hallows’ Day) to November 1 as the day to remember and pray for the dead. This happens to coincide with the Celtic holiday of Samhain (sunset October 31 to sunset November 1) a harvest festival with visits from the souls of the dead and propitiation of malevolent ghosts and spirits.
Samhain celebrations included costumes and pranks. At night the pranksters carried lanterns carved from turnips called jack-o’-lanterns, named for the spooky lights in the swamp. Here’s a turnip jack-o’-lantern. Scary looking!
Cornish Jack-o-lantern carved in a turnip (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Since All Hallows’ Day celebrates the dead at the same time as Samhain, Samhain traditions became part of All Hallows’ Eve (Hallow’een).
A New World squash: Europeans brought Halloween traditions to North America where they found a New World squash, the pumpkin, that’s easier to carve and light than a turnip. Ta dah! The pumpkin became a jack-o’-lantern.
Back in the peat bogs, will-o’-the-wisp is rarely seen anymore. Wikipedia says that may be because the swamps were drained. My hunch is that light pollution also makes will-o’-the-wisp too hard to see.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the original)