Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Mar 19 2016

CANCELED! No Duck Hollow outing on March 20

Published by under Books & Events

CANCELED! Duck Hollow on Sunday March 20 at 8:30am

The Duck Hollow outing on Sunday March 20 is canceled.

It’s going to snow the night before, it will be snowing during the outing (unpleasant!) and I have caught a cold.

Do NOT meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road.

So sorry I had to do this, especially since I’m not available for a make-up date in March.


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Mar 14 2016

Reminder: Duck Hollow Walk, March 20

Published by under Books & Events

Mallard (photo by Steve Gosser)

CANCELED! Duck Hollow on Sunday March 20 at 8:30am

Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday March 20, 8:30am at Duck Hollow and the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail.

Meet at the Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road.

Dress for the weather. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Click here for more information and updates in case the walk is canceled for bad weather.

I’m hoping for ducks.  I’m sure we’ll see mallards.

See you soon.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

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Mar 07 2016

Coming Soon: Walks in Duck Hollow and Schenley Park

Crocuses blooming (photo by Kate St. John)

Crocuses blooming (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring is coming so let’s get outdoors!

Just as I did last year, I’ll be leading bird and nature walks once a month beginning in late March.  This year I’m branching out to include Duck Hollow/Lower Nine Mile Run as well as Schenley Park.

Come out with me to see birds and trees, blooms and bees.  On each walk we’ll travel slowly, keeping our eyes and ears open for the latest birds and flowers.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes that aren’t afraid of mud. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them. The walks will begin at 8:30am and last two hours but you can bow out early if you wish.

Here’s the schedule for the first three walks.  More will follow in summer and fall; stay tuned.

As each date approaches I’ll post a reminder here on the blog.  Visit my Events page any time for directions and up-to-date information including cancellations and rain dates.

Hope to see you on March 20 at Duck Hollow.  It’s time for Spring!


(photo by Kate St.John)

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Mar 03 2016

Reminder: Blog Address Changed

Published by under Books & Events

New location!

Dear Readers,
There are 20 of you out there who have not changed your bookmark for my website and are still looking for me every day at  My blog isn’t there anymore!   It moved on November 29, 2015 to

So far you’ve been able to find me but that may change so please click on the image above and make a NEW bookmark for my blog.

Thanks,  Kate St. John

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Feb 13 2016

Flying Dinos at Carnegie Museum

Published by under Books & Events

Pterosaurs banner at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh (photo by Kate St. John)

Pterosaurs banner at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh (photo by Kate St. John)

Speaking of dinosaurs, if you like things that fly don’t miss this special exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is on loan from the American Museum of Natural History.

Pterosaurs broke a lot of rules.  They were warm-blooded reptiles. Their bodies were furry. Their heads looked like birds.  They stood on their wings! And when they took off they jumped in the air and flew.

You can see them as skeletons and …

Pterosaur skeleton, main exhibit, Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photo by Kate St. John)

Pterosaur skeleton, main exhibit, Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photo by Kate St. John)

… as life-size replicas with fur and wings and colors.

Quetzalcoatlus was as big as a giraffe (look at him standing on his wings!).  Others were as small as finches. Yet they’re not the ancestors of birds.

Quetzalcoatlus floor sign for Pterosaurs exhibit, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh (photo by Kate St. John)

Quetzalcoatlus was the size of a giraffe (floor sign at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, photo by Kate St. John)

The exhibit includes videos and three interactive Wii-like flight zones where you flap your arms and the pterosaur flies.  I flunked flight school with the small insect-eating pterosaur but I soared with the large one.

Visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History before May 22 to see Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs on the third floor.

Then cruise downstairs to see this little guy in the main exhibit.

Pterosaur skeleton, main exhibit Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photo by Kate St. John)

Pterosaur skeleton, main exhibit Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photo by Kate St. John)

Click here for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History website.


p.s. I wish I could have photographed the Pterosaur exhibit but it’s not allowed.  However, you can use your camera in the rest of the museum.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Feb 12 2016

The Largest Dinosaur Ever Found! PBS, Feb. 17

Perhaps you heard on the news last month that “the largest animal ever to walk the earth invaded New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.”

He’s the largest dinosaur ever … but how big is that? Where was he found? And how was he reconstructed?

Find out next Wednesday when PBS NATURE premiers Raising the Dinosaur Giant with host David Attenborough:

A few years ago in the Argentinean desert, a shepherd was searching for one of his lost sheep when he spotted the tip of a gigantic fossil bone sticking out of a rock. When the news reached paleontologists at the MEF Museum in Trelew, Argentina, they set up camp at the discovery site to examine it and look for more bones. By the end of the dig, they had uncovered more than 200 other huge bones from seven dinosaurs, all belonging to a new species of giant plant-eating titanosaur whose name will be announced soon.

The giant was 121 feet long, weighed 77 tons, died 101.6 million years ago, and was still growing when he died!

Visit the dig and follow the forensic research.  See 3D animations and the skeleton’s reconstruction. See how these creatures compare to our largest land animals today.  The videos (above and below) show the enormous thigh bone and examine a baby dinosaur inside the egg.


Don’t miss Raising the Dinosaur Giant on PBS, Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 8:00pm (ET).


(YouTube videos from PBS NATURE)

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Feb 07 2016

Great Backyard Bird Count, February 12-15

Published by under Books & Events

Birds at Marcy's feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

How many birds can you count? (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Are you ready to count birds?  Next weekend is the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count: Friday through Monday, February 12 to 15.

It’s easy to participate in this citizen science project.  Just watch your feeders or go out birding.  Don’t forget to …

  1. Register here.
  2. Count birds for at least 15 minutes, keeping track of the highest count per species, the time you spent counting, and your location.
  3. Enter your counts via the GBBC website or eBird. (The Great Backyard Bird Count uses eBird and tags your entry as part of the weekend count.)

Download the instructions on the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count or read more here.

Have fun!


p.s.  Photographers, submit your photos to the GBBC Photo Contest to win one of these prizes.

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

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Feb 01 2016

Get Ready For Groundhog Day!

Published by under Books & Events,Mammals

Get ready for Groundhog Day!

Tomorrow is the mid-point of winter, halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.  February 2 is also the day when a very special rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, emerges from his den to predict the weather for the next six weeks.

Phil never makes his prediction in isolation.  His day in the sun (or shade) spawns a huge celebration in Punxsutawney, PA.  Preview the excitement in his eight minute promo video above.

If you don’t like winter, then hope for an overcast sky so that Phil has a day in the shade.  Here’s why.



(video from Punxsutawney Phil on YouTube)

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Jan 08 2016

Natural Born Hustlers: PBS NATURE

Are humans the only species that fools others to survive, find food, and mate?  Not at all!

This month PBS NATURE premieres a new three-part series, Natural Born Hustlers, airing on PBS on Wednesdays, January 13, 20 and 27 at 8:00pm (ET) (check local listings).

Episode One, Staying Alive, focuses on survival techniques:  camouflage, dominance tricks, audio mimics and playing dead.  Early on I was amazed to learn how zebras’ stripes create an optical illusion.  You have to see them in motion to believe it!

Other fascinating finds are the amazing skin-morphing camouflage of cuttlefish, the lizard that walks like a stinky beetle, and the white-faced capuchin monkeys who calculate whether they’re needed in battle.  “More capuchins are killed by their own kind than by predators,” says the episode.  What an unfortunate trait to have in common with humans.

The video excerpt above gives you a good idea of animals’ ingenuity.  California ground squirrels use their enemy’s scent as protective camouflage.  Their arch enemy is the rattlesnake, so if you hate to look at snakes this video will make you flinch.

And fair warning to those afraid of snakes:  Staying Alive has quite a few snakes in it including a match-up in North Carolina of a harmless species that mimics the coral snake.  The bonus is that you can identify birds by song on the audio track.


(Natural Born Hustlers trailer from PBS NATURE)

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Jan 03 2016

eBird Mobile

Published by under Books & Events

eBird Mobile for Android (photo by Kate St. John)

If you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to log more bird sightings in eBird, here’s the tool for you. And it’s FREE.  All you need is a smartphone.

Fair warning:  I’m about to “talk techie” so if you don’t have a smartphone or you don’t use eBird you might want to tune out right now.  😉


Back in 2012, the BirdLog app allowed iPhone and Android users to enter checklists on our smartphones and seamlessly upload them into our eBird accounts.  Cornell Lab was so impressed with BirdLog that in 2014 they made an agreement with its owner, David Bell, to take over development and maintenance, renaming it eBird Mobile.  The iOS version launched in June. The Android version launched in December. The old BirdLog app is now retired.

Download eBird Mobile, tell it your eBird login and password and you’re ready to go.


eBird Mobile is easy to use.  To enter a new checklist, click the big green Start button.

Choose a location:  This is so convenient in the field!  Your phone knows where it is so “Choose From Map” or “Choose a Nearby Hotspot” and it’s right there.  Below, I chose a nearby hotspot: Duck Hollow.

eBird Mobile: Choose a nearby hotspot

Date and time conveniently default to Now or you can change them.

Start entering species: Scroll down the list of likely suspects or do a quick lookup by typing part of the name or the 4-letter species code in the “# species name/code” blank at left.

Start entering species

Enter the number of birds seen or click the “Present” box to make an X.    Below, I didn’t feel like counting mallards and ring-billed gulls on Tuesday at Duck Hollow.  (Yeah, I know I should count them but … )

Species counts

Click Review and Submit (bottom right) to get this screen for entering the last bits of data.

eBird last bits of data before submit

Click Submit at the bottom right and it uploads the checklist into eBird.  If you’re not in cell tower range, it’ll upload later.

You’re done!  And the app is back to the big green start button.

But if you’re like me you forgot something and want to make a change.  Just click on My Checklists (under the Start button) and your eBird lists come up right away.

Fix that checklist you just uploaded

I find eBird Mobile easier to use than browser based eBird at my desk computer.

Try it and see.

Want to know more?  Read here about eBird Mobile.


(photos by Kate St. John)

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