Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Oct 28 2016

Three Owls Triple The Fun

Kate St. John holding a banded northern saw-whet owl, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

Kate St. John holding a just-banded northern saw-whet owl, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

If you’ve never seen a northern saw-whet owl, now’s the time to visit Pittsburgh’s Project Owlnet!

Bob Mulvihill of the National Aviary has been banding them at Sewickley Heights Park since 2013.  Three years of statistics indicate that the best nights for northern saw-whets are dark evenings with a north wind in late October so I went out there last Wednesday, October 26.

Bob sets up the mist nets and “toot” speakers at dusk. Placed near the nets, the speakers play the owls’ own tooting sound to attract them. Helpers and spectators wait at the picnic tables for the periodic net checks.

I arrived late — at 10:00pm — and heard that I’d just missed an owl.  Oh no!  Would there be more?

At 10:15 the banding helpers came back with TWO owls.  There’s one in the white bag in Bob’s hand.

Bob Mulvihill at the owlbanding picnic table. There's a northern saw-whet in the white bag (photo by Donna Foyle)

Bob Mulvihill at the owl banding picnic table. There’s a northern saw-whet in the white bag (photo by Donna Foyle)

The owls are very calm in the hand. Notice the feathers on her eyelids.  (All the owls are female.)

Bob examines a northern saw-whet owl prior to banding (photo by Kate St. John)

Bob examines a northern saw-whet owl prior to banding (photo by Kate St. John)

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Northern saw-whet owl being examined before banding (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl being examined before banding (photo by Donna Foyle)

These talons are needle sharp for catching mice.

Northern saw-whet leg and talons. Those talons are needle sharp! (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet leg and talons. (photo by Donna Foyle)

Receiving her band…

Bob Mulvihill applies a band to a northern saw-whet owl's leg (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob Mulvihill applies a band to a northern saw-whet owl’s leg (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob spreads the bird’s wing to examine the color of her feathers.  The combination of newer and older feathers indicates her age.

Bob spreads the owl's wing to examine the color of the wing feathers and determine its age (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob examines the owl’s wing (photo by Kathy Miller)

Northern saw-whets like to be scratched on the head. They close their eyes when you do it.

Northern saw-whet owl in the hand (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl in the hand (photo by Donna Foyle)

After the birds are banded, we get to see them up close.  So soft!

Kate St. John pets a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Barb Griffith)

Kate St. John pets a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Barb Griffith)

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Donna Foyle pets the owl (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Donna Foyle pets the owl (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Two owls at once!

Two! northern saw-whet owls (photo by Donna Foyle)

Two! northern saw-whet owls (photo by Donna Foyle)

A close look …

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Donna Foyle)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Donna Foyle)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Kate St. John)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Kate St. John)

Happy owl with closed eyes (photo by Kate St.John)

Happy owl, closed eyes (photo by Kate St.John)

Three owls are triple the fun!

Northern saw-whet owl at banding, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl at banding, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

 

Want to see these owls up close?

Project Owlnet continues on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, sunset to midnight, through December 3.  Be sure to check the details here before you go.  Weather is a factor!

 

(photos by Doug Cunzolo, Donna Foyle, Kathy Miller, Barb Griffith and Kate St. John)

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Oct 27 2016

Witches Coming Up

Black witch moth on an adult's hand (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Black witch moth on an adult’s hand in Brazil (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On Throw Back Thursday:

Halloween’s coming so it’s time for witchy things.  Here’s one that’s new to me.

The black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata) is a very large owlnet moth that ranges from the southern U.S. to South America.  Its common name comes from folklore that considers it a harbinger of death.

No, these moths don’t kill you.  However, Wikipedia says there’s a joke in Mexico that if the moth flies over your head you’ll go bald. 😉

What other things in Nature have a Witch in their name?  Here’s my list from 2011.  Can you think of more?

Witchy Things

 

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

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Oct 16 2016

This Morning’s Outing in Schenley Park

Participants in Schenley Park outing on 16 October 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Participants in Schenley Park outing on 16 October 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning it was jacket weather with lots of dew (wet shoes!) as 14 of us gathered at the Bartlett Shelter in Schenley Park.

We found plenty of birds — at least in terms of individuals.  Not only were there many blue jays and robins but midway through the walk several hundred common grackles showed up to snatch the bread cubes scattered beneath the oaks near Bartlett Shelter.

A low-swooping red-tailed hawk kept the chipmunks and jays on their toes and a flock of cedar waxwings stopped in to eat porcelain berries.

Best Bird: Blackpoll warbler.   Fall blackpoll and bay-breasted warblers have many of the same field marks — warbler size, thin warbler beak, wing bars, yellow wash on throat, faint eyeline, olive back with subtle stripes, faint stripes on chest — but blackpolls have orange feet and sometimes orange legs, too.  This one was immature with black legs and and orange feet. Click here and scroll down to see an immature blackpoll up close.

Best mammal: We saw a very plump raccoon climb a tall tree and finally insert itself into a hollow space at the top.  “Insert” is a good description.  The raccoon was so plump that it took a while for him to ooze into the crack and disappear.  Perhaps he exhaled to make himself thin.

Here’s the complete list of birds.  (You’ll notice that I didn’t count most of them — too hard to both to count and lead.)

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

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Oct 16 2016

Birding, Botany and Outdoor Fun

Published by under Books & Events

Indian cucumber in October (photo by Kate St. John)

Indian cucumber in October (photo by Kate St. John)

It’s a great time to get outdoors before the weather changes.  Here are just a few of the many things to do — including indoor and outdoor fun.

Oct 16, Tonight:  Full Moon Hike, two locations: Boyce Park and Harrison Hills Park, 8-10p.  Free.  Hike by the light of the moon, led by Allegheny County Park Rangers.  Click here for more information.

Oct 22: Acorn Harvesting and Processing Class, at North Park, 1:00p-4:30p.  Cost=$45.  Learn about acorns and how to make acorn flour. Registration + fee required:  Acorn Harvesting And Processing Class & Autumn Foraging Walk

Oct 12 – Dec 3Project Owlnet banding northern saw-whet owls, at Sewickley Heights Park, Wed,Fri,Sat; Oct 12 to Dec 3, sunset to midnight.  Free.  Be sure to read the details here.  Weather is a factor!

Oct 27:  The Great Texas Birding Trail, Rio Grande Valley presented by Jeffrey Hall, at Wissahickon Nature Club, 7:30p.  Free.  The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas teems with unique birds.  Program here.  Location here.  Arrive early to share coffee and snacks.

Oct 30: Annual Outing and Picnic of Three Rivers Birding Club, Moraine State Park, 8:00am. Free. Bring a lunch.  Late October is a good time to see ducks and sparrows.  Details here.

Nov 4-6: Wings and Wildlife Art Show, at National Aviary.  Cost=Aviary Admission; free to members. 34 wildlife artists from five states exhibiting and selling their art. Click here for more information.

Nov 5:  Joint Outing of Three Rivers Birding Club and Todd Bird Club, at Yellow Creek State Park, 8:00a.  Free.  Yellow Creek’s large lake attracts waterbirds and occasional rarities. Details here.

Nov 5-6: Hawk Mountain Outing with PSO (Penna. Society of Ornithology), at Hawk Mountain, Kempton, PA.  Free. Watch hawks migrating at one of the best sites in eastern North America.  Details here.

Nov 10:  Gardens Around the Globe presented by Judy Stark, at Wissahickon Nature Club, 7:30p.  Free. Special features of five gardens: Longwood (PA), Stan Hywet (OH), VanDusen (Vancouver,BC), National Botanic Garden (HI) and Powerscourt (Ireland). Program here.  Location here.  Arrive early to share coffee and snacks.

Nov 18-19, Sign Up Now: Pennsylvania Botany Symposium, at Penn Stater Conference Center, State College, PA. Registration required + cost starts at $100.  Brings together amateurs, academics, and those interested in the natural world to share our work and celebrate our botanical heritage. All invited speakers are experts with reputations for being engaging and entertaining. Click here for pricing and registration.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Oct 10 2016

Reminder: Schenley Park Outing, Oct 16

Published by under Books & Events

Maple leaves turning red, Schenley Park, 5 Oct 2012 (photo by Kate St. John)Just a reminder that I’ll be leading this year’s final Schenley Park Bird and Nature Walk on Sunday October 16, 8:30a to 10:30a.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Fall colors have just begun and sparrows are migrating.  We’ll see resident birds and lots of chipmunks.

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.

(photo by Kate St. John)

 

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Sep 26 2016

Reminder: Clean Air Is For The Birds, Sept 30

Published by under Books & Events

Clean Air is For The Birds Just a reminder that this coming Friday is GASP’s Night at the Aviary, September 30, 6-9 pm.

As part of the festivities I’ll present a short talk on “Clean Air is for the Birds … and People Too.”

It’s a fundraiser so tickets are $50 to $65.  Click here for more information.

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Sep 25 2016

Schenley Park Outing Today, Sept 25

Published by under Books & Events

Participants at Schenley Park outing, 25 Sept 2016 (photo by Kate St.John)

Participants at Schenley Park outing, 25 Sept 2016 (photo by Kate St.John)

The weather was great this morning — cool and sunny — as 16 of us explored Schenley Park.

We started at the Westinghouse Fountain, checked the Phipps Run valley behind it and walked part of the Steve Falloon Trail but there were almost no birds except for woodpeckers and blue jays.

I extended the walk to the golf course road where we added mourning doves, Carolina chickadees and an eastern phoebe (Best Bird).  Then to the Bartlett Shelter area where we added American goldfinches, common grackles and European starlings.  Here’s the bird checklist.

I was surprised by the abundance of mushrooms, especially Chicken-of-the-woods.

If we’d been out there counting chipmunks we’d have had a fantastic day.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

p.s. All the thrushes were at Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel.

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Sep 20 2016

Reminder: Schenley Park Walk, Sep 25

Published by under Books & Events

Asters (photo by Kate St. John)Just a reminder: I’m leading a bird and nature walk at Schenley Park this Sunday, September 25, 8:30am – 10:30am.

Meet at the Westinghouse Memorial Fountain. Then, depending on the mud, we’ll walk the Falloon Trail or the Serpentine Road keeping our eyes open for fall migrants. We’ll watch for flowers, too,.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Note: This is Pittsburgh’s Great Race Day and the course follows Forbes Avenue, so approach the park from the south.

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation. So far the weather forecast looks great!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Sep 06 2016

Clean Air Is For The Birds, Sept 30

Published by under Books & Events

GASP Night at the Aviary event

You might be surprised to know that when I’m not birding I’m an active member of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), a 47-year old non-profit that fights for clean air in western Pennsylvania.

My history with GASP goes back to the late 1990’s when Pittsburgh’s mayor proposed a new coke plant at Hazelwood just after LTV’s heavily polluting plant closed in 1998.  I live one mile as the crow flies from that site and had to breathe LTV’s proof that their coke plant polluted too much to stay open.  When the plant closed, we suddenly had clean air so the prospect of new pollution was frightening.  LTV changed my life.  They made me fight for good air quality.

My concern extends to birds, too.  We don’t often think about it but what’s bad for our health is also bad for wildlife.  Clean air is for the birds? You bet!

On September 30 I’ll speak on this topic at GASP’s annual fundraiser. Held at the National Aviary, the event includes private admission, three live bird encounters, craft making for kids, auctions, and great food.  It’s a family friendly event with lots of birds.

GASP will also present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Board member Walter Goldburg, PhD who helped found GASP in 1969.  Walter has inspired us all.

For more information, click here or on the event logo below:

Clean Air is For The Birds

It’s a fundraiser so tickets are…
Members: $50
Non-Members: $65 (includes membership)
Child: $20

Register online here.

Clean air is for the birds … and people too!

 

(GASP Night at the Aviary logo)

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Sep 05 2016

Last Day of Summer

Waves and ! at Ocean Beach (photo by Broken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons)

Waves and marbled godwit at low tide. Ocean Beach, California (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On this last day of summer, may you find a marbled godwit at the beach.

Happy Labor Day!

 

(photo by Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the image to see the original)

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