Category Archives: Books & Events

Today’s Outing in Schenley Park

Schenley park outing, 21 May 2017 (photo by Kate St.John)
Schenley park outing, 21 May 2017 (photo by Kate St.John)

Fifteen of us had a great time in Schenley Park this morning.  We saw 33 species of birds including nesting Baltimore orioles and wood thrushes.  The two youngest members of our group found frogs, turtles and an enormous goldfish in the lake.  Wow!

We started off with a distant look at a peregrine falcon perched at the Cathedral of Learning.  My guess is that we saw Hope watching over the chicks.  If you were viewing the falconcam you wouldn't have seen her but she was quite close.

Best Birds were scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles and wood thrushes, plus a first-of-year Acadian flycatcher.  Here's the complete checklist on eBird.

I was worried that storms would cancel the outing but we had bright sunny weather.  As I write this, dark clouds are moving in.  Now it can rain.  🙂


(photo by Kate St. John)

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch, May 26-30

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch, 31 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)
Gulf Tower Fledge Watch, 31 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Three young peregrines are growing at the Gulf Tower and will fledge before you know it.  It's time for Fledge Watch, May 26-30, 2017.

This year the Downtown watch will be a purely social occasion.  The Gulf Tower is so tall that we don't have to worry that the young birds will land in the street.  Instead we'll have a falcon fans get-together and an opportunity to educate the public about peregrines.

With that in mind, on weekdays I'll be at The Pennsylvanian entry -- 1100 Liberty Avenue -- where folks can stop by during lunch hour.  On Memorial Day weekend John English and I will be up at Flag Plaza where there's plenty of free parking and a good view of the Gulf Tower.

Here are the details.

When & Where on Business Days:

Fri May 26 and Tues May 30
11:30am to 1:30pm
On the sidewalk at The Pennsylvanian RR station area, 1100 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. See arrow below.

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch on weekdays (screenshot from Google maps with pin)
Gulf Tower Fledge Watch on weekdays (screenshot Google maps with pin)

The Pennsylvanian, 1100 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh,PA (photo from
Gulf Tower Fledge Watch on weekdays at The Pennsylvanian, 1100 Liberty Ave (photo from


When & Where on Memorial Day Weekend

Sat May 27, Sun May 28, Mon May 29
11:30am to 1:30pm.  Hours may be extended. Check back as the weekend approaches!
At Flag Plaza (Boy Scouts building), 1275 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Location of Flag Plaza (via John English on Pittsburgh Faclonuts Facebook page)
Location of Flag Plaza (via John English on Pittsburgh Faclonuts Facebook page)


Come for as little or as long as you’d like. Bring binoculars if you have them.

Hope to see you there!

Fledge Watch is a fair weather event. It will be canceled if it's raining or storming.


(photo credits:  Fledge Watchers by Kate St. John. The Pennsylvanian from, Location of Flag Plaza via John English on Pittsburgh Faclonuts Facebook page)

Schenley Park Outing, May 21, 8:30a

Buttercups blooming in May (photo by Kate St. John)
Buttercups blooming in May (photo by Kate St. John)

Join me on Sunday May 21 at 8:30am for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive for this 8:30am to 10:30am walk. We'll see flowers and late migrating birds.

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

NOTE ABOUT THUNDERSTORMS!  As of this writing there's a 60% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday.  Weather forecasts can change so check back at this blog post or on the Events Page before you come to the outing in case I've had to cancel because of lightning.


(photo by Kate St. John)

This Morning in Schenley Park

Schenley Park bird walk group, 30 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park outing, 30 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning there were 36 of us ready to go birding in Schenley Park at 8am.  We searched for birds in the Bartlett area and part of Lower and Falloon Trails, then walked the golf course edge for a view of the treetops along Serpentine Road.

The birds were quiet at first but became more active when the sun broke through the clouds.  Best Birds of the day were rose-breasted grosbeaks, the first-of-year ovenbird and a green heron at the lake.  I wish we'd seen the blue-winged warbler (heard singing) but we did see a peregrine falcon flying around the Cathedral of Learning.

I promised we'd end at 10am but a dozen people wanted to continue so we split up at 9:45a.  (Thank you, Marcus, for guiding folks back to Bartlett Street.)  So I have two lists of the birds we saw.  Let me know if I missed something.

Before 9:45m. Birds Seen and Heard, 8am-9:45am, 0.8 miles (until turn around). Click here for eBird checklist.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Ovenbird (first of year)
Blue-winged Warbler (heard by several of us, seen by Michelle)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch

After 945am: Additional Species Seen and Heard, 9:45am-11:30am, 2.17 miles, via Panther Hollow Lake (Click here for the eBird list of additional birds)

Green Heron (first of year)
Osprey (2 flew over at Bartlett at the end of the walk)
Red-tailed Hawk (adult at Occupied Nest)
Chimney Swift
Hairy Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon (flying and perched at Cathedral of Learning)
Eastern Phoebe
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Wood Thrush
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler (first of year)
Black-throated Green Warbler

Thanks, everyone, for coming out.  It was a great birding day!

When I got home I heard a white-eyed vireo singing in my neighborhood.  🙂


(photo by Kate St.John)

Reminder: Schenley Park Outing, April 30, 8am

Baltimore oriole (photo by Steve Gosser)

Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, April 30, 8a - 10a.  (Note the early start! 8:00am)

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road for this joint outing with the Three Rivers Birding Club.

New birds come to town every day at the end of April so there will be plenty to see.  Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes.  Don't forget your binoculars!

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.


p.s. I've already seen a Baltimore oriole in the park.  🙂

(Baltimore oriole photo by Steve Gosser)

The “Raptor Row” Ride, April 29

Hays bald eagle carrying nesting material, March 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Hays bald eagle carrying nesting material, March 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Watch raptors on your bike!

On 29 April 2017, the Steel Valley Trail Council (SVTC) and Three Rivers Birding Club (3RBC) will hold a bicycle ride along "Raptor Row" of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.  It's a celebration of the raptors who nested along the Monongahela River last spring.

Travel up and down river from Hays to Duquesne or McKeesport to see bald eagles, a great-horned owl (ARL will have a live owl on site), red-tailed hawks, ospreys and kestrels.

When:  Saturday, April 29
Where: Waterfront Town Center, 270 Bridge Street behind Starbucks.
What:  A bicycle ride on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail from Hays to Duquesne (13.5-mile round trip) or to McKeesport (this 18-mile round trip includes kestrels).  Three Rivers Birding Club members will be stationed at the raptor nest sites, many with scopes for close viewing of nests and any raptors that may be present.
How:  Costs are at the link below. VIP option has a bird guide ride with you!  If you don't have a bike you can rent one on site from Waterfront Bike Rentals.

Click here for details and more about the raptors:

Let’s Get Outdoors in April

Little kids with binoculars (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Little kids with binoculars (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spring is here so let's get outdoors!

I missed this weekend's outings but here's a list for the rest of April 2017.  These free outings, held in western Pennsylvania, are offered by the Three Rivers Birding Club [3RBC], the Botanical Society of Western PA [BotSocWPA], and others.  Click on the links below for more information. (Scroll the table sideways to see the links!)

Date/TimeFocusLocationLeader and More Info
April 9, 1p (Sun)Wild plants and MushroomsCrouse Run (aka Grouse Run), Hampton Township, Allegheny CountyAdam Haritan [BotSocWPA]
April 12, 7p (Wed)BirdsHarmar Twp, Allegheny CountyEvening Woodcock Walk, Tom Byrnes [3RBC]
April 19, 7p (Wed)BirdsHarmar Twp, Allegheny CountyEvening Woodcock Walk, Tom Byrnes [3RBC]
April 22, 9:30a (Sat)BirdsRaccoon Creek State ParkBirding + potluck lunch. Ryan Tomazin [3RBC & Brooks Bird Club]
April 23, 1p (Sun)WildflowersOhiopyle State Park, Great Gorge TrailMark Bowers [BotSocWPA]
April 28, 7:30a (Fri)BirdsSewickley Heights ParkBob Van Newkirk [3RBC]
April 29, 8a (Sat)BirdsFrick ParkJack & Sue Solomon [3RBC]
April 29, 1p (Sat)WildflowersErie Bluffs ParkAndrew Sipple [BotSocWPA]
April 30, 8a (Sun)Birds and moreSchenley ParkKate St. John in conjunction with [3RBC]
April 30, 8a (Sun)BirdsRiding Meadow Park, Fox ChapelCecelia Hard [3RBC]
April 30, all day, Walks start 8am & 10am (Sun)Birds and WildflowersEnlow Fork Natural Area[Wheeling Creek Watershed] [3RBC] [BotSocWPA]

And here are four indoor meetings where you can learn about birds, flowers and magical monarch butterflies:
April 5, 7:30pm (Wed) Three Rivers Birding Club meeting: Galapagos Adventure by Jeffrey Hall
April 6, 7:30pm (Thurs) Wissahickon Nature Club meeting: Getting Started Early in the Garden by Doug Oster
April 10, 7:15pm (Mon), Botanical Society of Western PA: Wildcrafting and Growing Medicinal Herbs in Pennsylvania’s Appalachia by Michelle Soto
April 20, 7:30pm (Thurs) Wissahickon Nature Club meeting: Magical Monarchs by June Bernard


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

p.s. If you see a typo in the list, please let me know!

p.s. Click here for a list of events at Raccoon Creek State Park, organized by park staff.


Learn Warblers Online

Cornell Bird Academy, Be a Better Birder: Warbler ID class, April 6 - May 18, 2017
Cornell Bird Academy, Be a Better Birder: Warbler ID class, April 6 - May 18, 2017

Warbler season is coming fast.  Are you ready to identify them?  Cornell Bird Academy can help.

I've learned a lot from Cornell's online resources so when I saw they're offering a brand new live online course in Warbler Identification -- including song ID! -- I thought I'd pass it along.

The class will be presented by one of my favorite bird experts, Kevin McGowan.  Here's Cornell's description:

Starting April 6 and running through May 18, this new series is composed of seven hour-long webinars held on Thursday evenings. The first three lessons cover the diversity of warblers and the best strategies to identify them.

This is the first group we’ve covered where song is really important, and we will spend almost an entire session on using your ears to identify warblers.

Then we will examine every one of the 50 common warblers found in the United States and Canada, species by species, over the next four weeks.

Each lesson will be presented twice, once at 7:00 p.m. EDT (New York time), then again at 9:00 p.m. EDT. You can attend either session without having to choose ahead of time. And, if you miss a live talk, no problem. We will make the recording of each week’s lesson available to watch at your leisure.

We are offering all seven lessons for one low price of $69.

If you're interested, click here to read more and sign up.


p.s. In March, every eligible ebird checklist you submit gives you a chance to win free access to this class. Only 2 days left to win!

(Cornell Bird Academy, Be a Better Birder: Warbler ID class, April 6 - May 18, 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)

Gray weather at Duck Hollow today

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:


(photo by Kate St. John)