Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Sep 21 2015

White Snakeroot + Schenley Walk Reminder

White snakeroot, flower close up (photo by Kate St. John)

White snakeroot, flower close up (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Walk:
Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday September 27, 8:30am – 10:30am.

This time we’ll meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road.  This is not the usual meeting place at the Visitor’s Center.

Click here for more information and updates if the walk must be canceled for bad weather.

White Snakeroot:
On the August walk we saw white snakeroot and we’re sure to see it this month, too.  At the time I called it tall boneset, a confusing alternate name.  What was I thinking?!  I should have used its most common name.

White snakeroot grows 1 – 5 feet tall with opposite, toothed, egg-shaped leaves and branching clusters of bright white flowers.  Each flower head is a cluster of very tiny flowers, shown above.

White Snakeroot in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

White Snakeroot in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

The plant is similar enough to boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) that it used to be in the same genus, but it’s been reclassified to Ageratina altissima.   To avoid confusion with unrelated boneset I’ll call it “white snakeroot” from now on.

Unfortunately “snakeroot” is confusing, too.  White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is not related to black snakeroot (Actaea racemosa, black cohosh).  Arg!

In any case, we’ll see it next Sunday.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

UPDATE: 27 September 2015:  We were a small group but we saw some cool things including this Best Bird:  A red-tailed hawk hovered above Panther Hollow and then screamed in (silently!) with talons extended to catch something on the ground! But he missed it.  We weren’t in the line of fire but we were certainly impressed!

Participants in 27 Sept 2015 Walk in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Participants in 27 Sept 2015 Walk in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

 

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Sep 06 2015

Master Asters

Published by under Books & Events,Plants

Asters (photo by Kate St. John)

Asters (photo by Kate St. John)

September is the month for asters and goldenrods but these plants are so hard to identify that I usually say: “It’s an aster (or goldenrod) but I don’t know which one.”

Now there’s hope for the aster-onomically challenged.  Pennsylvania Botany is offering a one-day seminar on identifying asters and goldenrods on September 22 at Nescopek State Park.  Participants will use keys and floras and get plenty of hands-on practice.

Master asters at this seminar.  It’s open to the public but is not free.  See the links below for more information.

Aster and Goldenrod Identification Workshop
September 22, 2015 • 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Nescopeck State Park, Environmental Education Center
1137 Honey Hole Road • Drums, Pennsylvania 18222
Directions/information on Nescopek State Park.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Sep 05 2015

Today Is International Vulture Awareness Day

Turkey vulture in flight (photo by Chuck Tague)

Turkey vulture in flight (photo by Chuck Tague)

Today is International Vulture Awareness Day, the day when we remember vultures under threat and thank them for saving us from disease.

International Vulture Awareness Day, 2015 logo

Originally founded by Birds of Prey Programme in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England this annual event teaches the benefits of vultures and our actions that threaten them.

The most famous vulture crisis happened at the turn of this century when public health officials, conservationists, and birders became alarmed that 95% of the vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal had died-off in only 15 years.  It was the fastest bird decline in history and became painfully obvious when the landscape was swamped by decaying animal carcasses.  Research revealed that the solution was rather simple: Ban diclofenac, a painkiller given to cattle that’s deadly to vultures.  The drug was banned in 2006 but vulture populations are severely damaged — down 99.9% — perhaps irretrievably.

Vultures in Africa and Europe are declining as well and could face extinction within our lifetime.  In Africa the threats are complex; click here to learn more.

If you think our vultures are secure, think again.  The largest land bird in North America, the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), is a vulture and is so critically endangered that they’ve been captive-bred since 1987.  Every California condor you see today comes from that program.

California condor in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

California condor in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

And in South America Andean condors are near-threatened.  You can see and learn about them at Pittsburgh’s National Aviary.

Thankfully our turkey and black vulture populations are stable, but we often don’t realize the good work they do for us.  They usually eat carcasses before we smell them and save us from the diseases harbored in rotting meat.  Did you know vultures can eat anthrax safely because their powerful stomachs protect them?  Thank you, vultures!

So when you see a vulture today give him a nod and thank him for his efforts.

Happy International Vulture Awareness Day!

 

(turkey vulture photo by Chuck Tague)

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Aug 17 2015

Reminder: Let’s Walk in Schenley Park, August 23

Published by under Books & Events

Yellow Touch-me-not. wilting, 16 August 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday August 23, 8:30am in Schenley Park.

Meet at Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive.  (No confusion this time.  We’ll meet at the regular place.)

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

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

I’m sure we’ll see signs of drought … like this wilting jewelweed, alas.

See you soon.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Jul 20 2015

Reminder: Let’s walk in Schenley Park, July 26

Published by under Books & Events

American goldfinch on thistle (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday July 26, 8:30am in Schenley Park.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road.
Dress for the weather. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

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

We’re sure to see American goldfinches among the thistles.

See you soon.

(photo of American goldfinch among the thistles by Marcy Cunkelman)

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Jun 29 2015

Walks in Schenley Park: Yesterday + July through October

Participants in Sunday's walk in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St.John)

Group photo: Sunday’s walk in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Despite the cold, gray, and drizzle 12 people came out to walk in Schenley Park yesterday morning.

Our best birds were a Baltimore oriole with a fledgling, northern rough-winged swallows, a scarlet tanager, gray catbirds and a rose-breasted grosbeak.

We also observed that deer tried to eat the Black Cohosh flowers and rejected them (they smell bad), Bottlebrush Buckeye is in full bloom near Panther Hollow Lake, and a rose-breasted grosbeak jumped up to eat Pale Touch-me-not seeds.

Yesterday’s walk was the last one on the schedule but many of you asked for more so I’m pleased to announce 4 more monthly walks — late July through late October — that will take us up to winter.  (Most are the last Sunday of the month, but not in August.)

  • Sunday, July 26:  Meet at Bartlett Shelter. Let’s look at the park from a different angle and see what’s blooming in the meadow.
  • Sunday, August 23:  Meet at the Schenley Park Visitors Center.  What’s changed at the lake since June? Late summer flowers and a hint of fall.
  • Sunday September 27:  Meet at Bartlett Shelter.  It’s Great Race Day so we’ll avoid road closures and spend time at the quiet end of the park.
  • Sunday, October 25: Meet at the Schenley Park Visitors Center for the last walk before winter sets in.  Will the crows be back yet?

As always, the walks are 8:30am to 10:30am.  Dress for the weather, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring binoculars if you have them.

Click here for more information and updates if a walk is canceled for bad weather.

See you then!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Jun 25 2015

Two Events: June 25th, 28th

Published by under Books & Events

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)
Thursday June 25 (today), noon to 2:00pm, Schenley Plaza tent:  2015 Pitt Peregrine Season Wrap Up.  If it’s not thundering, I’ll be at the Schenley Plaza tent, noon to 2:00pm to chat about peregrines and maybe see Dorothy & E2 fly by.   (In case you missed it, their fledgling “Silver” went to ground again yesterday afternoon and is on his way to rehab. Click here for the news.)

Epilogue, watercolor on Cowley's veiny calfskin vellum by Wendy Brockman, 2014, 27 × 23", © 2014 Wendy   Brockman, All rights reserved.  Courtesy Hunt Library.

Epilogue, watercolor on Cowley’s veiny calfskin vellum by Wendy Brockman, 2014, 27 × 23″, © 2014 Wendy Brockman, All rights reserved. Courtesy Hunt Library.

Sunday, June 28,  1:00pm to 4:00pm, CMU’s Hunt Library, 5th floor:   Annual Open House showcases Elements, an exhibit inspired by birds’ nests.  At 1:30–2:30 p.m Patrick McShea from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will present “Nest structures of North American birds and the materials used in their creation.” The event is free and open to the public.  Read a review of the exhibit here. Click here for Hunt Library information.  (p.s. Pat’s talks are always interesting. Don’t miss it.)

 

(photo of Schenley Plaza tent by Kate St. John. image of Epilogue © 2014 Wendy Brockman, courtesy Hunt Library)

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Jun 23 2015

Reminder: Let’s walk in Schenley Park, June 28

Published by under Books & Events

Single Bottlebrush Buckeye flower spire - 3/4 bloom (photo by Kate St. John)

Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday June 28, 8:30am in Schenley Park. Meet at Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive.

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

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

I know we’ll find bottlebrush buckeye blooming.

See you soon.

 

(photo of bottlebrush buckeye by Kate St. John)

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Jun 21 2015

Midsummer Day and Night

Traditional Midsummer Night Festival bonfire in Lappeenranta, Finland (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Traditional Midsummer Night Festival bonfire in Lappeenranta, Finland (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today the sun will reach its northernmost point, the northern solstice, at 12:38pm.

In northern Europe this is Midsummer Day, celebrated the night before with enormous bonfire festivals, especially in Scandinavia, Latvia and Estonia.

Midsummer folklore includes old stories that spirits and witches roam the night so bonfires were set to keep them away.  Shakespeare embellished on the folklore in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  His fairies cast spells on each other; Titania fell in love with Bottom.

Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Titania and Bottom, by Edwin Lanseer (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania and Bottom, by Edwin Lanseer (image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

If you celebrate the evening outdoors, be careful not to fall in love with an ass. 😉

 

(Midsummer festival fire in Lapeenranta, Finland and Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom by Edwin Lanseer, both from Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the images to see the originals)

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Jun 12 2015

Downtown Fledge Watch Begins Tomorrow, June 13

Published by under Books & Events

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watchers, 2010 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watchers, 2010 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

Dateline June 12, 2015:

As you can see from my earlier post we missed the first fledgling but there are still two who haven’t flown.

Downtown Fledge Watch starts tomorrow at Fifth and Grant, perfectly positioned for incoming fledglings.

Click here for ALL the details.

Additional considerations:

Weather:  We won’t be out there in thunderstorms.  Volunteer Training will be held rain or shine (Sat. 6/13 10:00am & Mon 6/15 noon).  If it is raining we will move to Macy’s Annex roof/overhang on Fifth Ave at Cherry Way after we meet at Mellon Square.

Saturday:   Volunteer Training at 10:00am at Mellon Square (see above note on weather).  Otherwise, business as usual at Fifth and Grant.

Sunday:  Parking, etc.  On street parking is free but be careful where you put your car if you’d like to leave around noon.  The Pride Parade starts at noon at Grant & the Boulevard of the Allies, marches up Grant to Fifth Avenue and turns left down Fifth Avenue, then right on Liberty Avenue and ends at the grandstand at Liberty & Sixth Avenues.

I’ll post fledgling status as I get the chance.

Never a dull moment.

 

(photo of Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, 29 May 2010 by Sharon Leadbitter)

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