Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

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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Jan 01 2016

Happy 2016!

Published by under Books & Events

Festive lights at Phipps Conservatory (photo by Kate St. John)


On the first of January many birders start a new Year List of the birds they’ve seen.  I’m not that organized but I can tell you that my last bird of 2015 was a rock pigeon (63 of them in my neighborhood) and my first birds this year were American crows leaving the roost before dawn.

May the new year be full of birds and the beauty of nature.   Health and happiness to all.

Happy 2016!


(photo by Kate St. John)

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Dec 29 2015

It’s Time To Pick Up The Pieces

Greenfield Bridge as seen from the air, 24 December 2015 (photo from Pat Hassett)

Greenfield Bridge as seen from the air, 24 December 2015 (photo from Pat Hassett)

I don’t usually write about bridges, but there was big excitement only 1,200 feet from my house yesterday when contractors blew up the Greenfield Bridge.  As you can see from the photo above, it connected my neighborhood to Schenley Park (right of photo) over the Parkway East I-376.  I haven’t been able to walk into this part of Schenley since the bridge closed on October 17.

Even if you don’t live in Pittsburgh, the implosion made national news so you probably saw videos on TV.  Here are some photos of the event, a bit of the birds’ perspective, and links to my favorite implosion videos.

Above, a birds-eye view of the bridge on Christmas Eve.  Below, the bridge is wrapped, charged and waiting on Monday morning, December 28.

The Greenfield Bridge, just before it blows (photo by Geoff Campbell)

The Greenfield Bridge, just before it blows (photo by Geoff Campbell)

The implosion required a lot of warning, coordination, street blocking and police patrols.  The map below shows the exclusion zone.

Folks could stay home if their house was inside the circle but they had to stay inside and away from windows.  If you live that close to something this exciting, you either left home to watch nearby or you saw the best view of all on TV.

Map of the Exclusion Zone around the implosion (distributed by City of Pittsburgh)

Map of the Exclusion Zone around the implosion (distributed by City of Pittsburgh)

My house is outside the circle but I watched from one of the red roads closed to traffic. Those roads have good views but were open only to pedestrians to prevent gawkers’ cars from causing traffic and parking problems.  It was fun watching with the neighbors.  We were all in a party mood.

Starting an hour+ before the blast an infrared sensing helicopter circled overhead to make sure no one was outdoors within the exclusion zone.  One guy snuck into the woods and had to be rousted out.  We never saw him but he delayed the blast 20 minutes.

Back in October the neighborhood held a party and raffled off a chance to push the plunger and blow up the bridge.  Sally Scheidlmeier, pictured below, won that honor.  Here she is with the plunger (“Let’s Do It”) and the plunger’s victim in the distance, only minutes before the blast.  She pushed the plunger …

Sally Scheidlmeier just before she pushed down the plunger to blow up the bridge (photo by Geoff Campbell)

Sally Scheidlmeier just before she pushed down the plunger to blow up the bridge (photo by Geoff Campbell)

… and then …

Thar she blows! (photo from Pat Hassett)

Thar she blows! (photo from Pat Hassett)

Here’s my favorite video of the blast from the Post-Gazette.  Watch for the guy in the hard hat and orange-yellow vest who runs into the picture and down the road.  That’s a man who loves his job!


Down in The Run (the neighborhood in the valley on the left side of the exclusion zone), Trinidad Regaspi took a video with her cellphone.  Do you see that bird-like dot to the right of the telephone pole?  It’s one of four wild turkeys that flew across the valley to escape the noise.  They sure had a story for their friends last night!

Four wild turkeys escape the blasts (screenshot from video by Trinidad Regaspi's Facebook video)

Four wild turkeys escape the blasts (screenshot from video by Trinidad Regaspi’s Facebook video)

… and then the bridge was gone.

The Bridge is gone! (photo by Geoff Campbell)

The Bridge is gone! (photo by Geoff Campbell)

It didn’t take long before the contractors were down on the Parkway picking up the pieces.  Six pillars on the Schenley side didn’t fall during the blast but they came down shortly after I took this photo at noon.  Alas, I missed it.

Six pillars still stand, but not for long, noon on 28 Dec 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Six leaning pillars still stand on the Schenley side, but not for long. At noon on 28 Dec 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

At road level there’s a lot of debris.

Picking up the pieces (photo from Pat Hassett)

Picking up the pieces in the rain (photo from Pat Hassett)

The contractors are out there picking up the pieces all day and all night (we can hear them).  They have to work fast because they only have permission to keep the interstate closed for 5 days after the blast.

I-376 is slated to reopen on January 1 at 6:00am.  The new bridge will take 18+ months to build.

Read more and see additional videos here at the Post-Gazette.


(photos from Pat Hassett, Geoff Campbell, Trinidad Regaspi and Kate St. John)

UPDATE DECEMBER 31, 2015:  The cleanup finished ahead of schedule!  The Parkway East opened INBOUND today at 2:00pm.  OUTBOUND will reopen between 10:00pm and midnight because of another project down the road at the Birmingham Bridge.

Parkway East is all cleaned up after the Greenfield Bridge blast, 31 Dec 2015, 8:30am (photo by Pat Hassett)

Parkway East is all cleaned up, 31 Dec 2015, 8:30am (photo by Pat Hassett)

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Dec 25 2015

Merry Christmas

Published by under Books & Events

Christmas Star Dahlia (photo by Paul Staniszewski)

Christmas Star Dahlia (photo by Paul Staniszewski)


Merry Christmas, everyone!


This beautiful Christmas Star Dahlia from Paul Staniszewski reminds me that there are gorgeous flowers and light displays at Phipps Conservatory’s annual Winter Flower Show and Light Garden, open tomorrow through Sunday January 10.

Do they have this dahlia?  I’ll have to go and see …


(photo by Paul Staniszewski)

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Dec 17 2015

Christmas Bird Counts, Pittsburgh

Published by under Books & Events

Wild turkeys in snow. How many? (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Wild turkeys in snow. How many? (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

This weekend kicks off 12 Christmas Bird Counts in the Pittsburgh area, half of them this Saturday, December 19.

Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) are an annual opportunity to tally birds in the Western Hemisphere.  Each count is a 7-mile radius circle manned by volunteers who count the birds they see in a single 24-hour period.

Anyone can join the fun.  Count in the field with other participants or watch at your backyard feeder.  Just contact the count circle coordinator and he or she will handle the rest.

Bob Mulvihill gathered Pittsburgh area CBC information at this helpful link on the National Aviary website.  Download the flyer that includes contacts and a map.

Here’s a quick list to whet your appetite.

  • Saturday Dec 19
    • Pittsburgh South Hills
    • Buffalo Creek Valley (Butler County, Sarver area)
    • Washington
    • Clarksville (eastern Greene County)
    • Butler (Moraine State Park area)
    • Beaver
  • Sunday Dec 20
    • Lower Buffalo Creek (Washington County, Taylorstown)
  • Saturday Dec 26
    • Pittsburgh (includes City of Pittsburgh and north)
  • Sunday Dec 27
    • Imperial
    • Bushy Run State Park
  • Saturday Jan 2
    • Ryerson (southwestern Greene County)
    • South Butler (Evans City, Cranberry Twp area)

And to give you some practice, count the wild turkeys in the photo above.

Count carefully.

How many do you see?


(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

4 responses so far

Dec 01 2015

National Aviary Vulture On The Tonight Show!

In case you missed it …

On November 11 a black vulture from the National Aviary made her debut on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  Chris Packham introduced Jimmy to two hyenas and then at the 2:00 minute mark …

Woo hoo!


(YouTube video from The Tonight Show)

p.s. Congratulations to the vulture (I forget her name) who’s famous in the daily Flight Shows at the National Aviary and to all the people who made her debut possible.

p.p.s  I’m not so sure Jimmy Fallon likes vultures.  What do you think?

4 responses so far

Nov 29 2015

New Home!

Published by under Books & Events

bird house (photo from Wiimedia Commons)Welcome to my new blogging home.  🙂


You’ve found Outside My Window at my new address.


Click on the big blue type below and make a new bookmark. You’re ready to go!

New location!

p.s. Today (November 30) I’m taking it easy and leaving this notice in place while we all get used to my new location.  Stay tuned this week for: A vulture on the Tonight Show, Bald eagles on the hunt, and Pittsburgh peregrine nesting highlights in 2015.


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

12 responses so far

Nov 27 2015

Buy A Stamp For The Birds

2015 U.S. Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp (image linked from

Today, on Black Friday the biggest shopping day of the year, buy some habitat for the birds.

In Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s November eNewsletter I learned the back story about duck stamps.  They aren’t just for hunters and stamp collectors.  They’re for us birders, too.

One hundred years ago ducks were on their way to extinction in North America because of over-hunting and habitat loss.  New hunting laws stopped the slaughter but the birds still needed habitat so Ding Darling, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, pushed for the Duck Stamp Act that requires waterfowl hunters to purchase and carry a duck stamp with their general game hunting license. Stamp-generated funds buy National Wildlife Refuge land.  Click here to read how ducks were saved by a stamp!

Cornell Lab gives us birders 8 great reasons to buy a duck stamp:  (I’ve paraphrased below.)

  1. It’s saving a lot of habitat.  Since 1934, over 6.5 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat have been saved as National Wildlife Refuges.
  2. It’s beautiful, collectible wildlife art.
  3. It’s a great use of funds. 98 cents of every dollar goes directly to land acquisition (and immediate related expenses) for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  4. It’s more than just ducks. Refuge wetland habitat benefits shorebirds, herons, raptors, songbirds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, native plants, and more.
  5. It’s grasslands, too. NWR refuges also protect grasslands for declining prairie-nesting birds: bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, clay-colored sparrows, sedge wrens …
  6. A wildlife refuge where you go birding has benefited. Check the map here (scroll down).
  7. The annual stamp is your free pass to refuges that charge admission.
  8. Show that bird watchers care, too. We know that birds need habitat.  Let’s lend the birds a hand.

It’s easy to buy the 2015 stamp at many post offices, National Wildlife Refuge offices, and sporting-goods stores, as well as online from USPS and Amplex.

Buy a stamp for the birds!


(image of the 2015 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, linked from Click on the image to see the original and read about 8 Great Reasons to buy one.)

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Nov 25 2015

Blog Moving On Sunday

Published by under Books & Events

Moving! (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Moving! (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This Sunday is going to be a big day for me, but if all goes well you won’t notice a thing.

The blog will look the same as usual and all nine+ years of posts and comments will be online.  The only difference on Sunday night will be my new address … but you’ll hardly notice.  The magic of the Internet will send you to the new location (via 301 redirects) if all goes well.

Here’s what I’m up to.

When I retired from WQED more than a year ago, I thought about moving my blog to my own address but I was not up for the challenge back then.  Life is calmer now so I’ve decided to go out on my own.

I’ve bought a new address and I’m packing my virtual boxes for Sunday afternoon’s move.  If all goes well, Outside My Window will be up and running at this new address by Sunday night, November 29:


Keep in mind that you don’t have to do anything.  I’m still at for the next few days, and after the move is final you’ll be automatically redirected to my new site.

Sit back and relax.   And stay tuned.


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

6 responses so far

Nov 09 2015

Eight Years Outside My Window

Published by under Books & Events

Happy 8th Bird-thday!

Eight years ago today I posted my first blog at Outside My Window.  Back then I wrote three times a week, then increased to daily for the past 5+ years.

People sometimes ask me, “What does it take to write a successful blog?” I don’t know the answer for everyone, but here’s what I do:

Every day I get up at 5:00 am to write for three hours, sometimes longer, finalizing today’s post and prepping tomorrow’s.  When I’m outdoors I note topics of interest for future use.  If don’t have any ideas at 5:00am — yes, it happens! — I dip into my notes and hope for inspiration. My Muse is really good during Peregrine Season but she loses interest in the winter.  Don’t we all!

This year the Muse inspired some lively posts and discussions.  Her statistics show …

Thanks to you, my readers, for 8 years together. You keep me going every day!

And a very special thank you to the many photographers who allow me to use their photos and videos on the site.

Happy 8th Bird-thday to all of us!


(party crows by Joan Guerin)

p.s. Today is my blog’s birthday; my own birthday is in May.  🙂

16 responses so far

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