Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Jun 08 2015

Downtown Peregrines’ Fledge Watch, June 13-20

Dori guards while a nestling explores, 5 June 2015 (photo by Matthew Digiacomo)

Mother peregrine, Dori, guards while a nestling explores, Friday June 5, 2015 (photo by Matthew Digiacomo)

In less than a week three peregrine nestlings will make their first flight in Downtown Pittsburgh.  Because their nest is low they might need our help.

In the first 24 hours of flight, fledgling peregrines lack the wing strength to take off from the ground.  If they land on the street they just stand there and may be hit by vehicles.

Last Friday’s photo shows they were speckled with white down and brown feathers.

Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine nestlings, 5 June 2015 (photo by Matthew Digiacomo)

Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine nestlings, Friday June 5, 2015 (photo by Matthew Digiacomo)

By the time they fly they will be all brown with dark cheek stripes like the bird circled in red (and like this bird yesterday at Neville Island).

Comparison: red-tailed hawk & juvenile peregrine (photos by Katie Cunningham & Kim Steininger)

Comparing red-tailed hawk & immature peregrine. Click on this photo for more details

 

What you can do:  If you see a peregrine on the street, call the PA Game Commission (PGC) at 724-238-9523.  If you can safely do so, carefully corral and guard the bird until PGC arrives.

You can also volunteer for Fledge Watch June 13-20 during daylight hours in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue at Grant Street. (The Watch will end before June 20 if the last bird has flown for 24 hours.)

The #1 purpose of this Watch is to educate the public so lots of people know to call the Game Commission if they find a downed peregrine.  Yes, we’d love to believe trained volunteers would find every bird, but the reality in Downtown Pittsburgh is that peregrines in trouble are found by people who’ve never seen a peregrine.  People often tell building security guards about the birds so I’ve notified management/security at the nearby buildings.

The second purpose of the Watch is to station a few trained volunteers in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue and Grant Street to watch and wait just in case.  This area is made up of sidewalks and private property so we cannot congregate as we do at the annual Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch in Schenley Plaza.  Two to four people at a time is all we need.

You can participate by formally signing up for a shift or by informally checking the area as you pass through on your way to work.

Learn what to do:  Get training before you participate!  I’ll conduct two basic training sessions at Mellon Square on Saturday June 13 at 10:00am and Monday June 15 at noon.  You’ll recognize me by my hat and binoculars and bright fluorescent yellow backpack.

How to sign up:  To volunteer for a shift, click here to see open times on the Downtown Pittsburgh Peregrine Fledge Watch Calendar (click on an appointment to see its time span).  Then leave a comment on this article with your name, email address and the dates/times you’d like to volunteer.  I will see your message and add your shift to the calendar.

If you cannot commit to a date/time but will be Downtown to watch informally, leave a comment with name, email and the location where you’ll be watching.

Meanwhile, though the nest doesn’t have a webcam Matthew Digiacomo is documenting the nestlings’ progress in photographs on his Flickr site.  Click here or on this photo to see how beautiful they are.

Two peregrine nestlings, obviously different ages,Downtown Pittsburgh, 5 June 2015 (photo by Matthew Digiacomo)

Two of the three nestlings, Downtown Pittsburgh, 5 June 2015 (photo by Matthew Digiacomo)

I hope to meet you at Mellon Square.

 

(photo credits:
Downtown peregrine photos by Matthew Digiacomo.
Comparison photos of red-tailed hawk and peregrine by Katie Cunningham (hawk) and
Kim Steininger (peregrine))

See this link if you have questions about the weather.

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May 31 2015

This Morning’s Walk in Schenley Park

Participants in May 31 Walk in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Participants in May 31 Walk in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Great turnout this morning — 21 people, including myself — and the weather cooperated!

From our meeting place at the Visitors Center we could see E2 on the lightning rod at the Cathedral of Learning so we talked about peregrines and I answered questions before we walked to Panther Hollow Lake.

Best sightings included beautiful male rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles at their nests, a house wren at its nest in a street lamp, and northern rough-winged swallows taking flight-baths in the lake.  Two wood thrushes sang in the woods and common whitetail dragonflies chased at the lake edge.

Spend time outdoors in the weeks ahead.  In mid-June come to Peregrine Fledge Watches (to be announced) at Schenley Plaza, Downtown, Neville Island and the Westinghouse Bridge.  And on Sunday June 28 I’ll lead another walk in Schenley Park.

Check the schedule on my Events page for the latest updates.

 

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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May 27 2015

Reminder: Let’s Walk in Schenley Park, May 31

Fleabane (photo by Kate St. John)

Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday May 31, 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 for updates if the walk is canceled for bad weather.

I know we’ll find fleabane blooming.

See you soon.

(photo of fleabane by Kate St. John)

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May 18 2015

The Sagebrush Sea: PBS NATURE May 20

Published by under Books & Events

For those of us who live among forests and fields, the western sagebrush country seems empty and lifeless … but it isn’t.

Stretching across 11 western states, it’s a high cold desert that’s home to pronghorn deer, golden eagles, hawks, prairie dogs, and a beautiful, fascinating bird — the greater sage-grouse — that lives nowhere else on earth.

Most of the year greater sage-grouse are hard to find but in the spring they gather in leks (courtship grounds) where the males strut and call to attract the females.  The ladies are so picky that nearly all of them mate with only one or two of the males, then nest hidden in the sagebrush and raise their precocial chicks in the harsh environment.

But humans are changing the sagebrush sea.  The greater sage-grouse population has declined 90% since European settlement and soon may be on the brink of extinction.  Will the greater sage-grouse be snuffed out?

Watch PBS NATURE‘s season finale, The Sagebrush Sea, on Wednesday May 20 at 8:00pm EDT. In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

p.s.  The show was filmed and produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here for their program website or here for the Facebook page.

(The Sagebrush Sea trailer from PBS NATURE)

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May 16 2015

Peregrine Falcon Coloring Page

Peregrine falcon coloring page (illustration by Mark Klingler, text by Cathy Klingler)

Peregrine falcon coloring page (Illustration by Mark Klingler, text by Cathy Klingler)

This week the happy news of Dorothy’s hatchling revived an educational project that celebrates her nesting.

Mark Klingler of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is a scientific illustrator whose work appears in many publications and last year won first place for Illustrated Text by Large Non-Profit Publishers at the Washington Book Publishers’ Awards.  You may be familiar with Mark’s illustration of Anzu wyliei, the Chicken From Hell, that made the news in March 2014.  When the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has dinosaur news, Mark’s work illustrates the stories.

As a sideline Mark and his wife Cathy produce educational coloring pages for children.

More than a year ago Mark drafted a peregrine falcon illustration using photos of Dorothy, E2 and their chicks and Cathy wrote educational information for the back of the page.  They intended to complete it last spring but Dorothy’s nest failed (she was egg bound) and it was too disappointing to continue.

This week’s happy news prompted Mark and Cathy to complete their project and offer it as a gift to the public.

The illustration, dedicated to the late G. Alex “Doc” Stewart of the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, is an annotated illustration of Dorothy, E2 and their chicks.  The back of the coloring page describes the recent history of peregrines in the eastern U.S. and Pittsburgh and provides tips on how to protect them.

Mark writes, “It’s our public sharing. Cathy and I like to create these pages to handout at talks.  As long as the credits are left on it people can copy and share with their schools, activity groups, etc.”

Click here or on the image above to download your own copy of the Peregrine Falcon Coloring Page.

 

(illustration by Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Text by Cathy Klingler)

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Apr 26 2015

This Morning’s Walk in Schenley Park

April outing in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

April 26 outing in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning there were eight of us on the Schenley Park outing:  Linda, Larry, Michelle, Rose, Jen, Marianne and Dave. (Dave missed the photo opportunity & I’m behind the camera.)

At the Visitors Center we saw Virginia bluebells and redbud blooming.  In the creek valley we found miterwort, yellow trout lilies and large-flowered trillium.  We did see purple deadnettle, as promised.  😉

In addition to the usual residents we saw these Best Birds and bird behavior:

A good time was had by all.

Watch for my next outing on the last Sunday in May — May 31.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Apr 26 2015

Let’s Get Outdoors in May

Published by under Books & Events

Wissahickon/Botanical Society outing to Linn Runn State Park, 19 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Botanical outing in Linn Run State Park, 19 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

It’s hard to believe May starts this week and with it a whole new schedule of outings.

Here’s a list from four of the many bird and nature clubs in western Pennsylvania: 16 opportunities in May, four on May 9 alone.

Everyone is welcome to participate. Click on the links for directions, meeting places, what to bring, and phone numbers for the leaders.

Date/Time Focus Location Leader & Link to more info
Sat. May 2, 10:00am Flowers Wolf Creek Narrows, Butler County Dianne Machesney, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA
Sun. May 3, 8:00am Birds Frick Park, Pittsburgh Jack & Sue Solomon, 3RBC
Sun. May 3, 7:30am Birds Buffalo Creek, Washington County Larry Helgerman, 3RBC
Thurs. May 7, 7:30am Birds Sewickley Heights Park, Allegheny County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC
Thurs. May 7, 10:00am Flowers Butler-Freeport Trail, Monroe Rd, Butler County Dianne Machesney, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA
3 Days: May 8, 9, 10 Birds Presque Isle Bird Festival, Erie County Presque Isle Audubon
Sat. May 9, 7:00am Birds Hotspots in Forest County David Yeaney, 3RBC
Sat. May 9, 8:30am Birds Harrison Hills Park, Allegheny County Steve Gosser and Mary Ann Thomas, 3RBC
Sat. May 9, 1:00pm Flowers Roaring Run, Armstrong County Loree Speedy, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA
Sun. May 10 (check website for time) Flowers Keystone State Park, Westmoreland County Mary Ann Pike, BotSocWPA
Sat. May 16, 9:00am Birds Bell Farm, Greene County Ralph K. Bell Bird Club, 3RBC
Sun. May 17, 8:00am Birds Harrison Hills Park, Allegheny County Jim Valimont, 3RBC
Fri. May 22, 7:30am Birds Sewickley Heights Park, Allegheny County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC
Fri. May 22, 10:00am Trees, Flowers Hartwood Acres, Allegheny County Marlow Madeoy, Wissahickon
Sat. May 23, 8:00am Birds Presque Isle State Park, Erie County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC
Sun. May 31, 8:30am Everything Schenley Park, Pittsburgh Kate St. John, Outside My Window

 

Don’t miss May’s excitement.  Let’s get outdoors!

 

(photo by Kate St. John from the Linn Run State Park outing on 19 April 2015)

p.s. Please excuse typos in the table.  Make sure to consult the website links for up-to-date information.  Call/email the leaders to make sure.

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Apr 22 2015

Reminder: April 26 Outing in Schenley Park

Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), everywhere in Pittsburgh, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday April 26, 8:30am in Schenley Park. Meet at Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive.

Dress for the weather (cold). Bring binoculars if you have them.

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

We will certainly see purple deadnettle.

 

(photo of purple deadnettle by Kate St. John)

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Apr 18 2015

Let’s Get Outdoors!

Published by under Books & Events

Bloodroot in bloom, Wingfield Pines, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Wingfield Pines, Allegheny County, 15 April 2015, photo by Kate St. John

It’s Spring and there’s a lot to see.  Every day new songbirds arrive and new wildflowers bloom.  There are plenty of opportunities to join others and see the sights in western Pennsylvania (see the outings table below).  Here’s what I found last Wednesday …

At the Allegheny Land Trust’s Wingfield Pines I didn’t expect to see wildflowers because the site has been plowed so many times, but on the hillside I found a patch of bloodroot in full bloom!  Above, a closeup of the flowers.  Below, just a section of the huge patch.  Notice how the leaves curl around the stems.  The sunshine encouraged the flowers to open but made them hard to see and photograph on the forest floor.

Bloodroot in bloom, Wingfield Pines, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring wildflowers are ephemeral so don’t wait or you’ll miss them entirely. Several of the bloodroot flowers had already lost their petals and gone to seed.
Bloodroot lost its petals, Wingfield Pines, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Here’s a list of April 19-30 outings for three of the many bird and nature clubs in western Pennsylvania: Wissahickon Nature Club (Wissahickon), Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania (BotSocWPa), and Three Rivers Birding Club (3RBC) … and my own outing on April 26.

Everyone is welcome to join these outings.  Click on the links for directions, meeting places, what to bring, and phone numbers for the leaders.

Date/Time Focus Location Leader & Link to more info
Sunday, April 19, 1:00pm & 2:00pm Birds Frick Park, Pittsburgh Jack & Sue Solomon, 3RBC
Sunday, April 19, 1:00pm Wildflowers Linn Run State Park, Rector, Westmoreland County Loree Speedy, Wissahickon / BotSocWPA
Saturday, April 25, 9:00am Birds Woodcock Lake & Pymatuning, Crawford County Shawn Collins, 3RBC
Saturday, April 25, 9:00am or 10am?(*) Flowers Indian Creek Wildflower Walk, Fayette County Lisa Smith, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA NOTE(*): Wissa & BotSoc sites disagree on start time.
Saturday, April 25, 9:30am Everything! Raccoon Creek State Park, Beaver County Ryan Tomazin, Brooks Bird Club & 3RBC
Sunday, April 26, 8:00am, 10am, All Day Everything! Enlow Fork Extravaganza at the Enlow Fork of Wheeling Creek, border of Washington & Greene Counties Wheeling Creek Watershed Conservancy, Wissa/BotSoc/3RBC
Sunday, April 26, 8:30am Everything! Schenley Park, Pittsburgh Kate St. John, Outside My Window
Wednesday, April 29, 8:00am Birds Knob Hill Community Park, Wexford, Allegheny County Karyn Delaney, 3RBC
Thursday April 30, 10:00am Everything! Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Reserve, Beaver County Dianne and Bob Machesney, Wissahickon / BotSocWPA

 

Let’s get outdoors!

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Please excuse typos in the table.  Make sure to consult the website links for up-to-date information!  Call/email the leaders to make sure.

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Apr 16 2015

Animal Cities: PBS NATURE April 22

Published by under Books & Events

Puffins near burrow at Shiant Isles, Scotland (Courtesy of © THIRTEEN Productions LLC)

Puffin near its burrow at Shiant Isles, Scotland (Courtesy of © THIRTEEN Productions LLC)

Are cities a purely human invention?  In the final episode of PBS NATURE‘s Animal Homes we’ll discover we’re not alone.  Some birds, spiders, lizards, and fish build cities, too.  Tune in on April 22 to learn:

  • Puffins nest in burrows where the female lays a single egg.  The small family of three lives in a city of 40,000 birds that flies together in a Puffin Wheel when they return from the sea.
  • Spiders are usually solitary — they even eat each other — but in the rainforest social spiders build and maintain enormous communal homes. Watch a preview here.
  • When an albatross colony is just starting out there may be a shortage of males.  See video from Hawaii where the ladies make do in a pinch.
  • Have you ever seen leaf-cutter ants carrying leaves in a procession to their nest?  I thought they ate the leaves until Animal Homes showed me what the leaves are really for.  You’ll be amazed at how complicated it is.
  • Speaking of complicated, there’s a fish whose social life is so complex you need a score card to keep up.  The male oscillated wrasse builds a nest that becomes a city of thousands — a city that ought to be called Peyton Place.  Competition, cooperation, and social drama in a fish!

Watch Animal Homes: Animal Cities on PBS NATURE, April 22 at 8:00pm EDT.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(photo Courtesy of © THIRTEEN Productions LLC)

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