Category Archives: Schenley Park

Yellow In Bloom

Cornelian cherry in Schenley Park, 26 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Cornelian cherry blooming in Schenley Park, 26 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Some yellow flowers bloomed this week.

Above, Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) opened its buds in Schenley Park and other cultivated locations.  Introduced from southern Europe, this small tree is in the dogwood family.

Another Eurasian plant, coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), started blooming along roadsides in mid March but was suppressed by the 8-10 inches of snow on March 22.  It came back quickly last week.

Coltsfoot in bloom, 26 March 2018 (photo by Kate St.John)
Coltsfoot in bloom, 26 March 2018 (photo by Kate St.John)

Meanwhile, there's frost this morning in my backyard.  My daffodils are still waiting for better weather.

Daffodils in the bud. Frost on the leaves, 31 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Daffodils in the bud. Frost on the leaves, 31 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

p.s. The air smells bad today in Pittsburgh because industrial pollution is trapped by an inversion. (Rotten egg smell!)  Check the Smell Report for March 31 on the map here.

(photos by Kate St. John)

It Just Fell Over

Red oak fell over in Schenley Park as seen on 17 January 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Red oak fell over in Schenley Park, as seen on 17 January 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Sometimes soggy ground is too weak to hold a mature tree.

On Friday January 12 it rained 2 inches in 24 hours in Pittsburgh.  Then it got very cold.

This red oak was rooted in a hillside in Panther Hollow but it began to lean after so much rain.  By January 16 it blocked the Upper Trail in Schenley Park.  The Park Ranger vehicle can't come through.

Alas, it just fell over.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

 

Watch Out! Deer Damage Ahead

Deer in Schenley Park, 22 Feb 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)
Deer in Schenley Park, 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Nowadays I don't have to go far to see white-tailed deer in southwestern Pennsylvania.  The deer population in Schenley Park has grown by leaps and bounds since I first noticed them a decade ago.

When I don't see the animals, I see their evidence. In July, they eat so much jewelweed that it looks like the trail edges were weed-whacked.

Jewelweed eaten by deer in July, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St.John)
Jewelweed eaten by deer in July, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St.John)

In winter they eat shrubs like this arborvitae on Schenley Golf Course until there's no green near the ground.

Arborvitae eaten to the browse line, Schenley Park Golf Course (photo by Kate St. John)
Arborvitae eaten to the browse line, Schenley Park Golf Course (photo by Kate St. John)

And they eat small trees. More than a year ago they ate the leader shoot of this hackberry seedling.  The next year two branches sprouted to compensate and the deer ate those.  And on and on and on.  The tree grows old but never tall.

Deer damage on hackberry twigs, Schenley park, Nov 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Deer damage on hackberry twigs, Schenley park, Nov 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

These signs of deer damage indicate their over-population in Schenley Park but the scariest sign is the growing number of deer crossing the road.

Last week I saw an 8-point buck ambling across Greenfield Road while pedestrians stopped and stared.  He was majestic and he was lucky.  No cars were coming.

Last June a deer leapt over a guard rail in Indiana County and landed on the hood of Marcy Cunkelman's car.  She couldn't see it coming and she couldn't see to drive after it crumpled the hood. The deer didn't survive the accident but Marcy and her family were fortunate.  They were fine and the airbags didn't deploy.

Deer damage to Marcy Cunkelman's car, 19 June 2017 (photo posted by Marcy Cunkelman)
Deer damage to Marcy Cunkelman's car, 19 June 2017 (photo posted by Marcy Cunkelman)

That happened in June when deer are less distracted than they are in autumn.  This month there's a much higher chance of hitting a deer because they're on the move and they aren't paying attention.  It's mating season.

Pennsylvania is the #3 state for vehicle-deer insurance claims.  According to State Farm's annual report, there were more than 142,000 vehicle-deer collisions in Pennsylvania from June 2016 to June 2017.  On an annual basis we have a 1 in 63 chance of a hitting a deer but during mating season that likelihood more than doubles ... to maybe 1 in 30.  Yikes!

So stay alert!  Watch out for deer, especially at dusk.  Click here for State Farm's tips on what to do.   ... And good luck.

 

p.s.  Wear blaze orange if you're going into Pennsylvania's woods, especially during PA's deer (rifle) season, Monday Nov 27 through Dec 9, 2017. Click here for PGC details on antlered/antlerless dates and locations.

(deer and plant photos by Kate St. John. Car damage photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Scarlet Baby

Scarlet tanager nestling (photo by Chuck Tague)
Scarlet tanager nestling, 2008 (photo by Chuck Tague)

On Tuesday I heard a sound in Schenley Park that I didn't recognize: a melodious call from a baby bird.

I found the bird flutter-climbing from a low perch to a high spot in a tree, moving fast and begging the entire time.  He had downy tufts on his head, a striped chest, big feet, short wings and an almost non-existent tail.  He looked a lot like the bird pictured above.

I couldn't identify the fledgling so I waited for his mother to bring food and she solved the mystery.  A bird just like her is pictured below (from Wikimedia Commons).

Female scarlet tanager carrying food to feed young (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Female scarlet tanager carrying food to feed young (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you don't recognize her, here's another clue.  The father bird looks like this.  (I didn't see him that day.)

Male scarlet tanager (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Male scarlet tanager (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Obviously scarlet tanagers change a lot as they grow into breeding adults.  Read more about them in this vintage article from July 2008:

Scarlet Baby

 

(photo of fledgling by Chuck Tague. photos of adult female and male from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)

 

Schenley Park Outing: July 30, 8:30a

Pickerel weed, Schenley Park, July 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Pickerel weed, Schenley Park, July 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Join me on a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park next Sunday, July 30, 8:30am to 10:30am.

Meet at the Westinghouse Memorial pond and we’ll walk Serpentine Drive or the nearby Falloon Trail keeping our eyes open for birds, plants and animals.  The memorial pond is especially pretty in July with pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) in bloom.

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

Before you come, visit my Events page in case there are changes or cancellations.  Note: The outing will be canceled if there's lightning!

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

My Heavens! We Have Fish

Panther Hollow Lake at Schenley Park, April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Panther Hollow Lake in Schenley Park, April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

During Phipps Conservatory's Schenley Park BioBlitz on 11 June 2017, scientists tallied as many species of plants and animals as they could find in only a few hours.  One place they looked was in the concrete-edged pond called Panther Hollow Lake.  And they found fish!

I'm excited by this discovery because Panther Hollow Lake has a host of challenges including low stream flow, storm water inundation and deep sediment (13 feet of sediment under 2 feet of water!).  In hot weather mucky algae floats on the surface and the lake stinks.  This will all be corrected as part of the Four Mile Run Watershed Restoration Project but in the meantime, yuk!

Despite these problems, four species of fish were found during the BioBlitz. They are:

* Blue gill (Lepomis macrochirus), a game fish native to eastern North America but introduced around the world.

Bluegill (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Bluegill (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

* Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), a small fish native to eastern North America.

Pumpkinseed fish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Pumpkinseed fish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

* Yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis), a native catfish that tolerates pollution.

Yellow bullhead catfish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Yellow bullhead catfish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

* Goldfish (Carassius auratus), native to east Asia and commonly kept as a pet.

Goldfish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Goldfish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Truth be told, participants at my last Schenley Park outing pointed out a goldfish in the pond.  It was orange and white and huge!  I can guess where it came from.  Years ago someone said, "We can't keep this fish at home anymore.  Let's release it in the lake."

Click the link to check out all the species found in Schenley Park during the Phipps 2017 BioBlitz.

 

(photo of Panther Hollow Lake by Kate St. John.  All fish photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)

Motherwort

Motherwort blooming in Schenley Park, 30 May 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Motherwort blooming in Schenley Park, 30 May 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Instead of peregrines ... a plant.

Take a walk and you'll find motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) blooming now in western Pennsylvania.  Originally from Eurasia, this member of the Mint family is now at home on many continents because it's useful as an herbal remedy for heart disease and childbirth.

Its flowers are furry dragon mouths arranged in whorls around the stem, similar in shape to purple deadnettle, a near relative.  Its square stem gives us the hint that it's a mint.

In full sun motherwort is knee high or even taller so you won't miss it.  Its opposite, toothed leaves look like paws but are sometimes confused with mugwort leaves.

Motherwort plant in Schenley Park, 30 May 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Motherwort plant in Schenley Park, 30 May 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

I prefer to identify motherwort when it's in bloom.  😉

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

Flying Tigers

Tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
Female eastern tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

There are tigers in the park, floating among the trees, gliding in the sunshine, visiting the flowers.

Eastern tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) first appeared in Schenley Park in April.  Their caterpillars feed on many kinds of trees including wild cherry, magnolia, tuliptree, cottonwood and willow, so they get started early and can produce two to three broods per year.

You can sex this butterfly by color.  Female tiger swallowtails have iridescent blue on both sides of their hindwings.  The males are black where the females are blue.

While you're looking closely to figure out their sex, notice that their tiny bodies are striped, too.

Eastern tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
Eastern tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Striped all over, tiny tigers.

 

(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

Apples in May

Mayapple flower turning into a May Apple (photo by Kate St. John)
Mayapple flower turning into an apple in May (photo by Kate St. John)

I'm taking a break from peregrines today.   Here's a plant.    🙂

In Schenley Park, mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) bloom in April and fruit in May. The plants must have two leaves to produce a flower because the flower stalk grows from the Y between the leaves.

Here's what they look like when they bloom.

Mayapple in flower with twin leaves (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Mayapple in flower with twin leaves (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The fertilized flower transitions from flower to apple in May, as shown in the photo at top.

You can eat a mayapple when it's ripe but Be Careful!  The entire plant is poisonous and the apple is only edible when ripe!  Find out more and see a mayapple sliced open in this vintage article from 2011: Eating Mayapples

 

 

(top photo by Kate St. John. Blooming photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

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)