Archive for the 'Schenley Park' Category

Jul 23 2017

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)

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Jun 20 2017

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)

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Jun 04 2017

Motherwort

Published by under Plants,Schenley Park

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)

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May 25 2017

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)

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May 19 2017

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)

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Apr 30 2017

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)

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Apr 24 2017

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)

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Apr 18 2017

A Busy Week For Trees

Sugar maple flowers, 15 April 2017, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Sugar maple flowers (wind pollinated), 15 April 2017, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Are you sneezing yet?

It’s a busy week for trees in southwestern Pennsylvania as they open flowers and unfurl new leaves.

Redbud flowers fully open, 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Redbud flowers fully open (insect pollinated), 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

In Schenley Park the trees are flowering everywhere, from insect pollinated redbuds (pink above) to wind pollinated sugar maples (yellow at top) and hophornbeams (below).

Hophornbeam catkins, 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Hophornbeam catkins (wind pollinated) 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Last weekend it was so dry that pollen coated my car and made my throat and eyes itch … and this was before the oaks had bloomed!  (Pollen note: Both oaks and pines are wind pollinated. Southwestern PA has an oak-hickory forest with few pines.)

Other busy trees include the bursting buds of hawthorns and hickories.  …

Hawthorn buds bursting, 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Hawthorn buds bursting, 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bitternut hickory bud is opening, 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bitternut hickory bud is opening, 15 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

… and new leaves on Ohio buckeyes.

Ohio buckeye shows off its leaves, 15 April 2017, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Ohio buckeye shows off its leaves, 15 April 2017, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

 

The city is a heat island so Schenley Park’s trees are ahead of the surrounding area.  Our red oak buds burst yesterday so you can expect several busy weeks ahead for trees in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Are you sneezing yet?

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Apr 01 2017

Signs of Spring in Schenley Park

Star magnolia, bursting bud, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Star magnolia, bursting bud, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Wednesday I found more signs of Spring in Schenley Park.

Above and below, a star magnolia near the Westinghouse Fountain showed off its fist-shaped buds that burst into wild petals.  Did you know these flowering trees are imported from Japan?

Star magnolia blossom in Schenley Park, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Star magnolia blossom in Schenley Park, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Below, northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin) opened its tiny yellow flowers.  You can identify this shrub by smell.  Just rub your fingernail against the twig’s bark and smell the spicy citrus scent.

Spicebush blooming, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spicebush blooming, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Most native trees haven’t opened their buds but this oak is getting there.

Oak buds opening, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Oak buds opening, 29 Mar 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

These buds will distend their wind-pollinated flowers first, then open the leaves.  This timing gives the flowers full access to the wind without any leaves in the way.

 

p.s. The oak bud photo looks fake but it’s a trick of the bright sunlight that put shadows on the buds in the background.  No retouching required.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Jan 22 2017

Coffee Beans in Schenley Park

Published by under Plants,Schenley Park

Kentucky coffeetree seed pod from Schenley Park (photo by Kate St.John)

Kentucky coffeetree seed pod with penny for size comparison (photo by Kate St.John)

Last week I found these large, dull gray seed pods beneath a tree in Schenley Park with “coffee” beans inside.

The Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) is a rare tree with a wide distribution from Oklahoma to Ohio.  It was planted in Schenley Park as an ornamental more than 100 years ago.

The tree earned its name because Native Americans used to grind the roasted beans to make a beverage like coffee.  When coffee and chicory weren’t available the settlers drank this beverage, too, but they didn’t like it as well.

The pods are very tough and hard to open.  I quickly learned that the flattest ones have no beans so I chose a broken one and pried it open with a knife.

Kentucky coffeetree seed pod opened, found in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Kentucky coffeetree seed pod opened, found in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

The beans are dark brown, round, and hard to photograph.  I moved the biggest one so you can see it better.

Did a squirrel eat the other beans?  If so, I hope he’s immune to the cytisine alkaloid inside them.  When not fully roasted, these beans are poisonous to humans.

Want to try some Kentucky “coffee?”  No thanks. I’m sticking with Starbucks.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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