Archive for the 'Schenley Park' Category

Dec 17 2016

Variably Icy

Icy path in Schenley Park, Feb 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Icy trail in Schenley Park, Feb 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Snow, sleet, rain, freezing rain.

From 5 degrees F on Thursday night to 53 degrees with freezing rain today, we’ve had it all.  And there’s more to come.  Tomorrow night will be 15 degrees.

This yo-yo weather reminds me of what we learned during the polar vortex in January 2014:  Climate change is making the jet stream wobble so we get shots of very cold air and then warm air soon after, as shown in drawing(c) below.

Jet stream Rossby waves (graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

Jet stream Rossby waves (graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Be careful today!  It’s variably icy out there.

 

p.s. I’ve used an old photo of ice because it’s too icy to step outside this morning!

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

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Nov 27 2016

Cars And Deer

Published by under Mammals,Schenley Park

Deer spooked near the road (photo by Mike Tewkesbury, Creative Commons license via Flickr)

Deer spooked near the road (photo by Mike Tewkesbury, Creative Commons license via Flickr)

It’s that time of year again when cars and deer come into conflict.

From October through December white-tailed deer hormones surge for the mating season.  Males become aggressive, spar with their rivals, and challenge anything they see as a threat.  Both sexes roam in search of mates and barely pay attention to their surroundings.  Cars are the last thing on their minds.

Last year, Pennsylvania won the “prize” for the most deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S.   According to a September 2015 article by Ad Crable at Lancaster Online, we hit 127,275 deer with our cars — and those were only the collisions reported to insurance.   When compared to hunting season, which took more than 353,000 deer that year, we’re making a sizable dent with our vehicles.

A case in point is in Schenley Park where hunting is prohibited, as in all Pittsburgh City Parks.  Deer used to be rare but they moved in about 10 years ago (perhaps longer) and their population has exploded in the past five years.  I knew we’d reached a milestone when I saw a first ever road-killed deer in the Park along the Boulevard of the Allies, hit on November 5 or 6.

I’m sure the person who hit that 6-point buck was very, very surprised.  So are those whose dogs are challenged by aggressive deer.  Every year since 2015, a buck has killed a dog in the City’s east end parks.

So be careful out there, especially at dusk and dawn when deer are most active.  Use your brightest headlights and slow down.  Don’t become a statistic.

 

Reminder: Deer (rifle) season begins tomorrow, Monday November 28, in Pennsylvania. Wear blaze orange when you’re outside the city.

(photo by Mike Tewkesbury, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Click on the image to see the original.)

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Nov 25 2016

Merlins This Month At Schenley Park

More than a decade ago four merlins used to hang out at Schenley Park Golf Course every winter.  They were often seen at dusk in the area near the club house just before they flew to roost.  For a few years they were reliable every winter and then they were gone … until now.

Merlins (Falco columbarius) are small falcons that eat birds for a living, though they choose smaller prey than peregrines do.  You could mistake one for an immature peregrine except for this:  Merlins are smaller and darker, their malar stripes are less pronounced, and they are very fast in level flight, rapidly pumping their wings.

Most merlins nest in Canada and migrate south with their prey.  Some go as far as South America.  Others stay in the southern U.S. and a few, very few, spend the winter in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This month two merlins came back to Schenley Park.  Just like those a decade ago, these birds prefer perches with long views in every direction.  You can find them at dawn or dusk at the highest elevation of the golf course near Darlington Road at Schenley Drive. They perch on treetops or dead snags near hole #2 and the fairways of holes #3 and #4.

If you’ve never seen a merlin, watch this video of a falconer’s merlin on the hunt to get an idea of their size and flight style.

 

p.s.  If you go look for the merlins, keep in mind that this is a golf course.  You must stay out of the way of golfers and not tread on the tees and greens!  Watch from the sidelines.

(video by Primitive Tim on YouTube)

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Oct 16 2016

This Morning’s Outing in Schenley Park

Participants in Schenley Park outing on 16 October 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Participants in Schenley Park outing on 16 October 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning it was jacket weather with lots of dew (wet shoes!) as 14 of us gathered at the Bartlett Shelter in Schenley Park.

We found plenty of birds — at least in terms of individuals.  Not only were there many blue jays and robins but midway through the walk several hundred common grackles showed up to snatch the bread cubes scattered beneath the oaks near Bartlett Shelter.

A low-swooping red-tailed hawk kept the chipmunks and jays on their toes and a flock of cedar waxwings stopped in to eat porcelain berries.

Best Bird: Blackpoll warbler.   Fall blackpoll and bay-breasted warblers have many of the same field marks — warbler size, thin warbler beak, wing bars, yellow wash on throat, faint eyeline, olive back with subtle stripes, faint stripes on chest — but blackpolls have orange feet and sometimes orange legs, too.  This one was immature with black legs and and orange feet. Click here and scroll down to see an immature blackpoll up close.

Best mammal: We saw a very plump raccoon climb a tall tree and finally insert itself into a hollow space at the top.  “Insert” is a good description.  The raccoon was so plump that it took a while for him to ooze into the crack and disappear.  Perhaps he exhaled to make himself thin.

Here’s the complete list of birds.  (You’ll notice that I didn’t count most of them — too hard to both to count and lead.)

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

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Jun 27 2016

Daisy Fleabane

Published by under Plants,Schenley Park

Fleabane blooming in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Daisy fleabane blooming in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

You’ve probably seen these small, thin-petaled “daisies” just about everywhere.

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) is a native plant with a long blooming period — May to October — so you’ll see these flowers for months to come.

Click here to read about fleabane’s daily exercise program (I’m not kidding!) at The Bane of Fleas.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Jun 20 2016

Yesterday’s Walk at Schenley Park

Our Schenley Park outing, 19 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Our Schenley Park outing, 19 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday morning 15 of us took a walk on the Lower Trail in Schenley Park.  Highlights include …

  • Two ephemerals:
    • Inky cap mushrooms that dissolve into ink the same day they appear. Click here to see what they look like.  Thanks to Adam Haritan of Learn Your Land for identifying them.
    • Ohio spiderwort flowers that last only a day before they wilt:

Ohio Spiderwort, 14 June 2014 (photo by )

  • Sights and sounds of birds including a busy flock of common grackles, a young wood thrush perched on a log and singing rose-breasted grosbeaks and acadian flycatchers.
  • The bug-eat-bug world of aphids sucking juice out of tall flower stems while ladybugs and harvestmen (daddy longlegs) pursued them.
  • And two deer, one with a big rack in velvet.

Thanks to all for coming.  My next outing will be on July 31 at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Jun 18 2016

Groundhog Family

Published by under Mammals,Schenley Park

Groundhog family in the wall on the Lower Trail, Schenley Park, 13 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Groundhog family in the wall on the Lower Trail, Schenley Park, 13 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Monday at Schenley Park’s Lower Trail I heard some rustling and turned to see a mother and baby groundhog peering at me from their underground home.

They’re probably descended from the family that lived in this wall in 2012.  The habitat has changed (DPW sprayed the wall with defoliant last August, oh no!) but the groundhogs remain.  Here’s the family I saw in May 2012.

Perhaps we’ll see them tomorrow during my Schenley Park outing.  Hope to see you there. Click here for more information.

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

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Jun 13 2016

Reminder: Schenley Park, June 19

Northern flicker  nestling, calling from nest hole in Schenley park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Northern flicker nestling, calling in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday June 19, 8:30am at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road.  I’m sure we’ll see nesting and baby birds. Click here for more information.

Those who attended my Schenley Park outing on April 24 may remember we found a northern flicker calling from a nest hole above the Visitors Center steps.  He was trying to attract a mate to his deluxe nest site under a big shelf mushroom.

Last Friday I found proof that he succeeded.  I heard a flicker calling from the same area and it was his son!

Look under the shelf mushroom in these photos. He matches the tree trunk but you can see a dark mustache on his face.

Northern flicker nestling in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Northern flicker nestling in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Looking forward to seeing you on June 19.  Visit the Events page before you come … in case the walk is cancelled for bad weather.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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May 23 2016

Yesterday’s Outing at Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing near the Westinghouse Fountain, 22 May 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park outing near the Westinghouse Fountain, 22 May 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday morning, twelve of us braved the foggy chill to look for birds near the Westinghouse Fountain at Schenley Park.

My original plan was to walk on the Steve Falloon Trail but it was a sea of mud after so much rain.  Instead we walked along the Serpentine Road with a good view of the treetops.

The birds weren’t particularly active so we were happy to see these Best Birds:  blackpoll warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, an eastern wood-pewee, scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles.  We also saw a half-completed Baltimore oriole nest hanging from a branch high above the road.

At the end of the walk we stopped near the Schenley Park Visitors Center and on Flagstaff Hill to see two peregrine falcons (flying and perched at the Cathedral of Learning), a red-tailed hawk, and a Coopers hawk.

Thanks, everyone, for coming out on a gray day.

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

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May 14 2016

It’s Bird Day!

Spotted sandpiper in breeding plumage (photo by Bobby Greene)

Spotted sandpiper in breeding plumage (photo by Bobby Greene)

Today is International Migratory Bird Day in the U.S. and Canada.

Though birds migrate during many months of the year their biggest push in North America is in early May.  That’s why we celebrate their arrival and promote their conservation on this second Saturday.

In May migrating birds pass overhead at night and stop to eat in unlikely places where they don’t intend to stay.  Yesterday I saw a spotted sandpiper (pictured above) at Schenley Park’s Panther Hollow Lake.  Shorebirds and wading birds are rare visitors to the lake because the concrete edge provides no food.  The sandpiper paused for a snack at the cat-tails and creek outflow … and then he was on his way to breed at a stream bank, lake or river.

Lake Erie’s southern shore is a great place to find migratory birds this month.  Last week I went birding from Erie, Pennsylvania to Maumee Bay, Ohio.  Here are two of my favorite species seen at Magee Marsh, Ohio — one very large species and one small.

American white pelicans flying over Chase Lake NWR, North Dakota (photo from USFW via Wikimedia Commons)

American white pelicans flying over Chase Lake NWR, North Dakota (photo from US Fish & Wildlife via Wikimedia Commons)

Canada Warbler (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Canada Warbler (photo by Cris Hamilton)

American white pelicans and Canada warblers don’t breed at Magee Marsh but they’re there this month.

Don’t miss the migration on International Migratory Bird Day.  Get outdoors in May!

 

(photo credits: Spotted sandpiper by Bobby Greene,
American white pelicans by US Fish & Wildlife via Wikimedia Commons.
Canada warbler by Cris Hamilton
)

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