May 21 2016

Why Wild Geranium is Called Cranesbill

Published by under Plants

Wild geranium -- a.k.a. cranesbill -- flower and seed pods (photo by Kate St. John)

Wild geranium — a.k.a. cranesbill — flower and seed pods (photo by Kate St. John)

North America’s wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) is also called cranesbill but you have to examine a seed pod to find out how it got the name.

Shown above is a wild geranium flower with some aging seed pods in the background.  Here’s a closeup.

Wild geranium seed pods -- like a crane's bill(photo by Kate St. John)

Wild geranium seed pods, like a crane’s bill(photo by Kate St. John)

Notice that the seed pods look like a crane’s bill. (Click here to see a crane with its bill up like this.)

Ta da!

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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May 20 2016

The Blue Jay’s Courtship Sounds

Blue jays are making interesting sounds and gestures lately but what do they mean?

In the spring I often hear blue jays say “tweedle” and, on rare occasions, I see one bounce and gurgle.

Tweedle? Gurgle?  Lesley the Bird Nerd explains it all in this 4-minute video.

 

(video by Lesley the Bird Nerd on YouTube)

 

 

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May 19 2016

Now Blooming: Few-Flowered Valerian

Published by under Plants

Few-flowered valerian at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 17 May 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Few-flowered Valerian at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 17 May 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

This is a stellar year for Valeriana pauciflora at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve in Beaver County, PA.  Its common name is “Large-flowered Valerian” but its scientific name means “Few-flowered.”  Confusing!

To find this 1.5-3-foot tall wildflower, walk the Jennings Trail between the two Beaver Trail intersections (along the cliff) or visit the spot where Jennings meets Meadow Trail and the creek.   Click here for a map.

Read more about its confusing name in the Throw Back Thursday article below.  Visit the Wildflower Reserve soon to see it.

What-Flowered Valerian

 

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

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May 19 2016

Messy Nest

Terzo and Hope hold a black-feathered prey item, C1 looks on (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo delivers a black-feathered prey item to the nest. Hope retrieves it. C1 watches (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

In years past, Pitt peregrine watchers were used to seeing a very messy nest on camera. Dorothy, the previous resident female, usually plucked prey at the nest soon after she was done brooding.  In those years the nest normally looked like this.

This year the nest has been amazingly clean … until yesterday.  At 6:45am Terzo brought a black-feathered prey item to the nest.  Hope took it from him and plucked it while C1 watched.  (It was a male red-winged blackbird.)

Hope plucks the prey item - a red-winged blackbird -- at the nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope plucks the prey item – a red-winged blackbird — as C1 looks on (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

I finally figured out there’s a good reason for making a mess.  C1 will soon be old enough to eat on his own and will need to know how to pluck prey and tear it up. The best way to learn is by watching. Yesterday Hope showed him by example.

By the end of the month C1 will be grabbing the food and plucking it himself.  In the meantime I’m sure he’ll watch more food preparation demonstrations.

Breakfast is served amid the feathers (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Breakfast is served amid the feathers (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Breakfast is served.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

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May 18 2016

More Robins, Fewer White-throated Sparrows

American robin, white-throated sparrow (photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

American robin, white-throated sparrow (photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

We humans are starting to respond to climate change. The birds already have.

In a study on two continents — North America and Europe — data from 1980 to 2010 shows that populations of our common birds have been affected by climate change and the gap is growing.  Bird species expected to do well due to climate change have substantially outperformed those expected to do badly over the 30 year period.  It’s the first real demonstration that climate is having a similar, large-scale influence on the abundance of common birds in widely separated parts of the world.(*)

Here are two examples from North America:

American robins are an adaptable species whose range has expanded as the climate warms.  Robins don’t have to go as far south in the winter and now they breed in Alaska!

White-throated sparrows are a common winter species in the Lower 48 but when it comes time to breed they’ll be in trouble.  As they move north the forest they require for breeding gives way to treeless landscapes.  It takes decades to grow a forest and climate is changing faster than the plants can catch up.  White-throated sparrows are losing ground.  Click here to see their changing map.

More robins, fewer white-throated sparrows.  The populations of common birds are affected by climate change.

Read more about the study here in Science Daily(*).  See Audubon’s climate website for details on North American birds.

 

(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

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May 17 2016

Peregrine Sounds: What Do They Mean?

Peregrine shouting in flight (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Peregrine shouting in flight (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

When you hear peregrine sounds on the nestcam, what do they mean?

Click here for a new Peregrine FAQ that explains peregrine vocalizations.

 

(photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

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May 16 2016

He’s Grown A Lot In One Week

C1, the lone chick at the Pitt peregrine nest, is eating well and growing fast.  Here’s how much he’s grown in one week: May 8 to May 15.

May 8, 2016

Hope offers food to C1, 8 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope offers food to C1, 8 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

May 15, 2016

Hope with C1, 15 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope with C1, 15 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

What a difference!

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

19 responses so far

May 16 2016

Jungle Animal Hospital, PBS NATURE May 18

Published by under Books & Events

There’s a hospital in the Guatemalan jungle that’s saving lives every day.  It’s operating at capacity with over 700 boarders yet it tries not to turn anyone away.  The hospital is ARCAS.  Their patients are injured and orphaned jungle animals, often harmed by the illegal pet trade.

In PBS NATURE’s season finale, Jungle Animal Hospital shows the daily challenges faced by ARCAS staff as they heal the animals and prepare them for release in the wild.  Every release is a celebration.

Some animals are so rare that each life represents a significant portion of the population.   Such is the case with the scarlet macaws.

Scarlet macaw (photo by Alejandro Morales courtesy PBS NATURE)

Scarlet macaw (photo by Alejandro Morales courtesy PBS NATURE)

There are only 300 of these scarlet macaws left in the wild so ARCAS has developed a captive breeding program, similar in concept to North America’s peregrine recovery program two decades ago.  The difference is that scarlet macaws are social animals so they must be reared and released in a flock with their friends.

Watch at the end of the show as ARCAS releases nine scarlet macaws into the jungle — 5% of the wild population — a moment so moving it brought tears to my eyes.

Don’t miss PBS NATURE’s season finale Jungle Animal Hospital this Wednesday May 18 at 8pm EDT/ 9pm CDT on PBS. In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(photo of scarlet macaw at ARCAS by Alejandro Morales courtesy PBS NATURE)

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May 15 2016

Photos Of Pittsburgh’s Downtown Peregrines

Peregrine perched on Wood Street Commons Building, Downtown Pittsburgh (photo by Lori Maggio)

Peregrine (maybe Dori) on Wood Street Commons Building, Pittsburgh, 12 May 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Last week Lori Maggio visited Third Avenue between Wood and Smithfield to take photos of the Downtown peregrines.   Look closely and you can see that both birds are banded.  Unfortunately we can’t read the bands yet.

Though we’re not sure of this pair’s identity, the choice of nest site behind 322 Fourth Ave leads me to believe the female is still Dori.

Dori on a gargoyle at Point Park's Lawrence Hall (photo by Lori Maggio)

Dori on a gargoyle at Point Park’s Lawrence Hall, 11 May 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

 

My guess is that the bird pictured below is the male.  Is this Louie? We don’t know. Louie is 14 years old now — quite old for a peregrine — so it’s possible he was replaced by a new male.

Peregrine atop 322 Fourth Ave above the nest, 11 May 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Peregrine atop 322 Fourth Ave above the nest, 11 May 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Both adults like to perch on the turquoise-colored “shields” on top of Wood Street Commons.

(Maybe the male) Peregrine perched on top of Wood Street Commons Building, 11 May 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

(Maybe the male) Peregrine perched on top of Wood Street Commons Building, 11 May 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

 

The adults go in and out of the nest with food, indicating there are young at the nest.

Peregrine flies to the opening of the nest area -- in and out (photos by Lori Maggio)

Peregrine flies to the nest area — in and out — 11 May 2016 (photos by Lori Maggio)

We won’t know how old the nestlings are until they appear at the edge of the opening.

 

(photos by Lori Maggio)

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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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