Apr 20 2016

Red-Tail Eggs Hatching Soon!

Ezra the red-tailed hawk incubates three eggs at Cornell (screenshot from nestcam at Cornell Lab)

Ezra the red-tailed hawk incubates three eggs in Ithaca, NY (screenshot from nestcam via Cornell Lab)

In Ithaca, NY it’s been 38 days since Big Red, the red-tailed hawk, laid her first egg on March 13.  Today one of her three eggs has a pip.  Watch it hatch online!

Big Red and her mate Ezra nest on a light pole about 80 feet above an athletic field at Cornell University.  They’ve attracted an online crowd ever since Cornell Lab began hosting their nestcam in 2012 at Cornell Lab Birdcams.

Click here or on the screenshot above to watch Big Red, Ezra and their growing family.  Check out the Twitter feed on the right of their webpage for recent close-ups and videos from @CornellHawks.

Red-tailed hawk eggs hatch every other day so if you miss this first one there are two more eggs to watch.

Downy nestlings coming soon!

 

(screenshot from red-tailed hawk nestcam in Ithaca, NY via Cornell Lab)

 

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Apr 19 2016

Let’s Get Outdoors: April 23 to May 1

Great chickweed, Braddock's Trail Park, 18 Apr 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Great chickweed, Braddock’s Trail Park, 18 Apr 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Flowers are blooming everywhere and trees will soon leaf out.  Don’t miss your chance to get outdoors while the weather’s fine.

Join me for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park this Sunday, April 24, 8:30am – 10:30am. Meet at the Schenley Park Visitors Center.  Click here for information and updates.

Or join one of these many outings — April 23 through May 1.

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

2016: Date/Time Focus Location Leader & Link to more info
Sat. Apr 23, 9:30am Birds & Potluck lunch Raccoon Creek State Park, Beaver County Ryan Tomazin, 3RBC / Brooks Bird Club
Sat. Apr 23, 10:00am Flowers Boyce-Mayview, Upper St. Clair, Allegheny County Judy Stark, BotSocWPA
Sat. Apr 23, 2:00pm Flowers Brady’s Run Park, Beaver County Peggy Gorrell & Loree Speedy, BotSocWPA
Sun. Apr 24, 7:30am Birds Buffalo Creek IBA-80, Washington County Larry Helgerman, 3RBC
Sun. Apr 24, 8:30am Birds & Flowers Schenley Park, Pittsburgh Kate St. John, Outside My Window
Sun. Apr 24, 8:30am Birds Frick Park, Pittsburgh Jack & Sue Solomon, 3RBC
Fri. Apr 29, 7:30am Birds Sewickley Park, Allegheny County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC / Fern Hollow Nature Center
Sat. Apr 30, 10:00am Flowers Powdermill Nature Reserve, Westmoreland County Martha Oliver, BotSocWPA
Sun. May 1, 8:00am All Day! Birds & Flowers Enlow Fork Extravaganza, Washington/Greene Counties Wheeling Creek Watershed Conservancy / BotSocWPA / Ralph Bell Bird Club

 

Don’t miss April flowers. Let’s get outdoors!

 

p.s. The flower shown above is a member of the Pink family called star chickweed or great chickweed (Stellaria pubera).  It looks unremarkable until you get close.  🙂

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Apr 18 2016

The Importance of Tall Boots

Published by under Hiking

Mary and Sarah walk the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

Mary Birdsong and Sarah Sargent hike the Gull Point Trail, 15 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Last Friday I hiked the Gull Point Trail at Presque Isle State Park with Mary Birdsong, Sarah Sargent and Julie Dell.  Last winter’s storms blew down trees, eroded the northern shoreline, and inundated the trail but Friday was Mary’s second shorebird monitoring trip so she’d already found the best way to get to the Point.

Before we left for the park, Mary said I’d need knee-high waterproof boots.  I don’t own any, so she loaned me her extra boots shown on the left.  They are really tall, nearly up to my knees with a 13.5″ shaft.  Mary has true knee-high muck boots with (probably) a 16″ shaft, like those pictured on the right.

 

Boots: LaCrosse 13.5

Boots: LaCrosse 13.5″ shaft compared to Original Muck 16″ shaft (photos by Kate St. John & from Original Muck Boots Company)

 

It took us a long time to get to Gull Point on the driest route.  As Julie walked ahead of me I felt great about my borrowed boots.  They were perfect!

Julie hikes ahead of me on the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

Julie hikes ahead of me on the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

 

And then we got to this spot.

Mary and Sarah walk the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

Mary and Sarah walk the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

As you can see, the water really is knee high.

Mary and Sarah walk the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

Mary and Sarah hike the Gull Point Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

I picked my way with my hiking stick and then … uh oh!  The water overtopped my boots and rushed into both of them.

On dry land I pulled off the boots and dumped them out, wrung out my socks and put everything back on. Sarah’s calf-high boots were inundated too but she changed into her hiking boots (see them over her shoulder).  Mary and Julie were fine with their 16″ knee boots.

The water was just 1″ higher than 13.5″ boots could bear.  I’m not sure why Lake Erie is so high right now but if it gets deeper the 16″ boots will be too short as well.

If you’re venturing to Gull Point, be prepared.

Squish, squish.

I’m glad I wore wool socks.

 

(photos by Kate St. John; Camouflage Muck boots photo from the Original Muck Boot Company)

p.s. Check out Mary Birdsong’s blog: Feather, Spade and Spoon

5 responses so far

Apr 17 2016

Go See The Owls Soon

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

If you haven’t been to The Waterfront to see the great horned owl nest on the Homestead Grays Bridge, go soon!  The owlet is growing fast — as shown in these photos by Dana Nesiti on Friday, April 15.

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

 

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

 

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Great horned owl and owlet, Homestead Grays Bridge, 15 April 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

The best viewing area is at the Three Rivers Heritage bike Trail to the right of the Red Robin restaurant at The Waterfront (175 E Waterfront Dr, Homestead, PA 15120).

Don’t miss your chance to see the owlet before he leaves the nest.

 

Thanks to Dana for sharing his photos.  See Dana’s great photos of the Hays bald eagles at his Eagles of Hays PA Facebook page.

(photos by Dana Nesiti)

5 responses so far

Apr 16 2016

Buds Bursting

Horse chestnut bud bursting, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Horse chestnut bud bursting, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Last week’s cold weather was deadly for flowering trees but good for those still in bud.

A hard freeze on April 5 —  23 o F — wiped out the early-blooming trees in Schenley Park.  Most of the eastern redbuds had already flowered so Schenley’s redbud display this year is anemic.

On the other hand, buds that were closed 10 days ago are in good shape now.  On Wednesday I found a horse chestnut bud about to burst (above) and one with leaves and flower stack already emerged (below).

Horse chestnut leaves and flowers stack emerged from bud, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Horse chestnut leaves and flowers stack emerged from bud, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Even the hickories are getting into the act.

Mockernut hickory bud opening, Schenley Park, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Mockernut hickory bud opening, Schenley Park, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Check out your neighborhood for emerging leaves and flowers. Buds are opening fast in this weekend’s warm weather.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

6 responses so far

Apr 15 2016

Raven Solves A Problem

 

Common ravens (Corvus corax) are known for their intelligence and problem solving abilities.

This one solved his own problem, though he created trouble for humans and dogs in the process.  😉

 

(video from The Raven Diaries on YouTube)

One response so far

Apr 14 2016

This Saturday and Sunday at the National Aviary

Kate St. John (photo by Thom Moeller)

This Saturday and Sunday, as part of Sky Kings Weekend, I’ll be presenting Celebrate Pittsburgh’s Peregrines! at the National Aviary.

Come on down for the 12:30pm show on Saturday April 16 or Sunday April 17.

Click here for more information on my Events page.

 

(photo by Tom Moeller)

9 responses so far

Apr 14 2016

The Don’t Walk Robin

American robin nesting on the Don't Walk sign (photo by Kate St. John)

American robin nesting on the Don’t Walk sign (photo by Kate St. John)

On Throw Back Thursday:

American robins have already begun to nest this month.  Back in April 2009 I noticed that one had chosen an unusual nest site on South Craig Street.

Can you see the bird incubating in front of the “Don’t Walk” sign?

Read more about her in this article called:  Don’t Walk!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

2 responses so far

Apr 13 2016

Pittsburgh’s Redbud Project

Published by under Books & Events,Trees

Redbud blooming (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Redbud blooming (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Imagine that Pittsburgh was as beautiful in the spring as Washington, D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

That’s the vision that local landscape architect Frank Dawson had when he proposed planting eastern redbud trees along Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.

This spring the dream is starting to come true.

Thanks to a grant from Colcom Foundation, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is launching the Pittsburgh Redbud Project.  From now through Spring 2017 they’ll plant 1,200 eastern redbud and other native trees in Downtown Pittsburgh and along the city’s riverfronts.  Everyone who helps through May 12 will get a free seedling. (They’re giving away 1,500 of them!)

Eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are understory trees in the Pea family that bloom in early spring.  Native from southern Pennsylvania to eastern Texas, they’re cultivated for their beauty because their rose-pink flowers open on bare branches before the leaves.

Come to the Redbud Project’s Launch Event on Tuesday, April 19 at 10:00am at the Three Rivers Heritage Trail near the Mister Rogers statue.  Students and volunteers will plant 60 trees along the riverfront.  Attendees get a free redbud seedling.  (Click here for more information, here to RSVP.)

Here’s a planting along River Avenue to give you an idea of the beautiful results.

Redbud trees along River Road, Pittsburgh, April 2016 (photo courtesy Western PA Conservancy)

Redbud trees along River Avenue, Pittsburgh, April 2016 (photo courtesy Western PA Conservancy)

More events and volunteer opportunities are coming in the weeks ahead. Click here for a list.  Get a free tree!

Soon our Downtown and riverfronts will be transformed.

 

(photos: redbud flowers’ closeup by Dianne Machesney. Row of redbud trees on River Avenue, courtesy Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)

7 responses so far

Apr 12 2016

Pigeons Have A Favorite Foot

Rock pigeon hopping down a step (photo by Pimthida via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Rock pigeon hopping down a step (photo by Pimthida via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

 

Most of us have a dominant hand that’s our favorite choice for everything that requires skill.  About 90% of us are right-handed.

Did you know that pigeons (Columba livia) have a favorite foot?  And that most of them are right-footed?

This was discovered by Harvey I. Fisher at Southern Illinois University in the mid 1950’s while he was looking for something else.  In 1954-1955 he was studying the landing force that pigeons exert on a perch, so he recorded the actions of 11 pigeons landing a total of 4,000 times.

That’s when he noticed that most of them extended one foot and landed on it first, and that they had a favorite foot for doing this.  He ran more experiments, tallying 7,259 landings.

Seven of the 11 pigeons were right-footed, three were left-footed and one didn’t have a favorite.  That’s about 63% right-footedness.  Read more here in his 1957 article: Footedness in Domestic Pigeons.

I found out this interesting factlet at the Urban Wildlife Guide’s Right-footed Pigeons, and was so intrigued that I bought the book: Field Guide to Urban Wildlife by Julie Feinstein. (I highly recommend it by the way.)

So what do you think?  Is this pigeon left-footed?  Or is he just tucking his right foot so it doesn’t hit the step?

 

(photo by Pimthida via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Click on the image to see the original)

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