Beginning this afternoon (6/26/2016) through Thursday afternoon (6/30/2016) I’ll be hiking out of cellphone range during the day. I’ll still be posting daily articles on the blog, but I won’t be able to respond to your comments until I’m back “on the grid” in the evenings.
We’ll get a chance to meet David Sibley when he comes to Pittsburgh for two events on July 14: a dinner hosted by Audubon of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) and his lecture at Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures.
Member Banquet and an Evening with David Sibley, July 14 starting at 5 pm. Click here to attend.
Dinner and the awards presentation will be held at St. Nicholas Church in Oakland and David Sibley will speak at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, right across the street. The event starts at 5 pm with dinner served at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $50 each and include a copy of Sibley’s newest book.
Hope (black/green bands) at the nest, 24 June 2016
Yesterday there were new developments in the peregrine saga at the Cathedral of Learning.
I thought that the new female, Magnum, had claimed the site this week but…
Megan Briody is keeping a close watch on the falconcam and reports that Hope came back to the nest on Friday June 24 around 6:30pm. The snapshot above shows Hope’s black/green bands as she’s leaving. (Both Magnum and Terzo have black/red bands.)
Observers on the ground saw three peregrines flying near the Cathedral of Learning but could not tell if all three were adults — Terzo, Hope and Magnum — or if one was C1.
Meanwhile, C1 is doing just fine. She’s spending lots of time at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a few blocks away from the nest, where she’s taking her many meals. Terzo is making sure she’s well fed.
Apparently site ownership is still up for grabs between Hope and Magnum. It’s hard to tell who’s in charge here.
(photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ. of Pittsburgh)
Most flowers offer food to attract pollinators. Trumpet vine, for instance, provides nectar for hummingbirds who incidentally pick up pollen and transport it to the next flower.
But some orchids have no food to offer. Instead they look and smell like sexy female insects so the males will attempt to mate with them. In doing so the orchids’ pollen clumps (pollinia) become stuck to the male insects and are taken to the next flower.
Watch the video above from BBCWorldwide to see how it’s done.
Now that the Pitt peregrine nest is empty, most of us aren’t watching the falconcam so I was surprised when Megan Briody posted this comment on my blog yesterday:
Kate, did you see that Terzo has a new “visitor” at the nest? I saw her on the camera today (6/22) at 3:58 PM. At first, I thought it was Terzo because she also has a black/red band, but the band numbers didn’t seem familiar so I checked the video archives later. The bands are black/red, 62/H on her left leg and purple on her right leg. Your peregrine history pdf says that this is Magnum from the Neville Island Bridge! Later at 4:40 PM, Terzo was in the nest, he called her in, and they bowed and chirped at each other. I went back farther in the archives, and she was on camera last night (6/21) at 18:58. If you have any thoughts on this development, we’d love to hear them! It seems strange that Terzo would be courting a new female so soon after C1 fledged, but after this year, I guess we should expect the unexpected!
Wow! Good job, Megan!
Here’s a closeup of Magnum’s bands.: Right leg = black/red 62/H. Left leg has a purple band .
Magnum’s bands seen at the Cathedral of Learning, 22 June 2016 (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Indeed Magnum, hatched in Canton, Ohio in 2010, raised up to four nestlings per year at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge since 2013. This spring site monitors reported two fledglings at the bridge but weren’t able to confirm the pair’s identity because the nest was moved out of sight.
Sporogenesis under the fern leaf (photo by Kate St. John)
Ferns look simple. They don’t have flowers so they must be boring, right? Not!
Look under the leaves(*) in June and you’ll see spots, called sporangia, that are creating spores for the next generation. Here’s another example.
Sporangia under the fern leaf (photo by Kate St. John)
The spores are single haploid cells with only one set of chromosomes, just like the sperm and eggs of mammals. But the spores don’t “mate” with anything. Instead the next generation grows directly from the spore. It’s a small heart-shaped green thing called a prothallus and it’s also haploid. The prothallus eventually produces sperm and eggs that unite in water to become the next generation, the leafy fronds.
The frond phase is diploid with two sets of chromosomes. In time, the plant produces sporangia and the process repeats.
Because of this fern “parents” and “kids” look nothing like each other: prothallia, leaves, prothallia, leaves … on and on and on.
Confused? Here’s a video that explains it better than I can.
(*) Some ferns, such as sensitive fern, produce spores on parts of the plant that have no leaves. Others, such as hay-scented fern, don’t display their sporangia as openly as those pictured above. Read more about ferns here.
Northern mockingbird, singing and wing flashing (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
This month someone in my neighborhood complained he was kept awake at night by birds singing loudly in the dark. Every song was different so he thought it was a variety of birds. Who was making that racket? It was only one northern mockingbird.
Mockingbirds are well known for nocturnal singing. The majority of those who do it are lonely bachelors trying to attract a female. They belt out their songs as loudly as possible in all directions and they prefer to do it at the most aggravating time for humans — midnight to 4:00am. Studies have shown they sing more on moonlit nights and in well-lit areas. Woe to city and suburban dwellers near street lights!
The video below, recorded at 2:00am, is understandably dark. The bird is exceptionally loud.
Over at my house there’s a mockingbird who’s definitely lonely! Will he ever stop?
Birds of North America Online says: “Typically, adults sing for approximately three fourths of the year (Feb through Aug, and late Sep to early Nov); occasionally sing during winter. … No nocturnal song occurs during the fall.”
So we wear earplugs to bed and pray that the mockingbird finds a mate. Or we’ll have to wait until August.
By the time you read this the moon will have done its job, having reached maximum fullness at 7:05am in Pittsburgh. It had already set by then (6:13am) so we didn’t see it.
The summer solstice is yet to come — 11.5 hours after the moon’s event — at 6:34pm.
The moment when the sun stands still is such a big deal that they’re celebrating it with a four-day solstice festival at Stonehenge, pictured above. But they won’t be able to see the sun during its special moment. It’ll be almost midnight at Stonehenge, 11:34 pm.
Yesterday morning on The Allegheny Front Chuck Tague taught us about bluets in a rebroadcast of his article Field of Innocence, recorded in September 2001. Hours later I learned that Chuck had died the night before from complications of a heart attack he suffered on May 11. He was 71.
Chuck was an avid nature observer, writer, photographer and inspiring teacher. He touched thousands of lives with his love of nature and sense of wonder. His enthusiasm for the outdoors was infectious.
I first met Chuck Tague more than 20 years ago when I attended his birding classes at the Rachel Carson Institute. His welcoming spirit changed my life. I spent more time birding, attended outings, joined the Wissahickon Nature Club and assisted him on the Raccoon Christmas Bird Count. We became friends and I traveled with Chuck and his wife Joan to Presque Isle and Magee Marsh for spring migration and visited them in Florida where they made their home in 2010.
Chuck’s website and Facebook page are always educational and his outings were pure fun. He never limited our curiosity as we examined birds, plants, insects, everything! We always learned something new.
Chuck was an excellent photographer and generous with his time and knowledge. When I began writing this blog he graciously offered his photos. He was always available to answer questions and we collaborated on projects like the Phenology series which we mirrored on his website and mine. This blog would not have been possible without him.
Many of my friends today are people I met on Chuck’s outings. All of us are grieving. It’s hard to believe he’s gone, though he lives on in all of us. His own words in yesterday’s broadcast inspire us as we remember him:
“I picked up the dried bluet stem and examined the tear-shaped seed capsule. There was the life affirming assurance I was seeking. Life will continue. Bluets will return to the field.”