Aug 04 2016

Today Is International Owl Awareness Day

Published by under Birds of Prey

Great horned owl mother and nestling, Florida 2010 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Great horned owl mother and nestling, Florida 2010 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Nesting season is over but it’s nice to look back at this mother great horned owl and her nestling. Today is their special day.

August 4 is International Owl Awareness Day, an annual celebration of owls.  To get you in the mood, here’s a quick video that promoted last year’s event at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

 

And here are some of today’s worldwide International Owl Awareness events:

Whooooo knew!   🙂

 

(photo by Chuck Tague, video from the Oregon Zoo)

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Aug 03 2016

Another Female Visitor

Published by under Peregrines

Unbanded young female peregrine visits Cathedral of Learning nest, 2 August 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Unbanded young female peregrine visits Cathedral of Learning nest, 2 August 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Yesterday at 5:30pm Carol D. and Megan Briody saw something that the rest of us missed:  This unbanded 1-year-old female peregrine bowed with Terzo at the Cathedral of Learning nest.

Apparently Hope was not at home.

Hope was last seen on camera on Sunday evening, July 31 at 6:49pm. No peregrines visited the nest on Monday.  Then yesterday afternoon, August 2, Terzo visited alone several times and often looked up. Was he looking for someone?

At 5:29pm Terzo came to the nest and called to someone.  Soon an unbanded young female arrived and they bowed for five minutes. Her color is a mix of gray and brown because she’s molting into adult plumage.

Unbanded young female, back to camera, bows with Terzo (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Unbanded young female, back to camera, bows with Terzo (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

When the session began Terzo was in the back corner but the male peregrine (almost) always leaves the ledge first so the two had to change places.  That maneuver was so clumsy that it looked as if the young female chased Terzo away.

But no, Terzo paused on the nestrail to watch her as she bowed again.

Unbanded young female bows to Terzo (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Unbanded young female bows to Terzo (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

He left.  And then she left.

Unbanded young female peregrine leaving Cathedral of Learning nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Unbanded young female peregrine leaving Cathedral of Learning nest, August 2, 5:32pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Female “intruders” at this site have become a routine occurrence.  As I said in my reply to Carol D, Hope has probably gone wandering. Her behavior shows she’s a weak owner of the Cathedral of Learning so I won’t be surprised if she’s chased away next spring and replaced by a new female.

 

p.s. Click on these links to read Carol D’s and Megan‘s reports. (You might have to scroll down.)

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

NOTE: You may have noticed that the time stamp on the snapshot camera was about 4 minutes off. I fixed it this morning.

 

24 responses so far

Aug 02 2016

Come to Jennings Prairie, August 6

Published by under Books & Events,Plants

Culvers root and tall sunflowers at Jennings Prairie, August 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Culvers root and tall sunflowers at Jennings Prairie, August 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Every year the Wissahickon Nature Club holds a late summer outing at Jennings Environmental Education Center to enjoy the wide variety of wildflowers that grow on the prairie.

This year the outing will remember our late president Chuck Tague who passed away in June.

Chuck Tague in 2011 (photo by Marianne Atkinson)

What: Wissahickon Nature Club outing led by Dianne Machesney

When: Saturday, August 6, 10:00am

Where: Jennings Environmental Education Center, also called Jennings Prairie, Butler County.  Directions From Pittsburgh: 79N to 422E roughly 5.8 miles to 528N. Go 7 miles. Meet in the Jennings Prairie parking lot on the left (west) side of the road.

Bring binoculars, field guides, lunch, beverages and water for the trail. The Prairie is hot and shadeless. Wear a hat and sunscreen.

This walk is open to the public. All are welcome and encouraged to bring a friend.

We’re sure to see Culvers root, tall sunflowers, dense blazing star and purple fringed orchids.  And though we’ll focus on flowers, Wissahickon is a “general” nature club so we’ll look at everything that strikes our fancy — flowers, birds, butterflies and all.

Click on the links above to read more about the flowers.

 

(photo at Jennings by Kate St. John, photo of Chuck Tague in 2011 by Marianne Atkinson)

One response so far

Aug 01 2016

Rosy Maple Moth

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Rosy maple moth (photo by Don Weiss)

Rosy maple moth (photo by Don Weiss)

Can you believe the colors on this moth?

Fuzzy pink and yellow, the rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) lives only a week in this beautiful body. Its wing colors are highly variable but its head and back are usually yellow with pink belly, legs and antennae.

Most of its life is spent as a green-striped caterpillar, eating maple leaves, and passing through five instars.  When fully mature the caterpillar crawls down the tree and pupates underground.

In western Pennsylvania the moths are above ground from May to September but are easiest to find in late July.  The adults don’t eat.  They have only one job, to procreate.

The action begins around sunset.  The females perch on the undersides of leaves and exude pheromones.  The males fly around “sniffing” the air with their big fluffy antennae.  Perhaps this division of labor is why the females have insignificant antennae.  (My guess is that the moth in Don Weiss’ photo is female.)

If you’re lucky to see the rosy maple moth you’ll be surprised at how small it is — only 1″ long. Click here to see one on the tip of a finger.

I found one once at the Panhandle Trail in Collier Township.  Its beauty stopped me in my tracks.

 

(photo by Don Weiss)

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Jul 31 2016

Today’s Walk at Duck Hollow & Nine Mile Run

Published by under Books & Events

Outing to Duck Hollow and Nine Mile Run Trail, 31 July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Outing to Duck Hollow and Nine Mile Run Trail, 31 July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning was foggy and cooler (yay!) when eight of us walked the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail.

We started at Duck Hollow but the river was very high after heavy rains — 0.82 inches on Saturday — and there were few birds there. Our walk along the Nine Mile Run Trail was more productive.

Best Birds were lots of indigo buntings and American goldfinches, a big flock of mourning doves, an American kestrel, and an immature red-tailed hawk.  Two male indigo buntings chased near us.  So blue!

Best Animal was found by our youngest participant — a land snail.  Look at his tiny antennae next to her fingertip.

Tiny land snail, Nine Mile Run Trail, 31 July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Tiny land snail, Nine Mile Run Trail, 31 July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Thanks to all for coming and for being such good spotters of birds and wildlife.

My next walk will be August 28 at Schenley Park; meet at the Visitors Center.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Jul 31 2016

A Coralroot With Many Names

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Striped or summer coralroot (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Spotted coralroot blooming, July 2016 (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Now blooming in western Pennsylvania, Corallrhiza maculata is an orchid with many common names:
Spotted coralroot, Speckled coral root, Summer coralroot, Large coralroot, Many-flowered coralroot, and Western coralroot.

The names describe the plant:

  • Its flower lip is spotted or speckled
  • It blooms in the summer, July and August
  • It’s large compared to other coralroots: 8-20 inches high with flowers 1/2 to 3/4 inches long
  • It has many flowers, up to 40 per plant, and …
  • It has a wide distribution that includes the U.S. West.

You’ll notice that none of the names include a color.  That’s because this leafless plant can be brown, purplish, reddish or yellow.  The flower lip is always white but the yellowish plants have no spots.

Wildflowers Of Pennsylvania by Mary Joy Haywood and Phyllis Testal Monk says, “This plant, which goes dormant for years, grows in shady deciduous or coniferous forests, and is found throughout Pennsylvania.”

But finding it is difficult. Like the other coralroots it matches its habitat and to find it you have to go out in July’s heat.

Dianne and Bob Machesney found this one on a very hot day in Butler County.

 

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

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Jul 30 2016

Summer Pair Bonds

Dori and Louie bow at the Gulf Tower nest before dawn, 30 July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori and Louie bow at the Gulf Tower nest before dawn, 30 July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

In late July, the nesting season is over but Pittsburgh’s adult peregrines still see each other every day and sometimes visit the nest to bow and cement their pair bonds.

The Downtown pair, Dori and Louie, are especially early risers.  Here they are this morning, Saturday July 30 at 5:53am.  In the distance you can see the sky lighting up in the east and the silhouette of the Cathedral of Learning.  The sun rose at 6:16am.  (They also visited before dawn on July 24.)

The Cathedral of Learning peregrines aren’t such early birds but they’re bowing too.  Sometimes Hope is impatient for Terzo to join her at the nest.  Below, she shouts, “Come here!” on 25 July at 8am.

Hope shouts, "Come here!" to Terzo, 25 July 2016 (phto from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope shouts to Terzo, “Come here!”, 25 July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Yesterday they bowed twice — at 4:11pm and 6:22pm, July 29.  Here’s their second session.

Tezro and Hope bow at the Pitt peregrine nest, 29 July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Tezro and Hope bow at the Pitt peregrine nest, 29 July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Now that the “kids” have grown and flown, the adults spend time with each other.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

10 responses so far

Jul 29 2016

Urban Birds Have It All

Peregrine falcon, Dorothy, at the Cathedral of Learning, Feb 2011 (photo by Patricia Szczepanski)

Peregrine falcon, Dorothy, at the Cathedral of Learning in February 2011 (photo by Patricia Szczepanski)

Twenty-five years ago peregrine falcons moved into the City of Pittsburgh.  Since then lots of cool raptors have come here, too, including red-tailed hawks, Coopers hawks, turkey vultures and, most recently, bald eagles.

City living provides food and protection from predators but birds face new challenges by living near humans.  Jean-Nicolas Audet of McGill University wondered if these challenges put city birds at a disadvantage compared to their country cousins so he designed some tests to answer these questions:  Which group is better at problem solving? Which group is more immune to disease?  And since both traits require lots of energy, is there a trade-off such that smarter birds have lower immunity?

The Caribbean island of Barbados has both city and country habitats and an endemic species that lives in both places, the Barbados bullfinch (Loxigilla barbadensis).  Audet tested the bullfinches and the results were surprising.

“We found that not only were birds from urbanized areas better at innovative problem-solving tasks than bullfinches from rural environments, but that surprisingly urban birds also had a better immunity than rural birds,” says Jean-Nicolas Audet, a Ph.D student in the Department of Biology and first author of the study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology in 2016.

As earth’s human population grows and more habitat is converted to cities, more birds may have to choose the urban environment.  If they can adapt, it will be a smart move.  As Audet says, “Urban birds have it all.”

 

Read more about the 2016 study and find links here to The town bird and the country bird: problem solving and immunocompetence vary with urbanization.

(photo of Dorothy in 2011 by Patricia Szczepanski. video from McGill University on YouTube)

2 responses so far

Jul 28 2016

Drinking Techniques

Italian Sparrows in Bolzano, Italy (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Sparrows take a sip in Bolzano, Italy (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On Throw Back Thursday:

Like us birds drink more water in the summer heat.  Have you noticed they use different drinking techniques?  Some drink with faces down, others tilt their faces up.

These house sparrows appear to be using the face-down technique on a martini.  But wait!  The glass held ice cream and they’re picking at the remains.   So what do they really do?

Find out how birds drink in this vintage article from 2010:

Anatomy: How Birds Drink

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original.)

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Jul 27 2016

Alien On The Loose

Asian longhorned beetle animation linked from USDA website

Asian longhorned beetle animation linked from USDA website.

Eeeeewww!  It’s an alien!

I’m not kidding.  This bug is an alien invader from China that hitchhikes as larvae in wooden packing material.  When it gets here it eats trees … lots of them!  If it shows up in your neighborhood it has to be eradicated.  Otherwise your town is doomed.

The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky, 1853)), or ALB, is a very large wood-eating beetle native to China and the Korean peninsula.  Its white-spotted black body is an inch long with antennae 1.5 to 2 times longer than its body.  The antennae are unique, banded black and white.

Because it arrives in infected wood, ALB’s first location in North America is a warehouse. From there it spreads unpredictably, depending on the shipment.  It’s been found in suburbs and cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio and Ontario.  Click here for the map as of July 2015.

When the beetle gets loose it’s not picky.  Its eats maples, elms, birches, willows, poplars, ashes, hackberries, horsechestnuts, London planetrees … just about anything … but it takes 3-4 years to notice it.  The adults are active late spring until fall so July is a good time of year to see its damage or the bug itself.

And this bug is noticeable. Big and showy, even its larvae (at left) are huge.

Larva and adut Asian longhorned beetle (photos by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

Larva and adult Asian longhorned beetle (photos by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

If you don’t see the bug you may see its evidence.

This unusual leaf damage is a hallmark of ALB. They eat the ribs of leaves, not the papery part.

Leaf damage from Asian longhorned beetle (photo byPennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry , Bugwood.org)

Leaf damage from Asian longhorned beetle (photo by PA DCNR, Forestry at Bugwood.org)

Its entrance and exit holes are unique, too.

The female excavates a niche in the bark and lays her eggs in the hole.  Each roughly chewed egg niche is half the size of a dime.

Two egg niches drilled by Asian longhorned beetles (photo by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

Two egg niches drilled by Asian longhorned beetles (photo by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

To get out of the tree, the beetle chews a perfect-circle hole as big as a pencil!

Asian longhorned beetle exit holes (photos by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut and Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

Asian longhorned beetle exit holes (photos by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut and Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

We can stop ALB if he’s confined to cities but if he gets loose in our forests all bets are off.

So if you see an Asian longhorned beetle or its damage, report it.  There are some look alikes, but USDA wants us to be better safe than sorry.  Call them at 1-866-702-9938 or click here for details.

Report this invader!  Don’t let him take hold!

Adult Asian longhorned beetle in someone's hand (photo by Michael Bohne, Bugwood.org)

Adult Asian longhorned beetle in hand (photo by Michael Bohne, Bugwood.org)

 

Read more about Asian longhorned beetles at USDA’s beetlebusters.info website.

(beetle animation linked from USDA’s website, photos from Bugwood.org)

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