Hope, the female peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning laid her fourth egg this evening, Monday March 18, at 6:21pm. It was hard to get a snapshot of the eggs because she quickly resumed incubation … except for about 20 seconds when Egg #4 was still drying next to her.
Then she stood up for a moment and we can see four eggs.
And she covered them.
Hope and Terzo will now incubate for approximately 34 days. Hatching may occur as early as Easter Day, April 21. I’ll post the annual warning not to watch the hatch on/about April 14.
After months of silence, spring is coming and the birds are singing again. It’s the best time of year to practice identifying birds by song.
No matter your skill level there’s always more to learn. If you’re an expert, it’s time to practice songs heard only once a year during spring migration. (Cape May warbler!)
If you’re new to bird song you probably think, “It’s so hard to learn bird song. I don’t know anything!”
Here are two hot tips to help birders at any level.
Tip #1: You’ll learn the song better if you see the bird singing. We humans are visual learners. Look for the unknown singer and watch him sing.
The eastern phoebe pictured above looks plain but he’s easy to identify by song because he says his name: FEE bee! FEE bee! The author of the video below went looking for the bird to watch him sing. It’s a bit seasick-making 😉
Tip #2: Keep at it! You already know some bird songs. Just build from there, one bird at a time.
Here are three birds most people can identify. I bet you can, too.
If you care about Pittsburgh’s city parks or you’re interested in the Hays bald eagles you’ll want to attend the upcoming Hays Woods Task Force Public Feedback Meeting on Wednesday April 3 at Holy Angels Parish.
Hays Woods is a forested 600 acre tract in the City of Pittsburgh that’s so large and so remote that most people don’t know it’s there. Its forest, meadows, wetlands and streams are surrounded by steep wooded slopes that are home to the Hays bald eagles.
Most people have never set foot in Hays Woods because it’s been private property for so long. In 2016, with an eye to making it a city park, Mayor Bill Peduto worked with the URA to purchase it from Pittsburgh Development Group II. He then appointed co-chairs Former Mayor Tom Murphy and Councilman Corey O’Connor to form the Hays Woods Task Force to make recommendations on the site’s future.
On Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 6:30pm at Holy Angels Parish, 408 Baldwin Road, Pittsburgh PA 15234 the Hays Woods Task Force will present its draft recommendations and ask for public feedback.
As a member of the Task Force I can tell you that we’re very enthusiastic about Hays Woods and look forward to all of it becoming a low impact park.
Come find out about Hays Woods and the Task Force recommendations. Learn about the timeline as it moves from URA ownership to City public access to a full-fledged public park. Give us feedback on Hays Woods’ future.
(photo credits: Forest in the City courtesy Friends of Hays Woods, Bald eagle at Hays by Dana Nesiti Eagles of Hays PA, Hays woodland photograph by Western PA Conservancy, flyer from the Hays Woods Task Force)
If you like to watch the seasons change take some time to go birding this weekend. Ducks, robins and blackbirds are on the move.
Last Tuesday at Moraine State Park, my friends and I saw 16 species of waterfowl including tundra swans, three kinds of mergansers, a rare red-throated loon, and ruddy ducks like the one pictured above. (Notice his breeding plumage, blue bill.)
Migrating species change as you travel east. Last Tuesday at Yellow Creek State Park — only 70 miles east — there were 855 canvasbacks! We didn’t see any at Moraine.
Meanwhile American robins are arriving in good numbers. They sing at dawn in my neighborhood even though they haven’t reached their destination. Pretty soon they’ll be singing in the dark, too.
Watch for red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and killdeer. They’ve just arrived in Pittsburgh.
Every spring we wonder where Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrine falcons will decide to nest. Thanks to Lori Maggio’s recent observations and photos, we’re pretty certain they’ve chosen their favorite site at Third Avenue. We also think this pair is still Dori and Louie (more on that later). Here’s the news from the past two weeks.
Above, the Louie perches at the Third Avenue nest ledge on February 28. Below, the pair sits atop Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall.
Someone perched on a Lawrence Hall window ledge. I wish that bird was outside my window!
On March 1, Louie waited on the “rescue porch” railing while Dori was inside the nest area.
Lori snapped the following two photos while she walked across the Smithfield Street Bridge. Yes, you can see a peregrine standing in the nest area from that distance! Lori zoomed her camera.
On March 8 Louie was perched at the nest ledge and flew away.
Lori’s observations and photos helped us decide that these birds are still Dori and Louie because …
Their behavior is the same toward each other. (I’ve always seen a change in behavior — unusually intense courtship — when there’s a change in individual birds.)
They have all the same favorite perches. (New birds pick new favorite perches.)
The male’s feathers are pale and they always look rough, not smooth. I may be wrong but … Paleness indicates to me that this bird is male. Roughness indicates a bird in ill health or advanced age. In Louie’s case, it’s advanced age. He’s 17 this year, the same age as his mother Dorothy was when she passed away at Pitt.
The male is banded black/green with a silver USFW band. Though we can’t read the bands from Lori’s photos, the colors match Louie so he’s not out of the running.
Here’s another photo of the ruffled-looking male. He looks like Louie to me.
p.s. In case you missed it, we knew the peregrines wouldn’t nest at Gulf Tower this year because of roof construction. The nestbox was removed (temporarily) in January; the Gulf Tower camera is not operational. Gulf Tower will install a new nestbox when construction is completed. For more information read No Nest at Gulf This Year.
They’re different species in the same genus, Zosterops.
It turns out there are 100 species in the Zosterops genus (minus three recently extinct). They range from Africa to India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Australia and many islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
These versatile little birds — only the size of a chickadee — usually arrive at new locations on their own. They showed up in New Zealand in 1832 and 1856, presumably blown east in a storm from Australia.
Humans helped white-eyes get to Hawaii. We introduced Japanese white-eyes to Oahu in 1929, but these resourceful little birds have now spread to all the other Hawaiian Islands.
Wherever they go, Zosterops tend to differentiate themselves quickly and become new species. Maybe the Japanese white-eye in Hawaii will morph into the “Hawaiian white-eye” in a few hundred years.
See more about the silvereye in this vintage blog: Eye Ring.
In Hilo, Hawaii there’s a palm tree in the city’s bayside park with metal rings on its trunk. Each ring is marked with a year and the height in feet. The highest one (arrow on my photo above) says “26 feet, 1946.” It memorializes a tsunami that spawned the Pacific Tsunami Warning System.
Tsunamis, sometimes called tidal waves, are seismic sea waves caused by earthquakes, underwater landslides or explosions. They happen when the ocean is abruptly displaced, as shown in this tsunami animation.
In the wee hours of 1 April 1946 a massive underwater earthquake struck offshore in the Aleutians near Unimak Island, Alaska. It was so massive that it created a 114-foot wave that swept away Unimak’s new lighthouse. The rest of it raced across the Pacific Ocean at 500 miles per hour and hit Hilo five hours later around 7am.
Hilo had no idea the tsunami was coming. Some people were mesmerized as the bay sucked loudly out to sea and exposed floundering fish. When the water returned in five surging waves, the highest was a 26 foot wall of water. Everyone ran away. 159 people died. The town was destroyed. (Note the wave in the background of this photo taken as the tsunami arrived in 1946.)
The palm tree was there when it happened. The 26-foot marker shows the debris line left by the 1946 tsunami plus three other large tsunamis that passed the tree: 15 feet in 1960, 12 feet in 1952 and 8 feet in 1957. This video from September 2018 explains the markers (starting at the 1:19 timemark with the narrator’s face).
The following video shows After and Before photos taken in 2010 and taken at the moment the tsunami hit the trees.
Ultimately, the disaster had a positive outcome. By 1949 the U.S. had installed a warning system, now called the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, to detect earthquakes and warn of potential tsunamis. Throughout Hawaii you’ll see signs and sirens to tell you where to evacuate and when to leave.
It was a terrifying 26-foot wall of water but it led to a safer future.