Weevil Not Evil

Yellow poplar weevil on my window, 24 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

30 June 2022

It’s that time of year again when yellow poplar weevils come out en masse for their courtship flight. I had a hint that they’d “bloomed” when I saw one on my window on 24 June. Today there are more.

This week they were clearly present when I walked through Schenley Park. I brushed off one that landed on my shirt while I watched northern rough-winged swallows wheeling overhead. Were the swallows eating flying weevils or something else?

Billbug on black locust, Schenley Park, 8 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Yellow poplar weevil on black locust, Schenley Park, 8 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yellow poplar weevils (Odontopus calceatus) are harmless to humans but can show up in unexpected places. When I got home I sat down to eat lunch and a weevil jumped off my shoulder and landed near my salad. Dang! I smashed it before I realized I could have taken a closeup photo.

This weevil is not evil but is certainly annoying. Learn more about its lifestyle and what it eats in this 2018 article.

p.s. Years ago these bugs were misidentified in the newspaper as “billbugs.” Every year I forget their “weevil” name until I look them up in June.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Double Fledge Didn’t Work: Young Eagle Rescued at USS Irvin

Logo of USS Irvin Bald Eagle Camera

30 June 2022

There was excitement on Sunday 26 June when both eaglets at the USS Irvin bald eagle nest fledged at the same time. The eaglecam showed that when the first bird fledged, it knocked its sibling off the branch. Fortunately the second bird could still be seen on the eaglecam.

By Monday “footage showed multiple failed attempts by the [second] eagle to fly” and expert opinion determined the bird was missing so many key flight feathers that it had to be rescued.

On Monday evening 27 June, a PGC Game Warden and USS employees teamed up to find and rescue the eaglet. See a photo of the rescued eagle and find out how the bird’s sibling helped in Mary Ann Thomas’ Trib Live article: Game warden, U.S. Steel employees rescue bald eagle; bird’s sibling helped rescuers find it.

The article mentions that the eaglet will be unable to fly until next year. That’s because the flight feathers of bald eagles grow on a prescribed schedule rather than immediately upon feather loss.

In their first year of life eaglets grow their original flight feathers while in the nest, then wait until the following year to molt into Basic 1 plumage. The molt begins in the spring of their second calendar year and finishes with the tail feathers in late July–early August. This eaglet will have to wait a year to make its first flight.

(logo from USS Irvin Eaglecam, footage of the Double Fledge embedded from Pix)

Sad News About Red Boy

Red Boy hams it up at the snapshot camera, 6 June 2022 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

28 June 2022

This morning at around 10:30am Red Boy, the juvenile male from this year’s Pitt peregrine nest, was found dead on the runway at the Allegheny County Airport, apparently hit by a plane. Game Warden Doug Bergman called with his band numbers Black/Green 03/BZ and the fact that he still had the red tape on his USFW band that gave him the nickname “Red Boy.”

Red Boy on banding day, 26 May 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Red Boy was always inquisitive and ready to go. He was the first to fledge and the first to leave home around 17 June. On the map he flew 6+ miles due south and found a place with plenty of birds that are easy to catch when they fly across the runways.

Red Boy was already on his big adventure. Unfortunately, he had no idea how quickly a plane could overtake him.

Sad as this is it is not unexpected. Young peregrines have a 62.5% mortality rate in their first year of life. Read more at Musings on Peregrine Mortality.

p.s. The lack of news about equipment damage leads me to believe that the plane was fine after the encounter … but see the comment from Dick Rhoton.

(photos by Kate St. John and from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dori & Terzo Successful Downtown

Fledgling on a roof at Third Avenue, 27 June 2022 (photo by Lori Maggio)

28 June 2022

Back in mid-May I thought it unlikely that Pittsburgh’s Downtown peregrines would have a successful nesting season. Terzo was seen with a new unbanded female and Dori, at 16 years old, had low prospects for a healthy youngster. But I was wrong.

Yesterday morning Lori Maggio stopped by Third Avenue to look for peregrine activity and found three: Terzo, Dori, and a loud fledgling. The youngster had fledged to a safe zone across Third Avenue and was whining loudly.

Terzo whined back. (Read the captions for the story.)

Terzo responds to the fledgling. His bands are visible in a zoomed photo, 27 June 2022 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Fledgling whining to his parents at Third Avenue, 27 June 2022 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Terzo picked up the prey and delivered it to the fledgling.

Terzo with food for the fledgling, 27 June 2022 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Meanwhile the female watched from one of the gargoyles on Lawrence Hall. Lori couldn’t get a photo of her bands but I can tell this is Dori. Her face and chest markings match this positive ID photo of Dori.

Dori watches from a gargoyle on Lawrence Hall, 27 June 2022 (photo by Lori Maggio)

On 29 May I saw two nestlings through my scope from Mt. Washington. Yesterday Lori didn’t see a second youngster but it may have been silent.

Here’s hoping the loud fledgling did well on his next flight.

(photos by Lori Maggio)

Bird-Tag Tracks Beachcomber to London

Cata beach on Sanday, the Orkneys (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

27 June 2022

Solar-powered GPS tracking devices for birds can be so accurate that researchers can tell the bird’s location to within 100 meters. The devices keep transmitting even if they fall off, so when a beachcomber collected a discarded tag on a beach in Orkney it tracked him too.

Last winter researchers at University of Exeter attached GPS tracking devices to 32 Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) in County Dublin, Ireland to find out how the birds use the public lands. This spring one of the oystercatchers migrated to its breeding grounds on Sanday, Orkney Islands, Scotland. Its tag fell off on the beach on 7 April. The tracker kept transmitting.

Eurasian oystercatcher on the beach (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

At the end of May the tracker started moving again. It visited a campsite and a pizza shop, flew from Edinburgh to Heathrow and came to rest on a residential street in Ealing, London. Stuart Bearhop, Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology & Conservation, tweeted this plea for the tag’s return.

“The tags are worth around £1,000 each, so pretty pricey!” said PhD student Steph Trapp who is carrying out the research. “Any we can get back will be really valuable for increasing our sample size and the amount of data we can collect.” 

ITV news: London home unwittingly tracked by GPS bird tag left on remote Orkney beach

News spread quickly. A BBC Radio Five Live listener volunteered to leaflet the Ealing neighborhood. The beachcomber learned what he had collected and was happy to return the tag. Read how the Mystery of Orkney bird tag tracked to London is solved.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Today at Frick Park, Nine Mile Run

We gather before the hike at Frick Park, Commercial Street, 26 June 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

26 June 2022

Thirteen of us gathered in humid cloudy conditions to walk the Frick Park boardwalk at Commercial Street. While we were in the trail parking lot we saw and heard an indigo bunting and a scarlet tanager. The day was getting off to a good start.

The mystery flower that I posted on Thursday/Friday turned to be a false sunflower. I had to pluck and examine a petal to be sure.

False sunflower at Frick (photo by Kate St. John)

I hoped for orchard orioles and they didn’t disappoint. We saw six of them, certainly two families and one feeding young.

Our fleeting glimpses of two yellow-billed cuckoos were close to “Best Bird” but Charity Kheshgi did not see them well so she and Connie went back to the area for a better look. They found a black-billed cuckoo that hung around for an hour!

Black-billed cuckoo at Frick Park at Nine Mile Run, 26 June 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

We had a great time on a cloudy and not-too-hot day.

See our checklist at https://ebird.org/checklist/S113823266 and listed below:

  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)  2    Fleeting glimpses on branch & each in flight, one after the other. Clear look at cinnamon highlights on one of them. 
  • Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  4
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)  2
  • Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2
  • Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  4    2 loudly begging juvies
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  6
  • Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)  1
  • Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  2
  • Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  5
  • Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  4
  • Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  9
  • Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  4
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  6
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
  • Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  1
  • European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  2
  • Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  3
  • American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
  • Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  6
  • American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  4
  • Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  5
  • Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)  6
  • Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)  1    Very wet and ragged looking
  • Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  5
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  3
  • Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  6
  • Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1
  • Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)  1
  • Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  10    Many pairs. ?Working on 2nd broods?
  • Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)  1

(photos by Charity Kheshgi)

Peregrine Post-Fledge News, 26 June

Fledgling at prison water tower as male comes in with prey, Eckert Street peregrines, 22 June 2022 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

26 June 2022, Updated 27 June

In late June young peregrines are learning to hunt before they leave home in July. Here’s an update for southwestern Pennsylvania.

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh

Kate looks for young peregrines on Webster Hall & St. Paul’s Cathedral steeple (photo by Rick St. John)

The peregrine chicks that hatched two months ago have learned how to hunt but still wait in Oakland to beg from their parents. The youngsters’ favorite haunts are St. Paul’s Cathedral steeple, Webster Hall roof, Heinz Chapel steeple, and of course the Cathedral of Learning. In the photo above I’m watching two juvies on Webster Hall roof while Ecco monitors them from St. Paul’s. Since June 16 or 19 I have seen only two of the three juveniles, both females.

Downtown Pittsburgh, Third Avenue

Fledgling at Third Avenue roof, 27 June 2022 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Lori Maggio visited Third Avenue around 8am on 27 June and saw three peregrines: Dori, Terzo and a fledgling. Read more here.

Monaca Bridges, Ohio River: Mark Vass saw a single peregrine on 25 June.

Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, Ohio River: Mark Vass saw one peregrine on 11 June.

Sewickley Bridge, Ohio River: Mark Vass saw one peregrine on the bridge on 12 June. Jeff Cieslak photographed one on 8 June.

Solo peregrine at Sewickley Bridge, 8 June 2022 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eckert Street / McKees Rocks Bridge area, Ohio River

Juvie peregrine flies with prey, adult peregrine follows, 25 June 2022 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

The Eckert Street juvenile peregrines are learning how to hunt! Yesterday Jeff Cieslak watched the parents fly by holding prey as if to say, “Come get it!” The youngsters chased and grabbed, including this one grappling with a pigeon. Their favorite place is now the water tower at Western Penitentiary (SCI Pittsburgh) next to the Ohio River.

Adult peregrine on the prison water tower (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

This family has a wide selection of food because they live so close to the river. On 17 June I found a prey item in two pieces in Don’s Diner parking lot: Body-with-legs and head-with-a-stray-leaf. Green heron.

Green heron in pieces, peregrine prey at Eckert Street, 17 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek

Female peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge with prey for juvie, 26 June 2022 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

UPDATE: On 26 June Dana Nesiti was lucky to see both the female and the lone juvenile peregrine at the Westinghouse Bridge. The juvie was whining for food. The female brought some.

Clairton Coke Works

Dana Nesiti reports on 21 June: “I inquired about the falcons at the Clairton Coke works and was told that 2 of the juvies were caught on the ground and put back up on the quenching tower and all 3 are flying good now.”

62nd Street Bridge / Aspinwall / Highland Park Bridge

62nd Street and Highland Park bridges as seen from underneath Aspinwall RR bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

On 19 June 2022 Mark Vass saw three peregrines at the Highland Park Bridge including an adult feeding a juvenile. When I stopped by on 25 June I saw one adult. Mark’s observation confirms that peregrines bred in this stretch of the Allegheny River but we don’t know where.

Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River

Female peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 2 June 2022 (photo by Dave Brooke)

The nestlings at the Tarentum Bridge fledged earlier than the other sites and were flying really well when Steve Valasek and his kids visited on 17 June. They saw four peregrines fly by!

Here’s a summary for southwestern Pennsylvania, all in one place.

(photos Rick St. John, Kate St. John, Jeff Cieslak, Dana Nesiti, Dave Brooke)

Seen This Week

Honewort at Conemaugh Trail, Indiana County, 20 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

25 June 2022

This week was pleasant, then hot, and always buggy in the woods. A few flowers were blooming and berries are ripening.

  • Honewort’s (Cryptotaenia canadensis) tiny flowers are blooming in both Washington and Indiana Counties. The plant at top was along the Conemaugh Trail, site of the lone and rare Swainson’s warbler which was heard but not seen. More mosquitoes than flowers.
  • Forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.)
  • A rock made of sand and swamp lines. Since this is a landscaping rock I doubt it originated in Schenley Park where I found it.
  • Indian hemp / dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) is blooming in Frick Park.
  • White mulberries (Morus alba) are ripe and ready to eat.
Forget-me-not, Conemaugh Trail, 20 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Click on the image below to see a photo of the entire rock.

A rock made of sand and swamp lines, Schenley Park, 24 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Indian hemp in bloom, Frick Park, 23 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Click on the fruit photo below to see the branch where this mulberry came from in Frick Park.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Possum Greets the Night

Possum in the dark (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

24 June 2022

The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is a solitary nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat and a successful opportunist, so adaptable that it is the northernmost marsupial in the world.

Wikipedia account: Virginia opossum

Every evening Possum wakes up to begin his “day.” In North Carolina, @YardGoneWild’s backyard trail cam watches for his appearance.

Possum greets the night … and then he eats.

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, tweet from @YardGoneWild)

Revisiting Cow Parsnip

Kate stands next to cow parsnip at Mingo Creek County Park, 1 June 2013 and 18 June 2022 (photos by Dianne Machesney)

23 June 2022

Last Saturday the Wissahickon Nature Club celebrated its 80th Anniversary with a picnic at Mingo Creek County Park. We always come early and take a hike before lunch, the same hike every time.

As we walked the trail we encountered cow parsnip whose identity I had forgotten yet again. When Dianne Machesney reminded me of its name I remembered blogging about it after another Wissahickon picnic. When was that? 2013!

In the two photos above I am standing next to cow parsnip at Mingo Creek on 1 June 2013 (left) and 18 June 2022 (right).

I have aged in nine years but some things are the same. I’m still using the same binoculars and walking stick and I’m wearing the same pants and shirt, unseen under the jackets. (My hiking clothes are rugged.)

This year’s cow parsnip is shorter than the one we found nine years ago and it has gone to seed, perhaps because we came 2.5 weeks later or because climate change has advanced it.

Learn about cow parsnip, including a lively discussion about its downsides. And no, cow parsnip is not the same at giant hogweed!

See more photos and our list of sightings at Wissahickon Nature Club: Trip Report Mingo Creek County Park June 18, 2022

(both photos by Dianne Machesney)