Peregrine Fans, our favorite bird is coming to PBS NOVA on Wednesday evening November 21.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when diving to capture prey. PBS NOVA will show us how peregrines are designed to reach these speeds and will follow a falconer that believes his bird can go even faster. We’ll also see the family life of peregrines at a nest in Chicago.
Click here or on the caption above to watch the preview.
Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Animal, premiering on Wednesday November 21 at 9pm ET on PBS. Check your local listings for re-broadcast times in case you’re busy Wednesday night. In Pittsburgh, watch it on WQED.
On Thursday it rained. Then it sleeted. Then it snowed in the wee hours of Friday morning, especially north of Pittsburgh.
In the old days most of the trees would be bare by now, but this year many still have leaves.
Ice and snow made the leaves heavy and some of the trees came down, hitting power lines as they fell. By Friday morning KDKA reported that 65,000 households north and east of the city were without electricity. No power, no heat, and for those with well water, no water. It may take until Sunday evening to get all of the power restored..
The City is warmer than surrounding counties so Schenley Park had snow on the leaves, but no ice.
Here’s what my favorite hillside looked like yesterday. 50% of the trees still have leaves.
The power failures wouldn’t have been so bad if most of the trees had been bare.
By last Sunday, 11 Nov 2018, a gap in the trees revealed an eagle on the nest. Click the screenshot below (arrow added) or on the caption to see Dana Nesiti’s video from Eagles of Hays PA Facebook page.
Hays isn’t the only site where nest renovations are in progress. The eagles at Canonsburg Lake in Washington County have been bringing sticks, too. Rich McPeek caught one in the act on Veterans Day and posted it on the Canonsburg Lake Eagles Facebook page.
And in Butler County, Steve Gosser found this adult bald eagle cruising at Moraine State Park on Veterans Day.
I’m sure there’s bald eagle activity at Dashields Dam and Harmar but I’ve heard no news from those sites. Meanwhile, check out the eagles at North Park Lake. They may be up to something. 😉
In the U.K. and Ireland there’s a bird like a crow with a red bill, red legs, and a very odd name.
Red-billed choughs are found in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa but the smallest race, the Cornish chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), is endemic to the British Isles.
Centuries ago red-billed choughs were common on the south coast of England where they were revered enough to appear in heraldry. The City of Canterbury’s coat of arms (at left below) includes three choughs from Saint Thomas Becket’s coat of arms. (Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170 by followers of King Henry II.) A second example comes from the less famous Peter of Bowhay whose arms contain a single chough (at right).
The word “chough” looks odd because the gh sound has gone out of use. In most English dialects it’s now silent (light or neighbor) or pronounced “f” (enough or laugh). Here’s what the <gh> used to sound like:
The name chough, now pronounced CHUF, originally mimicked the bird’s sound. Can you hear the old resemblance in these chough calls?
When I mentioned Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast a month ago, I didn’t list evening grosbeaks because (silly me) I didn’t believe they’d get this far. I was wrong. Evening grosbeaks have made it to western Pennsylvania. Woo hoo!
Evening grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertinus) are stocky yellow, black and white finches with heavy bills for cracking open seeds. They live year-round in coniferous forests across Canada, the northern Rockies, and the Cascades but move south when seed cones become scarce. This winter is one of those years.
Evening grosbeaks are a very big deal in Pennsylvania. They used to visit regularly in the 1970s but their population is declining, conditions changed, and they stopped coming our way. Their visits have been extremely spotty and intermittent for four decades. The one pictured above (left) visited Marcy Cunkelman’s feeder in November 2012. In Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania they returned to Bruce Johnson’s feeders this month after an absence of 42 years!
The eBird map below (12 Nov 2018) shows where they’ve been seen since September. I added seven purple dots for locations mentioned on PABIRDS that weren’t entered in eBird. Notice the sightings in Crawford and Erie Counties!
All the flocks were flying southeast, heading for their wintering grounds at Chesapeake Bay and eastern North Carolina.
At Moraine State Park, 13 of us searched the sky for tundra swans when we heard them overhead. The sky was so blue and they were flying so high that it was a real challenge to see them. Ultimately we counted four flocks totaling 260 birds. Here’s the flight call that cued us to look up.
Listen and look for tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) early this week in western Pennsylvania. They usually pass through on or near Veterans’ Day. Yesterday they were right on time.
Have you ever noticed how many birds turn over fallen leaves to find food? Towhees and sparrows, robins and wrens pick through the leaf litter to find overwintering insects. This food bank of edible insects is one reason why not to clear your garden in the fall.
Did you know…? The red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) lays its eggs on fallen oak leaves.
Woolly bear caterpillars burrow into leaf cover to survive the winter.
And the moth version of this brown-headed owlet (Cucullia convexipennis) hides in leaf litter during the day to survive November temperatures. Moths in this family, Noctuidae, are the ones who pollinate witch hazel.
So Leave The Leaves alone. Clear them from the storm drains, sidewalk and driveway, but not off your garden!
For starters, it’s made me a Morning Person. I write best with a mug of coffee before dawn so I get up at 4am to have enough time to publish the day’s entry by 7am. Unfortunately a good article takes 3 hours to construct and illustrate. That’s if I’m lucky. It often takes longer, as it did today.
Second, it’s made me keenly aware of interesting topics. In the old days I would flail around on deadline without any ideas. (If you’re a writer you know what I mean.) Nowadays I keep an “Ideas” list online and dip into it for inspiration. Thank you to everyone who suggests new topics. If you don’t see your contribution right away, it’s on the list.
Third, I’ve met you! Every day about a thousand of you read my blog. Readership drops to 700 in the depths of winter and soars to 4,000 at times of peregrine excitement. I’ve made a lot of new friends.
I couldn’t have blogged for eleven years without you. Your enthusiasm keeps me going every day. Thank you, my readers! And a big thank you to all the photographers who let me use your photos. Without photos this blog would be just a pile of words.