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?
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.
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.
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)
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 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.
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 picked up the prey and delivered it to the fledgling.
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.
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.
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.
Twitter can you please help? We have a tag that has fallen off one of @mindtheTrapp‘s oystercatchers. Someone visiting Orkney in the last few days seems to have found it and taken it to London. Can you please RT and/or get in touch if you think you can help us get it back! pic.twitter.com/a2IoXzI02h
“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.”
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.
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!
We had a great time on a cloudy and not-too-hot day.
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
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
Lori Maggio visited Third Avenue around 8am on 27 June and saw three peregrines: Dori, Terzo and a fledgling. Read more here.
Eckert Street / McKees Rocks Bridge area, Ohio River
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.
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.
Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek
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
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.
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.
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.