28 December 2020
Pittsburgh’s Christmas Bird Count dawned bitter cold (13o F) and overcast on Saturday 26 December 2020. The weather was daunting, city roads were snow-covered, and birds were very hard to find. Though the official count isn’t in yet, there were notable exceptions less than three miles from my home — merlins, peregrines, 20K+ crows and a Baltimore oriole.
MERLINS (Falco columbarius): As of this writing 5 merlins were seen in the count circle on 26 December. Michelle Kienholz’s merlin at Homewood Cemetery (above) was typical of those seen at dusk, always perched high on a snag. Frank Izaguirre reported two at Calvary Cemetery and Mike Fialkovich saw two at Schenley Park golf course. I was at the golf course at dusk, counting crows, so I kept an eye on one of Mike’s merlins. It didn’t leave its perch until 20 minutes after sunset.
PEREGRINES (Falco peregrinus): So far, four peregrine falcons were seen in the count circle. By sheer luck I saw 3 of them.
On Saturday morning I was gazing out the dining room window when I saw two male peregrines fly by chasing each other. Yard Birds! It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Terzo-and-Ecco chase. Ecco and Morela bowed at the nest at 7:33a (slideshow below). I also saw Morela at the Cathedral of Learning gazing in the direction the males flew.
CROWS: Counting crows is always a challenge despite our best laid plans. At dusk at the Allequippa Street Parking Garage, Claire Staples and Joe Fedor counted crows arriving from the north, west, and Allegheny Valley. At Schenley Park golf course I counted them flying in from the east. (The eastern group can’t been seen from Allequippa Street.)
It was so cold! The crows felt it too and used different flight paths than the day before. Erf! Even so, the three of us counted 20,000 to 24,000 crows.
Here’s what they looked like at Allequippa Street on 18 Dec 2020, photos by Mary Brush.
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula): Most likely the rarest bird of the count was the Baltimore oriole at Izaguirre’s feeder in Oakland. Frank and Adrienne have been keeping him happy since he showed up on 20 December. In Frank’s photo below he’s slurping jam from the top of the suet cake. Yay!
In the typical absurdity of 2020, the weather on the day after the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count was partly sunny and 47oF.
As least we saw more than a few good birds.