Because of the COVID-19 shutdown there have been few eyes on the street in Downtown Pittsburgh so I was grateful when Point Park University police called me on Friday afternoon, 26 June 2020, with news of the Third Avenue peregrine nest. Unfortunately they had found a dead peregrine falcon fledgling. The good news is there are youngsters Downtown and they’re learning to fly. Maybe there are more. On Sunday morning 28 June Lori Maggio went Downtown to find out.
At 9:30am Lori texted me to report a youngster whining on the nest ledge and an adult watching from a gargoyle on Lawrence Hall.
The youngster was watching this adult who has a silver right leg band (color band is hidden from this view). This is not Dori. Her right leg band is pink. In addition, this bird doesn’t look like Dori and its plumage looks male to me — sharply contrasting head, tail, wings and pale back. If I’m right, the Downtown male is banded.
As Lori watched, the youngster exercised her wings and made some practice flights along the ledge.
At 2pm I joined Lori at Third Avenue and we walked around looking for peregrines. There was still one juvenile at the nest ledge plus an adult on top of Oxford Center.
Interestingly, the adult intently watched a spot we could not see in the vicinity of Forbes and Cherry Way, staring at it for at least half an hour before flying away. This sort of intense watching is usually a sign that the parent peregrine is watching a juvenile. If so, there were at least three young at the Downtown nest this year.
This morning Lori is at Third Avenue again, observing one adult plus the youngster on the nest ledge. I hope she can get a photo of the color band!
Coronavirus is surging in many southern and western U.S. states and has increased in Allegheny County at levels beyond our experience in late April.
The increase in Pittsburgh is ironic. Allegheny County had zero new cases on 17 June. On 27 June we had 90 new cases. At the time it was the highest single-day increase we’d ever seen. In less than two weeks we squandered two months of effort! (see Public Source)
However, the human brain has a hard time grasping danger it hasn’t experienced yet. We humans don’t learn well from the history of others. And so …
“I think that wherever there’s wood to burn [people to infect], this fire’s going to burn – and right now we have a lot of susceptible people,” said Michael Osterholm, head of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, on NBC.
“I don’t think we’re going to see one, two and three waves. I think we’re going to just see one very, very difficult forest fire of cases.”
Spotted joe pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), above, has buds in the leaf axils but when it blooms the showy flowers at the top attract all our attention. This year I’ll have to watch for the side flowers as well.
Enchanters nightshade (Circaea canadensis), below, blooms from the bottom up and has plenty of buds yet to open. The lower buds in the photo are on a different branch.
Bugs are quite evident now but they are difficult to photograph because they move(!). Below, this silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) appeared to be rubbing its abdomen on the bird dropping. Was it ovipositing?
Aphids are not plentiful this year — yet — but it’s only a matter of time. There’s only one winged adult in this photo but the juveniles will grow up, sprout wings, and fly to other Helianthus plants to reproduce. It won’t be long before I think there are too many.
And finally, some bugs are never seen but we know they were there … as this leaf attests.
Instead of bird and nature news, today is devoted to my sweet cat Emmalina who passed away yesterday at age 14 with a massive tumor in her belly. She was the soul and spirit of our house and we miss her at every turn. If you’ve lost a pet I’m sure you understand.
We adopted Emmy at Animal Rescue League (now Human Animal Rescue) in September 2006 when she was five months old. She had been a stray and was very thin but she was beautiful. I chose her because she purred so loudly while I petted her on my lap.
Emmy captured our hearts and earned a longer name, Emmalina, both of which I use when writing about her (see links below). She was an indoor cat but that didn’t mean her life was boring.
In January Emmalina started losing weight but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong; the cancer was sneaky. This month she declined rapidly. Unable to eat, she slept most of the time and was no longer herself. We began to miss the kitty she once was.
Emmalina never lost her purr until her last days on earth. That’s how I knew her end was near.
Sleep well, sweet Emmalina. See you on the other side. Much love, Kate.
In case you missed it: On Saturday 20 June 2020 the temperature hit 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, north of the Arctic Circle! This is the town that also sets coldest temperature records.
Verkhoyansk holds the record for both the hottest and the coldest temperatures ever recorded above the Arctic circle, with 38.0 °C (100.4 °F) and – 67.8 °C (- 90.0 °F) respectively.
Though the peregrine nesting season has failed at the Cathedral of Learning, Morela continues to visit the nest and bow with her suitors, Terzo and Ecco. In a normal year this activity would have ended with egg laying in March. This year, over a period of (now) four months, we’ve been able to observe individual behavior in the two males and Morela’s relationship with each one.
Indeed their relationships are different. I’ve noticed that during the longer courtship sessions Morela bows closer with Ecco than she does with Terzo.
During this five minute bowing session on 16 June, Ecco and Morela turn their heads side to side and nearly touch beaks. This is a more intimate form of bowing than merely bobbing up and down.
On 18 June, Terzo initiates a three minute courtship session that lacks such a close approach.
Since we are humans, not peregrines, we don’t know if the behavioral difference is due to the males’ personalities or Morela’s chemistry with each one. But we can see that Morela comes closer to Ecco.
p.s. This month Ecco has been bowing with Morela before dawn! Click here for a bowing session at 5:30am on Sunday 21 June.
On 17 June six friends and I gathered at Wolf Creek Narrows to bird watch and botanize.
I was hoping to find ramps (Allium tricoccum) in full bloom but we were too early to see the balls of flowers that become these unusual starburst seed pods. Note that the leaves in the background are a different plant. Ramps don’t have leaves when they bloom.