The Hays bald eagles are having a Happy Valentine’s Day with their first egg of the season just 36 hours old. The female laid her first egg on Friday 12 February 2021 at approximately 5:55pm. Their happy event was on the CBS Local news, at Trib-Live, and captured on the streaming cam on YouTube.
The female usually lays her second egg three days after the first so watch the Hays Nest Eaglecam tomorrow, 15 February, for the arrival of another egg.
Native to Eurasia and North America, long-eared owls (Asio otus) are shy and secretive medium-sized birds that hunt open areas and roost in woodland edges and conifer stands.
In Pennsylvania they are present year-round and listed as Threatened, but are so elusive that it’s hard to keep track of them. The Game Commission plans to study Pennsylvania’s long-eared owls but needs preliminary data. They are asking birders for help.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is interested in learning more about long-eared owls in Pennsylvania, who are threatened and extremely vulnerable to disturbance [so] we’re asking birders to share their long-eared owl observations with us.
To protect the location of the birds, we are asking birders NOT to post their observations on eBird or other platforms at this time(*) but instead to send all observations–past or present–to Game Commission Wildlife Biologist, Patti Barber, at firstname.lastname@example.org with “LEOW Observations” in the subject line. Include date, location, number of owls and evidence of owls in the area (seen, heard, pellets, feathers, heard etc).
Pictures are welcome, however, please maintain enough distance so as to not disturb the birds. Long-eared owls often abandon roosts when disturbed. Please do not walk on private property without owner’s consent. Thank you, in advance, for your help.
— partially paraphrased: Pennsylvania Game Commission, 19 January 2021 via Instagram
So how do you find a long-eared owl? Find is the hardest part. Long-eared owls are more strictly nocturnal than other owls so you’ll have to find them at the roost where they are masters at hiding in plain sight. Here are a few examples.
Roosting in dense deciduous woods in Minnesota:
Roosting in a conifer stand in Illinois, 2011. This owl looks like a fat branch with ear tufts.
Owl eyeing the photographer but still hidden.
I’ve only seen a long-eared owl three times in my life with each sighting 10 years apart. My last was in Beaver County in 2015 so I’m not due to see another one until 2025. I wonder if my quest will be successful.
(photos and map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
(*) eBird reports: The Game Commission is working with eBird to develop a process to allow these observations to be entered while also protecting these sensitive locations.
Huge flocks of crows roost in Portland, Oregon in the winter just as they do Pittsburgh. By 2017 the city realized that the crows’ huge sanitation problem could not be solved with cleanup crews and pyrotechnics so they turned to a team of falconers.
This 9-minute video from Oregon Public Broadcasting, published in November 2018, shows how trained Harris hawks — which normally operate during the day — move the crows at night. Awesome!
(screenshot from OPB video; click on the caption to see the original)
Though most western red-tailed hawks are similar to their eastern cousins they are generally darker, as shown below in Washington state. There’s also a dark morph that’s completely chocolate brown as in the photo at top from San Mateo County, California.
Here are more examples.
Arizona: Underwings on this adult are darker and redder than back east.
Utah: Dark underneath on an immature red-tail.
California: While many red-tails in California are merely darker, the dark morph is over the top.
Some day when we can travel again I’m looking forward to seeing a dark morph red-tailed hawk.
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.
Morela, 12/26/2020, 7:33a (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Ecco arrives on the front perch
Morela and Ecco
Ecco calls as Morela leaves
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.
The success of a Christmas Bird Count really depends on the weather. If the weather is good the birds are active and easy to find. In bad weather — heavy rain, snow, fog, high winds — birds are scarce.
Today is the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in the circle shown below. At 8am it’s 14 degrees F with gusty winds, overcast skies and light snow showers. It feels like 2 degrees F. What birds will I find in my city neighborhood under these conditions? Not many I fear.
Seven years ago the 2013 Pittsburgh CBC had a Falcon Sweep at a single location. In one half hour there was a peregrine falcon (Dorothy), a merlin, and an American kestrel at Duck Hollow — all the possible Falco species — described in this 2013 article: Take Me To The River.
Today if I’m lucky in bad weather I’ll see a peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning and a merlin at dusk in Schenley Park. It would be a miracle if I saw a kestrel.
For old times sake, here’s a kestrel in June 2016 at an unusual city location.
More news later. Brrrr!
(photos by Michelle Kienholz and the National Aviary falconcam that used to be at Gulf Tower)
It began snowing here in Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, 16 December 2020, and didn’t stop for 17.5 hours. By 7:30 the next morning there were 9.25 inches of snow in Oakland. City lights glowed against the snow and clouds.
Yesterday I took a long walk to Pitt’s campus, Carnegie Library and Schenley Park to appreciate the beauty. Here are a few of the scenes I encountered.
On my way home I found one of Santa’s elves near the Library!
Though the snow didn’t melt it did compress in 24 hours. Here are two snapshots of the Pitt peregrine nestbox at 7:30am on Thurs 17 Dec and Fri 18 Dec. Though there is still a lot of snow it is not as daunting, even if it hasn’t been shoveled.
No peregrines visited the nest yesterday but I know they are present. I saw Morela perched on a gargoyle.
UPDATE 18 Dec 2020, 4:08pm: Morela examines the snow.
(photos by Kate St. John; statues photo by Richard St. John)