Category Archives: Books & Events

Start Counting! Christmas Bird Counts 2023

Screenshot from Join the Christmas Bird Count at (Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon)

7 December 2023

Songbird migration ended last month but there’s birding fun ahead in the coming weeks. Join Audubon’s 124rd annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) from Dec 14, 2023 to January 5, 2024!

Date span of the 2023 Christmas Bird Count (calendar images from

Visit one (or more) of the >2,500 count circles in North America. Each circle has its own compiler who coordinates the count for a single scheduled day within the 15-mile radius. No experience is necessary. The only prerequisite is that you must contact the circle compiler in advance to reserve your place.

Screenshot of 124th Christmas Bird Count map from

Go birding outdoors or, if you live in a Count Circle, stay home and count birds at your feeder. Click here and enter your home address to find out what circle you’re in. (If you’re within a circle, click on the colored bird icon to see date, time and contact information.)

Follow the instructions here at to sign up.

If you live in the Pittsburgh area you may be interested in one of these counts.

Screenshot of 124th Christmas Bird Count map from, zoomed in to Pittsburgh, PA

These circles touch Allegheny County:

  • South Hills, 16 Dec 2023
  • Buffalo Creek Valley, 16 Dec 2023
  • Imperial CBC, 17 Dec 2023
  • Mon Valley, 17 Dec 2023
  • Pittsburgh CBC, 30 Dec 2023
  • South Butler, 31 Dec 2023

For more information visit Audubon Society of Western PA’s Christmas Bird Count page or click here for details on National Audubon’s CBC map.

Join the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count on 30 December 2023 (map below). To participate contact Brian Shema at the Audubon Society of Western PA at 412-963-6100 or

Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count circle (map from

Sign up now! We’ll be counting soon.

(photo from 2024 Audubon Christmas Bird Count webpage, maps from; click on the captions to see the originals)

Turkey Day

Turkeys in a Pittsburgh backyard, 7 Nov 2023 (photo by Kathy Saunders)

23 November 2023

Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are thriving in Pittsburgh’s suburbs. This flock of 14 feels right at home in a Kathy Saunders’ backyard.

Meanwhile, where have all the city turkeys gone? A decade ago they were easy to find in Schenley Park and Oakland but I haven’t seen one here in three years. This vintage article describes an impromptu Turkey Day at WQED when six came for a visit in November 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(credits are in the captions)

Sixteen Years!

A Girl Writing; The Pet Goldfinch (painting by Henriette Brown via Wikimedia Commons)

9 November 2023

Today it’s been 16 years since Outside My Window began on 9 November 2007.

Every day I get up very early to write about birds and nature and am sometimes distracted by the birds themselves. The girl above is distracted by her pet goldfinch. This month, for me, it’s been the crows.

Crow on a spire with an added party hat (photo by Ian Shane via Wikimedia Commons, altered by Kate St.John)
Crow on a spire; added a party hat (photo by Ian Shane via Wikimedia Commons, altered by Kate St.John)

My first blog post was Waiting for Tundra Swans but I didn’t have to wait this year. Last weekend I saw 29 at Yellow Creek State Park including these in Mark McConaughy’s photo.

On anniversaries I look back at the past year’s high points. My highest traffic day is usually when the peregrine eggs hatch at the Cathedral of Learning but there were no eggs this year. Instead, the most popular article was a surprise on Friday 7 April with 10,000 views of…

Top articles in the past 12 months include:

I’ve written a lot and I’m still going at it. 5,913 articles since 2007, and you’ve posted 24,308 comments.

Thank you, my readers, for 16 years together at Outside My Window.

You keep me going every day!

(credits are in the captions)

Pumpkins Before & After Halloween

Three pumpkins (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

31 October 2023

This month we started with new pumpkin gourds …

… carved some into jack o’lanterns …

Three carved jack-o-lanterns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

… or applied stickers or paint to make faces.

Pumpkins with stickers to make faces for Halloween (photo form Wikimedia Commons)

If you used paint or stickers make sure they’re non toxic. When old pumpkins are outdoors …

Pumpkin graveyard, Bloomfield, Pittsburgh, Jan 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

… someone will eat them. This is where non-toxic paint is important!

Red squirrel gnawing a pumpkin (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Goats eating an old pumpkin (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re not sure about your pumpkins, be careful where you dispose of them so that the critters who like to eat them stay healthy.

Happy Halloween!

(photos from Wikimedia and by Kate St. John, credits are in the captions)

Duck Hollow Outing, Nov 12, 8:30a

Duck Hollow, 27 Oct 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Updated on 28 October 2023

Join me on Sunday 12 November 2023, 8:30am to 10:30am, for a bird and nature walk.

Meet at the Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides and a birding scope if you have them. (Always remember to visit the Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.)

We’ll walk the nearby paths seeking birds, interesting plants, and lingering insects. Migrating ducks may be resting on the river. Mallards will attract attention because they’re courting.

Occasionally a rare bird shows up, so keep your fingers crossed. I can tell you we will not see is this American avocet that stopped by Duck Hollow on 3 October but it was sure fun while it lasted.

American avocet at Duck Hollow, 3 Oct 2023 (video by Charity Kheshgi)

(photo by Kate St. John, video by Charity Kheshgi)

Yesterday at Hays Woods Bird Banding

Hermit thrush banded at Bird Lab, Hays Woods, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Jared Miller)

4 October 2023

Joe, Sam and Jared joined me yesterday morning on an adventure to see Bird Lab at Hays Woods. The weather was perfect as we walked more than half a mile to the banding station. There we found Nick Liadis and his assistants about to do the second net-check of the day.

The mist nets that capture songbirds are set up in “alleys” of vegetation where birds might fly across. If a bird doesn’t see the net and tries to fly through, it falls into the pocket of extra netting material where it waits to be retrieved. Banders check the nets every half hour.

Bird banding mist net at Hays Woods, 7 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Captured birds are brought back to the banding table in cloth bags to keep them calm. Our group watched as Nick prepared to band three birds from the recent net check.

Bird Lab at Hays Woods: 3 workers (orange vests) and three observers, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

Each bag contains a surprise. The first was a recaptured Cape May warbler (Setophaga tigrina), originally banded on 20 Sep when it weighed 10.9g. Yesterday it weighed 13.8g for a gain equivalent to the weight of a ruby-throated hummingbird. Such a small bird in Nick’s hand, below.

Nick Liadis holds a Cape May warbler recaptured at Hays Woods on 3 Oct, first banded on 20 Sept 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

It was the second Cape May warbler recapture this fall. The first one increased its weight by 50% in two weeks. About the first one, Nick wrote:

A cool recapture from my Hays Woods banding station! This Cape May Warbler was banded on 9/13 and we captured her again two weeks later. She originally weighed 11.6g and today weighs 15.4g. Interesting to see how long some of these birds hang around. I’d imagine she’ll be on her way very soon.

— Nick Liadis message, 27 Sep 2023

Next on the agenda was a hatch year (meaning “hatched this year”) male black-throated blue warbler (Setophaga caerulescens). His color was blue, but not vibrantly so, and his throat had tiny white flecks on it. I had seen a dull bird like this in Frick Park last week and didn’t realize that meant he was young.

BirdLab at Hays Woods: Hatch Year male black-throated blue warbler in partial adult plumage, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Jared Miller)

At each successive net check new species showed up.

The hatch year hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) shown at top was a sign that the mix of migrant species is changing. The insect eaters are nearly gone while the fruit and nuts migrants have arrived (*see note).

The hatch year female house finch, below, was probably born at Hays Woods. Many house finches in the eastern U.S. are permanent residents. Perhaps she will be, too.

BirdLab at Hays Woods: Hatch Year female house finch, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

An ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) is always nice to see up close and I had no trouble identifying it because it showed its striped crown. I saw one in the hand at Bird Lab last year.

BirdLab at Hays Woods: Ovenbird, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

By 10:00am we’d been there an hour, it was getting hot (the high yesterday was 85°F!) and the birds were less active. Three of us hiked to the overlook and returned for one more net-check. This time only one bird was captured, a hatch year house wren (Troglodytes aedon) that Nick had banded on 9 August. This bird has spent the last two months foraging at Hays Woods and soon it will migrate to Central or South America.

BirdLab at Hays Woods: House wren, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Jared Miller)

We left Bird Lab and headed back to the parking lot where the fleet of enormous dump trucks, seen at 8:30am, were still shuttling dirt to/from Duquesne Light’s dirt road. Duquesne Light is building an access path to the cliff edge where two transmission towers need to be replaced and moved away from the landslide zone.

Thanks to Jared Miller for sharing his photos, shown above.

Bonus Bird: After the banding, a rare bird at Duck Hollow:

At 10:30am I received an alert that a migrating American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) was hanging out at Duck Hollow. Avocets in Allegheny County are One Day Wonders. I had never seen one here because I waited a day to go see them. So I made the short trip from Hays Woods to Duck Hollow and digiscoped this lousy picture. The light was too bright to see its faint orange color but you get the idea.

American avocet at Duck Hollow, 3 Oct 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

p.s. (*) Two of the phases of fall migration: ** Insect eaters such as warblers, flycatchers, swifts and swallows migrate through in September because the bug population is going to die when cold weather hits. ** Fruit and nut eaters, including thrushes and sparrows, pass through in October.

(photos by Jared Miller and Kate St. John)

Be one of 5 Visitors to Hays Woods Bird Banding, Tues Oct 3

Nick Liadis of Bird Lab holds an ovenbird to be banded, 7 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

27 September 2023

Only 5 people can come on this outing. You must sign up by leaving a comment on the blog form below. First come first served.

Come with me to Pittsburgh’s newest city park on Tuesday Oct 3, at 8:30 am (rain date Wed Oct 4) to see Bird Lab’s Nick Liadis band migratory birds at Hays Woods.

Meet me at the Hays Woods Agnew Rd Trailhead parking lot at 8:30am.  From there we will walk through the woods for 20 minutes to get to the banding site.   Expect to spend at least an hour on site, then a 20 minute walk to return.

Nick Liadis & Lisa Kaufman at Bird Lab banding, Hays Woods, 7 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Every day is different during migration. When I visited the banding operation on 7 September 2022 we saw warblers and a female cardinal. Best Bird was the ovenbird pictured at top.

I can’t predict what birds we’ll see but we will certainly see them up close. It’s sure to be good.

For a sneak preview see Linda Roth’s Facebook Live video of the banding on Tues 26 Sept:

Some logistics:

Bird Lab is a non-profit supported by donations and grants. For group hikes like ours, a donation to of $15/person is required. (More than $15 is always welcome.) You can also donate online at

Learn more about Bird Lab at

If you are one of the lucky 5 participants I will notify you via email. (Comments require that you enter an email address.)

Hays Woods is the City of Pittsburgh’s wildest, least developed park. The trail to the site is flat but don’t expect amenities. The only porta-john is at the parking lot.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Hays Woods Hike: Get to Know Pittsburgh’s Newest Park

Hays Woods in September 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

18 September 2023

Are you curious about Pittsburgh’s newest and least developed city park? Get to know Hays Woods on a guided hike next Sunday.

Join the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) and Bird Lab for a free bird and nature walk at Hays Woods on Sunday, September 24, 8:00am to 10:00am. Meet at the Hays Woods – Agnew Rd Trailhead in Baldwin. The hike is entitled:

Befriending the Forest: The Birds and Plants of Hays Woods.

The view from Hays Woods, September 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Here’s PPC’s description:

Come check out Pittsburgh’s newest city park for an exclusive hike with Bird Lab Avian Ecologist, Nick Liadis, and Jared Belsky, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Ecological Restoration Coordinator, Hays Woods.

Explore Hays Woods like never before, while learning about native plants and trees and how regional birds interact within this dense urban forest. This adventure will incorporate a mixture of species identification and bird watching. Fall migration is the best time to catch sight and sound of the migrating birds overhead.

Hike leaders are Jared Belsky of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy who manages PPC projects on site (photo on left) and Nick Liadis of Bird Lab who bands birds at Hays during spring and fall migration (photo on right). Both have extensive knowledge of Hays Woods from hands on experience.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Hike announcement
Jared Belsky, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy & Nick Liadis, Bird Lab

This is a free event but you must Sign Up Here.

Hope to see you there.

p.s. The Hays Woods – Agnew Rd Trailhead has a small gravel parking lot. If this hike is well attended you may have to park on the street. GPS = 40.39852,-79.96324

(photo of Jared Belsky by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, all other photos by Kate St. John)

Yesterday at Schenley Park on 8/27

Schenley Park outing, 27 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

28 August 2023

Yesterday turned into a nice day, but when eight of us met at Schenley Park at 8:30am the temperature was cool with low clouds and the sky was blank gray. Normally the birds would have slept in but the migrants were hungry. We found 22 species.

Best Bird is hard to choose. Was it the belted kingfisher that hunted over Panther Hollow Lake? The ruby-throated hummingbirds that floated among the trees? Or the warblers — Blackburnian, magnolia and chestnut-sided?

Between birds the bugs took center stage. Milkweed bugs swarmed on swamp milkweed pods …

Milkweed bugs on swamp milkweed seed pods, Schenley, 27 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

… and spotted lanternflies sipped on the Ailanthus trees that inspired my blog about sooty mold on honeydew. I was curious: Did the rain wash away the sooty mold? No.

Spotted lanternfly honeydew below an Ailanthus tree is black with sooty mold, Schenley Park, 27 Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

Fourteen Canada geese flew over to join the 70 already grazing on Flagstaff Hill. Geese were absent from Flagstaff Hill this summer while they molted their wings feathers and did not return in large numbers until early August.

Here’s our eBird checklist: Schenley Park, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Aug 27, 2022 8:30A – 10:30A

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 14
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon)) 2
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 9
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) 2
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 2
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 5
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 2
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 5
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) 8
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 7
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 2
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 3
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) 1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 4
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 3
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 15
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 1
Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) 3
Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) 2
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) 2
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 6

The next outing will be 24 September at 8:30a in Schenley Park at Bartlett Playground.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing: August 27, 8:30am

Wingstem, Schenley Park, August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

21 August 2023

Late summer flowers are blooming, bugs are buzzing, and the migrating birds are on the move.

Join me for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park next Sunday, August 27, 8:30am to 10:30am. Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road joins Schenley Drive.

In addition to birds and flowers, this walk it will take a look at two huge effects humans have had on the landscape, both direct and indirect. Heavy equipment and deer.

Dress for the weather — including sun hat + water — and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Before you come, visit the Events page in case of changes or cancellations. The outing will be canceled if there’s lightning.

Hope to see you there!

(photo by Kate St. John)