Category Archives: Books & Events

Today’s Walk in Schenley Park

Ten (of 12) on the Schenley Park outing, 26 Aug 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

The big question before this morning’s walk in Schenley Park was, “Will it rain?”   We didn’t think so.  It had poured north of town but that cloud was gone, Oakland was dry, and weather radar showed no rain on the way.  We set off without raingear to look for birds, bugs and flowers.

But the sky kept getting darker.

We had just reached the Phipps Run valley beneath the tufa bridge when the first heavy drops began.  How convenient!  We waited under the bridge while it poured for at least 5 minutes.

Gray clouds persisted after the rain so birds were hard to find.   Best Bird was a rose-breasted grosbeak — but I didn’t see it because I was distracted by a squirrel taunting an immature red-tailed hawk. Squirrels are hawk-food but this one won the contest. The red-tail flew away.

Though it was wet we saw a few good birds. Thanks to everyone for coming out on a gray day.

p.s. The complete checklist of 20 species is at this link.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing: August 26, 8:30am

Honeybee on wingstem (photo by Kate St. John)

In late August summer flowers are blooming, the bugs are singing, and the warblers and hummingbirds are on the move.

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, August 26, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road joins Schenley Drive.  I hope to see migrating songbirds — perhaps a confusing fall warbler!  And we’ll certainly see insects and flowers like this honeybee on wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia).

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Before you come, visit my 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)

Birds and Frogs: Our Outing in Schenley Park, July 29

Participants at the Schenley Park outing, 29 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Participants at the Schenley Park outing, 29 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Eleven people joined me on Sunday July 29 for a walk in Schenley Park.  The outing started from the Westinghouse monument and began with a surprise: a juvenile great blue heron was fishing in the ornamental pond.

Young great blue heron fishing in Westinghouse pond, Schenley park, 29 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Young great blue heron fishing in Westinghouse pond, Schenley park, 29 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Those who came early found the heron perched on top of the monument.  (Sorry I missed that!)  He caught and ate a small frog, then flew away.

There were still plenty of frogs left.  Here’s one of many adult bullfrogs.

Bullfrog in Westinghouse pond, 29 July 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Bullfrog in Westinghouse pond, 29 July 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

As the day warmed up the butterflies and moths came out.  A silver spotted skipper landed on my hat and stayed so long that I tried to photograph it — but couldn’t.  These photos are by Peter Bell.

Trying to take a photo of the skipper on my hat, 29 July 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
I’m trying to take a photo of the skipper on my hat, 29 July 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Silver spotted skipper on my hat, Schenley park, 29 July 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Silver spotted skipper on my hat, Schenley park, 29 July 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

We saw squirrels, chipmunks and young rabbits … and, yes, there were birds.  Of the 19 species we saw/heard, we voted these the Best:  (Click here for the complete checklist.)

  • The juvenile great blue heron in the pond.
  • Two young wood thrushes in a tangle of old branches.
  • A male scarlet tanager in the trees above us and later a female as well.
  • Beautiful American goldfinches eating thistle seeds.

At the end of the walk we stood by the pond and pondered the frogs.

We think about identifying those frogs (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)
We think about identifying those frogs (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

 

(photos by Kate St. John, Peter Bell and Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Schenley Park Outing: July 29, 8:30am

Bindweed in bloom, Schenley Park, July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)
Bindweed in bloom, Schenley Park, July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

In late July, the songbirds are wrapping up the breeding season and it’s summer flower time.

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, July 29, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Meet at the Westinghouse Memorial Fountain to walk Serpentine Drive or the nearby Falloon Trail.  I know we’ll see Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) and bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) in bloom. I hope to see swallows at the golf course.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Before you come, visit my 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)

Mostly Off The Grid

Beginning Sunday 8 July 2018 through Saturday 14 July 2018, I’ll be birding in Newfoundland and out of cellphone range during the day. I’ll still be posting daily articles at Outside My Window but I won’t be able to respond to your comments until I’m back on the grid in the evenings.

Follow my posts about Newfoundland beginning with this one: Gone Birding at St. John’s

(This map of Canada is from Wikimedia Commons. Newfoundland is highlighted in red.)

Happy 4th With The Harmar Eagles

Juvenile bald eagle near the Harmar Twp nest, 1 July 2018 (photo by Annette Devinney)
Juvenile bald eagle near the Harmar Twp nest, 1 July 2018 (photo by Annette Devinney)

In Pittsburgh we’re lucky to have three bald eagle nests in Allegheny County:  Hays on the Monongahela River, Harmar on the Allegheny River, and Crescent Township on the Ohio River.

Last weekend the two youngsters at the Harmar nest made their first flight.  Annette and Gerry Devinney were on hand to record their progress on 1 July 2018.  Here are some of Annette’s photos and Gerry’s video.

Below, the two young eagles fly near each other.  They’re looking good.

Juvenile bald eagles in flight near their Harmar Twp nest, 1 July 2018 (photo by Annette Devinney)
Juvenile bald eagles in flight near their Harmar Twp nest, 1 July 2018 (photo by Annette Devinney)

Woo hoo! They’re playing in the sky.

Two juvenile bald eagles play in the sky, Harmar Twp, PA, 1 July 2018 (photo by Annette Devinney)
Two juvenile bald eagles play in the sky, Harmar Twp, PA, 1 July 2018 (photo by Annette Devinney)

Gerry captured their soaring and antics in this video.

Happy Fourth of July!

 

(photos by Annette Devinney, video from Gerry Devinney on Vimeo)

 

Today in Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing, 24 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park outing, 24 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Eight of us went birding in Schenley Park today and saw lots of cool bird behavior.

In the first fifteen minutes we saw an unusual scarlet tanager — bright orange like an oriole instead of scarlet like a tanager.  We also had good looks at our Best Bird of the day:  a beautiful male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Down the trail we found a tiny sentinel.  A male ruby-throated hummingbird perched high on a dead snag watching his domain.  We also found an Acadian flycatcher on her nest and an American robin feeding nestlings.

After so much rain the creek and first waterfall were running fast.  Last Wednesday’s downpour washed a culvert into the gravel trail that reached right down to the bedrock — a layer of blue-green slate.

In all we saw / heard 29 species.  The complete checklist is here.

p.s. I promised daisy fleabane and we did see it. Whew!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing: June 24, 8:30am

Fleabane blooming in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)
Fleabane blooming in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Summer arrived before the solstice.  It’s time to get outdoors!

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, June 24, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road. We’ll look in the meadow for birds and flowers, then explore the woodland trails.  I’m sure we’ll see daisy fleabane. It’s blooming now.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

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

Hope to see you there!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

Count Nightjars By The Light Of The Moon

Common nighthawk (photo by Chuck Tague)
Common nighthawk (photo by Chuck Tague)

Next week the last survey window opens for counting nightjars by the light of the moon. It’s a fun way to go birding on a moonlit night — June 20 to July 6, 2018.

Nightjars are a worldwide family of nocturnal/crepuscular birds that eat flying insects on the wing.   They have long wings, short legs, short bills and very wide mouths. Two of these cryptically-colored species are found in Pennsylvania:

  • Common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), in flight above, breeds in cities and open habitat, grasslands, dunes.
  • Eastern whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus), roosting below, breeds in forests near open areas.
Whip-poor-will, 2014 (photo by Cris Hamilton)
Whip-poor-will, 2014 (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Both populations are in steep decline and so are other nightjars in North America. Scientists don’t know why and they need more data.  That’s where we come in.

The Center for Conservation Biology set up the Nightjar Survey Network to collect population data about these birds. Their website describes how it works:

Nightjar surveys are easy to perform and will not take more than two hours to complete. Volunteers conduct roadside counts at night, on scheduled bright moonlit nights, by driving and stopping at 10 points along a predetermined 9-mile route. At each point, the observer counts all Nightjars seen or heard during a 6-minute period.

Wait for a moonlit night, drive your route, stop and listen. Count by sound!  Click here for their voices.

Register for the Nightjar Survey Network here, then select or create your own 9-mile route. For more information see http://www.nightjars.org

The Nightjar Survey needs volunteers across the continent — not just in Pennsylvania.  Here are the species to count.

  • Antillean nighthawk
  • Buff-collared nightjar
  • Chuck-wills-widow (named for its call)
  • Common nighthawk (named for its behavior)
  • Common pauraque
  • Common poorwill (named for its call)
  • Lesser nighthawk
  • Eastern whip-poor-will (named for its call)
  • Mexican whip-poor-will

 

p.s. While you’re out there you might hear owls. 🙂

(photo credits: common nighthawk in flight by Chuck Tague; roosting whip-poor-will by Cris Hamilton)