Category Archives: Books & Events

Today’s Outing at Duck Hollow

Duck Hollow outing, 18 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Duck Hollow outing, 18 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

More than 20 people turned out this morning for the Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park outing.

We were hoping to see the northern shovelers, green-winged teal, and pied-billed grebe reported on the Monongahela River yesterday, but all of them had departed overnight.  Best ducks were two very distant hooded mergansers.  The red-winged blackbirds, northern cardinals and local red-tailed hawks put on a show.

As we started up the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail we heard that someone saw a peregrine on the Homestead Grays Bridge.  Is it there?  Could more than 20 people quickly run downhill and under the trestle to see it before it left?  The report was confusing/conflicting so we didn't go.  Later I saw Michele Kienholz's photo of the peregrine. Erf!  Wish we'd seen it.

Best bird was a sharp-shinned hawk.  Best bug was a mourning cloak butterfly that flew by and best flower -- the ONLY flower -- was this single coltsfoot still with frost on its edges.

Coltsfoot blooming among the frost, 18 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Coltsfoot blooming among the frost, 18 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

The complete eBird checklist is here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43755756

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

It’s Time For Ducks

Bufflehead landing, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Male bufflehead, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Ducks, grebes, coots and loons are migrating north through western Pennsylvania this month.  It's time to get outdoors and see them before they're gone.

Here are just a few of the species reported in Butler and Westmoreland Counties last weekend, photographed by Steve Gosser during spring migration 2011 to 2017.  If you like Steve's photos, check out the opportunity below to see his presentation in Clarion, PA tonight, March 14.

Above a male bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) comes in for a landing.  Notice how pink his feet are in March!

Below, a redhead (Aythya americana) stretches his wings while ducks and geese sleep in the background.

A redhead stretches his wing (photo by Steve Gosser)
A redhead stretches his wing, late February 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

A male hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) displays his crown.

Male hooded merganser showing his crown, March 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Male hooded merganser showing his crown, March 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

American coots (Fulica americana) wade in shallow water as they feed.

American coots feeding in shallow water, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)
American coots feeding in shallow water, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

The male northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata) is distinctive with his long shovel bill, green head, and rusty flanks.

Male northern shoveler, March 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Male northern shoveler, March 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Below, ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) take off.  Because of the white ring around their bills, I sometimes call them ring-billed ducks by accident.  The ring is a good field mark.

Ring-necked ducks take off, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ring-necked ducks take off, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

A red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) in breeding plumage, March 2014.

Red-necked grebe, March 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Red-necked grebe, March 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Get outdoors soon to see migrating waterfowl.

Meanwhile, see more of Steve Gosser's photos tonight March 14 at 6:30pm at the Clarion Free Library in Clarion, PA.  Steve will be sharing his favorite photos and birding adventures at the Seneca Rocks Audubon meeting.  All are welcome.   More info here: http://www.senecarocksaudubon.org

 

(photos by Steve Gosser)

Duck Hollow Outing: March 18, 8:30am

Female mallard coming in for a landing (photo by Bert De Tilly via WIkimedia Commons)
Female mallard coming in for a landing (photo by Bert De Tilly via Wikimedia Commons)

Spring is coming so let's get outdoors!

Join me on my first bird and nature outing of the year at  Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park on Sunday, March 18, 2018 -- 8:30am to 10:00am.

Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road.

We hope to see migrating ducks on the river and and songbirds along lower Nine Mile Run Trail in south Frick Park.  We will certainly see traces of the big flood of February 17.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides and a scope for river watching if you have them.

Hope to see you there!

 

p.s. Lauryn Stalter of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will lead a First Day of Spring walk in Schenley Park on Tuesday March 20, 5:30pm to 6:30p.  For more information and to register for this free outing, click here.

(photo of a female mallard coming in for a landing by Bert De Tilly via Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

Happy Valentine’s Day

Pitt peregrines courting, 10 Feb 2018(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Pitt peregrines courting, 10 Feb 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Love is in the air!

Pittsburgh's peregrines are courting in February.  The females will lay eggs in March.

Above, Terzo and Hope are seen regularly at the Cathedral of Learning nest box.  Here they are bowing as part of the peregrines' courtship ritual.

And today the Downtown peregrines visited the Gulf Tower in the rain.

Downtown peregrines visit the Gulf Tower, 14 Feb 2018, 4:24pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
Downtown peregrines visit the Gulf Tower, 14 Feb 2018, 4:24pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Happy Valentine's Day!

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16-19

Burrowing owl in Florida (photo by Chuck Tague)
Burrowing owl in Florida (photo by Chuck Tague)

This burrowing owl isn't in a backyard but if you find one next weekend you can count it in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  This global event runs Friday, February 16 through Monday, February 19, 2018.  You can count birds anywhere!

It's easy to participate.  If you're already on eBird, just enter your checklists and the Great Backyard Bird Count will scoop up the data.

If you've never participated (or you haven't done so since 2012) follow the easy steps here: Get Started.

Bonus for photographers: Submit your photos to the GBBC Photo Contest.

Most of us will count backyard birds, especially if the weather is bad.  In Pittsburgh we're sure to see chickadees. Trick question: Are they black-capped or Carolina?
(click the link for the answer)

Black-capped chickadee at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
Black-capped chickadee at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

(photos by Chuck Tague and Marcy Cunkelman)

Tomorrow is a Really Big Day

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, 2013 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Groundhog Day celebration, 2013 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow at a huge celebration a famous groundhog in western Pennsylvania will predict the weather for the next six weeks.

Who is this groundhog?

And, an even harder question, how do you spell the name of town where he makes his prediction?

On Throw Back Thursday, learn all the answers at Tomorrow Is A Really Big Day.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

Winter Raptor Survey, Bus Tour Jan 31 & Feb 3

Bald eagle pair, Montour Preserve, 18 Jan 2018 (photo by Lauri Shaffer)
Bald eagle pair, 18 Jan 2018 (photo by Lauri Shaffer)

Winter is a great time to see raptors.   Bald eagles are nesting, northern hawks and falcons are visiting for the winter, and they're all easy to see against the snow!

Lauri Shaffer found these birds near her home in Montour County, but Pittsburghers don't have to go that far.

Come see western Pennsylvania's winter raptors in the comfort of a tour bus with the National Aviary's Bob Mulvihill.  All ages and experience levels are welcome.

National Aviary Bus Tour: Winter Raptor Survey
When: Two tours: Wednesday, January 31 + Saturday, February 3.   9am-4pm.
Cost: $95 nonmembers; $85 members (includes lunch and pocket Raptor field guide)
To register: Audrey.Beichner@aviary.org or 412-258-9463

Join National Aviary Ornithologist, Bob Mulvihill, for a brand new winter adventure: the Hawk Migration Association’s annual raptor census. You’ll see up to ten different raptors including winter-only species like the Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Shrike. We’ll also visit Goddard State Park to see a Bald Eagle Nest!

I'm planning to join the tour on Wednesday January 31.  In addition to the bald eagle nest at Goddard State Park, here's what we hope to see:

Rough-legged hawks, below, only visit Pennsylvania in winter. They nest in the arctic.

Rough-legged hawk, January 2018 (photo by Lauri Shaffer)
Rough-legged hawk, January 2018 (photo by Lauri Shaffer)

 

Northern harriers are hawks of open country with owl-like faces, the better to hear mice on the ground.  This one might have dinner beneath his feet.

Northern harrier, pouning in snow (photo by Lauri Shaffer)
Northern harrier, pouncing in snow (photo by Lauri Shaffer)

And did you know that one of our target birds, the northern shrike, is a predatory songbird? Here's a photo.

Sign up soon for the Raptor bus tour.  There's a lot to see in winter!

 

(photos by Lauri Shaffer)

p.s. I'm not promising a snowy owl but you never know -- we might get really lucky.  Becky Shott found this one last week.

Snowy owl in western PA, January 2018 (photo by Becky Shott)
Snowy owl in western PA, January 2018 (photo by Becky Shott)

First Bird of 2018

Blue jay in winter (photo by Cris Hamilton)
Blue jay in winter (photo by Cris Hamilton)

If you keep a list of the birds you see each year, yesterday gave you a First Bird of 2018.

Mine was a blue jay.

He received this honor because I decided not to count the birds I heard but did not see.  This ruled out the house sparrows cheeping in my neighbor's evergreen. I didn't even look for them.

Perhaps this was cheating. If I'd heard an owl I would have counted it.  However, I don't have to stretch the rules to pick a First Best Bird of 2018.

Yesterday afternoon I joined the Botanical Society of Western PA's annual New Year's Day Hike.  Twelve of us braved the 10o F weather at Irwin Road in North Park, led by Richard Nugent.  (He's the tall man in the brown coat.  I'm in the photo, too, but which one?)

Botanical Society New Years Day Hike, 2018 (photo by June Bernard)
Botanical Society New Years Day Hike, 2018 (photo by June Bernard)

We walked to the old homestead to see the Ozark witch hazel that we visit every year.   At the top of the hill was a small flock of birds eating wild grapes, multiflora rose hips and oriental bittersweet.  Among them was my First Best Bird of 2018 -- a hermit thrush.

Hermit thrush (photo by Chuck Tague)
Hermit thrush (photo by Chuck Tague)

 

What was your First Bird of 2018?  Do you have a Best one?

 

(photo credits: blue jay by Cris Hamilton, hike photo from June Bernard, hermit thrush by Chuck Tague)

The Upside Down Year in Review

An African Grey Parrot (pet) hanging upside down on an indoor clothesline (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
An African Grey Parrot (pet) hanging upside down on an indoor clothesline (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2017 was a crazy upside down year for birds and nature in the U.S.  including hurricanes, fires, a solar eclipse, climate change and more.  Outside My Window had some crazy moments, too.  Here's the blog year in review.

On 7 November Outside My Window celebrated its 10th anniversary. I've now written more than 3,700 posts and you've commented more than 17,100 times (not including comments on Facebook & Twitter).  And we're using different hardware to read the blog than we did back then. 10 years ago most of us used desktop computers.  Now we use Desk 46%, Mobile 40%, Tablet 14%.

The most popular posts of 2017 were prompted by peregrine and bald eagle drama.  Our tastes are a bit upside down:  Bad news is the most popular.

Hope picks up her first-hatching egg. Latr she kills and eats it (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Hope picks up her first-hatching egg. Later she kills and eats it (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

Other favorite articles (most Googled) answered the questions: What? How? Why?

 

Thank you again, dear readers, for another great year at Outside My Window.

You keep me going every day!

 

p.s. Don't miss Google's 2017 Year in Review.  Inspiring.

(parrot photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original. Peregrine and hawk photos from National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, Katie Cunningham, and Kim Steininger)