Category Archives: Books & Events

Two Fledge Watches + A Bird Walk, June 1-12

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)

The first two weeks of June are jam-packed with outdoor opportunities. Join me at one of these upcoming events:

  • Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, June 1-5
  • Phipps Bio-Blitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, June 2
  • Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch, June 7 and 10, 11, 12.

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 1-5, 11a – 1p

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is a fluid drop-in event to swap peregrine stories and watch the young Pitt peregrines learn to fly. Come when you can. Bring binoculars or camera if you have them. Be sure to check the blog for updates in case of weather cancellation.
Where: Schenley Plaza near the tent, shown above.
When: 1-5 June 2019, 11a-1p. Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder.
Who: I’ll be there with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group and lots of peregrine fans. (Note on June 1: John English will start the watch at 11a; I’ll arrive at noon.)
Parking: Pay-parking is available around Schenley Plaza (on-street parking is free on Sundays!) and at Carnegie Museum.

Phipps BioBlitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, Sun June 2, 8:30a – 10:30a

Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens with Cathedral of Learning in the distance (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On Sunday June 2, the fourth annual Phipps BioBlitz Festival will bring together families, students, local scientists, naturalists, and teachers to conduct biological surveys of living species in Schenley Park. The event is free with no advance registration required. Read all about Phipps BioBlitz Day here.
Where: Meet me at the back of the Event Tent on Phipps’ front lawn. You’ll see a sign for my walk.
When: Sunday June 2, 8:30a-10:30a
Parking: Free on Sundays!
Note: As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza to look for peregrines.

Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch, Third Avenue, June 7, 10, 11, 12 … 11a-1p

Fledge watchers Downtown at Third Ave, 7 June 2016 (photo by John English)
Downtown Fledge Watch, June 2016 (photo by John English)

During the second week of June — perhaps earlier — the peregrine nestlings on Third Avenue will make their first flight. Because their nest is low they may need our help. In the first 24 hours of flight, fledgling peregrines lack the wing strength to take off from the ground and have to be put up high to start over. The PA Game Commission (PGC) will send an officer to rescue the bird. Call PGC at 724-238-9523.

The #1 purpose of Downtown Fledge Watch is to educate the public so lots of people know to call the Game Commission if they find a downed peregrine. We’d love to believe trained volunteers can find every bird but the reality in Downtown Pittsburgh is that peregrines in trouble are found by people who’ve never seen a peregrine.  People often tell building security guards about the birds so I’ve notified nearby Point Park University (site of the rescue porch).

Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch is a drop-in event to watch the young Downtown peregrines, educate the public about peregrines, and alert the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523 if a fledgling needs to be rescued from the ground.

Come when you can. Bring binoculars or camera if you have them. Be sure to check the blog for updates in case of weather cancellation.

Where: 3rd Avenue between Wood and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh. (click the link for a map)
When: On weekdays, Fri June 7, Mon-Wed June 10-12. Time: 11a-1p. Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder.
Who: I’ll be there (except June 12) with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group.
Notes: There is no official Fledge Watch on June 8-9 weekend but John and/or I may be there. On-street parking is free on Sundays.

(photo credits: Schenley Plaza tent by Kate St. John, Phipps Conservatory from Wikimedia Commons, Downtown Fledge Watch by John English)

Today in Schenley Park: Canada Warbler!

Canada warbler in Schenley Park, 19 May 2019 (photo by Peter Bell)

This morning 14 of us met at the Visitors’ Center for a bird walk in Schenley Park. We started with a view of the peregrine falcons at the Cathedral of Learning and ended with Best Bird in a tree near the Visitors’ Center — a Canada warbler!

Schenley Park outing, 19 May 2019 (photo taken by Margaret Laske)

Highlights in between included the sound of Tennessee warblers, scarlet tanagers, a yellow warbler, and an Acadian flycatcher, plus the sight of two ruby-throated hummingbirds, a wood thrush building her nest, a blue jay feeding nestlings, and a bay-breasted warbler in the tree canopy.

There were a heck of a lot of bullfrog tadpoles in Panther Hollow Lake. Why so many? They were almost gross.

After the walk we were milling about when Peter Bell took the photo at top and asked what it was. A Canada warbler! Several of us stayed 20-30 minutes to re-find it with some really great looks.

In all we saw and/or heard 32 species.  The complete checklist is at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56497031

(photo of Canada warbler by Peter Bell, group photo taken by Margaret Laske using Kate St. John’s phone)

Schenley Park Outing, May 19, 8:30a

Red-eyed vireo on nest (photo by Don Weiss)

Join me on Sunday May 19 at 8:30am for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive for this 8:30am to 10:30am walk. We’ll see flowers, late migrants and nesting birds. Red-eyed vireos, shown above, nest in Schenley Park. Will we see one?

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

Check the Events page before you come for more information and in case of cancellation.

(photo of nesting red-eyed vireo by Don Weiss)

Mostly Off The Grid

Beginning this afternoon (26 April 2019) through Tuesday afternoon (30 April 2019) I’ll be birding out of cellphone range during the day. I’ll still be posting daily articles on the blog, but I won’t be able to respond to your comments until I’m back “on the grid” in the evenings. (I’m looking for warblers!)

Yesterday At Schenley Park

Five of us went birding in Schenley Park on Saturday morning April 20. The weather was great! Blue sky and puffy clouds.

Our Best Birds were a yellow-rumped warbler and two ruby-crowned kinglets chasing each other and raising their red crowns. First-of-Year Birds were fun, too: Wood thrushes, house wrens, and a spotted sandpiper. We saw 29 species: ebird checklist S55174092.

Schenley Park has few wildflowers because there are so many deer. We saw three in broad daylight on Saturday (same location as this March 27 photo). I’ve seen a herd of 21 in the past month. The flowers don’t stand a chance.

Herd of deer in Schenley Park, distant photo, 27 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

Fortunately the deer leave the trout lilies alone. Perhaps these plants are poisonous.

Trout lilies blooming in Schenley Park, 18 April 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

Leaf Out is coming. The red oaks have very tiny leaves.

In case you’re curious, bird migration has picked up in the past two weeks. Here are the First-of-Year Birds I’ve seen in Schenley Park from April 10 to April 20, 2019.

  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow – Stelgidopteryx serripennis (4/10)
  • Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor (4/10)
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula (4/11)
  • Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus (4/11)
  • Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius (4/12)
  • Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis (4/17)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus (4/18)
  • Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum (4/18)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata (4/19)
  • Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius (4/20)
  • House Wren – Troglodytes aedon (4/20)
  • Wood Thrush – Hylocichla mustelina (4/20)

p.s. For information on future outings, see the Events page.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing, Sat. April 20

Redbud about to bloom, 23 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring is here! Let’s get outdoors.

Meet me at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Saturday, April 20, 8:30a – 10:30a. (Note: Due to scheduling difficulties this walk is on Saturday.)

Trees and wildflower buds are bursting. New birds arrive on every south wind. I’m sure we’ll see redbuds. Will they be open?

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Don’t forget your binoculars! This event will be held rain or shine, but not in thunder. Check the Events page before you come in case of cancellation.

Hope to see you there!

(photo of a redbud by Kate St. John)

This Morning at Duck Hollow

Birding on the Duck Hollow Trail, 31 March 2019 (photo by Ramona Sahni)

This morning at Duck Hollow fifteen of us braved wind and snow flurries to look for birds on the Monongahela River and along the Duck Hollow Trail.

Best birds were a common loon, four horned grebes, two pied-billed grebes, eastern phoebes (new arrivals), and a red-tailed hawk on its nest at the Homestead Grays Bridge. Since both male & female red-tailed hawks incubate the eggs we don’t know which parent was on the nest.

As we walked back to our cars a killdeer flew high overhead, calling.

Thanks to everyone who braved the cold weather. Such a change from yesterday’s 60 degrees!

Our eBird checklist is here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54418039

(photo by Ramona Sahni)

Hays Woods Public Feedback Meeting, April 3

Hays Woods is a 660 acre forest in the City of Pittsburgh (image courtesy Friends of Hays Woods)

If you care about Pittsburgh’s city parks or you’re interested in the Hays bald eagles you’ll want to attend the upcoming Hays Woods Task Force Public Feedback Meeting on Wednesday April 3 at Holy Angels Parish.

Hays Woods is a forested 600 acre tract in the City of Pittsburgh that’s so large and so remote that most people don’t know it’s there. Its forest, meadows, wetlands and streams are surrounded by steep wooded slopes that are home to the Hays bald eagles.

Most people have never set foot in Hays Woods because it’s been private property for so long. In 2016, with an eye to making it a city park, Mayor Bill Peduto worked with the URA to purchase it from Pittsburgh Development Group II. He then appointed co-chairs Former Mayor Tom Murphy and Councilman Corey O’Connor to form the Hays Woods Task Force to make recommendations on the site’s future.

A scene from Hays Woods (photo from Western PA Conservancy’s Environmental Assessment)

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 6:30pm at Holy Angels Parish, 408 Baldwin Road, Pittsburgh PA 15234 the Hays Woods Task Force will present its draft recommendations and ask for public feedback.

As a member of the Task Force I can tell you that we’re very enthusiastic about Hays Woods and look forward to all of it becoming a low impact park.

Come find out about Hays Woods and the Task Force recommendations. Learn about the timeline as it moves from URA ownership to City public access to a full-fledged public park. Give us feedback on Hays Woods’ future.

For more information see:

(photo credits: Forest in the City courtesy Friends of Hays Woods, Bald eagle at Hays by Dana Nesiti Eagles of Hays PA, Hays woodland photograph by Western PA Conservancy, flyer from the Hays Woods Task Force)

Duck Hollow Outing, March 31, 8:30a

Male mallard (photo by Steve Gosser)

At last it feels like spring is coming. Let’s get outdoors!

Join me on my first bird and nature outing of 2019 at 
Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park on Sunday, March 31, 2019 — 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.

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!

NOTE! Check the Events Page before you come. Construction of the new McFarren Street Bridge at Duck Hollow begins on Monday March 11. If it affects this outing I’ll let you know on the Events page.

(photo by Steve Gosser)