Category Archives: Books & Events

12 Years Of Blogging

12 Years of blogging (photo by Kate St. John)

Twelve years! Can you believe it?

Twelve years ago today on 9 November 2007 I posted my first entry at Outside My Window. After more than a decade the blog has …

Most people tune in for the peregrine nesting season but there was a big surprise this year. The most popular article by far was my 25 February prediction of 17-year cicadas in May: Let Me Be The First To Tell You. With over 6,400 readers it was a two-day wonder.

This 12th anniversary is an opportunity to thank you, dear reader, for your enthusiasm, comments, suggestions and “shares.”   Thank you for sticking with me. You inspire me to keep going every day.

Thank you, also, to the many excellent photographers who’ve contributed photos and videos, to Wikimedia Commons for their vast store of Creative Commons media, and to YouTube and Twitter videos that allow embedding on my blog. Without photos and videos my blog would be just a pile of words.

Happy Bird-thday Blog!

(photo by Kate St. John, retouched)

No Turns

Kaufmann’s Clock, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2019 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Tonight we’ll turn the clocks back one hour to Standard Time.

Much as I like Daylight Saving Time I’m no fan of changing the clocks. The change disturbs our sleep patterns, increases accidents and heart attacks just after Spring Forward, and increases depression after Fall Back.

Most places on earth don’t participate in this controversial event. It’s not even universal in countries that observe it. Arizona, Hawaii and the U.S. island territories remain on Standard Time year round. The European Union may end their Daylight Saving requirement in 2021.

I wish we’d stop turning the clocks back and forth. The sign in the photo above, behind the Kaufmann’s Clock in Downtown Pittsburgh, seems to agree.

No Turns.

p.s. The Kaufmann’s Clock at Fifth & Smithfield is a well known meeting place with a long history. My favorite story is the time in 1983 when Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Michelle Madoff challenged Council President Eugene “Jeep” DePasquale to meet her under the clock and make good on his promise to kiss her “you-know-what” after a tax she proposed raised more than the $20 he believed possible. Michelle waited under the clock with a stuffed donkey (a.k.a. ass) for him to kiss. Jeep never showed up.

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

Today at Duck Hollow

Outing at Duck Hollow, 29 Oct 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning was chilly as seven of us met for a bird walk at Duck Hollow and Lower Nine Mile Run. At first the birds were few and far between but the sun warmed the hillsides and the birds came out.

We saw and heard 17 species plus an unidentified accipiter (sharp-shinned or Coopers hawk). “Best Bird” was a ruby-crowned kinglet who happened to be singing. See our checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S61022547

Our walk included some surprising plants and insects as well.

The Pittsburgh region is not strong on lichens (our air is too bad) but we found a clump of branches with a very thick covering of moss and/or lichen. We were impressed.

Lichens and moss coat dead branches along the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail (photo by Claire Staples)

A grasshopper made an appearance, probably too cold to move.

At Lower Nine Mile Run (photo by Claire Staples)

And we opened the dried bladder from a bladdernut tree.

Bladdernuts opened (photo by Claire Staples)

Some furry pea-pods gave me pause. I remembered the yellow flowers that grew there in August, pictured below, but not the plant’s name.

Wild senna in August along the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

It’s wild senna (Senna hebecarpa). See the pea pods in this gallery of flowers + pea pods at Wildflower.org.

By the end of our walk the day had warmed to the mid 60s F.

Smiles all around.

(photos by Kate St. John & Claire Staples as indicated in the captions)

Birds With Masks

Female peregrine at Hilliards, GG in 2017 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Two years ago my Halloween article, Birds With Masks, listed five masked birds but neglected an important one. Today I’m making up for it.

Here are five photos of peregrine falcons, taken in Ohio by Chad+Chris Saladin, that display the birds’ malar stripes.

Would you say these peregrines are wearing masks?

Female peregrine falcon, Lady Millar at the Terminal Tower, Cleveland, 2018 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)
Peregrine falcon, McKinley, December 2011 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)
Male peregrine falcon, Tellus in 2018 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)
Looking up from a meal (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

For more great photos by Chad+Chris Saladin, see C&C’s Ohio Peregrine Page on Facebook.

(photos by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Songbirds On Live Camera

Screenshot from Cornell FeederWatch at Sapsucker Woods

Cornell Lab of Ornithology updated their live feeder cameras at Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, New York for an even crisper view of the birds.

Watch their feeders from the comfort of your home (click here). Stay tuned overnight and you may see an unexpected visitor. This flying squirrel was a nice surprise on 15 October 2019.

Cornell Lab FeederWatch has live feeds, news, and archived videos.

And don’t miss their Bermuda petrel cam on Nonesuch Island, Bermuda. The breeding season is about to begin!

Even though it’s autumn, there’s a lot to watch on camera.

(screenshot and video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cams)

Duck Hollow, DATE CHANGE DUE TO WEATHER, moved to Tues Oct 29

Mallard (photo by Steve Gosser)

UPDATE: SUNDAY’S OUTING ON 27 OCTOBER IS CANCELED DUE TO RAIN AND GUSTY WINDS. Join me at 8:30a on Tuesday 29 October for a raincheck outing at Duck Hollow.

Waterfowl move south when the lakes freeze up north. Will migrating ducks be in Pittsburgh by late October, or will the weather to our north still be too warm? Let’s get outdoors to find out.

Join me on my last outing for 2019 at Duck Hollow by the Monongahela River.

When: Sunday 27 October 2019, 8:30a-10:30a. RAINCHECK: Tuesday 29 October 2019, 8:30a-10:30a.

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

We’ll look for waterfowl on the Monongahela River and walk the nearby Lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park.

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

Visit the Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.

Note: This outing is on the one year anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre. Last year in late October — one day after the massacre — we found it therapeutic to be outdoors after so much tragedy. Birds help.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

Today in Schenley Park, Sep 29

Participants at Schenley Park outing on 29 Sep 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning 12 of us gathered at the Bartlett Shelter to kick off a bird walk in Schenley Park. The weather was very gray and cloudy, almost foggy, and we worked hard for every bird for more an hour and a half.

Then the sun came out at 10am and so did the birds. Our best sightings were in the last 15 minutes. We ran overtime to see them!

Our list below, 27 species, has my favorites in boldface type. There were so many birds in the last 15 minutes that I may have missed some. Here it is on eBird: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60218049

Mourning Dove 3
Chimney Swift 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1 (First of fall)
Red-bellied Woodpecker 8
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 18
American Crow 1
Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 3
European Starling 2
Gray Catbird 2
Brown Thrasher 1
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 16
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 1
Song Sparrow 1
Common Grackle 100 (big flock flying over the golf course)
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 3
Northern Cardinal 6

Thanks to all for coming out today. Never expected it to be so great at the end!

p.s. Chipmunks did outnumber blue jays — barely — but common grackles beat them all.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing, Sep 29, 8:30a

Blue jay and chipmunk (photos by Chuck Tague and Brian Herman)

Fall officially arrived this week though it’s been in progress for a while. Trees and plants are gradually losing leaves, squirrels are storing food for the winter and birds are migrating. It’s a good time to be outdoors.

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, 29 September 2019, 8:30a – 10:30a. We’ll meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street because the north end of Schenley will be hard to get to. Forbes and Fifth Avenues will be closed for the Pittsburgh Great Race.

We’re sure to see birds, lingering flowers, fruits and acorns. Acorns are a big attraction for chipmunks and blue jays. Last week the number of blue jays exploded when migrating jays arrived in town. Will there be more blue jays than chipmunks? Come and see.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them. NOTE that a fallen tree blocks part of the Falloon Trail trail so we’ll have to go off the beaten path. Be prepared to walk on dirt with roots and rocks. A walking stick may be useful.

Visit my Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.

(photo credits: blue jay by Chuck Tague, chipmunk by Brian Herman)

Today’s Walk in Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing, 25 August 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

25 August 2019:

This morning in Schenley Park we got the hint that summer will come to an end. It was cold enough for long sleeves!

The birds also indicated that the seasons are changing. Some were clearly on the move to their wintering grounds.

Best Birds were four species that I knew were passing through:

  • A female belted kingfisher and …
  • … an immature great-blue heron at Panther Hollow lake (neither breed there).
  • Two blue-gray gnatcatchers that were very hard to see.
  • Three ruby-throated hummingbirds sipping at orange jewelweed and chasing each away from the flowers.

Our complete checklist of 29 species is at this link https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59251443

p.s. It feels like I’ve missed something. If you were there and see an omission, let me know.

Schenley Park Outing, Aug 25, 8:30a

Orange jewelweed, “touch-me-not” (photo by Kate St. John)

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

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, 25 August 2019, 8:30a – 10:30a. Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road joins Schenley Drive. 

I know we’ll hear True Bugs and see lots of summer flowers. We might even catch a glimpse of a ruby-throated hummingbird feeding at orange jewelweed.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them. If it’s hot be sure to bring water, sunscreen and a hat.

Visit my Events page before you come 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)