Category Archives: Books & Events

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!

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)

20 Years Ago: A Tornado Came To Town

Damage from 2 June 1998 tornado on Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA (photos from National Service)
Damage from 2 June 1998 tornado on Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA (photos from National Weather Service)

Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the 2 June 1998 tornado that hit the City of Pittsburgh.  Before that event many of us thought it was impossible for a tornado to touch down in the city limits.  Hah!

Everyone who saw it has a story.

That day I was still at my desk around 6pm, gazing out the window as I talked on the phone with someone in Indianapolis.  Though my office was more than three miles from the tornado I could see the storm’s approach as the sky got dark and the wind increased. I saw a crow fly into the wind but as hard as he flapped he went backwards. Uh oh!

I told the person on the phone, “I think a tornado is coming.”  He said, “Don’t tell me about it. We have too many of those,” and he kept talking.  Since the City of Pittsburgh had never had a tornado I figured it was OK to stay in my office but I dragged myself and the phone under my desk to continue the conversation.

Meanwhile, bad things were happening on Mt. Washington as Chuck and Joan Tague drove home across the Liberty Bridge.  The worst of the storm missed their Chatham Village neighborhood but the roads were so blocked with fallen trees that they parked far away and walked home.  The power was out for a very long time.

Chuck’s story is impressive! Click here or his photo below to read it.

Damage from 2 June 1998 tornado at Chatham Viilage on Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA (photo by Chuck Tague)
Damage from 2 June 1998 tornado at Chatham Viilage on Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA (photo by Chuck Tague)

We think of it as “the Mt. Washington tornado” but it also touched down in Carnegie and Hazelwood and traveled 32 miles before it dissipated.  It was one of nine(*) tornadoes that hit our region that evening.

Damage from 2 June 1998 tornado on Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA (photos from National Weather Service)
Damage from 2 June 1998 tornado on Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA (photos from National Weather Service)

Read more about the Tornado Outbreak of June 2, 1998 here on the National Weather Service website, and in the Post-Gazette When Tornadoes Tormented the Pittsburgh Region. (* NWS confirmed 9 tornadoes; the P-G says there were 14!)

Do you have a memory from that day?  Leave a comment with your story.

 

(small photos from the National Weather Service report on the June 2, 1998 tornado outbreak. Photo of tornado-downed tree in Chatham Village by Chuck Tague)

Pitt Peregrines: One Fledged, One To Go

Hope flies by her fledgling: "I'm looking at you" 29 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Hope flies by her fledgling: “I’m looking at you” 29 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

News from Tuesday May 29, 2018:

When I arrived at Fledge Watch I saw a peregrine on the parents’ favorite perch — a stone peak at 38SE on the Cathedral of Learning — but it wasn’t one of the parents. Through my scope I saw a dark brown juvenile. He’d made his first flight when we weren’t watching.  Of course.

Juvenile peregrine on 38SE stone peak at the Cathedral of Learning (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile peregrine on 38SE stone peak at the Cathedral of Learning (photo by Peter Bell)

He was the only one visible for about an hour.  Then his brother appeared on the wall above the nest (on the “railing”).

Pitt peregrines: two juveniles near the nest -- one flown, one to go (photo by Peter Bell)
Pitt peregrines: two juveniles near the nest — one flown, one to go (photo by Peter Bell)

Meanwhile their parents, Hope and Terzo, put on a flight show, swooping together, circling the building, climbing and diving.  “Here’s how to fly!”

They flew close to their youngsters, “Come on out here!”  In Peter Bell’s photo at top, Hope looks at the fledgling as she flies by.  Below, he shouts and flaps like crazy when she approaches, but he stays put.

Young fledgling flaps his wings as his mother flies by (photo by Peter Bell)
Young fledgling flaps his wings as his mother flies by (photo by Peter Bell)

 

When we left at 1:30p, all four birds were still in their places: the parents in flight and the two youngsters as circled in John English’s photo below.

Two juvenile peregrines, one flew and one to go (photo by John English)
Two juvenile peregrines, one flew and one to go (photo by John English)

Michelle Kienholz stopped by after work and the birds’ positions hadn’t changed.

Perhaps the second juvenile will fly today. Stop by Schenley Plaza for Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch today — May 30, 2018, 11:30a to 1:30p — weather permitting.  We won’t be there if it’s raining.

UPDATE, May 30, 2018, 2pm:  As of 2pm the youngster who fledged yesterday was flying well and perching in many places at the top of the building.  His brother was still on the railing and hadn’t flown despite great encouragement from his parents. In the photo below: #1 Fledgling lounges in the gutter of the Babcock Room roof, #2 is still on the railing and Hope flies overhead dangling food at them.  No one budged.

Two juveniles and one parent peregrine at Pitt, 30 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Two juveniles and one parent peregrine at Pitt, 30 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

UPDATE, May 30, 2018, 5pm:  At 4:30pm one of the youngsters was so tired he took a nap on top of the nestbox.

Pooped out young peregrine takes a nap on top of the nestbox, 30 May 2018, 4:30pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Pooped out young peregrine takes a nap on top of the nestbox, 30 May 2018, 4:30pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

(photos by Peter Bell (Pitt Peregrines on Facebook), except where noted as John English (Pittsburgh Falconuts on Facebook))

Information about the stone peaks. They are actually called merlons.  38SE is shorthand for 38th floor, southeast corner — which is a gross approximation since the corner points south.

Yesterday in Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing, 27 May 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park outing, 27 May 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

No it didn’t rain! Though the clouds lingered we had a great time in Schenley Park on Sunday morning.

The leaves obscured some of the birds but they were very active after Saturday night’s storms.  We chased scarlet tanager songs without seeing them, found one of the many wood thrushes we heard in the park and had good looks at these Best Birds:

A pair of eastern phoebes guarded their nest site at the Visitors’ Center. This one watched us walk into the park.

Eastern phoebe, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Eastern phoebe, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

We saw a pair of cedar waxwings beak-touching and courting.

Cedar waxwing pair touching beaks, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Cedar waxwing pair touching beaks, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

And a male pileated woodpecker attracted our attention by constantly hammering on an enormous hollow tree. Peter Bell found him high up the slope. Best Bird for the outing and Life Bird for Peter!

Pileated woodpecker in Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Pileated woodpecker in Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

The complete checklist is here — 22 species.

 

(photo of participants by Kate St. John; bird photos by Peter Bell)

Schenley Park Outing + Fledge Watch, May 27

Schenley Park, Flagstaff Hill in summer (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Schenley Park, Flagstaff Hill in summer (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re in town for Memorial Day weekend — and if it isn’t thundering —  join me for one or both of these events in Schenley Park on Sunday, May 27, 2018:

Parking is FREE on Sundays.

Note! The 10-day weather forecast calls for thunderstorms on May 27 but that could change. If it’s storming these outings will be canceled. I don’t do lightning.

Schenley Park Bird and Nature Walk, May 27, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Rose-breasted grosbeak (photo by Cris Hamilton)
Rose-breasted grosbeak (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, May 27, 8:30a – 10:30a.

We’ll meet me at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center to see what’s popping in the park since our birdless walk in April.  Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks nest in Schenley Park. Will we see one?  I hope so!

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.

… and then …

As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza to look for peregrines.  (I will start the watch immediately when I get there. The 11a start time insures that peregrine fans will find me even if our bird walk runs late.)

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, May 27, 11a – 1p.

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, 2017 (photo by John English)
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, 2017 (photo by John English)

When will the Pitt peregrine chicks fly from the Cathedral of Learning?  I don’t know but I’m sure they’ll be fun to watch on Memorial Day weekend.

Join me at the Schenley Plaza tent on Sunday May 27 11a – 1p for a Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch. We’ll swap peregrine stories and get close-up looks at the peregrines through my scope.

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

Click here for a Google map of Schenley Plaza.  Don’t forget to check the Events page for last minute updates before you come. Fledge Watch will be canceled if it’s raining or thundering.

 

p.s. A complete Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch schedule will be posted later this week.  This year it’s harder than usual to predict when these birds will fly!

(photo of a rose-breasted grosbeak by Cris Hamilton, photo of Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch 2017 by John English, photo of the Schenley Plaza tent photo by Kate St. John)