Category Archives: Books & Events

Eleven Years Outside My Window

child writing with a pen (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

9 November 2018:

Happy Bird-thday, Outside My Window!  Eleven years ago today I published my very first blog post.  I had no idea it would change my life.

For starters, it’s made me a Morning Person.  I write best with a mug of coffee before dawn so I get up at 4am to have enough time to publish the day’s entry by 7am. Unfortunately a good article takes 3 hours to construct and illustrate. That’s if I’m lucky.  It often takes longer, as it did today.

Second, it’s made me keenly aware of interesting topics. In the old days I would flail around on deadline without any ideas.  (If you’re a writer you know what I mean.)  Nowadays I keep an “Ideas” list online and dip into it for inspiration.  Thank you to everyone who suggests new topics. If you don’t see your contribution right away, it’s on the list.

Third, I’ve met you!  Every day about a thousand of you read my blog. Readership drops to 700 in the depths of winter and soars to 4,000 at times of peregrine excitement.  I’ve made a lot of new friends.

I couldn’t have blogged for eleven years without you.  Your enthusiasm keeps me going every day.  Thank you, my readers!  And a big thank you to all the photographers who let me use your photos.  Without photos this blog would be just a pile of words.

Happy Bird-thday to the blog! Here to celebrate is Carmencitav’s opera diva, a double yellow-headed amazon.

p.s. This is my blog’s birthday, my own is in May.

(image of a hand writing from Wikimedia Commons, click on the caption to see the original. video by carmencitav on YouTube)

Sad In Pittsburgh, Birds Help

At the end of today’s walk at Duck Hollow, Pittsburgh, 28 Oct 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Sad in Pittsburgh:

We are sad and subdued today in Pittsburgh after a gunman killed 11 people and injured 6 at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, 27 Oct 2018, in Squirrel Hill. It is the deadliest attack against Jews in U.S. history

All of us remember where we were when we heard the news.  Many of us know someone directly affected by it.  I live 2 miles from the synagogue.  I know someone, too.

Dan Leger is one of the two civilian survivors (other four injured are policeman).  I met Dan four years ago when my husband was hit by a car & sustained nine broken ribs, a broken nose and a concussion.  In the confusion of the accident scene, Dan found out my phone number and the hospital where Rick would be taken. He called to let me know my husband was hurt and assured me he hadn’t lost consciousness. Dan and his wife came to get me in their car (I was walking in Schenley Park at the time) so that I could get to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital where Rick was taken by ambulance.  Dan Leger is so kind, so wonderful. He was hit in the torso, has been undergoing many surgeries, is in ICU.  Please pray for Dan Leger’s recovery.

Birds Help:

In the face of this tragedy it was a real relief to get outdoors this morning and see some birds at Duck Hollow.  By the end of the walk the birds made us smile. Pictured above are Claire, Jack, Dan, Rebecca, Donna and Sue. (Ramona had to leave early.)

Best Birds were great for late October at Duck Hollow: a blackpoll warbler near the parking lot, a green heron along Nine Mile Run, and an immature white-crowned sparrow on the trail.  We also saw two backlit birds that we couldn’t identify — maybe eastern bluebirds.

I didn’t add the ‘maybe’ birds to the list but here’s everything else.
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49515777

Birds do help.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Forecast For Duck Hollow on Oct 28

A calm October day at Duck Hollow, 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Sunday’s forecast for the Duck Hollow outing (described below) says:  “Showers likely, mainly after 11am. Cloudy, with a high near 48.”   This is good weather for ducks and acceptable weather for people, so the outing will happen.

I will be there, however my car is in the shop.  I can walk to Duck Hollow from my house (a 35 minute walk) but I am able to bring my scope because I got a ride!


Bird and Nature Walk at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park    
Sunday, October 28, 2018 — 8:30am – 10:30am

Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. We hope to see waterfowl on the river and walk part of nearby lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park if it’s not too wet.

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

It ought to be fine weather for ducks.

(Duck Hollow photo by Kate St. John; common merganser by Chuck Tague)

Upcoming Events

Two upcoming events! They’re listed in reverse date order because peregrines always come first.  😉

Saturday, November 10, 2018 — 2:00pm

Peregrine Falcons: Can people make a difference for endangered species?

Join the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy at their Annual Meeting on Saturday November 10 where I’ll present an engaging account of the lives and history of peregrine falcons.  Peregrines are a great environmental success story, from their extinction in eastern North America in the 1960s to their reintroduction and removal from the Endangered Species list in the US and many eastern states.

Where: Mt. Lebanon Public Library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Sunday, October 28, 2018 — 8:30am – 10:30am

Bird and Nature Walk at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park

When the lakes freeze up north, ducks and geese come south.

Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. We’ll see migrating waterfowl on the river and walk part of nearby lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides — and a birding scope — if you have them.  As these dates approach, check the Events page in case of cancellation.

Is it time for ducks? I hope so!

(event postcard image from Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy; common merganser photo by Chuck Tague)

Today in Schenley Park, Sept 30

At the end of the hike, I forgot to tell everyone to smile (photo by Kate St. John)

Despite the Great Race road closures, eleven of us met at Bartlett Shelter this morning for a walk in Schenley Park.  The air was chilly but the birding was good because the north wind brought us new migrants.

I took the group photo, above, at the end of the walk because we were distracted from the start. There were warblers in the trees above us! Cape May, Black-throated Green, Magnolia and Blackpoll.  

Ultimately we saw 23 species + an unidentifiable flycatcher (listed as Empidonax sp).  We were surprised to find no thrushes or sparrows so we crossed the road beyond our cars to find two song sparrows at the end. Still no thrushes other than robins.

Best find for the day: Mushrooms!  My favorite was spectacularly orange but I’m saving it for late October.

And here’s another mushroom. Do you know what it is?  (I don’t remember.)

Thanks to all for coming out today.  My last scheduled walk for the year will be on October 28 at Duck Hollow.

p.s. Here’s today’s bird list on eBird https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48840859

(photos by Kate St. John)

Sit Around Counting Birds

Birdwatching at the water drip, Boy Scout Woods, TX (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Two weekends from now you can sit around all day counting birds and get special credit for doing it.

The Big Sit is an annual, international, non-competitive birding event founded by the New Haven, Connecticut Bird Club and hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest. This year it’s on October 13-14, 2018.

The event is basically a tailgate party for birders that’s held inside a 17-foot diameter circle.  Inside the circle participants count every bird they see or hear.  The rules are easy.  People come and go. The party lasts as long as you like, but no more than 24 hours.

Some bird clubs use the event to raise money by gathering pledges per bird seen.  There are event prizes, too, for Best Overall Count, Best State Count and for The Golden Bird, a species randomly chosen each December by the New Haven Bird Club.  Circles that record The Golden Bird are eligible to win $500 from Swarovski Optik.  One year the Golden Bird was the mallard (easy). Last year it was the long-billed curlew (impossible in Pennsylvania).

Learn more about the Bit Sit at Birdwatcher’s DigestSign up to participate.  Find a Big Sit circle near you on the 2018 list of registered circles.  And have fun.

p.s.  As of 30 September I’m amazed there are no circles in western Pennsylvania.

p.p.s.  You might remember that I mention The Big Sit in the spring when the peregrines sit around incubating eggs for over a month.  No, the peregrines aren’t counting birds. The Big Sit in October is the real thing.

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

Schenley Park Outing: September 30, 8:30a

Chipmunk (photo by Cris Hamilton)

At the end of September the weather’s fine and there’s plenty to see outdoors.  Goldenrod and asters are blooming but everything else has gone to seed, fruit, and nuts.  This is great news for chipmunks.

Join me for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, September 30, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road. We’ll see birds, fall flowers, fruits, seeds, acorns and busy chipmunks.

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.

Hope to see you there!

(photo by Cris Hamilton)

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)