Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Sep 24 2017

This Morning in Schenley Park: 5 Warblers

Published by under Books & Events

Participants at the Schenley Park outing on Sept 24 (photo by Kate St. John)

Participants at the Schenley Park outing on Sept 24 (photo by Kate St. John)

Even though we saw only 21 species in Schenley Park this morning it was a better than average day with five warbler species.  Of course they were all Best Birds.

We also witnessed some interesting woodpecker behavior.  Five northern flickers perched near each other on a telephone pole and two of them challenged each other with "wikka wikka wikka."

Click here for our eBird checklist or peruse the list below.  Notice that we saw NO CROWS.  That'll change soon. 😉

Canada Goose
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Song Sparrow
House Finch

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

 

 

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Sep 18 2017

Schenley Park Outing: September 24, 8:30am

Published by under Books & Events

Monarch butterfly on goldenrod (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Monarch butterfly on goldenrod (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Let's get outdoors!

Join me on a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday September 24, 2017 -- 8:30am - 10:30am.

Meet me at Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive.

We'll visit Phipps Run and Panther Hollow Lake, looking for fall flowers and migrating birds.  I'm sure we'll see goldenrod though I won't know what species it is. (Goldenrods are hard to identify!)  Perhaps we'll see migrating monarch butterflies because the weather has been so warm.

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 (unlikely this Sunday but you never know).

NOTE!  The Great Race will run on Forbes and Fifth Avenue this Sunday. Approach Schenley Park from the Boulevard of the Allies and you'll avoid the detours.  Here's the road closure list and timing.

 

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Sep 16 2017

Shorebird ID Class: Online from Cornell

Be A Better Birder - online Shorebird ID class with Kevin McGowan

Do you find shorebirds hard to identify?  Cornell's Bird Academy has the online class for you.

logo_cornell_bird_academy

"As summer ends, shorebirds head from their Arctic breeding grounds to their southern wintering areas, passing through most of North America on their way.

What better time to build your shore-birding skills?

To celebrate the season, we have re-issued the recordings of Kevin McGowan's 5-part webinar series on Shorebird Identification, last presented live in 2014.

Over five hours of video instruction help you get to know the markings and behaviors of all the common shorebirds found in North America, 47 species in all.

The entire series is only $29.99 with unlimited access to all the archived video material plus downloadable handouts for each session to help you take notes."

Learn at your own pace with this archived five-part class.  Click here or on the logo above to sign up for the series.

 

(screenshots from Cornell Bird Academy)

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Aug 27 2017

Today’s Outing at Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing, 27 August 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park outing, 27 August 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning's outing at Schenley Park was great for birds!

Though we saw only 26 species, plus a silent Empidonax flycatcher, we had good looks at some birds we don't see every day including wood thrushes and a young Baltimore oriole.

Best Bird was a male pileated woodpecker, the first bird of the day.  😉

Best Insect -- the one that got me excited -- were some tiny flatid planthoppers, gray with blueish spots. To my untrained eye they looked like this, Metcalfa pruinosa, an insect native to North America.

Citrus flatid planthopper (Metcalfa pruinosa), photo from Wikimedia Commons

Citrus flatid planthopper (Metcalfa pruinosa), photo from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Click here for today's eBird checklist, also listed below.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)
Empidonax species (Empidonax sp.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

 

(group photo by Kate St. John. Insect photo from Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

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Aug 26 2017

Looking Back At The Eclipse

Published by under Books & Events

Eclipse viewing in Pittsburgh near Staghorn Cafe, 21 August 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Eclipse viewing in Pittsburgh near Staghorn Cafe, 21 August 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

A small crowd convened last Monday to view the solar eclipse outside the Staghorn Cafe. Though Pittsburgh wasn't in the path of totality we were still amazed by the shape of the moon moving across the sun.

Here are some photos from the event.  The captions tell the story.

John English set up his scope to project the sun's image (photo by Tom Moeller)

John English set up his scope to project the sun's image (photo by Nancy Moeller)

 

Crowd at Staghorn Cafe for the eclipse (photo by Tom Moeller)

A crowd gathered at Staghorn Cafe in Greenfield (photo by Tom Moeller)

 

The sun was so bright that Doug Cunzolo used an umbrella to shade the projection (photo by Tom Moeller)

The sun was so bright that Doug Cunzolo had to use an umbrella to shade the projection (photo by Nancy Moeller)

 

After moving the projection pallet into the shade, Doug Cunzolo adjusts the scope (photo by Kate St.John)

After moving the pallet into the shade, Doug adjusted the scope (photo by Kate St.John)

 

With our backs to the sun, we take pictures of the eclipse projection (photo by Tom Moeller)

With our backs to the sun, we took pictures of the eclipse projection (photo by Tom Moeller)

 

During the best part of the eclipse I forgot to take pictures of the crowd. Many of us wore solar eclipse glasses.  It would have been a cool photo but you'll just have to imagine what we looked like.  😉

 

Satisfied group! The moon is moving away from the sun and we;ve stopped watching (photo by Tom Moeller)

Satisfied group! After the darkest part of the eclipse, we stopped watching (photo by Tom Moeller)

 

See the comments for reports on bird activity during the eclipse.

(photos by Kate St. John and Tom and Nancy Moeller. See the captions for photo credits)

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Aug 21 2017

Schenley Park Outing: August 27, 8:30a

Published by under Books & Events

Honeybee on wingstem (photo by Kate St.John)

Honeybee on wingstem (photo by Kate St.John)

Today's the big day of the Solar Eclipse.  Click here for where & when to watch.

After it's over, what are we going to do for fun and excitement?  Let's go outdoors.

Join me on a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park next Sunday, August 27, 8:30am to 10:30am.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road. We’ll look in the meadow for flowers, birds and butterflies, then explore the woodland trails.  I'm sure we'll see honey bees, perhaps on wingstem flowers (Verbesina alternifolia) like this one.

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!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Aug 15 2017

How Will Birds React To The Eclipse?

Asleep: mallard and European coot (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Two birds roosting, mallard and European coot (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

How will birds and animals react to the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21?  Will they act differently during the total eclipse (from Oregon to South Carolina) compared to the partial eclipse here in Pittsburgh? You can help Science answer these questions.

We have anecdotes about animal behavior during solar eclipses but not a lot of scientific data.

People have noticed that birds stop singing, farm animals return to the barn, and night critters wake up.  Are they reacting to totality as if it's a miniature night?  Or is it something else?

Science doesn't have answers because the data has been hard to collect.  To reach a conclusion, the scientific method gathers data over and over again under the same conditions.  It's hard to do for total eclipses because in any one location they occur as much as 400 years apart.

Scientific method diagram (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Scientific method diagram; Knowledge is Gained (image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

But this time will be different. On Monday August 21, thousands -- or even millions of us -- will collect data on animal behavior before, during, and after the eclipse thanks to the Life Responds: Solar Eclipse 2017 project and the iNaturalist app. The project will analyze our data and repeat the experiment during the next eclipse.

Here's how you can help.  (Instructions are from the Life Responds: Solar Eclipse 2017 project.  Click the link for more information.)

Before the eclipse. Day(s) ahead of time.

  1. Download the free iNaturalist app to your Android (Google Play) or iPhone (App Store)
  2. Open the app and create an account at iNaturalist.org
  3. Practice using the app. Here are some instructions.
  4. Inside the app, join the Life Responds project
  5. Decide where you'll be observing the eclipse and know when it'll be at maximum darkness.

On the Day of the Eclipse:

  1. When you get to your observation site, choose the birds and animals you'll observe.
  2. Post at least 3 observations of the birds/animals in iNaturalist at the times below. Add anything interesting you notice in the Notes.
    1. 30 minutes before maximum darkness.
    2. During maximum darkness or totality
    3. 30 minutes after maximum darkness.
  3. Make additional observations if you wish.

The cool thing about this project is that you don't have to be in the path of totality to provide useful data.

Do the birds stop singing at dark and restart when it's light? (This is a trick question! Few of them sing in August.) Do the chimney swifts dive into chimneys to roost?  Do the squirrels go to bed?  Do the deer come out?  What about your pet?  And if you're a beekeeper, how are your honeybees?

I've downloaded the app and I'm ready.  I sure hope it isn't cloudy on Monday, August 21!

 

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

p.s. Observing Machines:  If you're in a city in the path of totality, the street lights will come on.  Will they come on in Pittsburgh?

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Aug 08 2017

Count Turkeys In August

Wild turkey with juveniles (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Wild turkey with juveniles (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Silent songbirds and hot weather make birding less interesting in August.  Here's a project to get you going in Pennsylvania:  It's time to count wild turkeys.

Every August the Pennsylvania Game Commission conducts a wild turkey survey to determine breeding success.  Everyone from biologists to birders can help.  Two factors add interest to the count:

  1. Juvenile turkeys, called poults, are only half grown so you can tell (and count) the difference between adults and this year's young.
  2. You'll also get practice identifying adult males versus females. (You can ignore the adult/juvenile tail-clue because juveniles are just plain small in August.)

How to sex and age wild turkeys by sight (screenshot of PGC poster)

How to sex and age wild turkeys by sight (screenshot of PGC poster)

 

The guidelines for the survey are pretty simple:

  • Record turkey sightings during the month of August.
  • Count "big birds" (adults) and "little birds" (poults).
  • Record the sex of all adults.  Here's the full size poster that describes the difference between males and females.
  • For adult females, separate the count "with young" and "without."
  • Note where you see the birds. When you submit your observations (online here or download the app), click on the embedded map and the form will automatically fill in the location details.
  • Submit a separate report for each flock of turkeys observed, including those without poults, and lone turkeys.
  • Try NOT to report the SAME flock MULTIPLE times. Duplicate flocks bias the results.

Download the app to use in the field or click here for the Turkey Survey form.

 

Thanks to Mary Ann Pike for passing along this news.

 

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

p.s. Did you know you can sex turkeys by the shape of their droppings?  Learn more at PGC's Turkey Biology FAQ page.

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Aug 07 2017

Get Ready For The Solar Eclipse, Aug 21

Map of the Total Solar Eclipse on 21 August 2017 (image from NASA)

Map of the Total Solar Eclipse on 21 August 2017 (image from eclipse2017.nasa.gov)

By now I'm sure you've heard ...

Two weeks from today on 21 August 2017 there will be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States.  The moon will pass between Earth and Sun, casting its shadow on our continent.

In a narrow band 70 miles wide, from Oregon to South Carolina, the sun will disappear completely for about two minutes. Folks eager to witness the total eclipse have made plans to visit sites in its path including Nashville, TN and Charleston, SC.

Pittsburgh will see only a partial eclipse but there will be plenty to watch. The moon will move across the sun from 1:10p to 3:55p with maximum coverage resembling the crescent below at 2:35p.  Don't watch without special glasses and, for your scope and camera, special filters!  See below.

Mockup of partial eclipse at maximum as it will be seen in Pittsburgh on21 Aug 2017 (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Mockup of partial eclipse at maximum as it will be seen in Pittsburgh on 21 Aug 2017 (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Where to watch the eclipse in Pittsburgh, 21 August 2017 ... some of the many locations.

  • On your computer: See the entire eclipse from coast to coast on NASA's Eclipse Live Stream. The shadow begins in Oregon at 9:04a PDT (12:04p in Pittsburgh) with totality from 10:16a PDT (1:16p here) to 2:48p in South Carolina.  You don't need filters to watch online.
  • At Carnegie Science Center: The weather won't matter at Carnegie Science Center. Outdoors, watch through special solar observation equipment.  Indoors at Buhl Planetarium. Click here for info & directions.
  • Sidewalk Astronomy: Weather permitting 1:30p to 3:00p outside the Staghorn Garden Cafe, 517 Greenfield Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15207.   John English will set up his scope to project the sun's image on the wall so you can watch its shadow without looking at it.
  • In your own backyard:  Prepare in advance! Read Eclipse2017: Who, What, Where, When and How and get ...

Special solar eclipse glasses, filters or pinhole viewers to watch the solar eclipse.

Don't risk going blind or damaging your camera or scope by viewing the eclipse without protection! Click here for NASA's list of safe viewing methods including solar eclipse glasses, pinhole viewers and filters for your equipment + how to use them.

Solar eclipse glasses are inexpensive (only a couple of dollars) at the Carnegie Science Center Gift Shop or online but only buy from reputable vendors listed at American Astronomy Society! Sunglasses and fake glasses won't protect you.

Here's an example of the real thing from B&H Photo Video on the reputable vendor list.

Lunt solar eclipse viewing glasses from B&H Photo

Lunt solar eclipse viewing glasses from B&H Photo

I hope it isn't cloudy on Monday August 21!

 

(photo credits: Click on the images to see the originals. Globe from eclipse2017.nasa.gov. Partial eclipse image from Wikimedia Commons. Lunt solar eclipse glasses from B&H Photo Video)

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Jul 30 2017

Today’s Outing at Schenley Park

Published by under Books & Events

Participants in the Schenley Park outing, 30 July 2017 (photo by Kate St.John)

Participants in the Schenley Park outing, 30 July 2017 (photo by Kate St.John)

This morning 15 of us met at the Westinghouse Memorial pond for a walk along the Falloon Trail and Serpentine Road in Schenley Park.

For the most part birds were hard to find.  Though we knew they were in the woods, they weren't singing and the leaves were dense and dark.  Ultimately we recorded 19 species.  Complete checklist is here.

Best Birds:

  1. A male indigo bunting sang at golf course Hole #14 in the meadow next to the fairway.
  2. In the same location we found a Mystery Sparrow: mostly clear chest just a little stripey, very orange legs and a pink-orange bill.  Tom Moeller took a photo and zoomed it in.  Field sparrow.
  3. Our last bird was a small flycatcher hunting for bugs and not singing at all.  I wondered if it was an Empidonax. No. Eastern wood-pewee.  We heard other pewees and saw one begging from a singing adult.
  4. There were more American robins (22+) than species (19). Oy!

Best mammal: Fox squirrel in a tree.

Best flower: Joe-pye weed, a perennial in the sunflower family.

Best tree:  Northern catalpa or the Toby Tree (the Pittsburgh name for it).  Though I grew up in Pittsburgh I had never heard the name. Kimberly Thomas Googled it and found Chuck Tague's blog Tobies: The Cigar Tree.

Best butterfly:  Three Monarchs and the very common Eastern Tailed Blue which Tom Moeller identified for us.

Question:  Is the black oak in the red oak group or the white oak group.

Answer: The black oak is a red oak.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

p.s. The bronze statue in the photo represents a young man looking up to George Westinghouse.

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