Category Archives: Books & Events

Peregrine Banding this morning; Streaming Cam will be off

Morela with three chicks (1 hidden behind her) 26 May 2022 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

26 May 2022

Pitt’s peregrine family is in for some excitement this morning when the chicks are banded around 10am. During the banding the National Aviary’s streaming falconcam will be off.

Peregrine banding is unusual now that the species has been removed from Pennsylvania’s Endangered/Threatened Species list in 2021. Fortunately the Cathedral of Learning is one of three sites that continue as part of the PA Game Commission’s Peregrine Falcon Management Plan.

Visits to the three high-profile building nests, University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg, and City Hall in Philadelphia, will continue after delisting to evaluate nestling health and verify nesting results and band young. These sites already foster high public interest and provide an excellent opportunity to continue engaging the public. They learn about the challenges and successes when recovering an endangered species. As well as the decision needed to make a difference and the importance of their stewardship in conservation.

PA Game Commission: Peregrine Falcon Management Plan

When the streaming falconcam restarts after the banding, the chicks will be back in the nest with identification “bracelets” on their legs. Thanks to their bands we will have the opportunity to follow these chicks as adults.

(photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Schenley Park Outing, May 22, 8:30am

Purple deadnettle, Schenley Park, 6 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

16 May 2022

Join me on Sunday 22 May, 8:30am to 10:30am, for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

UPDATE Sunday 22 May 2022 at 6am: Perfect weather this morning! See you soon.

Meet at the Schenley Park Visitors Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive (40.4383304,-79.9464765). We’ll see flowers, late migrants, and nesting birds.

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

We’re sure to see purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) at top, and golden alexanders (Zizia aurea), below, in bloom.

Golden alexanders, Schenley Park, 24 May 2020 (photo by Kate St. John)

Hope to see you there.

p.s. If the birding is good I’ll give an option to continue until 11:00a.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Go Birding Tomorrow on Global Big Day

eBird: Global Big Day 2022 (logo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Tomorrow, 14 May 2022, we’ll celebrate World Migratory Bird Day by counting birds on one of the biggest migration days of the year.

Like the Christmas Bird Count, Global Big Day is an opportunity to go birding and share the birds you find with eBird. Unlike the Christmas Count it happens on a single day each year, and it can be hectic because birds are on the move and there are so many of them!

Participating is easy—you can even be part of Global Big Day from home. If you can spare 5 or 10 minutes, report your bird observations to eBird online or with our free eBird Mobile app. If you have more time, submit several checklists of birds throughout the day. Your observations help us better understand global bird populations through products like these animated abundance maps brought to you by eBird Science.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Global Big Day 2022

To join the fun, watch birds anywhere on 14 May and record your sightings in eBird.

Indigo bunting, 5 May 2021 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Or join me and Charity Kheshgi at 7:00am at Frick Park as we co-lead a walk on behalf of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Sign up here.

Don’t miss Global Big Day tomorrow. It’s time to get outdoors.

(screenshot from eBird.org, indigo bunting photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Today in Schenley Park, April 24th

Schenley Park outing, 24 April 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

24 April 2022

Thirteen of us came out for a walk in Schenley Park on Sunday morning and were thrilled to hear a wood thrush singing near the Visitors Center. The bird was hard to spot in the treetops but CJ Showers got a photo of him from below.

Wood thrush, Schenley Park, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

Two First of Year species had just returned: yellow warbler and gray catbird. Male red-winged blackbirds claimed territory and chased females at Panther Hollow Lake, while two spotted sandpipers sidestepped bullfrogs among the reeds.

Red-winged blackbird, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

The red-tailed hawk family on the bridge appears to have babies in the nest, though we could not see them.

Red-tailed hawk at nest, Schenley park, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

And a surprise awaited us around the bend.

Sara Showers saw the profile of this fledgling eastern screech owl perched at eye level on a hackberry branch. Though he wasn’t hidden he was doing his best to look like part of the tree until we gawked at him. That made him raise his ear tufts and look at us through slit eyes.

Fledgling eastern screech-owl, Schenley park, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

See our entire checklist at https://ebird.org/checklist/S107910492 and listed below.

Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, Apr 24, 2022 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM. 30 species
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  4
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  2
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  2
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  1 — Flyover
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)  1 — fledgling!
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)  1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  4
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  7
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula)  10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  2
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  1    First of year
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  20
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  4
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  9
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  8
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  3
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  2
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1    First of year
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  8
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  6

If you attended the outing and would like me to share the list to you, please leave a comment to tell me so.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi and CJ Showers)

UPDATE 25 APRIL 2022: On Monday morning I took the same walk as on Sunday and found that bird activity was more subdued. Many of the birds we saw on Sunday must have left on Sunday night’s strong south wind, including all but one of the ruby-crowned kinglets. However, I found an eastern screech-owl nest near where we saw the fledgling on Sunday. His sibling was looking out of the hole! (It’s a lousy cellphone photo but you get the idea.)

Eastern screech-owl youngster poised at nest hole, Schenley Park, 25 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing, April 24, 8:30am

Gray catbird (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

18 April 2022

It’s time to get outdoors!

Join me at the Schenley Park Visitors Center for a bird & nature walk on Sunday 24 April, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Trees and wildflowers are blooming. New birds come to Pittsburgh on every south wind. I expect gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) will back in time for this outing. Will we hear one? Will we see him before he hides? I hope so.

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 downpours or thunder. Check the Events page before you come in case of cancellation.

Hope to see you there.

p.s. If the birding is good I’ll give an option to continue until 11a.

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

Happy Spring

Tulips at Phipps Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show, April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

17 April 2022

Last week I celebrated Spring at Phipps Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show.

Fancy daffodils at Phipps Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show, April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Serrated tulip petals, Phipps Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show, April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Spring wreath, daffodils and lilies, Phipps Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show, April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

This weekend we celebrate in Passover and Easter.

Happy Spring!

Note: Phipps Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show ran from 19 March 2022 through today, Sunday 17 April.

UPDATE AT 8:05am: Aaarrg! It’s snowing!

(photos by Kate St. John)

Let’s Get Outdoors This Spring

Spring birding at McMichael Road, 20 May 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

8 April 2022

This week’s showers bring new flowers and birds. Let’s get outdoors to enjoy them with fellow nature lovers in the Pittsburgh area.

Each link below goes to a current outings list that is updated as new outings are scheduled.

  1. Birdblog Outings: A list of outings I’ll lead in the next few months. Stay tuned for details on 24 April, 14 May and 22 May, plus more to come.
  2. Botanical Society of Western PA: Find wildflowers & learn to ID plants in our area.
  3. Three Rivers Birding Club: Lots of birding opportunities in western Pennsylvania!
  4. Western PA Mushroom Club outings and events. Find and learn to identify mushrooms.
  5. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Spring 2022 events: Walks, birding, yoga, kids’ activities, etc. in Pittsburgh city parks big and small.

Let’s get outdoors!

(photo by Kate St. John)

Equinox Tomorrow

Sun’s rays at the Equinox (diagram from Wikimedia Commons)

19 March 2022

Tomorrow, 20 March, the Northern Hemisphere will celebrate a happy milestone when the Spring Equinox occurs at 11:33am EDT. Astronomers can pinpoint the exact date and time because it’s the moment when the center of the visible Sun shines directly above the Equator.

This sundial in Ecuador at GPS 00.000, -78.103 shows the sun’s shadow falling on the equator during the equinox. Mark the shadow at your own home and see the sun return to this position on the Autumnal Equinox on 23 September.

In Pittsburgh we are gaining almost 3 minutes of daylight per day, in this week surrounding the equinox.

Happy Spring!

(diagram and photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Spring Forward

Morela sleeps in the snow, 12 March 2022, 5:12am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

12 March 2022

After yesterday’s sunny Spring weather we are waking up to snow this morning. Fortunately Pittsburgh missed the heavy snow and blizzard conditions to our east.

Last night Morela slept in the open at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. You can tell that her feathers provide excellent insulation because several inches of snow did not melt right next to her body.

Morela sleeping as it snows, 12 March 2022, 5:09am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

As of 6am we had 2.5 to 4.7 inches in Oakland depending on location. The snow will stop falling by 10am, just in time for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Snow in Oakland: 2.5″ on the roof, 5″ in a sheltered spot on the ground, 12 Mar 2022, 5:55am (photos by Kate St. John)

Despite this snowy setback spring is coming and we will Spring Forward tonight. Don’t forget to set your manual clocks ahead one hour.

I expect to feel groggy for a few days while my body adjusts to Daylight Saving Time. 🙁

(photos by Kate St. John and from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Duck Hollow Outing, March 20, 8:30a

Nine Mile Run at Duck Hollow, 2020 (photo by Kate St. John)

11 March 2022

Spring is coming! Let’s get outdoors!

Join me on the year’s first bird and nature outing on Sunday 20 March 2022, 8:30am to 10:30am, at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park.

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

We’ll see mallards, early songbirds and, of course, grackles!

UPDATE 20 March, 7:23a: The forecast changed. Yes it will rain. I will be there but will end early if it rains too much.

Common grackles contempplating the Mon River (photo by John English)
Common grackles contemplating the Monongahela River, 2015 (photo by John English)

Hope to see you there.

Visit the Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations. The Events Page also hosts a calendar of future outings.

p.s. Interested in more birding? Here’s a link to Three Rivers Birding Club outings in the Pittsburgh area.

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