Visit one (or more) of the >2,500 count circles in North America. Each circle has its own compiler who coordinates the count for a single scheduled day within the 15-mile radius. No experience is necessary. The only prerequisite is that you must contact the circle compiler in advance to reserve your place.
Go birding outdoors or, if you live in a Count Circle, stay home and count birds at your feeder. Click here and enter your home address to find out what circle you’re in. (If you’re within a circle, click on the colored bird icon to see date, time and contact information.)
Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are thriving in Pittsburgh’s suburbs. This flock of 14 feels right at home in a Kathy Saunders’ backyard.
Meanwhile, where have all the city turkeys gone? A decade ago they were easy to find in Schenley Park and Oakland but I haven’t seen one here in three years. This vintage article describes an impromptu Turkey Day at WQED when six came for a visit in November 2011.
Today it’s been 16 years since Outside My Window began on 9 November 2007.
Every day I get up very early to write about birds and nature and am sometimes distracted by the birds themselves. The girl above is distracted by her pet goldfinch. This month, for me, it’s been the crows.
My first blog post was Waiting for Tundra Swans but I didn’t have to wait this year. Last weekend I saw 29 at Yellow Creek State Park including these in Mark McConaughy’s photo.
On anniversaries I look back at the past year’s high points. My highest traffic day is usually when the peregrine eggs hatch at the Cathedral of Learning but there were no eggs this year. Instead, the most popular article was a surprise on Friday 7 April with 10,000 views of…
Join me on Sunday 12 November 2023, 8:30am to 10:30am, for a bird and nature walk.
Meet at the Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides and a birding scope if you have them. (Always remember to visit the Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.)
We’ll walk the nearby paths seeking birds, interesting plants, and lingering insects. Migrating ducks may be resting on the river. Mallards will attract attention because they’re courting.
Occasionally a rare bird shows up, so keep your fingers crossed. I can tell you we will not see is this American avocet that stopped by Duck Hollow on 3 October but it was sure fun while it lasted.
Joe, Sam and Jared joined me yesterday morning on an adventure to see Bird Lab at Hays Woods. The weather was perfect as we walked more than half a mile to the banding station. There we found Nick Liadis and his assistants about to do the second net-check of the day.
The mist nets that capture songbirds are set up in “alleys” of vegetation where birds might fly across. If a bird doesn’t see the net and tries to fly through, it falls into the pocket of extra netting material where it waits to be retrieved. Banders check the nets every half hour.
Captured birds are brought back to the banding table in cloth bags to keep them calm. Our group watched as Nick prepared to band three birds from the recent net check.
Each bag contains a surprise. The first was a recaptured Cape May warbler (Setophaga tigrina), originally banded on 20 Sep when it weighed 10.9g. Yesterday it weighed 13.8g for a gain equivalent to the weight of a ruby-throated hummingbird. Such a small bird in Nick’s hand, below.
It was the second Cape May warbler recapture this fall. The first one increased its weight by 50% in two weeks. About the first one, Nick wrote:
A cool recapture from my Hays Woods banding station! This Cape May Warbler was banded on 9/13 and we captured her again two weeks later. She originally weighed 11.6g and today weighs 15.4g. Interesting to see how long some of these birds hang around. I’d imagine she’ll be on her way very soon.
— Nick Liadis message, 27 Sep 2023
Next on the agenda was a hatch year (meaning “hatched this year”) male black-throated blue warbler (Setophaga caerulescens). His color was blue, but not vibrantly so, and his throat had tiny white flecks on it. I had seen a dull bird like this in Frick Park last week and didn’t realize that meant he was young.
At each successive net check new species showed up.
The hatch year hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) shown at top was a sign that the mix of migrant species is changing. The insect eaters are nearly gone while the fruit and nuts migrants have arrived (*see note).
The hatch year female house finch, below, was probably born at Hays Woods. Many house finches in the eastern U.S. are permanent residents. Perhaps she will be, too.
By 10:00am we’d been there an hour, it was getting hot (the high yesterday was 85°F!) and the birds were less active. Three of us hiked to the overlook and returned for one more net-check. This time only one bird was captured, a hatch year house wren (Troglodytes aedon) that Nick had banded on 9 August. This bird has spent the last two months foraging at Hays Woods and soon it will migrate to Central or South America.
Bonus Bird: After the banding, a rare bird at Duck Hollow:
At 10:30am I received an alert that a migrating American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) was hanging out at Duck Hollow. Avocets in Allegheny County are One Day Wonders. I had never seen one here because I waited a day to go see them. So I made the short trip from Hays Woods to Duck Hollow and digiscoped this lousy picture. The light was too bright to see its faint orange color but you get the idea.
p.s. (*) Two of the phases of fall migration: ** Insect eaters such as warblers, flycatchers, swifts and swallows migrate through in September because the bug population is going to die when cold weather hits. ** Fruit and nut eaters, including thrushes and sparrows, pass through in October.
Only 5 people can come on this outing. You must sign up by leaving a comment on the blog form below. First come first served.
Come with me to Pittsburgh’s newest city park on Tuesday Oct 3, at 8:30 am (rain date Wed Oct 4) to see Bird Lab’s Nick Liadis band migratory birds at Hays Woods.
Meet me at the Hays Woods Agnew Rd Trailhead parking lot at 8:30am. From there we will walk through the woods for 20 minutes to get to the banding site. Expect to spend at least an hour on site, then a 20 minute walk to return.
Every day is different during migration. When I visited the banding operation on 7 September 2022 we saw warblers and a female cardinal. Best Bird was the ovenbird pictured at top.
I can’t predict what birds we’ll see but we will certainly see them up close. It’s sure to be good.
Come check out Pittsburgh’s newest city park for an exclusive hike with Bird Lab Avian Ecologist, Nick Liadis, and Jared Belsky, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Ecological Restoration Coordinator, Hays Woods.
Explore Hays Woods like never before, while learning about native plants and trees and how regional birds interact within this dense urban forest. This adventure will incorporate a mixture of species identification and bird watching. Fall migration is the best time to catch sight and sound of the migrating birds overhead.
Hike leaders are Jared Belsky of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy who manages PPC projects on site (photo on left) and Nick Liadis of Bird Lab who bands birds at Hays during spring and fall migration (photo on right). Both have extensive knowledge of Hays Woods from hands on experience.
Yesterday turned into a nice day, but when eight of us met at Schenley Park at 8:30am the temperature was cool with low clouds and the sky was blank gray. Normally the birds would have slept in but the migrants were hungry. We found 22 species.
Best Bird is hard to choose. Was it the belted kingfisher that hunted over Panther Hollow Lake? The ruby-throated hummingbirds that floated among the trees? Or the warblers — Blackburnian, magnolia and chestnut-sided?
Between birds the bugs took center stage. Milkweed bugs swarmed on swamp milkweed pods …