Category Archives: Books & Events

14 Years Of Blogging

14 years of blogging (party crow by Joan Guerin)

9 November 2021

On this day in 2007 I posted my first blog at Outside My Window. Today in celebration let’s look back at three memorable articles from my first month of blogging.

Clash of the Titans: On the advent of a new raptor pecking order a male Pitt peregrine chases Central Catholic’s red-tailed hawks.

Red-tailed hawk, Peregrine falcon (photos by Chuck Tague)

Loon Fallout: Remembering the day we saw more than 300 loons at Moraine State Park.

Common Loon on beach (photo by Chuck Tague)

The Night Visitor: An eastern screech-owl speaks up while we rake leaves in the dark.

Eastern Screech-owl close up (photo by Chuck Tague)

Thank you, my readers, for keeping me going every day. And a very special thank you to the many photographers who allow me to use their photos and videos on the site.

Happy 14th Bird-thday to the Blog!

(party crows by Joan Guerin; photos by Chuck Tague)

Fall Back an Hour Closer to Zulu Time

Shepherd gate 24-hour GMT clock at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, UK (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6 November 2021

When Daylight Saving Time ends tonight our time zone will move one hour closer to Zulu Time.

Zulu (Z) Time is the aviation and military name for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Wikipedia explains that back in 1950, when time zones were identified by successive letters of the alphabet, the Greenwich time zone was marked by a Z as the point of origin.  Z in the military alphabet is called “Zulu.” Z time = GMT = UTC.

Pilots use Zulu Time for navigation described in the video below. The internet and your cellphone use Z time behind the scenes.

Time Zones around the world are a patchwork based on local laws. Most of the world does not participate in DST though more than half of the world used to. This morning’s screenshot from timeandate.com (6 November 2021, 4:45 EDT) will look different in North America tomorrow morning. Click here to see how the colors changed in North America on 11 Nov 2021.

Time zone map screenshot from timeanddate.com at 6 Nov 2021, 4:45am EDT

I’m not a fan of changing the clocks and wouldn’t mind if we changed them tonight and never changed again. 🙂

Further reading:

  • Click here for the NATO phonetic alphabet where A,B,C… is Alpha, Bravo, Charlie…
  • Example of internet Z time: When I download my cellphone photos from Google to my computer they are labeled in Z time, not in the local time they were taken by my cellphone.
  • Most of the world does not participate in DST. Light gray areas on the map stopped participating, dark gray never used DST.
World map of Daylight Saving Time regions (image from Wikimedia Commons)

(photo of clock and map of DST from Wikimedia Commons. Time zone map is a point-in-time screenshot from timeanddate.com. Click here to see the current Time And Date map.)

Duck Hollow Outing, Sun Oct 31

Mallard (photo by Steve Gosser)

25 October 2021

Join me next Sunday for an outing at Duck Hollow by the Monongahela River. We’ll look for waterfowl and walk the nearby Lower Nine Mile Run Trail. Every week is colder now so this is my last scheduled outing for 2021.

When: Sunday 31 October 2021, 8:30a-10:30a.

Where: 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.

Visit the Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.

This outing is on Halloween. Will the ducks be in costume? Will they be wearing hats?

(mallard photo by Steve Gosser, crested pekin duck from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

Blue Jays and a Monkey Ball: Today in Schenley Park

Participants in this morning’s outing in Schenley Park, 26 Sep 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

26 Sep 2021

This morning was sunny and chilly with heavy dew when fifteen of us gathered for a walk in Schenley Park. All of us are in this photo though I am just a long shadow of my usual self.

Last night’s weather sucked most of the migrating birds out of Schenley Park and did not add any new ones. I expected to see 20 species; we saw only 10. I expected 100 individual birds; we saw 63. Of those 55% were blue jays.

Plants, however, filled the gap especially this broken osage orange (Maclura pomifera) or “monkey ball.”

Monkey ball a.k.a. osage orange, Schenley Park 26 Sep 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Its insides are damp with latex, its seeds enveloped in plant flesh. Few animals eat this fruit so why does the tree produce so much? It’s making fruit for giants. Learn more and see a video at Food For The Extinct.

Inside a monkey ball a.k.a. osage orange (photo by Kate St. John)

p.s. Here’s our eBird checklist for “The Blue Jay Walk.”

Schenley Park, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, US
Sep 26, 2021 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM, 1.8 mile(s), 10 species

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  4
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  4
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  35
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  7
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  7
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  1

(photos by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing, Sep 26, 8:30a

Schenley Park path in the dew, 30 Sept 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

20 September 2021

Though it hasn’t felt like it lately, fall will arrive on the equinox this Wednesday at 3:21pm ET. With it will come cooler temperatures, morning dew and migrating thrushes. It’s a good time to be outdoors.

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, 26 September 2021, 8:30a – 10:30a(*). We’ll meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street. Note that Forbes and Fifth Avenues will be closed for the Pittsburgh Great Race so plan your route accordingly. See road closures times below.

Porcelain berry fruits, some eaten (photo by Kate St. John)

We’re sure to see blue jays, chipmunks, autumn flowers and fruits. I hope for at least one Swainson’s thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak or ruby-crowned kinglet, passing through the park on their way south.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them. NOTE that storm damage from Hurricane Ida is still present in the park though not as prevalent at the Bartlett end. Be prepared for some rough spots. A walking stick may be useful.

Visit my Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.

(*) If the birding is suddenly good at 10:30am we’ll have the option to continue to 11a.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Information on Great Race road closures — Squirrel Hill to Downtown — from OTMA

Congestion and Closures

Barricades will be set up throughout the city to clear the race route which stretches from Frick Park in Squirrel Hill along Forbes Avenue to Morewoood Avenue at Carnegie Mellon University’s campus, then onto Fifth Avenue through Oakland, and onto the Boulevard of the Allies and into downtown before finishing at Point State Park.

Approximate closure times are as follows:

  • Zone A: Beechwood Blvd to intersection of Forbes & Morewood
    Closed from approximately 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
  • Zone B: Forbes & Morewood to intersection of Fifth & Bigelow Blvd
    Closed from approximately 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
  • Zone C: Fifth & Bigelow to Fifth & the ramp to the Blvd of the Allies
    Closed from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
  • Zone D: Fifth & Blvd of the Allies to Commonwealth Place & Liberty Ave
    Closed from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

In Oakland specifically, travelers and residents can expect to see barricades on Fifth Ave, Oakland Ave, Atwood St, and DeSoto St and crowds gathered near mile marker 3 and the 5K starting line. See map for detail.

In Squirrel Hill, travel will be restricted around the starting line on Beechwood Blvd with barricades prohibiting vehicle access at Beechwood & S Dallas, Beechwood & the Forbes connector, Beechwood & Darlington, and Beacon & Shaw.

Birds and Women at Work

Falconer with gyrfalcon at Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6 September 2021

On Labor Day, let’s take a look at birds of prey working with women.

Falconry in Europe evolved from a sport of the nobility to a career accessible to the middle classes. Though considered a man’s sport, aristocratic women in medieval and early-modern Europe took part in large numbers and became renowned for their falconry skills, often better than men. When falconry declined in the 18th century far fewer women were involved, making this 1880 portrait of Die Falknerin (The Falconer) and the following 1881 illustration of the same woman in Die Gartenlaube unusual in its rarity. Who is this falconer holding a Eurasian kestrel in a land that speaks German?

Die Falknerin, portrait by Hans Makart, 1880

Nowadays women falconers work at raptor centers, aviaries and bird abatement services that use falcons and hawks to move nuisance birds.

At top, a woman falconer works with a gyrfalcon at the Salzburg Regional Falconry Centre at Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria where they hold daily flight demonstrations with various birds of prey. The falconers live at the castle so they can better take care of the birds.

Below, Sabrina Fox flies a Harris hawk in Portland, Oregon in 2018 to move the winter crow flock out of the city center.

Sabrina Fox, falconer, Portland, OR, 2018 (screenshot from Urban Falconry in Portland, Oregon by OPB)

In Idaho, women at the World Birds of Prey Center in Boise fly a peregrine falcon and a harpy eagle in a flight show.

Falconer with peregrine falcon, World Center for Birds of Prey, Idaho, 2011 (photo by Jitze Couperus via Flickr Creative Commons license)
Falconer with harpy eagle at World Center for Birds of Prey, Idaho, 2011 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

And in Pittsburgh, women falconers work with birds at the National Aviary. In 2011 Cathy Schlott displayed a lanner falcon at an event at WQED.

Cathy Schlott of the National Aviary holds a lanner falcon, Horace, on the glove, 2011 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

Learn more about the history of women in falconry and their current contributions in this abstract of the Women and Sustainable Hunting Conference at the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, July 2016.

Visit the National Aviary to see birds and women at work.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, screenshot from OPB video, Jitze Couperus via Flickr Creative Commons license, Sharon Leadbitter; click on the captions to see the originals)

Today in Schenley Park, Aug 29

Schenley Park outing, 29 August 2021 (photos by Kate St. John)

29 August 2021

This morning’s outing in Schenley Park was very well attended — 28 people! — so I had to paste two photos together to get (almost) everyone in.

The weather was clammy-hot and the birds were not active but bugs were easy to find. Can you see the green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris) in this picture?

Green stink bug, Schenley Park, 29 Aug 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

We also saw cocklebur as promised and an unusual invasive, yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus), which is cultivated in Eurasia for its edible tubers eaten as snack food or made into a sweet milk-like beverage.

Yellow nutsedge, Schenley Park at Panther Hollow Lake, 29 Aug 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Our Best Bird was a lucky find. As we stood next to Panther Hollow Lake a peregrine falcon zoomed overhead, went into a stoop, and disappeared beyond Phipps Conservatory on his way to the Cathedral of Learning.

We worked for every bird on this checklist at https://ebird.org/checklist/S93900051

Schenley Park–Panther Hollow, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, US
Aug 29, 2021 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM, 1.5 mile(s), 19 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  30    part of the larger flock on Phipps lawn
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2    1 adult, 1 immature circling as we ended the walk
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)  2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  4
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  1    Flyover went into a stoop beyond Phipps roof
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  6
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  2
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  1    Heard
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  1
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  2
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  5
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  4

The next walk, scheduled for 26 September at Bartlett Shelter, should be cooler. Whew!

(photos by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing: August 29, 8:30am

Common cocklebur, Schenley Park, 20 Aug 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

23 August 2021

In late August summer flowers are blooming, bugs are singing, and warblers are on the move.

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, August 29, 2021, 8:30a – 10:30a. (If the birding is great we may linger until 11a.)

Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road joins Schenley Drive (40.4383304,-79.9464765).  I hope to see migrating songbirds and at least one confusing fall warbler.

I know we’ll see this native weed, common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium), growing in a disturbed area next to Panther Hollow Lake. Notice the big leaves and spotted stem. Did you know it has separate male & female flowers on the same plant? This location used to be overrun with mugwort but since it was torn up last spring it now has cocklebur. At least it’s native.

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)

Today’s Outing at Frick Park, July 25

Outing in Frick Park, 25 July 2021 (photp by Kate St. John)

25 July 2021

Nine of us gathered this morning at the Nine Mile Trail parking lot to walk Frick Park’s Boardwalk and the upper Nine Mile Run valley. At the beginning it was very cloudy but it didn’t rain.

The birds were quiet. Many have stopped singing for the year and gray skies made the rest of them subdued. Nonetheless we saw northern rough-winged swallows feeding young in flight and heard the warning calls of wood thrushes, robins and tufted titmice in a spot where a barred owl often roosts. Alas, we never found the owl.

It’s hard to pick a Best Bird but easy to pick the worst smell. We had to walk (as far away as possible!) past a decomposing deer near Commercial Street. Where are the turkey vultures when you need them? We didn’t see any today. Our list has 24 species.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  2
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)  4
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)  1
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)  1
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  1    Heard
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  7    Pair chasing and harassing a blue jay
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  1
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  2
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  10
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  10
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  7
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  5
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  1
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  4
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  20
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  4
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  5
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  2
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)  2
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  10
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)  1

View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/checklist/S92277306

Thanks to all who came out. Next outing is slated for 29 August.

(photo by Kate St. John)