Back in March I canceled all my 2020 outings because of COVID-19. The disease has not disappeared — in fact it’s resurging now in the U.S. and Allegheny County — but we’ve learned more about how it spreads and the relative safety of being outdoors. Today I’m announcing my first and probably last outing of 2020 (winter is coming).
Next Sunday morning, 25 October 2020, I will hold an outing in Schenley Park with restrictions to keep us safe.
UPDATE: FEW PEOPLE HAVE SIGNED UP (cold weather) so there is no chance of too many of us. Meet me at 8:30am at Bartlett Shelter(*) .
Everyone must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth.
We’ll social distance as we walk.
We’re sure to see fruits, seeds and fallen leaves. Birds may be few but there will certainly be acorns, chipmunks and blue jays. Will we find a white-throated sparrow? I hope so.
To prepare: WEAR A MASK. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.
Visit my Events page before you come in case of changes or cancellations.
(*) ORIGINAL TEXT SAID: Participation will be limited. To join you must “register” by leaving a comment on this blog post (not in Facebook). I will respond via email & tell you where and when to meet.
His legend was created to fill a gap and now the legend is fading. What if Columbus never crossed the Atlantic? Here’s how things might have been different.
The coronavirus pandemic gives us an inkling of what it was like when Columbus and the Spanish explorers brought pandemic to this part of the world. It changed the western hemisphere.
Before Columbus, the human population in the Americas was larger than that of Europe. The landscape, animals and birds were balanced by the pressure of so many people living in North, Central and South America. When European explorers accidentally left behind pigs that carried human disease, native Americans encountered the free-range pigs, had no immunity and spread the plagues through human contact.
The Western Hemisphere suddenly lost 95% of its human population in only 150 years. Remove the keystone species and you get some pretty weird results. European settlers didn’t see the transformation so they thought what they found was normal including the endless forest, huge bison herds and billions of passenger pigeons.
If you’ve been to Frick Park’s Clayton Hill lately you’ve seen a plant blanketing the open area down east of Clayton Hill Loop. Invasive mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata) was thick on the ground and climbing every upright when I took these photos in July.
Even if I wanted to walk through this area I wouldn’t. The plant has thorns.
Invasive plants are discouraging but I have hope they’ll be gone some day. The Allegheny Bird Conservation Alliance (ABCA) is conducting a multi-year project to remove invasive plants from Frick Park.
The restoration area is shown on the ABCA map below.
What’s hard for us to do by hand is easy for Allegheny Goatscape’s goats. They eat anything. Here’s how it works.
Prior to bringing the goats, Allegheny GoatScape clears a fence line and sets up the fencing and a shelter for the animals. The herd arrives at the site and immediately goes to work eating the vegetation. … Once the goats eat through the vegetation on site, they are transported to their next [assignment] location.
I haven’t seen goats at Frick but the fenced area at Clayton East looks like goats have been inside it. There’s a lot less mile-a-minute inside the fence.
Now that the goat project is underway ABCA wants to know how the birds respond and is asking birders to count birds in the four restoration zones per hotspot in eBird. Observations are especially needed during August and September fall migration.
Municipal 4th of July fireworks celebrations are canceled in Pennsylvania because of COVID-19 but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any explosions. Amateurs have been setting them off in neighborhoods and fields ever since the weather turned warm. Complaints are blossoming as fireworks “escape to the wild.”
The city ballpark in my Pittsburgh neighborhood has always been a magnet for amateur fireworks activity so we’ve learned to cope. Some call the police (who can’t do anything if the fireworks are legal). Meanwhile we wait for the noise to go away. The birds wait, too.
Have you ever felt threatened by humans while birding in a public place? It shouldn’t happen and it rarely does to most of us. I can count the few incidents I’ve experienced on one hand.
During Pennsylvania’s Second Breeding Bird Atlas, 2004-2009, I surveyed an under-reported block in Somerset County, walking the edge of a public road. I listened for birdsong and scanned the adjacent open field with my binoculars. I was startled when a resident from the other side of the road started up her car and began following me slowly, creeping behind me at my walking pace. She pulled alongside, drove next to me, and stared hard. She never spoke. Her threat was clear. I left immediately and I never went back.
That incident 15 years ago was one of the few times I felt threatened by humans while birding. I take my own safety for granted but some people cannot. This week I’m learning what it’s like to go birding in someone else’s shoes.
The event aims to increase visibility of Black birders, who face challenges and dangers that non-Black people do not experience when recreating or conducting fieldwork in the outdoors.
To many Americans, wilderness represents freedom and a space that should be open to all. In reality, it is not. Black Birders Week is a way for Black birders, who may have not seen another Black birder, to join together and encourage more participation and diversity in outdoor spaces.
It’s already Wednesday (sorry I’m late reporting this!) but there’s more coming up this week.
As @Ologies said on Twitter: “If this initiative has opened your eyes to how our Black friends feel unsafe in outdoor areas, how that impacts the fieldwork they do, the careers they choose: tweet about it. Follow them. Cheer them on.” It’s #BlackBirdersWeek.
This is the week we go birding in someone else’s shoes.
Though Mother’s Day officially occurs once a year (this coming Sunday 10 May) motherhood is not confined to a single day. Far from it!
Being a mother is hard work with rewards spread along the way. This is especially true for birds whose care giving is compressed into a few short weeks or months. They raise young every spring and send them on their way.
Shown here are four mothers: American avocet, American robin, peregrine falcon and Canada goose including this avocet family: “Mom, it’s starting to rain. Let me in.”
Every day is mother’s day.
(peregrine photo by Chad+Chris Saladin, remaining photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
I missed telling you about Tuesday’s Facebook Live encounter but more activities are planned. Today at 1pm (Wed 15 April 2020) you’ll find Ask the Expert with Dr. Pilar Fish on the National Aviary’s Facebook page.
Meanwhile, have fun viewing this cool page of videos including Benito and Sapphira, flamingo courtship dances, a Harris hawk, Penguin Awareness Day 2018, and baby sloth Vivien (2017).
And here’s an added bonus: Christa Gaus with Bubba the Palm Cockatoo.
On Tuesday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m, as part of their Science on Screen series, the Tull Family Theater in Sewickley will be showing A Birder’s Guide to Everything, a film about teens wanting to make birding history. The film is paired with an introduction by Dr. Brian Wargo, an educator and official Audubon Society counter at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. He will be talking about the successful recovery of bald eagles and peregrine falcons from extirpation in our area.
What: Presentation + movie: Dr. Brian Wargo speaks about the recovery of bald eagles & peregrine falcons followed by the 2013 movie A Birder’s Guide to Everything, a comedy rated PG-13.