Category Archives: Books & Events

Schenley Park Outing + Fledge Watch, May 27

Schenley Park, Flagstaff Hill in summer (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Schenley Park, Flagstaff Hill in summer (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re in town for Memorial Day weekend — and if it isn’t thundering —  join me for one or both of these events in Schenley Park on Sunday, May 27, 2018:

Parking is FREE on Sundays.

Note! The 10-day weather forecast calls for thunderstorms on May 27 but that could change. If it’s storming these outings will be canceled. I don’t do lightning.

Schenley Park Bird and Nature Walk, May 27, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Rose-breasted grosbeak (photo by Cris Hamilton)
Rose-breasted grosbeak (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, May 27, 8:30a – 10:30a.

We’ll meet me at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center to see what’s popping in the park since our birdless walk in April.  Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks nest in Schenley Park. Will we see one?  I hope so!

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.

… and then …

As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza to look for peregrines.  (I will start the watch immediately when I get there. The 11a start time insures that peregrine fans will find me even if our bird walk runs late.)

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, May 27, 11a – 1p.

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, 2017 (photo by John English)
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, 2017 (photo by John English)

When will the Pitt peregrine chicks fly from the Cathedral of Learning?  I don’t know but I’m sure they’ll be fun to watch on Memorial Day weekend.

Join me at the Schenley Plaza tent on Sunday May 27 11a – 1p for a Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch. We’ll swap peregrine stories and get close-up looks at the peregrines through my scope.

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Plaza tent

Click here for a Google map of Schenley Plaza.  Don’t forget to check the Events page for last minute updates before you come. Fledge Watch will be canceled if it’s raining or thundering.

 

p.s. A complete Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch schedule will be posted later this week.  This year it’s harder than usual to predict when these birds will fly!

(photo of a rose-breasted grosbeak by Cris Hamilton, photo of Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch 2017 by John English, photo of the Schenley Plaza tent photo by Kate St. John)

It’s Warbler Time!

Blackburnian warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)
Blackburnian warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

In early May it’s warbler time!

This is the Biggest Week in American Birding in northwestern Ohio and I’m not going to miss it.  I expect to see my favorite warbler, the Blackburnian (Setophaga fusca) above, and up to five warblers whose names are out of place in Ohio.

The birds listed below were named for the location where a scientist first described them though they were on migration at the time.   The name tells you more about the ornithologist’s travel schedule than it does about the bird.

Tennessee warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina).  From Birds of North America Online:

“Described by Alexander Wilson in 1811 from a migrant specimen on the banks of Tennessee’s Cumberland River, its common name belies the fact that its breeding range is restricted almost entirely to the boreal forest zone of Canada, southeastern Alaska and the extreme northern fringe of the U.S.”

Tennessee warbler (photo by Donna Foyle)
Tennessee warbler (photo by Donna Foyle)

Nashville warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla):  Found by Alexander Wilson in Nashville in 1811, and so named.

Nashville Warbler at Magee Marsh (photo by Brian Herman)
Nashville Warbler at Magee Marsh (photo by Brian Herman)

Kentucky warbler (Geothlypis formosa). Named by Alexander Wilson in 1811 while he was in Kentucky.

Kentucky warbler (photo by Tony Bruno)
Kentucky warbler (photo by Tony Bruno)

The elusive Connecticut warbler (Oporornis agilis) is so hard to find in the spring that Steve Gosser’s photo below is from September 2013. Alexander Wilson first saw one in autumn, too. From Birds of North America Online:

Alexander Wilson first described this species in 1812 and named it after the state of Connecticut, where he collected the first specimen, a fall migrant. The common name is something of a misnomer, however, because the species does not breed in Connecticut, nor is it a common migrant there.

Connecticut warbler in western PA, September 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Connecticut warbler in western PA, September 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

And finally, the Cape May warbler (Setophaga tigrina) was one of the last birds Alexander Wilson described. He found it at Cape May, New Jersey in May 1813. He died three months later at age 47.  From Birds of North America Online:

“Its English name refers to the locality from which Alexander Wilson first described the species— Cape May, New Jersey—where it was not recorded again for more than 100 years .”

Cape May warbler (photo by Bobby Greene)
Cape May warbler (photo by Bobby Greene)

If I’d named the warblers for my first sightings they’d be Ohio warbler, Magee Marsh warbler, Maumee Bay warbler, and Ottawa (county) warbler.

It’s warbler time in Ohio!

 

(photo credits: Steve Gosser, Donna Foyle, Brian Herman, Tony Bruno, Bobby Greene)

A Cold Bird-less Walk in Schenley Park

It was cold! Schenley Park outing, 29 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
It was cold! Schenley Park outing, 29 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday’s outing in Schenley Park was cold, gray and windy — only 34 degrees! —  but 20 people came out anyway.  Unfortunately, the weather made it the most “bird-less” walk I’ve ever led in April.

We saw about 16 species, all of them residents even though migrating birds have been in Schenley Park for weeks.

Our Best Bird was a peregrine falcon perched on the Cathedral of Learning, so far away it looked like a dot through our binoculars.

We were cold but we have hope.  Hot weather is coming on Wednesday — 80 degrees!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

The Warblers Are Coming!

American redstart (photo by Tony Bruno)
American redstart (photo by Tony Bruno)

The warblers are coming!  In fact the second wave is already here.

Ten days ago I listed four new arrivals: Louisiana waterthrush, yellow-throated warbler, pine warbler and yellow-rumped warbler.

This week brought in five more beauties, illustrated in photos by Tony Bruno and Steve Gosser.  I saw most of them at Enlow Fork (SGL 302), just 45 air miles south of Pittsburgh.  I’m sure they’ll be in town this weekend.

American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), at top.  Black, white and orange, as soon as the redstarts arrive they’re easy to find because they’re hyperactive and just above eye level.  We saw 10 of them at Enlow Fork yesterday, April 26.

Northern parula (Setophaga americana), below. Smaller and slower moving than a redstart, parulas are usually in the tops of the trees, especially sycamores. We were lucky to see one at eye level at Enlow Fork.

Northern parula (photo by Steve Gosser)
Northern parula (photo by Steve Gosser)

Palm warbler (Setophaga palmarum), below:  This warbler is easier to identify that you’d think because he pumps his tail and is willing to walk on the ground. I found him on the grass at Frick Park.

Palm warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)
Palm warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

Black-throated green warbler (Setophaga virens), below. Usually found at mid-height in the trees, he sometimes hovers like a redstart to glean insects from the leaves. Enlow Fork.

Black-throated green warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)
Black-throated green warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

Common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), below:  This one like to hide in thick bushes so we heard him before we saw him — and then just caught a glimpse.  “Witchity, Witchity, Witchity” at Enlow Fork.

Common yellowthroat (photo by Steve Gosser)
Common yellowthroat (photo by Steve Gosser)

There are plenty of opportunities to see warblers this Sunday April 29.  Click the links for details:

It’s time to get outdoors.  The warblers are coming!

 

(photo credits: American redstart by Tony Bruno; all other warblers by Steve Gosser)

 

Schenley Park Outing: April 29, 8:00am

Gray catbird (photo by Chuck Tague)
Gray catbird (photo by Chuck Tague)

Spring is here. Let’s get outdoors!

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, April 29, 8a – 10a.  (Note the early start! 8:00am)

Meet me at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center for this joint outing with the Three Rivers Birding Club.

New birds come to town every day in late April so there will be plenty to see. Have you seen your first-of-year gray catbird yet?  I expect to find one on this outing.  (Catbirds, don’t let me down!)

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes.  Don’t forget your binoculars!

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.

Hope to see you there!

 

(photo of a gray catbird by Chuck Tague)

Today’s Outing at Duck Hollow

Duck Hollow outing, 18 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Duck Hollow outing, 18 March 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

More than 20 people turned out this morning for the Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park outing.

We were hoping to see the northern shovelers, green-winged teal, and pied-billed grebe reported on the Monongahela River yesterday, but all of them had departed overnight.  Best ducks were two very distant hooded mergansers.  The red-winged blackbirds, northern cardinals and local red-tailed hawks put on a show.

As we started up the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail we heard that someone saw a peregrine on the Homestead Grays Bridge.  Is it there?  Could more than 20 people quickly run downhill and under the trestle to see it before it left?  The report was confusing/conflicting so we didn’t go.  Later I saw Michele Kienholz’s photo of the peregrine. Erf!  Wish we’d seen it.

Best bird was a sharp-shinned hawk.  Best bug was a mourning cloak butterfly that flew by and best flower — the ONLY flower — was this single coltsfoot still with frost on its edges.

Coltsfoot blooming among the frost, 18 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Coltsfoot blooming among the frost, 18 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

The complete eBird checklist is here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43755756

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

It’s Time For Ducks

Bufflehead landing, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Male bufflehead, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Ducks, grebes, coots and loons are migrating north through western Pennsylvania this month.  It’s time to get outdoors and see them before they’re gone.

Here are just a few of the species reported in Butler and Westmoreland Counties last weekend, photographed by Steve Gosser during spring migration 2011 to 2017.  If you like Steve’s photos, check out the opportunity below to see his presentation in Clarion, PA tonight, March 14.

Above a male bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) comes in for a landing.  Notice how pink his feet are in March!

Below, a redhead (Aythya americana) stretches his wings while ducks and geese sleep in the background.

A redhead stretches his wing (photo by Steve Gosser)
A redhead stretches his wing, late February 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

A male hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) displays his crown.

Male hooded merganser showing his crown, March 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Male hooded merganser showing his crown, March 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

American coots (Fulica americana) wade in shallow water as they feed.

American coots feeding in shallow water, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)
American coots feeding in shallow water, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

The male northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata) is distinctive with his long shovel bill, green head, and rusty flanks.

Male northern shoveler, March 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Male northern shoveler, March 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Below, ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) take off.  Because of the white ring around their bills, I sometimes call them ring-billed ducks by accident.  The ring is a good field mark.

Ring-necked ducks take off, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ring-necked ducks take off, March 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

A red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) in breeding plumage, March 2014.

Red-necked grebe, March 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Red-necked grebe, March 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Get outdoors soon to see migrating waterfowl.

Meanwhile, see more of Steve Gosser’s photos tonight March 14 at 6:30pm at the Clarion Free Library in Clarion, PA.  Steve will be sharing his favorite photos and birding adventures at the Seneca Rocks Audubon meeting.  All are welcome.   More info here: http://www.senecarocksaudubon.org

 

(photos by Steve Gosser)

Duck Hollow Outing: March 18, 8:30am

Female mallard coming in for a landing (photo by Bert De Tilly via WIkimedia Commons)
Female mallard coming in for a landing (photo by Bert De Tilly via Wikimedia Commons)

Spring is coming so let’s get outdoors!

Join me on my first bird and nature outing of the year at  Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park on Sunday, March 18, 2018 — 8:30am to 10:00am.

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

We hope to see migrating ducks on the river and and songbirds along lower Nine Mile Run Trail in south Frick Park.  We will certainly see traces of the big flood of February 17.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides and a scope for river watching if you have them.

Hope to see you there!

 

p.s. Lauryn Stalter of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will lead a First Day of Spring walk in Schenley Park on Tuesday March 20, 5:30pm to 6:30p.  For more information and to register for this free outing, click here.

(photo of a female mallard coming in for a landing by Bert De Tilly via Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

Happy Valentine’s Day

Pitt peregrines courting, 10 Feb 2018(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Pitt peregrines courting, 10 Feb 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Love is in the air!

Pittsburgh’s peregrines are courting in February.  The females will lay eggs in March.

Above, Terzo and Hope are seen regularly at the Cathedral of Learning nest box.  Here they are bowing as part of the peregrines’ courtship ritual.

And today the Downtown peregrines visited the Gulf Tower in the rain.

Downtown peregrines visit the Gulf Tower, 14 Feb 2018, 4:24pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
Downtown peregrines visit the Gulf Tower, 14 Feb 2018, 4:24pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16-19

Burrowing owl in Florida (photo by Chuck Tague)
Burrowing owl in Florida (photo by Chuck Tague)

This burrowing owl isn’t in a backyard but if you find one next weekend you can count it in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  This global event runs Friday, February 16 through Monday, February 19, 2018.  You can count birds anywhere!

It’s easy to participate.  If you’re already on eBird, just enter your checklists and the Great Backyard Bird Count will scoop up the data.

If you’ve never participated (or you haven’t done so since 2012) follow the easy steps here: Get Started.

Bonus for photographers: Submit your photos to the GBBC Photo Contest.

Most of us will count backyard birds, especially if the weather is bad.  In Pittsburgh we’re sure to see chickadees. Trick question: Are they black-capped or Carolina?
(click the link for the answer)

Black-capped chickadee at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
Black-capped chickadee at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

(photos by Chuck Tague and Marcy Cunkelman)