Yesterday Charity Kheshgi and I visited Nick Liadis’ bird banding project — Birdlab — at Hays Woods, the City of Pittsburgh’s newest, most remote, and least developed park.
Nick runs Birdlab at three sites: Hays Woods plus at two private properties, Upper St. Clair and Twin Stupas in Butler County. During migration Nick is out banding six days a week unless it’s raining or windy.
Hays Woods is unique for its size and habitat so close to densely populated Downtown and Oakland. Like an oasis it’s an appealing stop for migratory birds. We were there to see Nick band five birds on a slow day compared to the day before when he banded 60!
Oakland is visible from the Hays Woods powerline cut.
Nick has placed the mist nets in a variety of habitats. They are intentionally hard to see. When birds see the nets they avoid them.
Every 30 minutes the banders walk the nets to check for birds. Lisa Kaufman assists at Hays Woods on Wednesdays. Here she is walking the powerline cut.
Each netted bird is gently placed in its own cloth bag and brought back to the banding table. Here Nick tells Lisa what time to record.
It’s an ovenbird.
To age the birds Nick checks their wings, tail and body feathers for molt stage. Below he points out the very faint fault bars on the tail feathers that indicate feather growth. If all the bars line up, then these tail feathers grew in at the same time, which means the bird is still wearing his very first tail feathers and thus hatched this year.
Nick blows on the belly of a Nashville warbler to check the lump of fat that is fuel for migration. This Nashville warbler had a high fat score so he may be ready to leave tonight for his wintering grounds in Mexico.
Nashville warblers are one of the smallest birds but it’s not noticeable until they are in the hand. Nick prepares to apply the band.
Nick holds an ovenbird after banding.
Each of us got to release a banded warbler.
And we learned how much northern cardinals hate to be captured. Cardinals of all ages screech and bite! We were grateful not to hold one.
To learn more about Nick’s banding project and schedule a visit, see his website at birdlab.org.
Twelve of us met in Schenley Park yesterday morning and walked East Circuit Road in search of birds. As expected in late July the birds were quiet, though we did manage to see or hear 27 species. Our checklist is here and listed at the end.
Best Bird was a pileated woodpecker hammering on a fallen log in the darkest woods. The photo above is not from our walk. Chad+Chris Saladin had better light for their photo in May 2020.
I forgot to take a picture of the group. 🙁 Here is my one photo from the walk: Yellow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa) blooming in the grass.
eBird checklist: Schenley Park, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Jul 31, 2022 8:30A – 10:30A Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 2 Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) 8 Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 2 Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 4 Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 1 Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) 2 Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1 Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 5 Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) 1 Heard Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) 1 Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 4 American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 7 Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) 6 Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 1 White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1 House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 3 Young with obvious gape-beak Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 1 European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 2 Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) 1 Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) 1 Heard one making agitated call American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 15 House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 2 American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 3 Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 1 Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 2 Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) 1 Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 5
Most songbirds stop singing around the 4th of July. Others will follow this month.
Birds sing to attract mates and maintain their nesting territories. Those that migrate to Central and South America are on such a tight schedule that they finish nesting and stop singing by early to mid July. Song sparrows, robins, and cardinals are still singing because they have new nests this month.
When is the last time you heard a Baltimore oriole sing? For that matter, when did you last see one? He won’t leave until September but he is far more discreet than he was in May.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons, Kate St. John and Steve Gosser)
Thirteen of us gathered in humid cloudy conditions to walk the Frick Park boardwalk at Commercial Street. While we were in the trail parking lot we saw and heard an indigo bunting and a scarlet tanager. The day was getting off to a good start.
The mystery flower that I posted on Thursday/Friday turned to be a false sunflower. I had to pluck and examine a petal to be sure.
I hoped for orchard orioles and they didn’t disappoint. We saw six of them, certainly two families and one feeding young.
Our fleeting glimpses of two yellow-billed cuckoos were close to “Best Bird” but Charity Kheshgi did not see them well so she and Connie went back to the area for a better look. They found a black-billed cuckoo that hung around for an hour!
We had a great time on a cloudy and not-too-hot day.
As we walked the trail we encountered cow parsnip whose identity I had forgotten yet again. When Dianne Machesney reminded me of its name I remembered blogging about it after another Wissahickon picnic. When was that? 2013!
In the two photos above I am standing next to cow parsnip at Mingo Creek on 1 June 2013 (left) and 18 June 2022 (right).
I have aged in nine years but some things are the same. I’m still using the same binoculars and walking stick and I’m wearing the same pants and shirt, unseen under the jackets. (My hiking clothes are rugged.)
This year’s cow parsnip is shorter than the one we found nine years ago and it has gone to seed, perhaps because we came 2.5 weeks later or because climate change has advanced it.