The 119th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) begins today (Fri 14 Dec 2018) and runs through Saturday 5 Jan 2019. As I write this post some Christmas Bird Counts are already underway.
Counting birds at Christmastime is an annual international tradition, coordinated in the U.S. by the National Audubon Society. Each “Count” is a 15-mile diameter circle manned by volunteers who count the birds they see in a single 24-hour period. Each circle has a Compiler who makes sure there’s no birding overlap.
In the Pittsburgh area there are 14+ circles shown in the map and table below. Some are as early as tomorrow, Sat Dec 15.
It’s easy to participate. Volunteer to count at your own feeders or out in the field. But first, be sure to call or email the compiler to confirm your assignment.
This list of Pittsburgh area counts is a subset of Pennsylvania’s CBCs. Please see the PSO Nov 2018 newsletter for the real thing.
I’ll be counting in the Pittsburgh circle on Sat. 29 Dec 2018. Coordinated by Brian Shema at AWSP, the Pittsburgh CBC has so many participants that it’s divided into sections with compilers for each one.
Despite their size and ungainly appearance, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) can fly. They have to be airborne twice a day to get to and from their roosts in trees.
Most of us never see them fly but here’s some indirect evidence. The wild turkey below was photographed on Thompson Island in the bay east of Boston, Massachusetts. The photographer’s mobile phone provided GPS.
Peregrine Fans, our favorite bird is coming to PBS NOVA on Wednesday evening November 21.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when diving to capture prey. PBS NOVA will show us how peregrines are designed to reach these speeds and will follow a falconer that believes his bird can go even faster. We’ll also see the family life of peregrines at a nest in Chicago.
Click here or on the caption above to watch the preview.
Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Animal, premiering on Wednesday November 21 at 9pm ET on PBS. Check your local listings for re-broadcast times in case you’re busy Wednesday night. In Pittsburgh, watch it on WQED.
For starters, it’s made me a Morning Person. I write best with a mug of coffee before dawn so I get up at 4am to have enough time to publish the day’s entry by 7am. Unfortunately a good article takes 3 hours to construct and illustrate. That’s if I’m lucky. It often takes longer, as it did today.
Second, it’s made me keenly aware of interesting topics. In the old days I would flail around on deadline without any ideas. (If you’re a writer you know what I mean.) Nowadays I keep an “Ideas” list online and dip into it for inspiration. Thank you to everyone who suggests new topics. If you don’t see your contribution right away, it’s on the list.
Third, I’ve met you! Every day about a thousand of you read my blog. Readership drops to 700 in the depths of winter and soars to 4,000 at times of peregrine excitement. I’ve made a lot of new friends.
I couldn’t have blogged for eleven years without you. Your enthusiasm keeps me going every day. Thank you, my readers! And a big thank you to all the photographers who let me use your photos. Without photos this blog would be just a pile of words.
All of us remember where we were when we heard the news. Many of us know someone directly affected by it. I live 2 miles from the synagogue. I know someone, too.
Dan Leger is one of the two civilian survivors (other four injured are policeman). I met Dan four years ago when my husband was hit by a car & sustained nine broken ribs, a broken nose and a concussion. In the confusion of the accident scene, Dan found out my phone number and the hospital where Rick would be taken. He called to let me know my husband was hurt and assured me he hadn’t lost consciousness. Dan and his wife came to get me in their car (I was walking in Schenley Park at the time) so that I could get to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital where Rick was taken by ambulance. Dan Leger is so kind, so wonderful. He was hit in the torso, has been undergoing many surgeries, is in ICU. Please pray for Dan Leger’s recovery.
In the face of this tragedy it was a real relief to get outdoors this morning and see some birds at Duck Hollow. By the end of the walk the birds made us smile. Pictured above are Claire, Jack, Dan, Rebecca, Donna and Sue. (Ramona had to leave early.)
Best Birds were great for late October at Duck Hollow: a blackpoll warbler near the parking lot, a green heron along Nine Mile Run, and an immature white-crowned sparrow on the trail. We also saw two backlit birds that we couldn’t identify — maybe eastern bluebirds.
Sunday’s forecast for the Duck Hollow outing (described below) says: “Showers likely, mainly after 11am. Cloudy, with a high near 48.” This is good weather for ducks and acceptable weather for people, so the outing will happen.
I will be there, however my car is in the shop. I can walk to Duck Hollow from my house (a 35 minute walk) but I am able to bring my scope because I got a ride!
Bird and Nature Walk at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park Sunday, October 28, 2018 — 8:30am – 10:30am
Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. We hope to see waterfowl on the river and walk part of nearby lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park if it’s not too wet.
Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides — and a birding scope — if you have them.
It ought to be fine weather for ducks.
(Duck Hollow photo by Kate St. John; common merganser by Chuck Tague)
Two upcoming events! They’re listed in reverse date order because peregrines always come first. 😉
Saturday, November 10, 2018 — 2:00pm
Peregrine Falcons: Can people make a difference for endangered species?
Join the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy at their Annual Meeting on Saturday November 10 where I’ll present an engaging account of the lives and history of peregrine falcons. Peregrines are a great environmental success story, from their extinction in eastern North America in the 1960s to their reintroduction and removal from the Endangered Species list in the US and many eastern states.
The meeting is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
Sunday, October 28, 2018 — 8:30am – 10:30am
Bird and Nature Walk at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park
When the lakes freeze up north, ducks and geese come south.
Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. We’ll see migrating waterfowl on the river and walk part of nearby lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park.
Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides — and a birding scope — if you have them. As these dates approach, check the Events page in case of cancellation.
Is it time for ducks? I hope so!
(event postcard image from Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy; common merganser photo by Chuck Tague)
Despite the Great Race road closures, eleven of us met at Bartlett Shelter this morning for a walk in Schenley Park. The air was chilly but the birding was good because the north wind brought us new migrants.
I took the group photo, above, at the end of the walk because we were distracted from the start. There were warblers in the trees above us! Cape May, Black-throated Green, Magnolia and Blackpoll.
Ultimately we saw 23 species + an unidentifiable flycatcher (listed as Empidonax sp). We were surprised to find no thrushes or sparrows so we crossed the road beyond our cars to find two song sparrows at the end. Still no thrushes other than robins.
Best find for the day: Mushrooms! My favorite was spectacularly orange but I’m saving it for late October.
And here’s another mushroom. Do you know what it is? (I don’t remember.)
Thanks to all for coming out today. My last scheduled walk for the year will be on October 28 at Duck Hollow.
Two weekends from now you can sit around all day counting birds and get special credit for doing it.
The Big Sit is an annual, international, non-competitive birding event founded by the New Haven, Connecticut Bird Club and hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest. This year it’s on October 13-14, 2018.
The event is basically a tailgate party for birders that’s held inside a 17-foot diameter circle. Inside the circle participants count every bird they see or hear. The rules are easy. People come and go. The party lasts as long as you like, but no more than 24 hours.
Some bird clubs use the event to raise money by gathering pledges per bird seen. There are event prizes, too, for Best Overall Count, Best State Count and for The Golden Bird, a species randomly chosen each December by the New Haven Bird Club. Circles that record The Golden Bird are eligible to win $500 from Swarovski Optik. One year the Golden Bird was the mallard (easy). Last year it was the long-billed curlew (impossible in Pennsylvania).
At the end of September the weather’s fine and there’s plenty to see outdoors. Goldenrod and asters are blooming but everything else has gone to seed, fruit, and nuts. This is great news for chipmunks.
Join me for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, September 30, 8:30a – 10:30a.
Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road. We’ll see birds, fall flowers, fruits, seeds, acorns and busy chipmunks.
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.