Category Archives: Books & Events

Today in Schenley Park, July 28

Schenley Park outing, 28 July 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning 11 of us met at the start of the Bridle Trail in Schenley Park. Though it wasn’t a very bird-y day we did see a scarlet tanager before we started down the trail. We also saw cup plant, oxeye or false sunflowers, and wild bergamot along the way.

Best Bird was a chipping sparrow, energetically gathering bugs to feed his fledgling. We watched him knock planthoppers out of a maple tree, then flutter down as they fell and chase them on the ground. The planthoppers hopped to escape but he was faster than they were, stacking them in his beak. As soon as he’d delivered them to the youngster he was off again to find more.

Best mammals were a 5-point white-tailed buck in velvet and twin fawns (with spots) nearby. They didn’t care that 11 people were watching them. Here’s a photo of (probably) the same buck two months ago. He has the same odd antler configuration.

5-point buck in Schenley Park, 28 May 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

As I said, it wasn’t very bird-y; we saw only 17 species. Our list is at this link on eBird https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S58523369 and below:

BIRDS SEEN, 28 JULY 2019, SCHENLEY PARK BRIDLE TRAIL
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

p.s. I can’t remember. Did we see a turkey vulture? If so the count was 18.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Bridle Trail, July 28, 8:30a

American hophornbeam fruit at Schenley Park Bridle Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

Join me on Sunday, July 28 at 8:30am for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

On this month’s outing we’ll visit a trail I’ve never shown you before. Meet me at the start of the Bridle Trail, so named because it was built in the late 1880s as a riding path for horses. We’ll make a clockwise circle for 1.6 miles.

Bridle Trail loop in Schenley Park (map saved at GMap Pedometer)

The gravel trail is a gentle downhill with rock outcrops, a view of the Monongahela River, two stone bridges, and some cool birds and plants. American hophornbeam winged fruits, shown above, are seen along the way.

Dress for the weather (probably hot!). Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water, a sunhat, binoculars and field guides if you have them.

p.s. What goes downhill must come up the woodland staircase to the Oval.

(photo by Kate St. John, map created using Gmap Pedometer)

Happy Fourth Of July 2019

Juvenile eagles H9 and H10 at Hays Woods, 30 June 2019 (photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA on Facebook)

News from Hays Woods in Pittsburgh, PA:

This week the young bald eagles, H9 and H10, turned 100 days old. Dana Nesiti captured their antics on Sunday June 30 in the photo above and a slow motion video below.

Visit Dana’s Eagles of Hays PA Facebook page for more news, photos and videos of the Hays bald eagles.

Happy Fourth of July!

By the way, Pennsylvania now has so many bald eagle nests that the PA Game Commission can’t count them without your help. See Mary Ann Thomas’ TribLive article here.

(photo and video by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA on Facebook)

Today at Duck Hollow

Eight birders at Duck Hollow, 30 June 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning 11 of us met for a bird walk at Duck Hollow and the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail.

The Monongahela was running high with only a few mallards and lots of plastic trash floating down the river, the result of an inch of rain in only 25 minutes on Thursday evening, June 27. The downpour affected the new bridge construction, too, at Nine Mile Run.

When I walked the area on Thursday morning I saw the workers laying Jersey barriers in a row and draping them with white plastic. The downpours breached the solid dirt bank in three places and knocked over four Jersey barriers. Powerful stuff!

It was hot and sunny, so we stayed in the shade. So did our Best Bird, an indigo bunting, who looked almost black in the shadows. Since his feathers merely reflect the color blue the shadows affect how he looks. Read more about his blueness here.

We saw and heard 27 species plus a small flock of unidentified blackbirds. Our complete checklist is here on eBird.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Duck Hollow Outing, Sunday June 30

Chicory with a busy emerald green bug on it (photo by Kate St. John)

Yikes! Short notice… I should have told you about this on Monday but I was flying back from Alaska that day.

Join me this Sunday for a bird and nature walk at Duck Hollow and the Lower Nine Mile Run Trail on June 30, 2019 from 8:30am to 10:30am.

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

We’ll see fledgling birds and their busy parents, midsummer flowers and fascinating insects like this chicory flower and metallic-green bug.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides and a scope for river watching if you have them. It’s going to be HOT so bring water, sunscreen and a hat.

Reminder: Check the Events page before you come in case this outing is canceled for thunder or heavy downpours.

Hope to see you there.

Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch starts Jun 7

Fledge watchers Downtown at Third Ave, 7 June 2016 (photo by John English)
Fledge watchers Downtown at Third Ave, 7 June 2016 (photo by John English)

Downtown Pittsburgh Fledge Watch begins Friday June 7, noon to 1pm.

The four peregrine nestlings on Third Avenue will fly soon and may need our help. I’ll be Downtown at lunchtime on three weekdays beginning this Friday June 7. Stop by and join me.

What: Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch is a drop-in event to watch the young Downtown peregrines, educate the public about peregrines, and alert the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523 if a fledgling needs to be rescued from the ground. Come when you can. Bring binoculars or camera if you have them. Be sure to check the blog for updates in case of weather cancellation.

Where: 3rd Avenue between Wood and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh, approximately at 341 Third Ave, which is parking lot. Click the link for a map.
When: On weekdays, Fri June 7, noon-1p. Mon-Tues June 10-11, 11a-1p.
Who: I’ll be there with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group.
Notes: There is no official Fledge Watch on June 8-9 weekend but John and/or I may be there. On-street parking is free on Sundays. (Some streets will be closed on Sunday 9 June for the Pride Parade.)

Keep in mind that Fledge Watch is weather dependent. It will be canceled for rain or thunder.

Do you need a reminder of the PA Game Commission phone number? Click on the flyer below to download one for yourself.

Click here to download the flyer

Two Fledge Watches + A Bird Walk, June 1-12

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

The first two weeks of June are jam-packed with outdoor opportunities. Join me at one of these upcoming events:

  • Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, June 1-5
  • Phipps Bio-Blitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, June 2
  • Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch, June 7 and 10, 11, 12.

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 1-5, 11a – 1p

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is a fluid drop-in event to swap peregrine stories and watch the young Pitt peregrines learn to fly. Come when you can. Bring binoculars or camera if you have them. Be sure to check the blog for updates in case of weather cancellation.
Where: Schenley Plaza near the tent, shown above.
When: 1-5 June 2019, 11a-1p. Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder.
Who: I’ll be there with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group and lots of peregrine fans. (Note on June 1: John English will start the watch at 11a; I’ll arrive at noon.)
Parking: Pay-parking is available around Schenley Plaza (on-street parking is free on Sundays!) and at Carnegie Museum.

Phipps BioBlitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, Sun June 2, 8:30a – 10:30a

Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens with Cathedral of Learning in the distance (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On Sunday June 2, the fourth annual Phipps BioBlitz Festival will bring together families, students, local scientists, naturalists, and teachers to conduct biological surveys of living species in Schenley Park. The event is free with no advance registration required. Read all about Phipps BioBlitz Day here.
Where: Meet me at the back of the Event Tent on Phipps’ front lawn. You’ll see a sign for my walk.
When: Sunday June 2, 8:30a-10:30a
Parking: Free on Sundays!
Note: As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza to look for peregrines.

Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch, Third Avenue, June 7, 10, 11, 12 … 11a-1p

Fledge watchers Downtown at Third Ave, 7 June 2016 (photo by John English)
Downtown Fledge Watch, June 2016 (photo by John English)

During the second week of June — perhaps earlier — the peregrine nestlings on Third Avenue will make their first flight. Because their nest is low they may need our help. In the first 24 hours of flight, fledgling peregrines lack the wing strength to take off from the ground and have to be put up high to start over. The PA Game Commission (PGC) will send an officer to rescue the bird. Call PGC at 724-238-9523.

The #1 purpose of Downtown Fledge Watch is to educate the public so lots of people know to call the Game Commission if they find a downed peregrine. We’d love to believe trained volunteers can find every bird but the reality in Downtown Pittsburgh is that peregrines in trouble are found by people who’ve never seen a peregrine.  People often tell building security guards about the birds so I’ve notified nearby Point Park University (site of the rescue porch).

Downtown Peregrine Fledge Watch is a drop-in event to watch the young Downtown peregrines, educate the public about peregrines, and alert the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523 if a fledgling needs to be rescued from the ground.

Come when you can. Bring binoculars or camera if you have them. Be sure to check the blog for updates in case of weather cancellation.

Where: 3rd Avenue between Wood and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh. (click the link for a map)
When: On weekdays, Fri June 7, Mon-Wed June 10-12. Time: 11a-1p. Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder.
Who: I’ll be there (except June 12) with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group.
Notes: There is no official Fledge Watch on June 8-9 weekend but John and/or I may be there. On-street parking is free on Sundays.

(photo credits: Schenley Plaza tent by Kate St. John, Phipps Conservatory from Wikimedia Commons, Downtown Fledge Watch by John English)

Today in Schenley Park: Canada Warbler!

Canada warbler in Schenley Park, 19 May 2019 (photo by Peter Bell)

This morning 14 of us met at the Visitors’ Center for a bird walk in Schenley Park. We started with a view of the peregrine falcons at the Cathedral of Learning and ended with Best Bird in a tree near the Visitors’ Center — a Canada warbler!

Schenley Park outing, 19 May 2019 (photo taken by Margaret Laske)

Highlights in between included the sound of Tennessee warblers, scarlet tanagers, a yellow warbler, and an Acadian flycatcher, plus the sight of two ruby-throated hummingbirds, a wood thrush building her nest, a blue jay feeding nestlings, and a bay-breasted warbler in the tree canopy.

There were a heck of a lot of bullfrog tadpoles in Panther Hollow Lake. Why so many? They were almost gross.

After the walk we were milling about when Pete Bell took the photo at top and asked what it was. A Canada warbler! Several of us stayed 20-30 minutes to re-find it with some really great looks. Kuldeep Singh captured this gorgeous photo of the bird.

Canada Warbler (photo by Kuldeep Singh)

In all we saw and heard 32 species.  The complete checklist is here on eBird.

(photos of Canada warbler: at top by Peter Bell, at bottom by Kuldeep Singh. Group photo taken by Margaret Laske using Kate St. John’s phone)

Schenley Park Outing, May 19, 8:30a

Red-eyed vireo on nest (photo by Don Weiss)

Join me on Sunday May 19 at 8:30am for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive for this 8:30am to 10:30am walk. We’ll see flowers, late migrants and nesting birds. Red-eyed vireos, shown above, nest in Schenley Park. Will we see one?

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Check the Events page before you come for more information and in case of cancellation.

(photo of nesting red-eyed vireo by Don Weiss)

Mostly Off The Grid

Beginning this afternoon (26 April 2019) through Tuesday afternoon (30 April 2019) I’ll be birding out of cellphone range during the day. I’ll still be posting daily articles on the blog, but I won’t be able to respond to your comments until I’m back “on the grid” in the evenings. (I’m in West Virginia looking for warblers!)