A long slender beak-shaped mouth part (proboscis) for sucking liquid food.
A partially hardened pair of front wings with clear tips and completely clear rear wings shorter than the front ones.
Few joints in the antennae and feet: antennae about five joints, feet usually no more than three.
Cicadas have these characteristics so they and 50,000 to 80,000 other insects are in the “true bug” Order Hempitera. This tiny green flatid planthopper is too.
But their status is more complicated. These two are true bugs but not true “True Bugs.”
Within Hempitera there’s a suborder of really True Bugs called Heteroptera. Cicadas, planthoppers, spittlebugs, aphids, and adelgids aren’t in this suborder. (See taxonomic chart from bugguide.net below.)
White-tailed deer are numerous and very tame in Schenley Park. Last week I encountered a doe with twin fawns near the swimming pool.
The family became alert while I was staring at them, but the mother has learned that we humans aren’t dangerous and is teaching it to her kids. How many generations does it take for the herd to become this tame?
In the past ten years I’ve seen the landscape change in Schenley Park while the deer population has grown exponentially. Where there used to be thick slopes of false Solomon’s seal and yellow jewelweed there is nothing green now, just carpets of fallen leaves. Having eaten the good stuff they are working on less tasty food, avoiding the poisonous plants such as white snakeroot at their feet in these photos. Some day their range will fail them.
I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.
The house in the video above was inside a landslide zone on Semicir Street overlooking Riverview Park. Add water and … the house collapsed!
The bedrock at fault is Pittsburgh redbed, a claystone that disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces if exposed to pressure when it’s wet. Redbed is usually under pressure because it’s underneath solid rock and overlying soil. Add water to a steep slope and you have a landslide.
This sandstone boulder on the Bridle Trail in Schenley Park was part of the escarpment above it until the redbed layer beneath it gave way.
Here’s a future landslide on the Lower Panther Hollow Trail. This sandstone boulder, high above my head, will fall some day because the slow drip of water over the boulder has disintegrated the underlying redbed. Notice the reddish crumbled stones.
I had read that Pittsburgh redbed disintegrates when wet but I wanted to see for myself so I gathered some redbed rocks and ran an experiment.
Thousands of years ago these small crumbles were a much bigger solid rock but water had already acted on them. Will the crumbles disintegrate in the presence of water and pressure? I kept some rocks dry and soaked others for a day. Here’s my experiment.
Add water and pressure to Pittsburgh redbed claystone and … Watch out below!
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.
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.
I found a ghost flower blooming in Schenley Park last Monday.
Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) looks ghostly because it has no chlorophyll. Instead it’s symbiotic or parasitic on fungi that have a symbiotic/parasitic relationship with tree roots. This makes Indian pipe a parasite on a parasite … sort of.
Though it’s a perennial member of the Heath family, Indian pipe only grows when conditions are perfect and these are so impossible to replicate that the plant isn’t cultivated.
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
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
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)
This flowering tree is a native North American but was so rare that few people ever saw it until botanists fell in love with it.
Originally found in small patches from Arkansas to Kentucky and Tennessee, the Kentucky yellowwood’s (Cladrastis kentukea) beautiful flowers, mid-story height, and tolerance for full sun in urban settings makes it the perfect ornamental.
On Sunday in Schenley Park, our group was awed by the profusion of vanilla-scented flowers at the Visitors Center. We didn’t recognize the species so I went exploring yesterday and found it both cultivated and wild.
Here are some other cool facts about Kentucky yellowwood:
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!
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.
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)
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.