Category Archives: Schenley Park

Bottlebrush

Bottlebrush buckeye flower spike, Schenley Park, 6 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Bottlebrush buckeye flower spike, Schenley Park, 6 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

This week the bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) were in bloom at Schenley Park. You can see how the shrub got it’s name from the bottlebrush shape of the flower spike.

Here’s what the hillside near Panther Hollow Lake looks like when the buckeyes are blooming.  They were probably planted shortly after the lake was completed in 1909.

Bottlebrush buckeye bushes in bloom, Schenley Park, 3 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Bottlebrush buckeye bushes in bloom, Schenley Park, 3 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

These bushes hid an added bonus: When I stopped to photograph them a wood thrush walked out from them and paused to look at me.

Click here to read more about this native shrub, originally from the Deep South.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)
Historical Information: the first landscape architect of Schenley Park: William Falconer.

Today in Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing, 24 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park outing, 24 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Eight of us went birding in Schenley Park today and saw lots of cool bird behavior.

In the first fifteen minutes we saw an unusual scarlet tanager — bright orange like an oriole instead of scarlet like a tanager.  We also had good looks at our Best Bird of the day:  a beautiful male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Down the trail we found a tiny sentinel.  A male ruby-throated hummingbird perched high on a dead snag watching his domain.  We also found an Acadian flycatcher on her nest and an American robin feeding nestlings.

After so much rain the creek and first waterfall were running fast.  Last Wednesday’s downpour washed a culvert into the gravel trail that reached right down to the bedrock — a layer of blue-green slate.

In all we saw / heard 29 species.  The complete checklist is here.

p.s. I promised daisy fleabane and we did see it. Whew!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing: June 24, 8:30am

Fleabane blooming in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)
Fleabane blooming in Schenley Park, 10 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Summer arrived before the solstice.  It’s time to get outdoors!

Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, June 24, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road. We’ll look in the meadow for birds and flowers, then explore the woodland trails.  I’m sure we’ll see daisy fleabane. It’s blooming now.

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

Before you come, visit the Events page in case there are changes or cancellations.  The outing will be canceled if there’s lightning.

Hope to see you there!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

Let’s Go, Kids

  • Uh oh! We've been seen.

Last week in Schenley Park I heard unusual mewing sounds above me.  Three raccoon kits were whining as their mother assessed whether I was dangerous. She saw me before I saw her family.

Eventually Mama decided her kits should move up the tree for safety’s sake.  “Let’s go, kids!”

After they were safely (almost) hidden she looked down to see if I was gone.  That tiny tail in the last photo is one of her kits.

(photos by Kate St. John)

 

Amaze Your Friends

Yellow poplar weevil on black locust, Schenley Park, 8 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Yellow poplar weevil on black locust, Schenley Park, 8 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

At this time of year the weevils appear.  I found one on black locust leaves in Schenley Park on Friday June 8.

At first, they hang out on plants but they can fly.  In a “big year” they spread everywhere, landing on buildings and people and just about anything.  By late June people are freaking out.  They think they’re ticks.

But you won’t freak out. You’ll know what they are.

This is a yellow poplar weevil (Odontopus calceatus), a vegetarian that feasts on yellow poplars, tuliptrees, sassafras and cucumber magnolia trees.  He’s usually kept in check by predatory insects but in “big years” there aren’t enough predators and his population goes wild.

The weevil’s body structure shows why he’s not a tick:

  • Ticks have 8 legs (they’re related to spiders). Weevils have 6.
  • Ticks don’t have wings.  Weevils have wings under their elytra (wing covers). Though they don’t fly much you may see one raise his wing covers and zoom away.
  • Ticks do not have snouts.  Weevils have snouts like inflexible elephants’ trunks and 2 antennas on the snout.
  • Ticks never swarm.  Weevils swarm in June because they’re mating.
Yellow poplar weevil is not a tick (photo by Kate St. John)
Yellow poplar weevil is not a tick (photo by Kate St. John)

Later in June when the weevils swarm, amaze your friends . “Nope, it’s not a tick.”

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

Yesterday in Schenley Park

Schenley Park outing, 27 May 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park outing, 27 May 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

No it didn’t rain! Though the clouds lingered we had a great time in Schenley Park on Sunday morning.

The leaves obscured some of the birds but they were very active after Saturday night’s storms.  We chased scarlet tanager songs without seeing them, found one of the many wood thrushes we heard in the park and had good looks at these Best Birds:

A pair of eastern phoebes guarded their nest site at the Visitors’ Center. This one watched us walk into the park.

Eastern phoebe, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Eastern phoebe, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

We saw a pair of cedar waxwings beak-touching and courting.

Cedar waxwing pair touching beaks, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Cedar waxwing pair touching beaks, Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

And a male pileated woodpecker attracted our attention by constantly hammering on an enormous hollow tree. Peter Bell found him high up the slope. Best Bird for the outing and Life Bird for Peter!

Pileated woodpecker in Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Pileated woodpecker in Schenley Park, 27 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

The complete checklist is here — 22 species.

 

(photo of participants by Kate St. John; bird photos by Peter Bell)

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)

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)

New Flowers And Leaves

Saucer magnolia in bloom, Schenley park, 23 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Saucer magnolia in bloom, Schenley park, 23 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring has finally sprung!  Here are just a few of the new flowers and leaves in western Pennsylvania.

The week began with spectacular saucer magnolia trees, above.  Relentless cold temperatures had kept all the buds closed until they simultaneously burst into an aromatic pink display.  Today the petals coat our sidewalks.

Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) is an early native wildflower that fades so quickly you have to be on the spot to see it bloom.  Thursday morning at Enlow Fork we found the twin leaves open and the buds closed.

Twinleaf in the morning, Enlow Fork, 26 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Twinleaf in the morning, Enlow Fork, 26 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Twinleaf flowers, closed in the morning, Enlow Fork, 26 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Twinleaf flowers, closed in the morning, Enlow Fork, 26 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

By early afternoon the flowers had been open for several hours.  How soon they will fade!

Twinleaf in the afternoon, Enlow Fork, 26 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Twinleaf in the afternoon, Enlow Fork, 26 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna) is a later flower with a longer life on the stem.  It’s just started blooming at Enlow Fork.

Blue-eyed Mary, Enlow Fork, 26 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Blue-eyed Mary, Enlow Fork, 26 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

The trees are blooming, too.  On Monday redbud (Cercis canadensis) flowers began to appear at Schenley Park …

Redbud in the bud, Schenley Park, 23 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Redbud in the bud, Schenley Park, 23 April 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

… hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) unfurled its yellow catkins …

Hop hornbeam catkins, Schenley Park, 23 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Hop hornbeam catkins, Schenley Park, 23 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

… and the first tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) leaf emerged.

Tulip leaf emerging from bud, 23 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Tulip leaf emerging from bud, 23 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

The Ohio buckeyes (Aesculus glabra) made a big splash of green.

Ohio buckeye leaves, 23 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Ohio buckeye leaves, 23 Apr 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

The flowers and trees are much further along and the redbuds are in full bloom today.

Get outdoors to see them fast before they go to seed.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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)