Category Archives: Schenley Park

Bee Tree Broke In The Storm

17 June 2021

We are usually unaware of wild honeybee hives high in the forest and that was certainly true of this one near the Westinghouse Shelter in Schenley Park. The bee tree broke during last Sunday’s storm and just missed hitting the shelter. At noon on Tuesday I found the tree cordoned off by Public Works as they waited for the bees to be removed.

The massive hive was in a hollow 20+ feet up in a red oak. When a northwest gust hit the tree it broke at its weakest point and split the hive. Most of the hive remained in the upper section with a few empty honeycombs in the dangling piece.

Rather than step closer I zoomed my cellphone camera to show the bees covering the hive (center of photo) and more honeycombs at top right in the hollow.

Wild honeybee hive in a fallen oak, 15 June 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

When I passed through at 1:30pm, beekeeper and DPW Schenley Park worker Kevin Wilford was carefully moving the hive to a bee transport box. He attached the white box to the tree to encourage the bees to go in it after he moved the hive. However, the hive was so deep that he could not reach it without more tools. The process took longer than I had time to watch but Kevin gave me a taste of it, a small piece of honeycomb laden with honey. Mmmmmm good! and sticky!

Beekeeper & DPW worker Kevin Wilford begins to move the bees, 15 June 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

By Friday the beehive will be on a scenic hill above Hazelwood, the damaged tree will be gone, and the Westinghouse Shelter will be ready for use.

UPDATE on 24 JUNE 2021: As I passed by the bee tree today I could see that most of the hive was still in place. The bees are very deep inside the hollow so the tree is still down.

Bee tree still has bees as of 24 June 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

UPDATE on 1 JULY 2021: The end of the bee tree. It is gone except for a very tall stump.

Bee tree is gone, Schenley Park, 1 July 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

After The Storm

Sunset after the storm, 13 June 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Tuesday 15 June 2021

At 6pm on Sunday evening a violent thunderstorm blew through Pittsburgh with powerful wind gusts, hail and heavy rain.

Dave DiCello photographed the storm from the West End as it approached Oakland. The VA Hospital and the Cathedral of Learning are to the right of the lightning bolt.

Meanwhile my husband and I watched from our 6th floor apartment as a wind gust picked up the patio umbrella from the high-rise roof next door and blew it, Mary Poppins-like, until it crashed into our building. Then we saw no more as rain and hail battered our windows for half an hour, first from the north, then the east.

The tempest left behind flooding, downed trees, power outages, and a rainbow.

Rainbow after the storm, 13 June 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday morning I surveyed the damage after the cleanup had already begun. In a short walk I found trees down at Frick Fine Arts, Carnegie Library and Museum, and two small breaks on South Craig Street.

At Schenley Park the valley around Panther Hollow Lake was spared but the lake itself was full of flood water. This is by design. A flow control gate at the outlet holds back freshwater so that storms will not flood The Run.

Panther Hollow Lake holds back floodwaters from the storm, 14 June 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning the power was still out in parts of Squirrel Hill as I drove home from the grocery store.

My husband and I were fortunate. Our power never failed and that flying umbrella hit the wall below us and caused no damage.

p.s. The young Pitt peregrines are flying so well that they are hard to find. I saw both adults plus two of four juveniles on my Monday morning walk.

(photos by Kate St. John)

The Most Beautiful Song

Wood thrush singing (photo by Shawn Collins)

13 June 2021

Right now Schenley Park is full of singing wood thrushes. In recent days I’ve counted a dozen every time I walk the trails.

On Friday morning, 11 June, this wood thrush sang his heart out at the Bartlett end of Panther Hollow. It’s the most beautiful song in Schenley Park.

Get outdoors now to hear the wood thrushes. They will stop singing in July.

(photo by Shawn Collins, recording by Kate St. John)

Fledge Watch + a BioBlitz, Jun 2,4,6

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

26 May 2021

Now that COVID restrictions have eased outdoors(*) join me for fun activities at Schenley Plaza and Schenley Park on June 2, 4 and 6.

  • Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, midday June 2, 4, 6
  • Phipps Bio-Blitz, Sunday June 6 (Registration required)

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 2, 4, 6. 11:30a-1:00p

Did you know that the Cathedral of Learning is such as safe nesting site that we never have to rescue a young peregrine from the street? That means that Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is pure fun. Drop-in when you can, no need to stay the whole time. Swap peregrine stories, learn about peregrines and watch the Pitt youngsters learn to fly. Bring binoculars or camera if you have them. Check the Events page before you come in case of weather cancellation.

Where: Schenley Plaza near the tent, shown above.
When: Wed Jun 2, Fri Jun 4 and Sun Jun 6, 11:30a-1:00p. Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder. Check here before you come.
Parking: Parking is free on Sunday. Otherwise you must use the pay stations on the street at Schenley Plaza. Garage parking is available at Carnegie Museum, entrance on Forbes Ave at Craig St.
(*) Face masks: Wear a face mask if you want to or need to. CDC guidance on 27 April 2021 says fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear a face mask outdoors; un-vaccinated people can go maskless outdoors if they are alone or with household members.

Phipps BioBlitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, Sun June 6, 8:30a – 10:30a

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

On Sunday June 6, Phipps BioBlitz will bring together families, students, local scientists, naturalists, and teachers for a biological survey of the plants and animals in Schenley Park. See and learn about birds, plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, mollusks and more. As part of the BioBlitz I will lead a bird walk 8:30am-10:30am. The event is free but registration is required. Read all about Phipps BioBlitz Day here.

How to join the walk: Participation is limited. Registration is required. Sign up here.
Where: Starting from Phipps’ front lawn. You’ll see a sign for my walk.
When: Sunday June 6, 8:30a-10:30a
Parking: Free on Sundays!
(*) Face masks: Will follow Phipps rules. Bring a mask and be prepared to wear it. See details here.
Note: As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza for Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch.

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

Today in Schenley Park

Participants at the Schenley Park outing, 23 May 2021 (Ooops. I lined up the photo poorly and missed one person on the left)

23 May 2021

This morning 11 of us took a walk in Schenley Park, starting at the Visitors Center and around Panther Hollow Lake.

Right off the bat the best tree was a Kentucky yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) blooming next to the Visitors Center. It smells so sweet.

Kentucky yellowwood flowers, Schenley Park, 20 May 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

Best birds were a very cooperative scarlet tanager (photo below by CJ Showers), a wood thrush, and a rose-breasted grosbeak male with his lady on their nest.

Scarlet tanager at Schenley Park, 23 May 2021 (photo by CJ Showers)

We saw 29 species — not a huge count but a good morning nonetheless.

Canada Goose, 10 flyover
Mallard, a pair at the lake
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift, skimmed the lake to take a drink
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, perched on a snag
Red-tailed Hawk, one on the nest, one in flight
Red-bellied Woodpecker, heard
Peregrine Falcon, 1 perched at the Cathedral of Learning
Eastern Wood-Pewee, heard
Eastern Phoebe, carrying food
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Tufted Titmouse
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
House Wren
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Wood Thrush, perched to watch us and raised his head feathers
American Robin, carrying food
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Song Sparrow
Orchard Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Yellow Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female on nest + male nearby

Click here for the eBird checklist.

Thanks, everyone, for coming.

(photos by Kate St. John and CJ Showers)

Schenley Park Outing, May 23, 8:30a

Red-winged blackbird (photo by Bobby Greene)

Join me on Sunday May 23 at 8:30am for a 2-hour bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

Meet at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive (40.4383304,-79.9464765). We’ll see flowers, late migrants and nesting birds.

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

Red-winged blackbirds nest at Panther Hollow Lake. We are sure to see them!

This event will be held rain or shine but not in a downpour or thunder. Check the Events page before you come in case of cancellation.

p.s. Face masks: Wear one if you want to or need to. On 27 April 2021 the CDC said that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear a face mask outdoors while un-vaccinated people can go maskless outdoors if they are alone or with household members. I am fully vaccinated so I won’t be wearing a mask. Only you know whether you got the vaccine. It’s up to you.

(photo of red-winged blackbird by Robert Greene, Jr.)

A Last Look At April

Golden ragwort, Raccoon Creek State Park, 26 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

1 May 2021

This week April’s wildflowers faded, May flowers began to bloom, and the trees in Schenley Park leafed out.

On 26 April I found golden ragwort, wild geranium and white violets along the Lake Trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County.

Wild geranium, Raccoon Creek State Park, 26 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)
White violets, Raccoon Creek State Park, 26 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

The city’s heat island effect was evident among the trees. The redbuds in Schenley Park leafed out while those in Beaver County were a week behind, still flowering.

Redbud leafs out, Schenley Park, 28 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

We have so many leaves that they almost obscured an eastern screech-owl on the last day of April.

Eastern screech-owl, Schenley Park, 30 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Welcome to the month of May.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Today in Schenley Park, 25 April

This morning was overcast and chilly when 17 of us explored the west end of Schenley Park beginning at Anderson Playground.

We saw a peregrine fly around the Cathedral of Learning (the eggs are hatching today!) and a red-tailed hawk bring food to his nest. Our Best Bird was a Louisiana waterthrush walking in the wetland under fallen logs.

When the birds were quiet we examined pawpaw flowers.

Pawpaw flowers, Schenley Park, 24 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Unofrtunately we did not see this eastern screech-owl near the pawpaws. He was there yesterday when I scouted the park … but not today. Alas. 🙁

An eastern screech-owl who did NOT show up today, Schenley Park, 24 April 2021

Here’s our list, 28 species :

  • Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
  • Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
  • Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
  • Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
  • Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus)
  • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  • Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
  • Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
  • American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  • Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
  • Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis). heard
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
  • European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
  • American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
  • American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
  • Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
  • White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
  • Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
  • Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
  • Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)
  • Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

(photos by Kate St. John)

Between The Showers

Raindrops on a trout lily, closed flower, Jennings, 12 April 2021

17 April 2021

Though it didn’t rain a lot this week April showers and chilly weather put a damper on outdoor plans.

On Monday 12 April we dodged the raindrops at Jennings to find ruby-crowned kinglets, field sparrows and a palm warbler. Rain beaded up on the trout lily leaves and rolled right off the dog violets. We got wet at the end of our walk. It poured on my way home.

Dog violets, Jennings, 12 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

In Schenley Park …

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) was in full bloom by Tuesday 13 April.

Redbud in bloom, Schenley, 13 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

This jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens) flower was fading by Thursday 15 April. Native to China and Korea, jetbead was planted as an ornamental but became invasive in eastern North America.

Fading flower on jetbead, Schenley, 15 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Squawroot (Conopholis americana), a native parasitic plant, is now emerging at the base of oaks and beeches. Alternative names include American cancer-root, bumeh or bear corn.

Squawroot emerging from the soil, Schenley, 13 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

As the leaves come out so do the insects. Even though these hackberry leaves are not fully open yet, tiny winged insects are crawling in the crevices. When the warblers arrive they will eat the bugs. This tree can hardly wait!

Insects in new hackberry leaves, Schenley, 13 April 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

After Friday’s chilly drizzle I hope for warm dry weather soon.

(photos by Kate St. John)