Category Archives: Schenley Park

Flowers and Seeds

Wingstem from bud to seed, Schenley Park, 3 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

6 August 2022

By early August many flowers have already produced seeds. Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) above displays every step in the process: buds, new flowers, fading flowers and seed packets.

The three-flanged seed pods of American wild yamroot (Dioscorea villosa) are as distinctive as its pleated leaves.

American wild yamroot leaves and seeds, Jennings 29 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) now has both seed pods and flowers (seeds in shadow at left). This alien plant is easy to find in Schenley Park because it is toxic to deer.

Greater celandine with seeds in the background, Schenley Park, 3 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) is much harder to find because it is ravaged by the large deer herd.

Yellow jewelweed. no seed in the picture, Schenley Park, 30 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

If this flower evades the deer it will turn into a seed pod that bursts explosively when ripe.

Seed pod on yellow jewelweed, Schenley Park, August 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

Yesterday at Schenley Park on 7/31

Pileated woodpecker, May 2020 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

1 August 2022

Twelve of us met in Schenley Park yesterday morning and walked East Circuit Road in search of birds. As expected in late July the birds were quiet, though we did manage to see or hear 27 species. Our checklist is here and listed at the end.

Best Bird was a pileated woodpecker hammering on a fallen log in the darkest woods. The photo above is not from our walk. Chad+Chris Saladin had better light for their photo in May 2020.

I forgot to take a picture of the group. 🙁 Here is my one photo from the walk: Yellow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa) blooming in the grass.

Hawkweed blooming at Schenley Park, 31 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

eBird checklist: Schenley Park, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Jul 31, 2022 8:30A – 10:30A
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 2
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) 8
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 4
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 1
Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) 2
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 5
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) 1 Heard
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 7
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) 6
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 3 Young with obvious gape-beak
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 2
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) 1
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) 1 Heard one making agitated call
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 15
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 3
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 2
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) 1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 5

(pileated woodpecker photo by Chad+Chris Saladin; hawkweed photo by Kate St. John)

A Few Flowers Last Week

Chicory with fly, Schenley Park, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

19 June 2022

Wildflowers bloom in two spurts in southwestern Pennsylvania: Woodland wildflowers in April before leaf out, “field” flowers in July-August after the solstice.

May and June are practically flowerless except for a few non-natives blooming in Schenley Park last week. Some are invasive. They thrive because deer don’t eat them.

Greater celandine already going to seed, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Canada thistle going to seed, Schenley Park, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Goutweed, Schenley Park, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

Fledge Watch + Phipps BioBlitz, June 4,5

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

30 May 2022


The first week of June is jam-packed with outdoor opportunities. Join me at Schenley Plaza or Schenley Park for these fun activities:

  • Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 4, 5 and 7
  • Phipps Bio-Blitz, Schenley Park, June 5

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 4, 5

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is a drop-in event to swap peregrine stories and watch the young birds learn to fly from the Cathedral of Learning. I’ll have my scope on hand for a zoomed in view of the youngsters exercising their wings. Bring binoculars or camera. Check the Events page before you come in case of weather cancellation.

Where: Schenley Plaza near the tent, shown above.
When: Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder. Check here before you come.

  • Saturday June 4, 11:30 to 1:00pm
  • Sunday June 5, 11:00 – 12:30pm, starts earlier after my BioBlitz walk (see below)
  • CANCELED DUE TO RAIN Tuesday June 7, 11:30 – 1:00pm

Who: I’ll be there with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group and lots of peregrine fans. (On June 7 John English will start the watch at 11:30a; I’ll arrive at noon.)
Parking: On-street parking is free on Sundays. Otherwise you must use the pay stations on the sidewalks. Garage parking is available at Soldiers and Sailors Hall, just over a block away on Bigelow Boulevard.

Phipps BioBlitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, Sun June 5, 8:30a – 10:30a

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

On Sunday June 5, 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, amphibians, mollusks and more. As part of the BioBlitz I will lead a bird walk 8:30am-10:30am. The event is free. No registration required. Read all about Phipps BioBlitz Day here.

Where: Starting from Phipps front lawn. You’ll see a sign for my walk.
When: Sunday June 5, 8:30a-10:30a
Parking: Free on Sundays!
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)

Yesterday at Schenley Park: Nestlings and Blackpolls

Blackpoll warbler, Schenley Park, 22 May 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

23 May 2022

Six of us gathered at Schenley Park yesterday morning in perfect weather for a bird and nature walk. (The sixth is taking the picture.)

Great weather for an outing in Schenley Park, 22 May 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

First on the agenda was a look through my scope at the Pitt peregrines. Though we were half a mile from the Cathedral of Learning we could see one adult babysitting and two fluffy heads looking out the front of the nestbox. This is where the chicks were standing as we watched.

3 peregrine chicks at the Cathedral of Learning, 26 days old, 22 May 2022

Inside the park, a pair of red-tailed hawks is raising three chicks about the same age as the peregrines. We paused on our walk to watch them eat. Best views are from here.

Scroll through Charity Kheshgi’s Instagram photos to see our Best Birds including the blackpoll warbler pictured above.

In all we saw 25 species ( Not a high count but well worth the trip.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis): Saw 4, maybe 5: 1 or 2 adults + 3 young in nest.
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  3
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  Saw 4: 1 adult via scope + 3 young in nest via falconcam.
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  5
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  4
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  5    2 pairs
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  4
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  18
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  5
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)  2
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  4
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  1
Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)  2    Seen!
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)  1

p.s. Charity’s photo of the rose-breasted grosbeak was taken after the walk.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi)

What Tree Is This?

Hosechestnut in flower (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

19 May 2022

Trees with stacks of white flowers are drawing our attention this week in Pittsburgh. Perhaps you’re wondering “What tree is this? “

Horsechestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) originated in Greece but have been planted around the world for their beautiful flowers. When fertilized the flowers become the familiar shiny buckeyes I played with as a child.

Fruit of the horsechestnut (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In Pittsburgh we call the tree a “buckeye” though it is just one of many buckeyes (Aesculus) in our area including natives of North America: yellow, Ohio, and bottlebrush.

A close look at horsechestnut flowers reveals that some have yellow centers, others red.

Closeup of horsechestnut flowers (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bees see and are attracted to yellow, not red, so when a horsechestnut flower is fertilized it turns red. The flowers are …

Are there red flowers on the tree? Come back in early fall to collect the buckeyes.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Schenley Park Outing, May 22, 8:30am

Purple deadnettle, Schenley Park, 6 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

16 May 2022

Join me on Sunday 22 May, 8:30am to 10:30am, for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park.

UPDATE Sunday 22 May 2022 at 6am: Perfect weather this morning! See you soon.

Meet at the Schenley Park Visitors 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 water, a hat, binoculars — and field guides if you have them.

We’re sure to see purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) at top, and golden alexanders (Zizia aurea), below, in bloom.

Golden alexanders, Schenley Park, 24 May 2020 (photo by Kate St. John)

Hope to see you there.

p.s. If the birding is good I’ll give an option to continue until 11:00a.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Best In Song

14 May 2022

Wood thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) are back in Schenley Park after their winter sojourn in Central America.

Yesterday this one used his beautiful voice to claim a nesting territory near the Bartlett tufa bridge. Click here or on the screenshot below to hear him sing.

Of all the birds he wins “Best In Song.”

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, video by Kate St. John)

Rare Golden-winged Warbler Visits Schenley Park

Golden-winged warbler in Schenley Park, 4 May 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

5 May 2022

After yesterday morning’s downpour the sky never cleared and the air was so heavy that I didn’t expect to see good birds in Schenley Park, but when I arrived the soundscape was filled with the songs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, wood thrushes, Baltimore orioles, and many northern parulas. When I found the loudest parula I discovered he had a rare friend — a golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera). The two of them were feeding on insects hidden in new elm leaves.

My post on the rare bird alert drew in other birders and photographers, including Charity Kheshgi whose photos are shown here. Rare birds usually visit for only 24 hours so everyone had to act fast.

Golden-winged warbler in Schenley Park, 4 May 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Why is this bird rare?

The Golden-winged Warbler is a sharply declining songbird that lives in shrubby, young forest habitats in the Great Lakes and Appalachian Mountains regions. They have one of the smallest populations of any songbird not on the Endangered Species List and are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. An estimated 400,000 breeding adults remain—a drop of 66% since the 1960s. In the Appalachian Mountains the situation is even worse: the regional population has fallen by 98%. We’ve learned that the main reasons for the decline include habitat loss on the breeding and wintering grounds (Central and northern South America) and hybridization with the closely related Blue-winged Warbler.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Golden-winged warbler Conservation Strategy

Because of their precipitous decline, golden-winged warblers have been well studied for at least a decade. Seven years ago, scientists tracking this tiny bird in Tennessee discovered that it sensed the approach of violent storms and fled the tornadoes one day ahead. Read the amazing story of how golden-winged warblers flew 400 miles to the Gulf of Mexico to avoid the storms … and then came back.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi)

Today in Schenley Park, April 24th

Schenley Park outing, 24 April 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

24 April 2022

Thirteen of us came out for a walk in Schenley Park on Sunday morning and were thrilled to hear a wood thrush singing near the Visitors Center. The bird was hard to spot in the treetops but CJ Showers got a photo of him from below.

Wood thrush, Schenley Park, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

Two First of Year species had just returned: yellow warbler and gray catbird. Male red-winged blackbirds claimed territory and chased females at Panther Hollow Lake, while two spotted sandpipers sidestepped bullfrogs among the reeds.

Red-winged blackbird, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

The red-tailed hawk family on the bridge appears to have babies in the nest, though we could not see them.

Red-tailed hawk at nest, Schenley park, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

And a surprise awaited us around the bend.

Sara Showers saw the profile of this fledgling eastern screech owl perched at eye level on a hackberry branch. Though he wasn’t hidden he was doing his best to look like part of the tree until we gawked at him. That made him raise his ear tufts and look at us through slit eyes.

Fledgling eastern screech-owl, Schenley park, 24 April 2022 (photo by CJ Showers)

See our entire checklist at and listed below.

Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, Apr 24, 2022 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM. 30 species
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  4
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  2
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  2
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  1 — Flyover
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)  1 — fledgling!
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)  1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  4
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  7
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula)  10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  2
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  1    First of year
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  20
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  4
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  9
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  8
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  3
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  2
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1    First of year
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  8
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  6

If you attended the outing and would like me to share the list to you, please leave a comment to tell me so.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi and CJ Showers)

UPDATE 25 APRIL 2022: On Monday morning I took the same walk as on Sunday and found that bird activity was more subdued. Many of the birds we saw on Sunday must have left on Sunday night’s strong south wind, including all but one of the ruby-crowned kinglets. However, I found an eastern screech-owl nest near where we saw the fledgling on Sunday. His sibling was looking out of the hole! (It’s a lousy cellphone photo but you get the idea.)

Eastern screech-owl youngster poised at nest hole, Schenley Park, 25 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)