The sun set at 7:27pm, the sky flamed and dimmed. It was barely glowing twenty minutes later when we heard the first “peent.”
On dry Spring nights male American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) gather in shrubby fields to mate with females who intend to nest there. Within the hour after sunset or in the hour before sunrise, they let the ladies know they’re available by stomping around in the dark calling “peent, peent, peent.” After some peenting each male flings himself into the sky climbing hundreds of feet before circling back down. While ascending his wings make a twittering sound, while descending his wings chirp. You can tell what he’s doing by listening in the dark. He lands where he started and does it again.
Listen to a complete cycle of peenting + whistling and chirping wings.
This sundial in Ecuador at GPS 00.000, -78.103 shows the sun’s shadow falling on the equator during the equinox. Mark the shadow at your own home and see the sun return to this position on the Autumnal Equinox on 23 September.
In Pittsburgh we are gaining almost 3 minutes of daylight per day, in this week surrounding the equinox.
(diagram and photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
After yesterday’s sunny Spring weather we are waking up to snow this morning. Fortunately Pittsburgh missed the heavy snow and blizzard conditions to our east.
Last night Morela slept in the open at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. You can tell that her feathers provide excellent insulation because several inches of snow did not melt right next to her body.
Pennsylvania has the highest rate of Lyme disease in the U.S. (CDC, 2019) so in early March the approach of tick season is always in the back of my mind. This winter we had some spates of bitter cold and some long runs of snow cover. Did winter suppress the ticks?
This month I learned from Keystone Trails Association that: “All the snow keeping our grounds covered throughout the cold winter months has only helped the tick population. Snow coverage acts as a giant quilt or insulator to keep the ticks warm under the leaf litter.”
Snow helps ticks survive the winter and we had a lot of it this year.
This month the ground is warming and black-legged ticks are getting active. All they need is unfrozen ground and an air temperature of 37°F to start moving out of the leaf litter. This spells danger for hikers, birders and especially for gardeners who handle all that leaf litter.
This week in Pittsburgh the weeping willows turned yellow for spring and male red-winged blackbirds came back to the marshes. At Homewood Cemetery the two combined when a red-winged blackbird called from a large willow. He’s the black dot at 9 or 10 o’clock (on the dial) in my photo.
The red-wings didn’t look so spiffy three weeks ago at Frick Park’s feeders, below. Now they are sharply black and red.
Over at Schenley Park the moss is greening up on the tufa bridges and purple “weed” leaves are looking hairy.
A closer look reveals the hairs may be tiny rootlets. Last summer I knew the name of this “weed” but I don’t remember it now. (Best guess via Stephen Tirone is hawkweed)
Last Thursday 24 February it rained more than an inch overnight in Pittsburgh. By Friday morning Panther Hollow Lake in Schenley Park had flooded its surrounding trails and the remaining ice floated on muddy water.
Ephemeral streams became cascading waterfalls.
Meanwhile the water rose and fell at Cedar Creek in Westmoreland County where Donna Foyle found cat ice left behind.
On Saturday I thought we were done with ice but a drive on Sunday found gleaming hillsides of ice-coated trees like this one along Route 422, photographed by Karyn Delaney. I had no idea there had been freezing rain north of Pittsburgh.
@john_kucko took a video of the ice on his walk in Stoneboro, PA.
What happens when two massive black holes collide and merge? A team of astronomers says we’re about to find out, in as soon as 100 days in early/mid May.
In the center of a galaxy 1.2 billion light-years from Earth, astronomers say they have seen signs that two giant black holes, with a combined mass of hundreds of millions of Suns, are gearing up for a cataclysmic merger as soon as 100 days from now. The event, if it happens, would be momentous for astronomy, offering a glimpse of a long-predicted, but never witnessed mechanism for black hole growth. It might also unleash an explosion of light across the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as a surge of gravitational waves and ghostly particles called neutrinos that could reveal intimate details of the collision.
If recent calculations are correct, an even better opportunity is on its way: Two giant black holes are about to crash. It’s the first time we humans know where to look when it happens so astronomers are getting ready to watch.
Hold onto your hats! When giant black holes collide will we hear the crash?
Birds knew bad weather was coming and frantically fueled up. This hungry red-tailed hawk momentarily perched at Carnegie Museum parking lot for a better look at potential prey while the blue jays shouted “Watch out!”
On Thursday the storm moved in. It rained and rained — 1.02 inches — matching the previous record rainfall set in 1939. We were fortunate not to have freezing rain in the city.
By Friday snow covered everything again except this new creek flowing into Westinghouse fountain at Schenley Park.
And in case you missed it …
… the most amazing event happened on Monday 31 January. Click the link for pictures, videos and the reason why the Flying Squirrel Hill Bus is in the air.