In case you haven’t noticed, it’s stinkbug time again.
In the fall brown marmorated stinkbugs (Halyomorpha halys) invade our houses, squeezing into every crack. They’re annoying to us but devastating to orchards, farms and gardens where they pierce the fruit and cause necrosis.
These Asian invaders were first seen in the U.S. twenty years ago and caused trouble so quickly that USDA started searching for a biological control agent in the stinkbug’s native range. The most promising predator was the tiny Samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus).
Testing began in 2005 but the approval process takes a very long time. Scientists had to identify the right wasp and prove it wouldn’t destroy native species in the U.S. (Cane toads in Australia are a sad example of poor/no testing.) Testing was still underway in 2014 when a field survey found samurai wasps in Maryland.
This tornado was unusual not only for its northward movement in an eastward-moving storm, but especially because it formed on the northern side of the parent thunderstorm, removed from the typical hook echo region.
According to Wikipedia, “A hook echo is a pendant or hook-shaped weather radar signature as part of some supercell thunderstorms.”
USTornadoes.com describes how it forms: “This “hook-like” feature occurs when the strong counter-clockwise winds circling the mesocyclone (rotating updraft) are strong enough to wrap precipitation around the rain-free updraft area of the storm.”
The annotated radar image below shows the hook at bottom left, curling around the back of the storm with a tornado at the tip.
Tornadoes usually form in the hook echo and they move with the storm. Storm chasers use these facts to find and safely chase tornadoes.
But not at Valley Green Road. That tornado formed on the north edge and traveled north (See region on the annotated example of an Oklahoma tornado below.)
Sneaky tornado! Fortunately it was not very powerful (EF1) and there were only trees in its path.
(photo and hook echo images from Wikimedia Commons. The tornado photo was taken in North Carolina (not in PA); click on the captions to see the originals)
Last night at 11pm I looked at Pittsburgh’s weather radar for isolated thunderstorms. Instead I found intense songbird migration in progress. The colors in this radar print show them flying over western Pennsylvania.
Some of these birds would be fatally attracted to Pittsburgh’s city lights — that was nothing new — but last night there was an additional deadly attraction. Pitt won their football game on Saturday and the new Victory Lights were on. Would birds be stuck in the beams?
Saturday evening I had emailed PABIRDS asking folks to check the Victory Lights to see if this was happening. Was I going to ignore my own call to action just because it was 11pm? Well, no. I packed up my gear and drove to the Cathedral of Learning.
Before I got there I parked near Phipps Conservatory 0.4 miles away and looked at the beams (photo at top). Indeed there were bright specks circling inside the beams but I was so far away that only the brightest specks were visible.
I parked at Schenley Plaza near Forbes and counted about 100 bright specks. No, those aren’t moths in my blurry cellphone photo above (11:17:42pm). Those are trapped birds.
In the marked up photo below (11:18:19pm) the bent arrow points to a bird that’s so fatally trapped that it’s flying into the light where it will die. I saw another bird “ditch” out of the column to the roof.
This morning I predict there will be dead or stunned songbirds on the Cathedral of Learning’s many roofs, especially near the source of the Victory Lights.
It’s early October and the woolly bear caterpillars are back, right on time. But one thing is very odd. The weather is quite hot.
The temperature outlook map shows what we already know: There’s a 70% chance October 2018 will be warmer than normal in Pittsburgh. Highs will be in the 80s today through Wednesday (Oct 7-10)
How is this affecting the plants and animals we usually see in October?
In a normal October 20 years ago, fall foliage color would peak in Pittsburgh by the middle of October, sparrows and ducks would migrate through our area, and the average first frost would occur around October 15. Will those things happen on time this year?
ISeeChange.org is interested in the answer. They’re wondering: “What do you usually expect at this time of year? What does it look like outdoors, sound like, smell like, feel like? Are your expectations met, or are things different? Are there trends in your community that we need to be paying attention to?”
After several years of low monarch butterfly populations in southwestern Pennsylvania, this year has been spectacular. With the weather still as warm as summer I see monarchs flying south every day — even in October.
Here’s a puzzle. Don’t google it. Look at the photos to arrive at an answer.
In botany: What is a peduncle?
We encounter peduncles every day though we don’t use the word much anymore. Since 1950 the word has fallen out of common use and because it looks like pedophile+uncle the urban dictionary lists a raunchy meaning. But that’s not what it is.
Peduncle comes from ped (Latin for foot) plus -uncle (an Old French diminutive ending) so it literally means tiny foot.
Each photo on this page has at least one visible peduncle. Can you find it?
Here’s a clue. The number of peduncles in each photo above is:
Apples = 1
Black raspberries = 5 (three are hidden)
Elderberries = too many to count
Ginkgos = 9
Final clue: The photo below shows no fruit, but it has peduncles.
I’m pretty good at identifying western Pennsylvania’s deciduous trees because I live with them, but evergreens aren’t common here and they confuse me.
After I flunked the spruce-fir-hemlock test in Newfoundland in July I vowed to learn from that experience and do better last month in Maine. I updated my conifer “cheat sheet” and memorized the difference between balsam firs and hemlocks.
Conifers are still confusing but I’m doing better. I got a B- in Maine.
How do you tell the difference between pines, spruces, firs and hemlocks? Learn from my conifer cheat sheet: In A Coniferous State.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)
When my husband and I visited the Pittsburgh Zoo last spring we stopped by the cheetah exhibit to watch these graceful cats and learn about them from the zoo’s cheetah experts. We were amazed to find out that cheetahs like perfume. It keeps them from being bored.
Zookeepers have known for years that big cats, including lions and tigers, react to some perfumes the way housecats react to catnip. They sniff and flemen and rub their faces on the scented spot. My cat Emmy shows how it’s done with her catnip toy.
Instead of catnip the big cats prefer perfume and they don’t like the expensive stuff. Watch how perfume turns them on in this National Geographic video.
Peregrines bow to strengthen their pair bond at the Gulf Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh, 1 Oct 2018, 838am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
Dori remains after the bowing session, 1 Oct 2018, 846a
sleeping at 11:26a
watching at 12:32p
more watching, 1:10p
napping, 213p. Dori moves off camera soon after this
A banded male peregrine, probably Louie, visits the Gulf Tower nest after dark, 1 Oct 2018, 734pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf tower)
Digging the scrape in the dark, Gulf Tower, 1 Oct 2018, 739pm
At the Gulf tower, the male peregrine looks toward Oakland in the dark, 1 Oct 2018, 742pm
... and he faces the camera ... 1 Oct 2018, 743pm
While many raptors are migrating, Pittsburgh’s stay-at-home peregrines are patrolling their territories and strengthening their pair bonds as they watch the others fly by. Yesterday was a particularly good day for this activity.
In the slideshow above the Downtown pair courts for almost ten minutes in the morning fog, then Dori hangs out at the Gulf Tower for 5.5 hours. Later, in a surprise move, the banded male (looks like Louie) visits the nest and digs the scrape after dark.
Over at Pitt the peregrine pair, Hope and Terzo, decided to court at the Cathedral of Learning nest. Their visit was shorter — from 5:08p to 5:46p.
Waiting for her mate, 1 Oct 2018, 508pm
Hope and Terzo bow at the Cathedral of Learning, 1 Oct 2018, 514pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Waiting for a replay
Hope preening on the perch at Pitt, 1 Oct 2018, 524pm