Nesting season began last month for this pair of Bermuda cahows when the female laid her single egg on 10 January 2019. The parents are now taking turns at incubation duty. They expect the egg to hatch in early March.
In this NASA video a robotic spacecraft called Juno makes its sixteenth fly-by (Perijove) since arriving in mid-2016. Its closest approach is almost dizzying. I feel better when the spacecraft zooms away and we see the swirling clouds.
Did you notice that Jupiter is on the sound track, too? The fourth movement of Gustav Holst’s The Planets is called Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity. Listen to the entire majestic movement here.
If you live in the City of Pittsburgh and visit our parks you’ll want to participate in this survey, available now through April 2019.
Pittsburgh has 165 parks sprinkled throughout our neighborhoods from small playgrounds to regional parks — Schenley, Frick, Riverview, Highland and the future Hays Woods. The City’s goal is to have well maintained parks within a 10-minute walk of every resident.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that infrastructure is crumbling in many of them. The park system gets big donations for capital improvements (bricks & mortar) but not for maintenance, so we have new buildings like the Frick Environmental Center but deteriorating playgrounds, landscape and trails. How do we fix that inequity and how much will it cost?
One week from today — February 15-18 — the Great Backyard Bird Count will take a real-time snapshot of birds around the world. You can help.
Since 1998 the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) has enlisted volunteers like us to count the birds we see for four days in mid-February. Last year our worldwide effort counted 6,459 species and nearly 29 million birds!
Register for an eBird or GBBC account if you don’t already have one. (GBBC uses eBird so you don’t need both.)
Count birds for at least 15 minutes during the four-day period. You can count in more than one place and longer than 15 mins if you wish. Keep track of the highest number of each species you see with a separate checklist for each new day, for each new location, or for the same location if you counted at a different time of day.
Climate change is giving us extreme weather, melting glaciers and rising seas. It’s not the first time we humans lived through this but the last event was during the Stone Age and nobody wrote it down.
During the last Ice Age England was connected to Europe. As the glaciers receded people moved to the land between. Dogger Bank was the highest ground, about 100 feet above sea level.
100 feet sounds like a safe height, right? Nope. The glaciers kept melting. Dogger Bank disappeared 8,200 years ago.
Claiming territory is a blatant activity but the peregrine’s first egg date is nearly impossible to determine without a falconcam. Unlike bald eagles, peregrines nest on inaccessible ledges and don’t begin incubation until the next to last egg has been laid. The only sign that they’re incubating is that you see only one peregrine for more than a month; the other one’s on the nest.
In the past month I’ve looked closely at pairs and solo crows. Sometimes I discover they’re ravens. Here are tips for telling them apart, listed from easiest to hardest.
Tail shape: In flight ravens have wedge-shaped tails, crows have straight-across or curved-tip tails.
Sound: The raven’s call is a rough “Brock! Brock!” Crows say “Caw! Caw!” Ravens also say a lot of bizarre things.
Flight style: Ravens soar and sometimes tumble, crows flap. If you see a soaring corvid it’s a raven.
Social behavior: In Pittsburgh, ravens travel alone or in pairs, crows travel in big flocks or family groups of 3-4. (In Los Angeles there are flocks of ravens.)
Size (not always helpful): Ravens are larger, the size of a red-tailed hawk.
Silhouette: Because the raven’s tail is longer and wider, his head looks relatively small and pointy.
Beak: Ravens have big powerful beaks, crows do not.
These silhouettes illustrate two field marks. On the left, two crows have straight-across or curved tips on their tails. On the right, the solo raven has a wedge-shaped tail and his head looks relatively small and pointy.
Sound is the best field mark if the birds are calling. This audio clip from Xeno Canto has a raven in the foreground (Brock! Brock!) and crows cawing in the background.
Bald eagle nesting season has come to western Pennsylvania. Our favorite pair at Hays Woods finished their new nest in early winter and are spending lots of time together. The Hays eaglecam is up and running. Everyone’s ready for eggs.
Yesterday Dan Dasynich spent time on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail taking photos of the eagles. He captured this one just after they had a mating session. Then the male flew off downriver.
Because the Hays pair has been on camera for five years we have details of their nesting history. From 2014 through 2018 the female laid her first egg between February 10 and February 19.
Her earliest date was in an unusual year. In 2017 she laid her first egg on February 10 but the nest tree blew down on February 12 so the pair built another nest very quickly. She laid her first egg in the replacement nest on 20 Feb 2017.
If history is any guide, the first egg is one to two weeks away. Meanwhile the Hays eagles are putting finishing touches on the nest, the male is bringing food for his lady, and they mate many times.
Hatched at the National Aviary on 12 January 2019, this Eurasian eagle owl chick is growing up fast. In the photo above he’s six days old.
His parents are education birds at the National Aviary and he(*) will be, too. To prepare him for this role he’s being hand-raised with lots of love and attention and began close encounters with a few Aviary visitors at the tender age of 17 days.
By the time he’s four weeks old he’ll look like this owlet — one of his siblings from 2013.
When he grows up he’ll look like his parents. By then he’ll be a very big bird.
Eurasian eagle owls (Bubo bubo) are virtually the world’s largest owl. Native to Europe and Asia, they can weigh up to 10 pounds with a wingspan more than six feet long. That’s 1.5 times larger than North America’s great horned owl. You can tell the difference between the two species — even in photographs — when they open their eyes. Adult Eurasian eagle owls have orange eyes. Great horned owls have yellow eyes.
Watch the owlet grow up at the National Aviary‘s Avian Care Center window or schedule a close encounter to meet him in person. Participants can touch the chick’s downy feathers, take photos, and interact with him under the supervision of National Aviary animal care experts. The number of encounters is limited and available for only a few weeks. Click here to sign up for an owlet encounter.