Time Slowed Down

Dorsal and ventral views of museum specimen, Morpho menelaus, Peru (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Dorsal and ventral views of museum specimen, Morpho menelaus, subspecies from Peru (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The most beautiful butterfly I have ever seen lives in the jungles of Central and South America.

The blue morpho (Morpho menelaus) is as large as my open hand, iridescent blue above and patterned brown below.  When it flies, sunlight winks blue on its open wings.  On the upstroke it shines gold.

In Panama we were transfixed when blue morphos appeared one by one above the road, floating toward and over us.  They defied our efforts at photography so I looked for a video on YouTube.

But only the slow motion videos matched my memory of morphos. (We did not see the black-blue butterfly in this video, only the all-blue one.)

 

In fact they flew rather fast.  You can see in this video how hard it is to keep up with one.

 

My memory of these butterflies is in slow motion because my brain was busy processing the new and beautiful experience.  This happens to all of us when we focus on new information.  (Read more here about our perception of time. )

Perhaps that's why I enjoy the beauty of nature.

When I watch blue morphos time slows down.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original.  All videos from YouTube; click on the YouTube logos to see the videos full screen)

Caution For Hatch Day

APRIL 24, 2017: Hope picked up her first pipped egg. Later she killed and ate it. (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
APRIL 24, 2017: Hope picked up her first pipped egg. Later she killed and ate it. (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The peregrine eggs at the Cathedral of Learning nest are due to hatch at the end of this week, but here's a word of caution:  You might not want to watch.

My calculation says that hatch day for Hope and Terzo's eggs will be this Friday April 13 or Saturday April 14.

However, it probably won't be a happy event.  Hope has a habit of killing and eating some of her chicks just after they pip.  Her behavior is very rare and upsets nearly everyone who sees it.

In 2016 Hope killed and ate two chicks before they could emerge from their eggs.  Last year she killed one. (Click on the links to find out more.)

We don't know why she does this and we don't know if she'll repeat it this year but my word to the wise is this:

Caution! Don't watch the eggs hatch at the Cathedral of Learning if it upsets you to see a mother kill her young.

Hope has a history.  We hope she won't repeat it this year.

 

p.s. After hatching is over, Hope becomes a good mother. She fledged 1 youngster in 2016 and 3 in 2017.

(snapshot from 24 April 2017 from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Terzo Gets Into The Act

Terzo looks alert while incubating (screenshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Terzo looks alert while incubating (screenshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo has certainly grown into his role as "father peregrine" since he first arrived at the Cathedral of Learning during 2016's tumultuous nesting season.

He often spends more than half the day incubating while his mate Hope takes a break.  (She incubates all night.)  He has also learned a thing or two about dealing with her.

Hope is a very loud bird, so loud that her shouting can be heard inside the Cathedral of Learning and blocks away from the building.  I don't know why she shouts but I found out last year that when she shouts she's looking at Terzo.

This year Terzo is shouting back!

At the beginning of this April 4th video clip, Hope shouts from the nest.  Then you hear another peregrine shout back. It's Terzo, off camera.  At the end of the clip Hope falls asleep and Terzo shouts at her and wakes her up.  Hah!

 

This went on for a while.  I could have shown you 6 minutes of shouting but decided to spare you.

See and hear them on the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh.  Be ready to use the mute button.   😉

 

(video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

p.s. Having trouble watching the falconcam?  Here are tips for viewing.

Lots Of Water This Week

Waterfall in Schenley Park, 20180223_122714

Last week heavy rain swelled this waterfall in Schenley Park.  Again!

I filmed this video after heavy rainfall in February but the waterfall looked the same this week after record snow on April 2 (2.8") and heavy downpours on April 4 and 5.

So far we've had more than 16 inches of precipitation in 2018. That's almost 7.5 inches above normal in only 14 weeks.

Lots of water!

 

p.s. We have a dusting of snow this morning in Pittsburgh.  Will it ever end?!?

(video by Kate St. John)

I’m A Tanager


(video by Daniel CR on YouTube)

With their big orange bills the slate-colored grosbeaks I saw in Panama must certainly be related to northern cardinals, right?

Slate-colored grosbeak, northern cardinal (photos from Wikimedia Commons)
Slate-colored grosbeak, northern cardinal (photos from Wikimedia Commons)

They also sound like cardinals. (recording of slate-colored grosbeak in Panama Xeno-canto XC354030 by William Adsett)

But are they related?  No, they're not.

Slate-colored grosbeaks used to be classed in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae) but DNA studies show that Saltator grossus is in the tanager (Thraupidae) family instead.

Don't be fooled, "I'm a tanager."

 

(video by Daniel CR on YouTube; photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the names to see the original photos: slate-colored grosbeak, northern cardinal)

Where Are They Now?

Ruby-throated hummingbird (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ruby-throated hummingbird (photo by Steve Gosser)

Despite the cold weather a ruby-throated hummingbird arrived in eastern Pennsylvania this week.  He appeared April 2 on the hummingbirds migration map.

Observers in North America enter their first spring sightings of male ruby-throats at the hummingbirds.net website and their entries populate the map.

This screenshot taken at 5am April 5, 2018 shows the northernmost pioneers are in New Jersey and the Delaware watershed.

Spring 2018 (zoomed) map of Ruby-throated hummingbird migration as of 4/4/2018 (screenshot from hummingbirds.net)
Spring 2018 (zoomed) map of Ruby-throated hummingbird migration as of 4/4/2018 (screenshot from hummingbirds.net)

Hummingbirds move north when it's warm but this spring's weather has held them back.  In 2012 it was so hot that they'd already reached Minnesota by now (click here to see).

Follow their migration on the hummingbirds.net map.  Enter your own first sighting at this link.

Where are they now?  Check the map to see.

 

(photo by Steve Gosser, screenshot of map from www.hummingbirds.net)

p.s. Thanks to Donna Foyle for sending this news.

Something To Be Thankful For

Living with Alligators PSA 2018 from My FWC on Vimeo.

April 4, 2018:

Spring is on hold again as the temperature falls to 26 degrees F tonight -- but here's something Pittsburghers can be thankful for 😉

Yes, it's cold in Pennsylvania and spring takes too long to get here but we don't have to worry about this message from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

However, if you live in Florida or plan to visit please pay attention.

Tweeted last week by @MyFWC:  Warmer spring weather means #alligators are more active. Here’s how to stay safe: ow.ly/ULpK30ja6V4 #Florida

Alligator safety message from Florida WFC
Alligator safety message from Florida WFC

 

(message, video and poster from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission)

New Eaglet at Harmar

First eaglet of 2018 at the Harmar bald eagle nest (photo from Audubon Society of Western PA)
First eaglet of 2018 at the Harmar bald eagle nest (photo from Audubon Society of Western PA)

Yesterday morning the first egg hatched at the Harmar bald eagle nest high above the Allegheny River.

In the midst of April snow his parents were very attentive as he made his way out of the egg. Fortunately the snow was gone by afternoon.  (video from Audubon Society of Western PA (ASWP))

 

Meanwhile over by the Monongahela River, the Hays eaglet is now eleven days old and will be an "only child" this season.  The last egg is not viable though it's still in the nest.   ASWP posted this snapshot yesterday on their Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page.

10-day-old eaglet at the Hays bald eagle nest, 2 April 2018 (photo from Audubon Society of Western PA's Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page)
10-day-old eaglet at the Hays bald eagle nest, 2 April 2018 (photo from Audubon Society of Western PA's Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page)

Watch the Harmar eaglecam for the second egg to hatch in the days ahead.

Keep tabs on the Hays eaglet at the Hays live feed.

And for all the latest eagle news, join the eagle watching community at Audubon Society of Western PA's Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page.

 

(photos and videos from the Audubon Society of Western PA's Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page)

UPDATE:  Second eaglet hatched at Harmar on April 3 at 4:30pm:

How Early Is Spring This Year?

Snow this morning in Pittsburgh, 2 April 2018, 7:30am (photo by Kate St. John)
Snow this morning in Pittsburgh, 2 April 2018, 7:30am (photo by Kate St. John)

How early is Spring this year? That's a hard question to answer.

This morning we have snow again in Pittsburgh and heavy snow-cloud skies. Spring feels late and yet it was early at first.

The animated map below from the National Phenology Network (NPN) shows the emergence of leaves across the Lower 48 States. NPN uses honeysuckle leaves as their marker plant and so do I.  The blue color shows late emergence, red means early.  Our leaves were 20 days early in Pittsburgh.

USA National Phenology Network Spring Leaf Anomaly, 30 March 2018 (from usanpn.org)
USA National Phenology Network Spring Leaf Anomaly, 30 March 2018 (from usanpn.org)

Here's proof from February 20, 2018.

Honeysuckle leaves open in the heat, 20 Feb 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Honeysuckle leaves open in the heat, 20 Feb 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Since then Nature did a 180-degree turn and handed us a series of cold snaps capped by snow.  Our wildflowers have not bloomed yet.  Last year they were two to three weeks early and had gone to seed by the end of March.

Fortunately NPN tracks first blooms as well, using lilacs as the marker plant.(*)  On the map below you can see the Southeast bloomed 20 days early.

USA NPN Spring Bloom Anomaly, March 30, 2018 (from usanpn.org)
USA NPN Spring Bloom Anomaly, March 30, 2018 (from usanpn.org)

But we aren't on the bloom map yet.

When will our wildflowers bloom?  We'll have to wait and see.

 

(photo by Kate St. John. Animated maps from usanpn.org)

* From the USA NPN website: These models were constructed using historical observations of the timing of first leaf and first bloom in a cloned lilac cultivar (Syringa x chinensis'Red Rothomagensis') and two cloned honeysuckle cultivars (Lonicera tatarica 'Arnold Red' and L. korolkowii 'Zabelii').

Easter Eggs

Pitt peregrine nest with four eggs, 30 March 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Pitt peregrine nest with four eggs, 30 March 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

April 1, 2018:

This Easter we have four eggs at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest that Hope laid from March 6 through March 14.

Ten years ago Easter was on March 23, 2008 and on that morning Dorothy laid her first egg of the year. Read more here about her Easter Egg.

Happy Easter.