Apr 23 2014

How Parrots Name Themselves

Published by under Bird Behavior

In case you missed this featured video at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Did you know that baby parrots name themselves and that parrots call each other by name? This 2011 video from Cornell Lab is fascinating!

 

Peregrine Fans, there are two connections to your favorite bird.

  • Did you know that peregrines are closely related to parrots and not to hawks?  Click here to learn more.
  • And on the subject of names, how do peregrines get them?  Here’s the story.

 

(video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

2 responses so far

Apr 22 2014

Schenley Oak Wilt Status

Published by under Schenley Park,Trees

Schenley Park clearcut to stop oak wilt (photo by Kate St. John)

The scene is ugly but it’s therapeutic.

These trees at Prospect Drive in Schenley Park were removed because they were infected with oak wilt.  The eradication project was scheduled for February but didn’t get rolling until early April.

Last Friday it was partly complete.  The oaks were gone but their stumps remained.  These stumps will be removed, too, so the disease cannot spread.

Clearcut to remove oak wiltat Prospect Circle, Schenley Park, 18 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

How old were the oaks?  The rings on one of them tallied 87 years.

It takes more than a lifetime to grow a tree and less than a day to chop it down.  Alas, these oaks would still be here if they had not become victims of highly infectious oak wilt fungus.

When the ground is ready and the time of year is right volunteers and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will plant new trees.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

No responses yet

Apr 21 2014

Hatch Day Happenings

Published by under Peregrines

Louie and Dori bow near their three new chicks, 20 April 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Yesterday during a 12 hour period three of five eggs hatched at the Gulf Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Mother peregrine, Dori, was so protective that the nestlings did not get their first feeding until 6:15pm.  Above, Louie and Dori bow near the three nestlings.  The first feeding is about to begin.

Click on the photo above to watch a slideshow of yesterday’s highlights.  The nestlings are at the very cutest stage right now.

  • First hatchling with a pipped egg
  • Second wet hatchling at 1:47pm
  • Third wet hatchling at 2:39pm
  • Dori feeds the chicks 6:21pm to 6:31pm
  • Louie tries to feed them but they are too full and sleepy.  Only one raises his head.
  • Within five minutes, Dori returns.  She tries to feed them again.
  • Dori watches them sleep for a moment (with her back to us) then settles on them to brood.

Watch the falconcam to see when the other eggs hatch.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

p.s.  The nest will be hard to see for about an hour after sunrise because the sun reflects off the dirty camera cover.  Don’t despair. The view clears.

4 responses so far

Apr 20 2014

Peregrine Eggs Hatching On Easter

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrines, first hatched egg, 20 April2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

This morning I woke to a happy surprise. In the pre-dawn light there was an eggshell at the Gulf Tower peregrines’ nest. The eggs have begun to hatch.

Below, Dori settles herself over the fluffy chick.  New little bird!

First chick at Gulf Tower, 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

 

Click here to watch the action on the Gulf Tower falconcam.  (The nest will be hard to see for about an hour after sunrise because the sun reflects off the dirty camera cover.  Don’t despair. The view clears.)

Happy Easter!

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Update:  More photos as I get them.

Here she’s in color at 6:33am before the sun gets in the way.
First hatchling, 20 April 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

20 April 2014, 6:49am, second egg has pip hole. The sun is starting to blur the scene.
Gulf Tower 2nd egg with pip visible at front (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

11 responses so far

Apr 19 2014

Natives Bounce Back

Published by under Plants

Star magnolia flower mildly damaged by freeze, April 2014, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
The mid-week freeze damaged flowers on our northern magnolia trees. Above, a bruised Star magnolia, below, a very brown Saucer magnolia, both in Oakland.

Northern magnolia turned brown by late freeze, 16 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Northern magnolias are non-native trees from Asia, specially cultivated for their early blooms, so their timing isn’t right for our mid-April cold snaps.

Our native plants had no problem because the freeze occurred within the normal span of our last killing frost.

Yesterday Dianne Machesney found beautiful flowers blooming at Cedar Creek Park in Westmoreland County, some of them new since I was there last weekend.

Harbinger-of-spring’s tiny flowers are quite hardy.  This plant is often the first to bloom.
Harbinger of spring, 18 April 2014 (photo by Dianne Machesney)

 

Twinleaf is new this week because its internal clock told it to wait.  The flower resembles bloodroot but the leaves are quite different. (Click here for a view of its twin leaves.)
Twinleaf in bloom, 18 April 2014 (photo by Dianne Machesney)

The natives bounce back fast.

 

(northern magnolia photos by Kate St. John. Flower photos by Dianne Machesney)

3 responses so far

Apr 18 2014

Let Them Eat Eggs

This week’s weather was like a yo-yo — summer last weekend, winter mid-week, spring today.  The cold was annoying to us but potentially fatal to purple martins who migrated from Brazil and arrived in western Pennsylvania 2-3 weeks ago.

Purple martins feed exclusively on flying insects but when temperatures stay below 50F or it’s extremely windy, constantly raining, or dense fog, insects don’t fly.  After more than two days of this, purple martins weaken and starve.

Members of the Purple Martin Conservation Association remember the awful purple martin die-off when Hurricane Agnes lingered over western Pennsylvania in August 1972.  It took more than 30 years for purple martins to come back to our area.

In the past purple martin landlords felt helpless as they watched their colonies weaken and die. In the 1990′s Ed Donath trained his martins to eat non-traditional food but that required training time during good weather.  Then during a cold spell in April 2000 Ken Kostka and Andy Troyer figured out an emergency feeding strategy:  toss live crickets in the air.  At first the purple martins idly watched the airborne objects. Then they recognized the crickets as insects and made the connection “flying+insects”=food.  The martins feasted and the colony was saved.

The home video above by Larry Melcher shows how it’s done.  After the martins have learned to recognize the crickets as food, the bugs can be placed on a high tray on the colony and the martins will eat them even though they’re not flying.

Landlords have experimented with other foods.  Years ago Bird Man Mel in Missouri tossed live mealworms so his colony now recognizes mealworms as food and will eat them from the front porch trays (click here for his video).

On Wednesday birders Dick Nugent and Debbie Kalbfleisch visited a purple martin colony in Butler County where the landlord was feeding his colony scrambled eggs!  Here’s a video with the scrambled egg recipe.

Purple martin landlords love their birds.  They start feeding crickets, then let them eat eggs.

(videos from YouTube)

No responses yet

Apr 17 2014

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

Published by under Books & Events

Grandma Gatewood's Walk (book cover image from Chicago Review Press)
This book is so good I could not put it down.

It’s the story of a woman, alone, in 1955, at age 67, who walked the entire Appalachian Trail.  She was the first woman to do so alone and only the seventh person to thru-hike the 2,050 miles from Mt. Oglethorpe*, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.  She went on to become the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) two and then three times.

Grandma Gatewood did not have hiking boots, a backpack or a tent.  She carried a blanket and a shower curtain in a drawstring bag and wore sneakers because her bunions were so bad.  But she loved being outdoors and possessed grit, determination, and a “Don’t Stop” attitude that she passed on to her eleven children.**

When asked why she hiked so far she often said, “Because I thought it would be a lark” and “I like the peacefulness in the woods” and “After the hard life I’ve lived this trail isn’t so bad.”  Author Ben Montgomery reveals for the first time how hard Emma Gatewood’s life really was: married 34 years to an abusive husband, sometimes broke because of his debts, granted a divorce in 1941 because of his abuse.  Yes, the woods are peaceful and the trail isn’t so bad.

Grandma Gatewood’s walk made the Appalachian Trail famous and probably saved it from extinction by disrepair and development.  By now millions have hiked parts of it (myself included) and more than 14,000 have thru-hiked its 2,000+ miles.  Most thru-hikers have heard of Grandma Gatewood and when times get tough they say to themselves, “If she could do it, I can too.”

Emma Rowena Gatewood shows us that what you do with your life matters.  And it’s never too late to start!

 

(book cover of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk.  Click on the photo to read more and buy the book at Chicago Review Press or buy it here at Amazon.)

*The Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus was moved to Springer Mountain, Georgia in 1958.

**Many of us in Pittsburgh were inspired by one of Grandma Gatewood’s children, Esther Gatewood Allen, who passed away in June 2011 before this book was written.

5 responses so far

Apr 16 2014

Is It My Turn?

Published by under Peregrines

Louie asks, "Is it my turn?" (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower, Pittsburgh)

This week at the Gulf Tower, peregrine parents Dori and Louie are in the home stretch of The Big Sit with their five eggs due to hatch between April 19 and 21.  Meanwhile they trade off incubation duty, though not always willingly.

April 7 was a typical “Day In the Life of Incubating Peregrines.”  Click on the photo (or here) to watch the slideshow.

In the half-light of 7:00am Dori awakes to a call from Louie.  He incubates until she returns at 10:00, but when he wants to take over at 1:20pm and again at 2:10pm, she says No.  After the second denial she watches him circle above.  Was he annoyed?  It’s not until 3:20pm that she finally relinquishes her place.

“Is it my turn?” asks Louie.  As the chicks get close to hatching Dori will be saying “No” more often.

The Gulfcam is zoomed in close so you can watch for pips in the eggs.  See them here.

 

(snapshots from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

One response so far

Apr 15 2014

It Was Fun While It Lasted

Published by under Plants,Weather & Sky

Bloodroot blooming at Cedar Creek Park, 12 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

During the past three days we had a burst of blooms in Pittsburgh.  Between Saturday morning’s foggy low and Sunday’s high of 82F the landscape transformed from incipient buds to gorgeous flowers.  (Today will be different, but more on that later.)

On Saturday I found bloodroot at its peak at Cedar Creek Park in Westmoreland County (above) as well as spring beauties…
Spring beauties (photo by Kate St. John)

trout lilies…
Trout Lily at Cedar Creek Park, 12 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

and hepatica.
Hepatica blooming at Cedar Creek Park, 12 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

This morning the temperature is dropping fast.  It was 65oF at 5:00am and has already fallen to 47oF as I write.

Tomorrow’s prediction: 21oF at dawn. This will surely ruin the flowers.

It was fun while it lasted.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

One response so far

Apr 14 2014

Dorothy’s Daughters

Published by under Peregrines

Beauty, Rochester NY, April 2014 (photo from RFalconcam)

A horrific peregrine falcon fight in Ohio last Friday reminded me that life isn’t always rosy for Dorothy’s daughters.

In the thirteen years she’s nested at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, Dorothy has fledged 42 young.  Eleven chose nest sites where observers were able to identify them. Six of those are Dorothy’s daughters.  Here are their stories.

Beauty, pictured above, hatched in 2007 and flew north to Rochester, New York.  There she nests on the Times Square Building with DotCa.  For two years her life was like Peyton Place with a territorial fight and DotCa’s philandering.  This spring is considerably calmer and she’s already laid three eggs.  Follow her news and live video at RFalconcam.

 

Belle, hatched in 2003, flew west to the bell tower at the University of Toledo, Ohio.  Now 11 years old she was in a life-threatening territorial fight on Friday that scattered her four eggs and left her with injuries around her eyes.  Belle returned to incubate but as you can see below, she’s not in good condition.  Her mate, Allen, collected their four eggs and is incubating more often and providing more food.  We hope the intruder is gone and Belle recovers soon.  See photos of the fight and follow news of Belle and Allen at the Toledo Peregrine Project Facebook page.
Belle with injuries from fight, Univ of Toledo bell tower, 11 April 2014 (photo from Univ.Toledo falconcam)

 

Belle’s same-year sibling, Hathor also flew west where she nests at the Macomb County Building in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Barb Baldinger checked the nest last week and counted four eggs. Here’s Barb’s photo of Hathor and her mate Nick in March. Their nest is not on camera but you can follow their news on the Peregrine Falcons Southeast Michigan Facebook page.
Hathor at Macomb County Courthouse (photo by Barb Baldinger)

 

Maddy, Class of 2004, nests at the I-480 Bridge at Valley View near Cleveland, Ohio. It’s a tough site to monitor but Chad+Chris Saladin observe at the bridge when they get a chance. Here’s one of their photos of Maddy at home in 2011.
Maddy flies past her home, the I-480 bridge near Cleveland (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

 

Yellow, Class of 2009, has nested at the Killen Power Station in Wrightsville, Ohio since 2011 but has not been confirmed yet this year (and there are no photos of her).

 

And finally Blue, Class of 2011, tried to nest at the Green Tree water tower in 2013. The nesting attempt was discovered during a construction project and, though the project was delayed, the nest failed. Identified by Shannon Thompson who took her photo above, Blue and her mate are gone this year, replaced by a completely new pair.  Perhaps we’ll hear of her somewhere else some day.
Female peregrine at Green Tree water tower (photo by Shannon Thompson)

 

Six daughters, six different lives.

 

(photo credits:
Beauty in Rochester, New York, photo from RFalconcam
Belle, injured in Toledo, Ohio, photo from Univ of Toledo falconcam via Toledo Peregrine Project
Hathor and Nick at Mt. Clemens, Michigan, photo by Barb Baldinger
Maddy, I-480 Bridge, photo by Chad+Chris Saladin
Blue, Green Tree water tower, photo by Shannon Thompson
)

5 responses so far

Next »

Bird Stories from OnQ