Looking for unusual breeding birds in Pennsylvania? Have you ever been to the Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier?
This June the Pennsylvania Society of Ornithology (PSO) will hold field trips and its 2014 annual meeting at the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford, Pennsylvania from Friday evening June 6 through midday Sunday June 8.
Bradford is the county seat of McKean County, one of the few places in Pennsylvania where you can find breeding saw-whet owls, merlins, Swainson’s thrushes, mourning warblers and pine siskins.
On Saturday and Sunday a choice of six field trips will lead you to local hotspots including Kinzua Dam and the Allegheny National Forest. Presentations on Saturday afternoon include Golden-winged warblers, Saw-whet Owl breeding habitat, Snowy Owls and a raptor show open to the public.
It’s been a busy week for Pittsburgh’s peregrines. All of them are courting and claiming territory and the Gulf Tower has pair already laid two eggs.
The cold snap and the work week have slowed down our (human) ability to observe all eight nest sites but a warm weekend is coming so here’s an update on the birds’ activities and information on where to look for them.
At the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, Dorothy and E2 make courtship flights around the top of the building and bow at the nest. Typically E2 brings Dorothy a meal, then flies to the nest and calls her to join him at the scrape. These two aren’t as loud as the video above would lead you to believe but they do call to each other. You can’t see them from inside the building. Best viewing is from Schenley Plaza (click here for instructions) or on the NEW IMPROVED falconcam link with snapshots and archives! First egg will arrive within the next two weeks.
At the Gulf Tower Dori has laid two eggs and we’re expecting the third late today. We presume this pair is still Dori and Louie but are awaiting confirmation from the sharp-eyed observers at Make-A-Wish. Watch this pair at the north face of the Gulf Tower (click here for information) or online at the NEW Gulf Tower falconcam link.
The Tarentum Bridge peregrines have been very busy. Last weekend Rob Protz saw them mating, Steve Gosser took this photo. If you go, best viewing is from the boat ramp under the Tarentum Bridge. Check the superstructure on the upstream side and the railings on the pylons. You’ll probably see some of us “Falconuts” there if the weather is good. (Click here for directions from the 2012 nesting season.)
After a long winter without any peregrines at the Green Tree water tower this site has a very active pair right now. Several observers saw both birds last weekend and Shannon Thompson watched them mate several times on Saturday. Here’s one of her digi-scoped photos. Best viewing of their courtship is from the Olive Garden parking lot area across Greentree Road. You can also watch from the municipal park below the tower but it’s hard to see the courtship flights from there. (Click here for directions from 2013)
And at the other four bridges last weekend..
Westinghouse: Nathalie Picard saw one adult on the bridge last weekend.
Neville Island I-79 Bridge: Anne Marie Bosnyak saw both peregrines late in the day on Sunday March 9. (I saw Anne Marie when I stopped by at noon.) Click here for directions from 2013.
McKees Rocks Bridge: This bridge has no good viewing location so it’s hard to monitor. Whenever I am in the area I check the power towers and tall structures nearby. So far I’ve seen nothing.
Monaca & Beaver Bridges: This pair used the Monaca-East Rochester Bridge for many years but switched last year to the big railroad bridge that crosses from Monaca to Beaver. I didn’t see any peregrines when I scouted last Sunday though Tim and Karena Johnson have seen them. (Here’s what that railroad bridge looks like.)
It’s going to be a good weekend for peregrine watching. Let me know what you see.
(video of Dorothy and E2 bowing via WildEarth streaming, transcribed to YouTube by PittPeregrines. Photos: Tarentum peregrine flying by Steve Gosser, Green Tree water tower peregrine by Shannon Thompson)
p.s. If you’re having trouble seeing the cameras, click here for more information
This month the starling flocks will break up when the visitors head north and the locals begin to nest. In the meantime this informational tidbit may be useful in controlling their roosting habits … or it might not.
On a random search about starlings I found this statement on Wild Birds Unlimited’s Chipper Woods website: “Starlings have a well developed sense of taste, and are repelled by grape flavoring. Fogging with grape flavoring is an effective and environmentally safe method to discourage these birds from roosting.”
I know that starlings will eat just about anything, including grapes, so I wonder: What is grape flavoring made of? Do starlings detect something unnatural and dangerous in it that we cannot?
This starling, photographed in Toulouse, France, knows the answer. You can tell by his look that he has a well developed sense of taste.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license. Click on the image to see the original.)
Thanks to the design skills of Joan Guerin and the coding skills of Jay Volk, there’s a new look at the top of my blog. Here’s who contributed the gorgeous banner photos:
• Avocet flock: Kim Steininger
• Bobolink: Steve Gosser
• Peregrine falcon: Chad+Chris Saladin
• Starling flock above a tree: Tom Pawlesh
• Tundra Swans on the lake: Steve Gosser
Click on your browser’s refresh button to see a new photo. Look up and see!
Despite today’s awful forecast, despite the prediction of 7oF tomorrow morning, gusty winds and up to 2″ of snow, be assured that spring is here. The tundra swans are back!
This morning at 4:45am I awoke to the whoo-ing call of swans in flight. I opened the window and … Yes! a flock of tundra swans was flying over my city neighborhood in the dark.
At that moment it was 49oF with no rain and a light wind out of the east-northeast, almost perfect flying weather for birds heading northwest. Their goal is the Arctic coastal tundra from Alaska to Baffin Island. In the fall they typically fly 1,000 miles non-stop from Minnesota to Chesapeake Bay but they make the trip in easy stages in the spring, pausing to wait for the lakes to thaw.
“My” swans were probably heading for Pymatuning and Lake Erie where there’s not much open water yet. Meanwhile other flocks are heading for Middle Creek where the situation is much the same. But the birds know spring is coming. They’re heading north.
Soon Middle Creek will be filled with the spectacle of snow geese and tundra swans on the move. Click here for information and a video.
This month while the ducks are stalled in Pennsylvania waiting for northern lakes to thaw, they spend their time courting. Some species merely chase the ladies. Others have elaborate displays. My favorite is the common goldeneye who tosses his head so far back it looks as if he’ll hurt his neck.
In this video two male goldeneyes (blue-black iridescent heads with white face patches) show off for two females (brown heads). The males raise or lower their head feathers to make their heads look round or flat. When they toss their heads their feathers are raised and their heads look enormous. The gesture is not enough. They also make a rattling peent, “Look at me!”
If the lady likes what she sees she swims with head and neck outstretched as if she’s dipping her neck in the water. This suggests her posture during copulation so if course it keeps the action going.
“Do that again,” she says, “Toss your head for me.”
A week ago, on March 3, I began to lose faith that the Downtown Pittsburgh peregrines were going to nest at the Gulf Tower this year.
Peregrines had nested there for 21 years (1991 – 2011) but they abandoned the site in 2012 during installation of the new rooftop lighting scheme and chose a nook at the back of a building on Fourth Avenue. We feared this new site was permanent because they nested there in 2012 and 2013.
The Fourth Avenue site was fraught with difficulties. Only 12 floors up, it was bad for peregrine fledglings because they had little room for gaining altitude during their first day of flight. Three of last year’s four fledglings had to be rescued from the ground. It was also bad for observers because we had no camera on the nest, the street below was an unpleasant place to wait and watch, and the nook was inaccessible for banding.
We had high hopes that the peregrines would return to the Gulf Tower when they spent many days courting there in February, but on March 2 they abruptly changed gears and began focusing their attention at Fourth Avenue. Oh no! For a week they were never in the Gulf Tower motion detection snapshots. I stopped by Fourth Avenue yesterday and found a peregrine perched at the old nook opening. Oh no! It looked like they were about to choose Fourth Avenue again.
This morning I checked the Gulf Tower camera to make sure it was on daylight savings time and behold, Dori was at the nest with an egg!!
I was so surprised I could barely believe my eyes!
Just to be sure, I captured several snapshots including Louie’s first visit before dawn.