Nov 09 2007


Published by

Kate St. John, March 2014 (photo by Thomas Moeller)
Fascinated by birds, curious about nature, and addicted to peregrine falcons, I’ve blogged about them at Outside My Window since 2007.

From my window I see a slice of nature in the city of Pittsburgh, but an indoor view is not enough.  I’m outdoors as much as possible, monitoring the peregrine falcons at the University of Pittsburgh and hiking in western Pennsylvania and beyond.

Birds are everywhere.  This blog is a window on their world from an avid observer’s point of view.

(Photo by Tom Moeller)


Photos on this blog are used by permission and are copyrighted material.  If you wish to use a photo you see here, you must get permission from the photographer.  I am happy to put you in touch with the photographer if you leave a comment below.

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43 responses so far

43 Responses to “About”

  1. MVon 17 Sep 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Hello Kate,
    I just wanted to send a thank you for your blog. I find it so refreshing. I thoroughly enjoy reading it and appreciate the things I learn from it.
    God bless,

  2. anneon 22 Oct 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Kate,
    absolutely LOVE your blog, pictures, discussions.
    Have you noticed the lack of crows this year? I used to watch thousands fly over my area, spring and fall, morning and evening. Now, nothing.
    Have you had any comments about this phenomenon??
    thanks for any info,

  3. Kate St. Johnon 22 Oct 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Check the blog entry called “They’re Baaaaack” on October 10. I predict you’ll really notice crows at evening rush hour on Mon Nov 5.

  4. Linda Nagyon 29 Nov 2012 at 10:46 am


    I happened to stumble across your blog a few weeks ago when I was in Pittsburgh for a conference and then began googling you and R. You may not remember me…..I knew R. when he was a student at P. and lived at Cuyler with the gang. I know I have met you a few times….and am happy to see your essence expressed so thoughtfully and beautifully in this blog. Even though I am not a bird fan such as you are, mostly what I responded to was the space between the words in your writing, and then the clarity and simplicity of the highest order in your writing. Well, it’s poetry to me.

    Not really surprising, considering your life’s path…..

    Thanks for this beauty in the world.

    Linda N.

  5. Danaon 29 Jan 2013 at 10:49 am

    Hello Kate,

    I teach Field Biology at Seneca Valley Senior High. I just found your blog while searching for Bald Eagle sightings in Western PA (I saw one in Harmony today near the high school–first time in my life to see one in this area!!!).

    This information and the photos are FABULOUS!!! I can’t wait to use this in class.

    Thanks so much!


  6. Tom Briscombeon 04 Feb 2013 at 6:58 am

    Hi Kate….

    I have just found your blog and ‘site’ through researching Peregrine Falcons.

    I have been overwhelmed with the high standard of photography and the information you provide…

    I am a keen bird watcher and in particular a ‘raptor-watcher’… Based in the North Downs area of Surrey, UK, we have Buzzards, Sparrow hawks, Kestrels, occasionally, Marsh Harriers and Red Kites….amongst others..

    The Peregrines I follow are those permanently domiciled atop Chichester Cathedral, Sussex UK. The Web Cam is amazing and below in the cloister gardens, the RSPB has set up a great viewing station with scopes and wide screen viewing…You can find the site online for viewing later in the season.

    Speaking of Cams.. Loch of the lowes webcam – Scottish Wildlife amazing and features Osprey and others..

    This time of the year, we are all watching the Migrant waders coming in to parts of our East Coast from the Arctic, including the beautiful Mute Swans, although not sure if they are strictly classified as waders!

    The Mute Swans are generally recognised as being the second-heaviest birds in the World, the heaviest being the Kori Bustards of Africa. They say the Kori is 411lb and Mute Swan 39lb….

    I noted that Anne wrote about a lack of crows….. well, they are all over here….we have thousands, but it so happens you have all our house sparrows, so a fair swop, I guess!

    That’s all for now…I now have many pages of your site to visit…

    Happy ‘Twitching’ as they say in the UK…

    Take care

    Tom Briscombe

  7. Diane Shumakeron 17 Mar 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I have been reading your blog for several years. I have learned so much from what you write that sometimes I feel like you’re in my back yard looking at the same things I am. For instance, a wild flower just bloomed and I am wondering what it is, and I read your blog and there is the flower I was puzzling over. The day you blogged about the evening grosbeaks, they arrived at my house, and are still here! I am hoping some stay the summer, but we will have to wait and see. You blogged about the red polls, and low and behold, huge flocks showed up here and have been wiping me out of thistle seed. It has been a great winter for bird watching, and right now a partial albino fox sparrow showed up a few days ago at my feeder–he has me spell bound! I love watching the birds and trying to spot something I’ve never seen before. Winters are so long where I live. Feeding and watching birds makes the long months of snow and cold much more bearable. Thank you for your blog, and please keep it going!

  8. Doug & Judi Cunzoloon 27 Mar 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Kate, Judi and I have been enjoying your blog for some time and even left replies a few times when we thought we had something to add. This past weekend ,at our camp in Belltown, Elk County we found out why so many Crossbills die of road kill. Basically they just don’t move when a car comes by. They don’t fly away like other birds. On sunday morning we found at least 7 little bodies on the road from Lolita to Marienville. It was so disheartening. We even took pictures of them standing right near our car on the road . You have to swerve to miss them, if you even spot them. Maybe a shout out from you could help save a few. On another note , we saw 2 River Otters on the Clarion River on Saturday. They were twenty miles apart , One in Cooks Forest , the other just east of our camp. I only got photos of the later near dusk. The next morning we went back and the otter was out again in nearly the same spot. But sometime overnight he came out of the river and crossed the road, then back to the river. He left his tracks in the snow, including his slide marks. That was incredable. We can see why they are hard to spot though, because when the foliage along the river bank begins to leave out and Trout season begins they will be hiding. Its great to see wildlife like the Bald Eagle and River Otters making a comeback. We feel your blog helps get the word out, keep up the good work and maybe we’ll see you in the field. Doug & Judi

  9. Carmenon 12 Jun 2013 at 9:18 pm


    I just got knowledge of this blog after watching the Nature episode on hummingbirds. I wondered if you have any contacts I could reach out to regarding falconry. I am the Den Leader for my son’s Wolf Den and wanted to see about scheduling a visit from someone to teach the boys about falconry. Love the blog and know quite a few people I will pass it along to.


  10. Charleson 28 Aug 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Kate,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I am an amateur raptor photographer from the West Coast, a couple of weeks ago I had a chance to visit Pittsburgh, I saw a red tail hawk catching a mouse just outside CMU. I did a google search and I am glad I found your site.

    If I ever get a chance to visit Pittsburgh again, I will definitely check your blog to find out the latest on your local raptors. Keep up with the good work!


  11. Susan Washburnon 09 Sep 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Kate,

    I just found your blog as I was trying to identify a bird of prey, and I am pretty sure it was a red tailed hawk thanks to your wonderful information! My question is: Have you ever been to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary? It is in Kempton, Pa. , north of Reading, Pa. I was considering a trip there and wondered if you had been there, and had any advice. Thanks!

  12. Kate St. Johnon 09 Sep 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Susan, yes I have been to Hawk Mountain. It’s a very good place to see migrating hawks in the fall. Well worth the trip, particularly just after a cold front has passed & the wind is from the north.

  13. Mark Mulleron 20 Oct 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Hi Kate

    I enjoy the knowledge you share here, on your blog and have been reading it for several years.

    I am usually able to identify the birds I see here in western Pa having grown up and lived here for most of my life. But today was different, while walking in Bradys Run Park this evening I saw and photographed a very small grey waterfowl swimming in the creek along the walking track. I observed it multiple times, it was mostly grey and it’s body appeared to be about 6 inches long. It was difficult to get a good close photo, every time I got near it would dive under an oak tree that had fallen across the creek. I appeared to be an adult, it did not have any down and was alone in the creek.

    In searching online and using my field guide the only waterfowl that looks close is a Least Grebe, which absolutely makes no sense.

    I have a photo albeit not very good (only had my cell phone with me) I can send. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    I am going to go back to the park tomorrow with better photographic equipment with the hope of seeing it again.

    Thanks in advance and for such a great website/blog


  14. MaryBethon 12 May 2014 at 9:21 am

    Hi Kate,

    I really enjoy reading about the falcons on your blog. I live in the N. Versailles area and cross the Westinghouse Bridge daily. Unfortunately I think I saw a falcon on the bridge over the weekend that looks like it was hit by a car. I can’t really tell while driving it could be a red tailed falcon. Has anyone contacted you regarding this?

    Thanks MaryBeth

  15. Kate St. Johnon 12 May 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Mary Beth, falcon watcher John English checks the bridge regularly. He didn’t see anything this weekend & just checked today (Monday) and found a dead pigeon but no hawk. … So the peregrines are probably just fine, perhaps missing a pigeon.

  16. MaryBethon 13 May 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Oh that is great news. It is really hard to tell when you are keeping up with traffic on that bridge. Glad to hear that they are okay!!!

  17. Kate Rodgerson 28 May 2014 at 8:54 am

    Hi Kate,
    I really enjoy reading your blog.
    I haven’t heard much about the Bald Eagles at Hays lately. Do you know if they will be banded? Or is it too difficult to access the nest?

  18. Kate St. Johnon 28 May 2014 at 9:03 am

    Kate Rodgers, the bald eagles will not be banded because they are hard to access and they are no longer endangered in PA.

  19. Lianeon 29 May 2014 at 10:00 am

    Is Dorothy going to be OK I have been watching her sitting on her egg. Just now Dorothy and her mate were chirping to each other, he flew away and Dorothy just looked at her egg. I’m so sad for her at times it’s hard for me to view.

  20. Kate St. Johnon 29 May 2014 at 10:38 am

    Liane, Dorothy is fine. She & E2 are maintaining their pair bond.

  21. Cherylon 10 Jun 2014 at 3:04 pm


    How do I e-mail you with photos and video attachments? I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, etc: only have e-mail access.

    I think I saw a red-tailed hawk at Schenley Park last week and want to send you footage so you can correctly identify the bird of prey. Also, its right eye seems to be deformed so I’m concerned about it.

    Thanks for getting back to me. Your blog is in my Bookmarks under the folder named “Happy” and I have learned so much from reading your entries. Keep up the good work! ~ Cheryl

  22. Kate St. Johnon 10 Jun 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Cheryl, I could contact you at the email address you typed in your comment (above) but it is a bad address. Please post another comment with your correct email address. As you can see, your email account does not display on the blog.

  23. Seanon 17 Jul 2014 at 11:02 am

    We have what we are sure to be a family of peregrines that are pretty active around our home which is at the edge of a woodland in Kilbuck Twp. It started last year with one large gray falcon, just this morning I observed 4 of them flying all about. They have been perching all around the back of our home on branches, stumps, even on our open casement windows in the morning. We do keep a bird feeder on the edge of our deck, which is up pretty high. It seems they are attracted to the area because of all the visitors to the feeder, however we have not seen them prey on any of the birds yet. It is quite fascinating to watch.

  24. Kate St. Johnon 17 Jul 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Sean, it sounds like you have a family of Coopers Hawks near your home. They’re woodland hawks that eat birds so your feeders are a big attraction.
    Coopers hawks used to be wary of people but they are becoming acclimated. The adults have gray backs and fierce faces. The juveniles are brown-and-cream colored, very similar to juvenile peregrine falcons except they lack the malar stripe.
    Here are some links to photos + blog articles about them. Adults are pictured at these links:
    An immature is pictured here:

  25. Deb Tooron 21 Aug 2014 at 9:21 am

    Hello Kate,

    Have you seen Turkey Vultures? If you have, I’d love to know what you have observed.

  26. Kate St. Johnon 21 Aug 2014 at 11:37 am

    Deb Toor, here’s my most recent news on turkey vultures in Pittsburgh:

  27. Riponon 25 Sep 2014 at 9:54 am

    Hi Kate!

    How high can a peregrine falcon reach up in the sky?

    It first goes beyond the cloud. – Which level of cloud is it? Does it stay still there or float/fly around?
    Next, it swoops down onto the target on earth surface. – How can it see through cloud to the earth surface?

    Does it fly only, or can keep itself afloat on air by utilizing the thermal uplift?

    Suggest me links containing details on peregrine falcon to study more, would you please?

    Have a lovely day.


  28. Kate St. Johnon 30 Sep 2014 at 6:36 am

    Ripon, scientists who’ve measured peregrine stoops say the birds typically start at an altitude of 215m to 320m () but have been measured in a 450m-1080m () loss of altitude. I don’t know if this means that the longest stoops began at 1080m above ground.
    Clouds: Since peregrines hunt by sight they have no reason to go above dense clouds. No bird likes to fly where it can’t see & neither do we unless we have instruments in the airplane. That said, clouds come at all levels including low-lying fog which I’m sure peregrines fly over during migration.
    Thermal uplift: Birds, airplanes and gliders all experience uplift in a rising thermal. Peregrines use uplift too.
    Links for peregrines: I google to see what I can find. My trusted sites include Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of North America, Wikipedia and its reference links, and a book: The Peregrine Falcon by Derek Ratcliffe

  29. markon 28 Dec 2014 at 4:13 pm

    i have hardly any birds this winter. are others having this problem also?

  30. Kate St. Johnon 28 Dec 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Mark, Changes in birds are usually due to changes in habitat. Did the landscape change where you live?

  31. markon 28 Dec 2014 at 6:37 pm

    nope no changes. last year had tons of birds, this year only a handful each day.

  32. Kate St. Johnon 28 Dec 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Hmmm. Maybe it’s the weather. Lousy cold weather brought them to you. Warm weather keeps them away.

  33. Amyon 10 Apr 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Kate–can you tell me what type of hawk would be gray with white tail feathers, almost looks like the falcons, but this bird was here near a de-wooded area last summer, by him (or her)self. This year this gray hawk is hanging out in the same area but also seen sitting with what appears to be a red-tailed hawk. I think they are hanging out because there are a lot of small creatures in this area but I haven’t seen an area where I would think they are nesting. I tried to get a picture of the bird but my iPhone did not capture a good picture and of course any time I take a walk with a nice camera, I can’t find it. My husband thinks they are both red tailed hawks but this afternoon this bird flew right in front of my vehicle quite quickly and the chest is white, mildly speckled but is a dark gray with white tail feathers. I looked up white tailed hawks, but I didn’t think they were part of our area. I am quite intrigued with this bird and cannot figure out what it is. We live near Neville Island–would one of those falcons come up to a Kennedy wooded area looking for food and would they even tolerate another hawk in it’s area? I’m hoping to get a better picture of this bird as it’s quite beautiful! The hawk that has been hanging around has actually taken a couple of our doves right off the lawn!

  34. Amyon 10 Apr 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Ok, I just saw the bird again, sitting on a branch overlooking the de-wooded area. I think I got a picture of the nest that’s pretty high up in a tree near by. The bird flew off because I was walking our puppy, but I did get a couple of pictures (not good quality sadly) and the tail is not just white, it’s white and black striped. The chest does appear white-ish but she is dark gray in her head/back. It def. looks similar to a gray hawk but they are not normally in this area, so what kind of bird are you wanting to guess? I could try to send you the pictures from my phone and see if it helps, but not knowing what this bird really is makes me crazy lol. Beautiful bird!

  35. Kate St. Johnon 10 Apr 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Amy, your description is really good & it says to me that you have an oddly colored red-tailed hawk. They come in many colors — sometimes even all white! Here’s why I think it’s a red-tail:
    1) “This year this gray hawk is … seen sitting with what appears to be a red-tailed hawk.” Hawks don’t sit together in April unless they’re a mated pair. Therefore this would be a red-tail. (Hawks don’t hybridize the way ducks do).
    2) ” The hawk that has been hanging around has actually taken a couple of our doves right off the lawn!” That’s very typical hunting technique for a red-tail.
    3) “the chest is white, mildly speckled” Even oddly colored red-tails have that speckled belly-band.

    Send me a photo if you get one.

  36. Amyon 12 Apr 2015 at 9:32 am

    Thanks, Kate! I guess I’ll have to tell my husband he was right just this once lol. She’s definitely nesting here–I saw her fly up to a really big nest at the top of a tree. I hope to see her perched on the tree limb that I can actually get a closer up view of her. I will try and get a clearer picture of her but she seems to know when I’m out with a camera 😛
    I am totally assuming she is a girl because she’s the one in the nest most of the time.

  37. Anne Kaneon 28 May 2015 at 2:15 am

    Hello Kate,
    In the Hays Eagle chat tonight a veterinarian gave his opinion on why Fuzzy had the spells of immobility. This is significant because if it is indeed true, it points to the fact that it is not a permanent condition that could lead to a more dire outcome. I know you are going to be at the banding and exam and I thought this was worth passing along to you so you can forward it to your fellow examiners. I’ll copy transcript below: (thank you in advance for passing this along and for all else you do for peregrines, Anne Kane)

    “”I think Fuzzy had what’s called (in the species I regularly see in my practice) what I see as “disuse” muscle atrophy due to tendon contraction of the muscles in “his” wings and his legs. He was nested down tight below Dorothy in order to keep incubating the other eggs in the clutch that turned out to be non-viable. It is part of the intention of wanting to further the survival of the progeny..if you get my drift? He had limited time to get out and move as he grew!

    Would constant walking and flapping wings improve would correct this problem?

    yes. Remember the stages of action of the eaglets! Because it could be a problem of being contracted for so long under Dotty, he was unable to “extend ” or open up his joints for –being upright to gain balance. But in the last 24 hours he is doing it.””

  38. Valarie Lashleeon 23 Aug 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Some beautiful photos I stumbled upon

    Peregrines—and a Photographer—Bunk Out at Chicago Man’s Apartment
    A flower-box nest provides the perfect opportunity for some close-up shots of a plucky falcon family.

  39. Kate St. Johnon 23 Aug 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you, Valarie. The story reminds me of a peregrines’ nest in a similar situation in Toronto about a decade ago …but there were very few photos of that one.

  40. Susanon 08 Sep 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Dear Kate,
    I discovered your blog in August when I spent two weeks with my daughter and her family. They recently moved to Pittsburgh and purchased a home on Beacon, almost directly across the street from Schenley Park! The best part of my visit was the magical hour I spent every morning from 6:00 to 7:00 jogging with my 13 year old granddaughter on the Upper Trail of the park. We were lucky enough to see lots of wildlife during our runs…chipmunks and squirrels of course, numerous deer, woodpeckers, rabbits, a hawk, and what I think might have been a marmot. Could that be? Are there marmots in Schenley Park? It was definitely a mammal, dark and low to the ground, and with a bushy tail (so it definitely wasn’t a beaver). It was larger than a squirrel, and it moved very fast.

    I had to leave Pittsburgh for New York on August 23 in the morning to attend a granddaughter’s wedding there. How I wished I could have stayed and gone on your walk through the park that morning! Perhaps you will do another one the next time I am in Pittsburgh.
    Thank you for your beautiful blog and the love of nature reflected within it.

  41. Kate St. Johnon 08 Sep 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Susan, thanks for your encouraging words.
    Your description of the marmot-like animal is a groundhog. They breed in Schenley Park and are related to marmots so your description was quite close. Here’s more on them in Schenley.

  42. Janice Weston 07 Oct 2015 at 9:12 am

    Kate, thanks for responding to my question about Sandhill cranes. We drove up to Old Ash Road yesterday and spotted 15 Sandhills! Now another question: will they winter here? I checked my field guide without getting the answer. I just discovered your blog, and I have enjoyed reading it. Jan W

  43. Kate St. Johnon 07 Oct 2015 at 9:26 am

    Jan, I think the sandhills are here year round … but I can’t remember what months I’ve seen them.

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