Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

May 18 2015

The Sagebrush Sea: PBS NATURE May 20

Published by under Books & Events

For those of us who live among forests and fields, the western sagebrush country seems empty and lifeless … but it isn’t.

Stretching across 11 western states, it’s a high cold desert that’s home to pronghorn deer, golden eagles, hawks, prairie dogs, and a beautiful, fascinating bird — the greater sage-grouse — that lives nowhere else on earth.

Most of the year greater sage-grouse are hard to find but in the spring they gather in leks (courtship grounds) where the males strut and call to attract the females.  The ladies are so picky that nearly all of them mate with only one or two of the males, then nest hidden in the sagebrush and raise their precocial chicks in the harsh environment.

But humans are changing the sagebrush sea.  The greater sage-grouse population has declined 90% since European settlement and soon may be on the brink of extinction.  Will the greater sage-grouse be snuffed out?

Watch PBS NATURE‘s season finale, The Sagebrush Sea, on Wednesday May 20 at 8:00pm EDT. In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

p.s.  The show was filmed and produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here for their program website or here for the Facebook page.

(The Sagebrush Sea trailer from PBS NATURE)

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May 16 2015

Peregrine Falcon Coloring Page

Peregrine falcon coloring page (illustration by Mark Klingler, text by Cathy Klingler)

Peregrine falcon coloring page (Illustration by Mark Klingler, text by Cathy Klingler)

This week the happy news of Dorothy’s hatchling revived an educational project that celebrates her nesting.

Mark Klingler of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is a scientific illustrator whose work appears in many publications and last year won first place for Illustrated Text by Large Non-Profit Publishers at the Washington Book Publishers’ Awards.  You may be familiar with Mark’s illustration of Anzu wyliei, the Chicken From Hell, that made the news in March 2014.  When the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has dinosaur news, Mark’s work illustrates the stories.

As a sideline Mark and his wife Cathy produce educational coloring pages for children.

More than a year ago Mark drafted a peregrine falcon illustration using photos of Dorothy, E2 and their chicks and Cathy wrote educational information for the back of the page.  They intended to complete it last spring but Dorothy’s nest failed (she was egg bound) and it was too disappointing to continue.

This week’s happy news prompted Mark and Cathy to complete their project and offer it as a gift to the public.

The illustration, dedicated to the late G. Alex “Doc” Stewart of the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, is an annotated illustration of Dorothy, E2 and their chicks.  The back of the coloring page describes the recent history of peregrines in the eastern U.S. and Pittsburgh and provides tips on how to protect them.

Mark writes, “It’s our public sharing. Cathy and I like to create these pages to handout at talks.  As long as the credits are left on it people can copy and share with their schools, activity groups, etc.”

Click here or on the image above to download your own copy of the Peregrine Falcon Coloring Page.

 

(illustration by Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Text by Cathy Klingler)

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Apr 26 2015

This Morning’s Walk in Schenley Park

April outing in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

April 26 outing in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning there were eight of us on the Schenley Park outing:  Linda, Larry, Michelle, Rose, Jen, Marianne and Dave. (Dave missed the photo opportunity & I’m behind the camera.)

At the Visitors Center we saw Virginia bluebells and redbud blooming.  In the creek valley we found miterwort, yellow trout lilies and large-flowered trillium.  We did see purple deadnettle, as promised.  😉

In addition to the usual residents we saw these Best Birds and bird behavior:

A good time was had by all.

Watch for my next outing on the last Sunday in May — May 31.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Apr 26 2015

Let’s Get Outdoors in May

Published by under Books & Events

Wissahickon/Botanical Society outing to Linn Runn State Park, 19 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Botanical outing in Linn Run State Park, 19 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

It’s hard to believe May starts this week and with it a whole new schedule of outings.

Here’s a list from four of the many bird and nature clubs in western Pennsylvania: 16 opportunities in May, four on May 9 alone.

Everyone is welcome to participate. Click on the links for directions, meeting places, what to bring, and phone numbers for the leaders.

Date/Time Focus Location Leader & Link to more info
Sat. May 2, 10:00am Flowers Wolf Creek Narrows, Butler County Dianne Machesney, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA
Sun. May 3, 8:00am Birds Frick Park, Pittsburgh Jack & Sue Solomon, 3RBC
Sun. May 3, 7:30am Birds Buffalo Creek, Washington County Larry Helgerman, 3RBC
Thurs. May 7, 7:30am Birds Sewickley Heights Park, Allegheny County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC
Thurs. May 7, 10:00am Flowers Butler-Freeport Trail, Monroe Rd, Butler County Dianne Machesney, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA
3 Days: May 8, 9, 10 Birds Presque Isle Bird Festival, Erie County Presque Isle Audubon
Sat. May 9, 7:00am Birds Hotspots in Forest County David Yeaney, 3RBC
Sat. May 9, 8:30am Birds Harrison Hills Park, Allegheny County Steve Gosser and Mary Ann Thomas, 3RBC
Sat. May 9, 1:00pm Flowers Roaring Run, Armstrong County Loree Speedy, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA
Sun. May 10 (check website for time) Flowers Keystone State Park, Westmoreland County Mary Ann Pike, BotSocWPA
Sat. May 16, 9:00am Birds Bell Farm, Greene County Ralph K. Bell Bird Club, 3RBC
Sun. May 17, 8:00am Birds Harrison Hills Park, Allegheny County Jim Valimont, 3RBC
Fri. May 22, 7:30am Birds Sewickley Heights Park, Allegheny County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC
Fri. May 22, 10:00am Trees, Flowers Hartwood Acres, Allegheny County Marlow Madeoy, Wissahickon
Sat. May 23, 8:00am Birds Presque Isle State Park, Erie County Bob Van Newkirk, 3RBC
Sun. May 31, 8:30am Everything Schenley Park, Pittsburgh Kate St. John, Outside My Window

 

Don’t miss May’s excitement.  Let’s get outdoors!

 

(photo by Kate St. John from the Linn Run State Park outing on 19 April 2015)

p.s. Please excuse typos in the table.  Make sure to consult the website links for up-to-date information.  Call/email the leaders to make sure.

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Apr 22 2015

Reminder: April 26 Outing in Schenley Park

Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), everywhere in Pittsburgh, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday April 26, 8:30am in Schenley Park. Meet at Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center where Panther Hollow Road meets Schenley Drive.

Dress for the weather (cold). Bring binoculars if you have them.

Click here for more information and for updates if the walk is canceled for bad weather.

We will certainly see purple deadnettle.

 

(photo of purple deadnettle by Kate St. John)

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Apr 18 2015

Let’s Get Outdoors!

Published by under Books & Events

Bloodroot in bloom, Wingfield Pines, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Wingfield Pines, Allegheny County, 15 April 2015, photo by Kate St. John

It’s Spring and there’s a lot to see.  Every day new songbirds arrive and new wildflowers bloom.  There are plenty of opportunities to join others and see the sights in western Pennsylvania (see the outings table below).  Here’s what I found last Wednesday …

At the Allegheny Land Trust’s Wingfield Pines I didn’t expect to see wildflowers because the site has been plowed so many times, but on the hillside I found a patch of bloodroot in full bloom!  Above, a closeup of the flowers.  Below, just a section of the huge patch.  Notice how the leaves curl around the stems.  The sunshine encouraged the flowers to open but made them hard to see and photograph on the forest floor.

Bloodroot in bloom, Wingfield Pines, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring wildflowers are ephemeral so don’t wait or you’ll miss them entirely. Several of the bloodroot flowers had already lost their petals and gone to seed.
Bloodroot lost its petals, Wingfield Pines, 15 April 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Here’s a list of April 19-30 outings for three of the many bird and nature clubs in western Pennsylvania: Wissahickon Nature Club (Wissahickon), Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania (BotSocWPa), and Three Rivers Birding Club (3RBC) … and my own outing on April 26.

Everyone is welcome to join these outings.  Click on the links for directions, meeting places, what to bring, and phone numbers for the leaders.

Date/Time Focus Location Leader & Link to more info
Sunday, April 19, 1:00pm & 2:00pm Birds Frick Park, Pittsburgh Jack & Sue Solomon, 3RBC
Sunday, April 19, 1:00pm Wildflowers Linn Run State Park, Rector, Westmoreland County Loree Speedy, Wissahickon / BotSocWPA
Saturday, April 25, 9:00am Birds Woodcock Lake & Pymatuning, Crawford County Shawn Collins, 3RBC
Saturday, April 25, 9:00am or 10am?(*) Flowers Indian Creek Wildflower Walk, Fayette County Lisa Smith, Wissahickon/BotSocWPA NOTE(*): Wissa & BotSoc sites disagree on start time.
Saturday, April 25, 9:30am Everything! Raccoon Creek State Park, Beaver County Ryan Tomazin, Brooks Bird Club & 3RBC
Sunday, April 26, 8:00am, 10am, All Day Everything! Enlow Fork Extravaganza at the Enlow Fork of Wheeling Creek, border of Washington & Greene Counties Wheeling Creek Watershed Conservancy, Wissa/BotSoc/3RBC
Sunday, April 26, 8:30am Everything! Schenley Park, Pittsburgh Kate St. John, Outside My Window
Wednesday, April 29, 8:00am Birds Knob Hill Community Park, Wexford, Allegheny County Karyn Delaney, 3RBC
Thursday April 30, 10:00am Everything! Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Reserve, Beaver County Dianne and Bob Machesney, Wissahickon / BotSocWPA

 

Let’s get outdoors!

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Please excuse typos in the table.  Make sure to consult the website links for up-to-date information!  Call/email the leaders to make sure.

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Apr 16 2015

Animal Cities: PBS NATURE April 22

Published by under Books & Events

Puffins near burrow at Shiant Isles, Scotland (Courtesy of © THIRTEEN Productions LLC)

Puffin near its burrow at Shiant Isles, Scotland (Courtesy of © THIRTEEN Productions LLC)

Are cities a purely human invention?  In the final episode of PBS NATURE‘s Animal Homes we’ll discover we’re not alone.  Some birds, spiders, lizards, and fish build cities, too.  Tune in on April 22 to learn:

  • Puffins nest in burrows where the female lays a single egg.  The small family of three lives in a city of 40,000 birds that flies together in a Puffin Wheel when they return from the sea.
  • Spiders are usually solitary — they even eat each other — but in the rainforest social spiders build and maintain enormous communal homes. Watch a preview here.
  • When an albatross colony is just starting out there may be a shortage of males.  See video from Hawaii where the ladies make do in a pinch.
  • Have you ever seen leaf-cutter ants carrying leaves in a procession to their nest?  I thought they ate the leaves until Animal Homes showed me what the leaves are really for.  You’ll be amazed at how complicated it is.
  • Speaking of complicated, there’s a fish whose social life is so complex you need a score card to keep up.  The male oscillated wrasse builds a nest that becomes a city of thousands — a city that ought to be called Peyton Place.  Competition, cooperation, and social drama in a fish!

Watch Animal Homes: Animal Cities on PBS NATURE, April 22 at 8:00pm EDT.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(photo Courtesy of © THIRTEEN Productions LLC)

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Apr 09 2015

Location, Location, Location: PBS NATURE April 15


Last night we learned about nests on PBS NATURE‘s Animal Homes.  Next Wednesday Episode 2 will take us inside bird and mammal homes chosen for their prime locations.  Tune in at 8:00pm EDT to learn:

  • When beavers hear running water they feel compelled to build. Once started they alter the landscape and never stop improving their dams, canals, lodges and storage facilities.  Did you know they move rocks?
  • Hooded mergansers nest in hollow trees 50 feet above the forest floor.  When the “kids” leave the nest, watch out below!
  • Find out why eastern woodrats are called “packrats.”
  • Learn that the safest place to build a black-chinned hummingbird nest is near the ultimate enemy.
  • Visit a bear den in the Allegheny Mountains of Garrett County while Maryland DNR tags a black bear mother with four cubs.  How do you keep bear cubs warm while their mother is “out cold?”  Cuddle them!

Watch Animal Homes: Location, Location, Location on PBS NATURE, April 15 at 8:00pm EDT.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(video from PBS Nature, Animal Homes Episode 2, Location, Location, Location)

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Apr 02 2015

Learn About Nests on PBS NATURE, April 8

Just in time for nesting season PBS NATURE premieres their three-part series Animal Homes.  Episode 1 on April 8th is devoted to Nests.

Using time lapse photography, infrared light and tiny HD cameras, the producers got up close and personal during all the stages of nest building.  The Anna’s hummingbird above is just a taste of the beautiful footage and intimate looks at the birds.

Each nest is custom made.  The wonder is that strong, resilient, and intricate nests are woven out of grass and twigs using only a beak.  And some build with mud, sticks or merely leaves:

  • Red ovenbirds (rufous hornero) of South America build an oven-shaped nest entirely of mud with an amazing internal baffle that forces them to squeeze in sideways.  Watch what they do when the cowbirds come.
  • A male osprey attracts a mate while he builds a 400-pound nest from scratch, stick by enormous stick!
  • Male Australian brush turkeys build compost heaps of leaves where multiple females deposit their eggs, as many as 50 eggs per heap.  It doesn’t matter whose kids they are.  The “kids” are self sufficient when they hatch.
  • Chalk-browed mockingbirds battle shiny cowbirds at the nest and sometimes win.

And if you bird by ear, don’t just “watch” the show.  Listen, too!  There’s a message in the soundtrack, the song of a familiar North American bird whose name is a nod to the name of the program.  I thought its voice was misplaced in the South American footage until I read on Wikipedia that “It occurs from Canada to southernmost South America and is thus the most widely distributed bird in the Americas.”

Very cool, PBS NATURE!  I learn something new every day.

Watch Animal Homes: Nests on PBS NATURE, April 8 at 8:00pm EDT.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(video from PBS NATURE)

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Mar 29 2015

This Morning in Schenley Park

Participants in the Schenley Park Walk, 29 March 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Ready for a walk in Schenley Park, 29 March 2015: Diane, Jen, Rachel, Missy, Jen, Hayley, Julia, Rosie (photo by Kate St. John)

Nine of us braved the cold this morning at the Bartlett Shelter in Schenley Park.  We didn’t see anything blooming in 20F degrees but it was sunny and the birds were active.

We saw three Best Birds:  a fox sparrow sunning himself by the stream, a golden-crowned kinglet flitting in the treetops, and a male pileated woodpecker hammering a dead branch (unusual for Schenley).  I checked my records for the fox sparrow. He’s the earliest I’ve seen in Schenley Park.  They always arrive alone — usually April 4 to 9.

Here are the birds we saw and heard:
* Red-bellied Woodpeckers
* Downy Woodpeckers
* Northern Flicker (heard, not seen)
* Pileated Woodpecker, unusual in Schenley Park
* Blue Jays, abundant and loud
* American Crow, flyover
* Carolina Chickadees
* Tufted Titmice
* White-breasted Nuthatches
* Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1
* European Starlings
* Fox Sparrow, 1 by the stream
* Song Sparrows, singing
* Dark-eyed Juncoes, singing
* Northern Cardinals, singing
* Common Grackles
* House Finches

I’m so glad we went out this morning!  If I hadn’t promised to be there I would have missed that fox sparrow.  :)

 

The next outing will be Sunday April 26, 8:30am.  Meet at the Schenley Park Visitors Center (near Phipps).  Check here for details as the date approaches.

(photo of the outing group, 29 March 2015 !If I misspelled your name, please let me know in a Comment)

 

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