Archive for the 'Books & Events' Category

Mar 23 2015

Reminder: March 29 Outing at Schenley Park

Coltsfoot blooming (photo from Wikipedia under GNU Free License) Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird and nature walk on Sunday March 29, 8:30am in Schenley Park.  Meet at Bartlett Shelter.
(Note that Schenley Drive is closed until 9:00am for CMU Buggy Race practice.)

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

Maybe we’ll see coltsfoot.


(photo of coltsfoot from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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Mar 20 2015

Peregrine Quest! March 22, 1pm, Downtown

Empty Gulf Tower nest, 19 March 2015 (photo from National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

The empty nest at the Gulf Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh

They’ve done it again!  The Downtown peregrines have been absent from the Gulf Tower since March 10 … yet they have been seen Downtown.

Apparently they are planning to nest somewhere else … but where?  Let’s find out.

Join Pittsburgh Falconuts on our quest to find the Downtown peregrines.  We’ll meet on Sunday March 22 at 1:00pm at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 28 Market Square and fan out from there.

If you can’t make it, wish us luck.  We’ll need it!


Thanks to John English of the Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page for organizing this quest.

(photo of the empty Gulf Tower nest from the National Avairy falconcam)


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Mar 13 2015

On The Radio: Bird Files

Turkey Vulture at Shavers Creek (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

If you’ve been following the Allegheny Front on WESA radio, you’ve heard their Bird Files series twice a month.

This week I joined as a contributor with a piece about Nature’s clean-up crew — turkey vultures!

Tune in to the Allegheny Front on WESA 90.5 FM tomorrow morning, Saturday March 14, at 7:30am.

Or read and listen here –>  Turkey Vulture Has Cast Iron Stomach


(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

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Feb 27 2015

Coming Soon: Spring Walks in Schenley Park

Northern magnolias blooming in Schenley Park, 18 Apr 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring is coming next month and when it does, let’s go outdoors!

From March through June I’m leading bird and nature walks once a month in Schenley Park.  Come out with me to see birds and blooms, trees and bees.

On each walk we’ll travel at the speed of botany (slowly!) keeping our eyes and ears open for the latest flora and fauna.  Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes that aren’t afraid of mud.  Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.  The walks will last two hours, but you can bow out early.

Here’s the schedule:

As each date approaches I’ll post a reminder on the blog — or visit my Events page any time for directions and up-to-date information including cancellations and rain dates.

Hope to see you in Schenley Park.  I can hardly wait for Spring!


(photo of a northern magnolia blooming in Schenley Park by Kate St.John)

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Feb 14 2015

Happy Valentine’s Day

Pair of mute swans (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A mute swan pair bows in courtship.


(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

NOTE:  Mute swans were imported to North America. Though beautiful they are very aggressive and pose a threat to our native waterfowl.

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Feb 12 2015

Owls Coming to PBS, February 18

Screenshot from PBS NATURE's Owl Power program

Who can see in the dark, fly silently, and hear their prey beneath deep snow?  Owls!

Owls live on every continent except Antarctica, some in extreme heat, others in extreme cold.  How do they thrive in the nighttime world?  PBS NATURE explores their special talents on Owl Power, premiering next Wednesday, February 18.

The show explains some amazing facts about owls.  Did you know that … Their eyes take up 70% of their skull.  Their ear tufts aren’t for hearing, they’re for expressing moods(!).  Owls can hear the sound-frequency of a mouse 10 times better than we can.  And, to an owl the night is 2.5 times brighter than it is for us.

And there are cool video segments including…

  • A thermal-sensing camera shows what’s really happening at night!
  • The barn owl’s slow flight style is compared to a peregrine and a greylag goose.
  • Great gray owl babies fall branch to branch when they “fledge” from the nest.
  • Super-sensitive microphones record the sounds of a pigeon, a peregrine and a barn owl in flight. Only the barn owl is completely silent. (Of course, peregrines don’t need to be silent … just very fast!)

Click on the screenshot above for a preview, then watch Owl Power on PBS next Wednesday February 18, 8pm EST/7pm CST.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.


(screenshot from PBS NATURE’s Owl Power)

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Feb 06 2015

Count Backyard Birds Next Weekend

Published by under Books & Events

Three dark-eyed juncoes feeding in the snow (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

One week from today — February 13-16 — the Great Backyard Bird Count will take a real-time snapshot of the birds in North America and beyond.

Since 1998 the Great Backyard Bird Count has enlisted volunteers like us to count the birds we see for four days in mid-February.  We count them in our backyards or anywhere we choose.  Last year more than 142,000 volunteers tallied birds in 135 countries.  Most of us count in North America so the northern cardinal and dark-eyed junco were the #1 and #2 birds.  Click here to see which species was #3.

Counting is so easy you can participate from your kitchen window!  Just fill your feeders, sit back with a cup of your favorite beverage, and tally the highest count of each species for at least 15 minutes.  Then submit your observations online.  Don’t be daunted. It’s really easy.  Click here for instructions from Cornell Lab.

There are also outdoor events across the U.S. and in Pittsburgh –> Emerald View Park with Venture Outdoors, Three Rivers Birding Club & Fern Hollow Nature Center at Sewickley Heights Park, and Pittsburgh Botanical Garden.

If you love to take photographs, submit your best shots to the GBBC photo contest. Click here for contest information.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Get ready this coming week.
  2. Set up your feeders and …
  3. Go!

February 13-16, 2015.


(Marcy Cunkelman counted 3 dark-eyed juncoes in this photo from her backyard.)

4 responses so far

Jan 01 2015

First Bird Of The Year

Published by under Books & Events

Rock pigeon (photo by Chuck Tague)

For those who list birds, January 1 starts a fresh new list for the new year.  What bird will be the first of 2015?

If you live in the suburbs or countryside yours may be a songbird at the feeder — a cardinal, a chickadee, a dark-eyed junco — but where I live in the city the most likely first bird is a European import: a house sparrow, a starling, a pigeon.

Sometimes I make the list better by not looking outside until I think there’s a “good” bird outdoors.  This usually requires a little cheating in which I ignore the hordes of foreigners to pick out the one native bird and call it my first.

Birding by ear is more successful at finding natives.  Pigeons don’t coo on early January mornings, starlings are silent at dawn, and house sparrows are late risers.  This method can give me a First Bird of song sparrow or Carolina wren but the most likely is American crow, cawing as they fly over my neighborhood on their way from the roost.

Today I shouldn’t cheat. I’ll just see what I come up with.

What’s your First Bird of 2015?


(photo by Chuck Tague)

13 responses so far

Dec 31 2014

Not Found In Nature

Published by under Books & Events

Accidental abstract (photo by Kate St. John)

This flock isn’t found in nature. Are they angels? Ghosts? New Year’s Eve revelers?

No. I took this nighttime photo of the City of Pittsburgh from my attic window. I thought I was holding the camera steady but the light-tracks show I wasn’t.

Perhaps a tripod would have made it boring.


(photo by Kate St. John)

One response so far

Dec 25 2014

Merry Christmas

Published by under Books & Events

Christmas decorations at Phipps Conservatory (photo by Kate St. John)


(Christmas decorations at Phipps Conservatory.  Photo by Kate St. John)

p.s. Phipps is closed today but opens again tomorrow with more of the Winter Light Garden and Flower Show through January 11.

2 responses so far

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