Mar 30 2014

Lift Every Voice And Sing

Published by under Cranes,Migration

Pair of sandhill cranes calling (photo by Shawn Collins)

Though this photo could have been taken in Wisconsin it’s actually from Crawford County, Pennsylvania where a few sandhill cranes hang out near Miller’s Pond.

Sandhills breed in northwestern Pennsylvania so right now they’re calling and courting.  Here’s what a pair of cranes sounds like. Not exactly melodic, but they put a lot of spirit into it.

 

Life every voice and sing!
Pair of sandhill cranes crowing (photo by Shawn Collins)

 

(photos by Shawn Collins)

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Mar 29 2014

Eaglet’s Parents Celebrate

First eaglet of 2014 at Pittsburgh's Hays bald eagle nest, 28 March (snapshot from the eaglecam)

There he is, the first eaglet of 2014 at the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest.  He’s hard to see because he matches the nest, hence the arrow.  The two remaining eggs and his discarded eggshell (closest to Dad’s beak) stand out.

This tiny gray ball of fluff emerged on a warm and windy afternoon, March 28, under his mother’s gaze.  As soon as he was dry she brooded him until Dad returned with food.

Click on the snapshot above to watch “Hays Parents Celebrate Hatch.”  Dad has brought a fish to share.  While Mom eats, Dad studies the eaglet. “Is he hungry?” Not yet, so Dad rearranges the nest.  Mom leaves on a well-deserved break and Dad settles down to brood the chick.

Bald eagles brood their nestlings during cold and inclement weather until they’re about four weeks old.   In the first week the brooding is almost constant because the nestlings can’t regulate their own body temperature.  This also serves the dual purpose of incubating the unhatched eggs while keeping the eaglet(s) warm.

The next egg is slated to hatch on March 31.  Watch the eaglecam to see.

 

p.s. Don’t forget you can also see the eagles in person today (March 29) on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail with the National Aviary’s Bob Mulvihill, 9:00am to noon.  Click here for more information.

(snapshot from Pittsburgh Hays Eaglecam, broadcast by WildEarth)

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Mar 28 2014

The Eaglet Has Landed!

The first eaglet of the season hatched today in the Pittsburgh’s Hays Bald Eagle nest at approximately 2:30pm.  In this YouTube video captured by PixController you can see the baby bird next to two eggs and his own eggshell.  Then mom comes over to help.

Watch him on camera here at PixController or here on the National Aviary website.

Media Attention:  He’s already a celebrity!

Festivities tomorrow!    March 29, 9:00am to noon, watch the nest at Hays — in person!

National Aviary Ornithologist Bob Mulvihill will be at the Hays Bald Eagle nest site tomorrow morning from 9 a.m. until noon with the spotting scope donated by Wild Birds Unlimited! Feel free to stop by for a really good look at the nest, maybe even catch a glimpse at what’s going on IN the nest!
Parking is available courtesy of Keystone Iron and Metal Co. in their employee parking lot at the end of Baldwin Road (see map), or use the address 4901 East Carson Street into your GPS!
The viewing site is a short distance from there: carefully cross the railroad tracks and turn left onto the trail. Bob will be about 200 feet down the trail with the spotting scope!
Click here for a map of how to get there.

Thanks to the PA Game Commission and PixController for bringing this eagle family up close.

 

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Mar 28 2014

Red Rimmed Eyes

Published by under Water and Shore

Ring-billed gull in breeding plumage (photo by Shawn Collins)

It’s spring and even the gulls look snazzy!

Look closely and you’ll notice that adult ring-billed gulls have put on their breeding plumage.  Not only are their heads snowy white but the skin around their eyes and beaks is bright red.

Here’s another view.

Ring-billed gull in breeding plumage (photo by Shawn Collins)

Watch for them to open their mouths.  Wow!  Talk about red!

 

Until recently they were boring in basic plumage with speckly head feathers and black skin like this.

Ring-billed gull in basic plumage (photo by Shawn Collins)

I wasn’t paying attention when they made this transformation and was stunned last weekend when one opened his very red mouth.

Look for their red-rimmed eyes while they’re still in town.  They’ll be in southwestern Pennsylvania for a couple more weeks, waiting for their breeding grounds to thaw up north.

 

(photos by Shawn Collins)

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Mar 27 2014

Any Wood Frogs Yet?

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

This month I wrote about ducks that sound like frogs.  Here are some frogs that sound like ducks.

Wood frogs are often the first frogs to appear in the spring in eastern North America, quickly followed by spring peepers.  As the video indicates temperatures have to be in the 40s for the wood frogs to “wake up,” but western Pennsylvania hasn’t had a lot of warm weather yet.

The cold winter has made a difference.  Two years ago we had an exceptionally warm spring and the frogs came out in early March.  This year we’ve had a few blips of warm weather surrounded by temperatures in the teens, a discouraging combination for cold-blooded frogs.

Today we’re headed for a spate for warm weather that may signal the end of winter’s grip.  We’ll know it’s really spring when we hear frogs calling.

Have you heard any wood frogs yet?

 

(video from Great Smoky Mountains Association)

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Mar 26 2014

Hen-o-pause

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy preening, 25 Mar 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy laid her first egg on March 20.  It appears to be her last and she is not incubating it.

In her prime Dorothy laid an egg every 2.5 days until she completed a clutch of four or five.  She always hatched all or all-but-one.

Last year her age began to show.  Her time between eggs was prolonged, three eggs did not hatch, and one of the hatchlings was too handicapped to live.

Back in 2010 I wrote about what happens when female peregrines age (click here).  Dorothy is now 15, two years older than the average adult life expectancy of 13.  So we’re learning something.

Yesterday Mary DeVaughn coined the term “hen-o-pause” on the Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page.  I don’t know if birds experience anything like menopause but it explains Dorothy’s solo egg and her lack of desire to incubate.

She’s certainly the right age for “hen-o-pause.”

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

 

14 responses so far

Mar 25 2014

Mad, Mad Mergs

Three male red-breasted mergansers pursue a female

Red-breasted mergansers already look a little crazy because of their wild head feathers.  Here you see they’ve really gone nuts.

In this photo by Pat Gaines three male red-breasted mergansers are courting one female. The guys zip around and churn the water like jet skis, abruptly halt and point their bills skyward, dip their necks and crowd around her.

The lady doesn’t look like she wants this much attention.  Pat wrote that she flew away pursued by all three males and concluded, “So this is what it must be like for a beautiful woman at a singles bar.”

Click on the photo for a closeup and here for a video of their courtship behavior.

 

(photo by Pat Gaines on Flickr, Creative Commons license. Click on the image to see the original)

p.s. Notice how the feathers around the female’s eye form a dark circle.  It looks like she hasn’t slept in weeks.  ;)

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Mar 24 2014

Frozen

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy and her frozen egg, 24 Mar 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

It’s very cold this morning:  14 degrees at the airport, 21 degrees in my city backyard.  Assuming the Cathedral of Learning is just as warm as my backyard (1.5 miles away), the temperature at the nest has been below freezing since 8:00pm last night.

For whatever reason, Dorothy stopped sheltering her egg around 9:30pm.

Peregrine falcons don’t begin incubation until they’ve laid their next to last egg in the clutch.  However, they do shelter the eggs to keep them from freezing.  In her younger years Dorothy would have been on top of the egg in weather like this, not merely standing over it, and it would look like she’s incubating.  But she’s not.

The egg is certainly frozen and will never hatch. CORRECTION!  I have since learned that it might hatch. (It was not incubated and abandoned to the cold weather so it might be viable.)

This spring Dorothy is 15 years old, retirement age for wild peregrines.  She has a reason for acting this way.  I don’t know what it is.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh

28 responses so far

Mar 23 2014

A Brief Appearance

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Crocuses blooming at Phipps outdoor garden, 22 Mar2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

At last the crocuses are (or rather… were) blooming in Pittsburgh, though not in my yard.

Yesterday was a sunny and breezy day with a high of 50F.  I took a long walk in Schenley Park and found nothing blooming except a small selection of snowdrops and crocuses at Phipps Conservatory’s outdoor garden.

Today it has already snowed a little, tonight will be 15F and the cold will continue through Tuesday so these flowers won’t last.

If you want to see spring in all its glory visit the Spring Flower Show, indoors at Phipps Conservatory.  Theirs are the only flowers that have put in more than a brief appearance.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Mar 22 2014

Dumpster Robins

Published by under Bird Behavior

The robins' dumpster and their favorite perch (photo by Kate St. John)

A few days ago I looked out my office window and saw two American robins perched on the dumpsters at Central Catholic High School.  As I watched, one dove into a dumpster and disappeared.  Soon it flew out of the flap opening on the left and the other robin dove in.

What is this?  I’m used to seeing crows, gulls and even house sparrows at dumpsters … but robins??

I tried to photograph the robins but always missed so I’ve had to settle for a snapshot of the dumpsters with a green symbol for the robins’ favorite pre-dive perch.

I wonder what attracted them into the dumpster.

I did not dive in to find out!

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

6 responses so far

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