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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last night (Mar 19) at around 9:30pm, @CathyPelican107 tweeted me with news that there were now five eggs at the Gulf Tower. By the time I looked Dori was clamped down on the eggs and I couldn’t count them so I checked the WildEarth video archives.
During the 8:00pm hour Dori stood up and appeared to deposit an egg in the nest. It was really hard to see! Eventually she settled down with the egg alongside of her (above), presumably allowing it to dry.
Later she stood up to rearrange the eggs and I was able to count 5 in these two screen shots.
This afternoon you can clearly count five.
Meanwhile at Pitt, Dorothy spends a lot of time at the nest looking as if she will lay an egg … and then she doesn’t.
Don’t worry. Her median first egg date is March 23. She has plenty of time.
(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Gulf Tower and University of Pittsburgh)
p.s. The fact that I mentioned Dorothy hasn’t laid an egg will probably prompt her to do so immediately … just to prove me wrong!
This morning NPR has news of a newly identified dinosaur that lived 66 to 72 million years ago.
Bones of “the chicken from Hell” were first discovered more than a decade ago by Tyler Lyson at the Hell Creek formation in the Dakotas. Specimens made their way into museum collections and intrigued Matt Lamanna at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History who suspected this was an oviraptorosaurian theropod dinosaur (bird ancestor!) similar to those found in Asia.
Now Lamanna and his team — Hans-Dieter Sues, Emma Schachner and Tyler Lyson — have figured out what animal made these bones and published their findings in PLOS One. It was Anzu wyliei, an enormous 500-pound feathered dinosaur with a bony crest on its head.
This illustration by the Carnegie’s Mark Klingler shows what it looked like. Wow!