Jun 17 2015

Fledge Watch Continues: Waiting For #3

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine Fledgling #1, Downtown Pittsburgh, 16 June 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Peregrine Fledgling #1, Downtown Pittsburgh, 16 June 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Yesterday at Downtown Pittsburgh Peregrine Fledge Watch fledgling #1 surprised us with his staying power, #2 graduated to the next level, and #3 refused to leave the nest.

Pictured above by Steve Gosser, Fledgling #1 spent more than 24 hours puttering on a ledge on 5th Avenue near Ross Street.  He’ll leave when he gets hungry.

#2 learned how to fly high with the wind.  On Monday Jamie Sunderland photographed him in an ironic place — the Union Trust eagle gargoyle.  By Tuesday he’d mastered that zone and flew up and away out of sight.  When a fledgling does that he graduates from Fledge Watch.  Congratulations #2!

Peregrine Fledgling #2 perches on the eagle gargoyle, Union Trust Building, 15 June 2015 (photo by Jamie Sunderland)

#2 perches on the eagle gargoyle, Union Trust Building, 15 June 2015 (photo by Jamie Sunderland)

We thought #3 would have flown by now but she has refused to leave.  At midday Tuesday Marcia Cooper reported that her father (Louie) brought food but only fed her half of it, then he flew away as if to say, “You’ll get the rest when you leave the nest.”  She was outraged.

#3 at the nest ledge, 15 June 2015 (photo by John English)

#3 waiting at the nest, 15 June 2015 (photo by John English)


I’m heading Downtown now for my morning Fledge Watch shift to see who’s “up” today.  If #1 has flown out of sight he, too, will have graduated from Fledge Watch. Update at 9:00am: Yes he did. Congratulations #1!

That leaves us with #3.  At the rate she’s going we need Watchers on the schedule Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 18-20.  Please check  the Downtown Pittsburgh Peregrine Fledge Watch Calendar and leave a comment with your name, email address and the dates/times you’d like to volunteer.  I will see your message and add your shift to the calendar.

Thank You to all the volunteers and photographers!

Just one bird left to go.


(photos by Steve Gosser, Jamie Sunderland and John English)

p.s.  Here’s news from a really challenging Fledge Watch in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Jun 16 2015

Nest Watching In The Sagebrush Sea

Watching raptor nests on the Internet may give you the impression that any nest can be monitored this way, but many species are too skittish or too remote for a webcam.

When Cornell Lab of Ornithology filmed The Sagebrush Sea they included footage of ferruginous hawks nesting in a remote sagebrush prairie.  No electricity.  No Internet.  No road.  How did they get that footage?

The video above shows Gerrit Vyn’s long hours of hiding alone in a very small space.  Thanks to his efforts we get a special view of ferruginous hawk family life that’s rarely seen on camera.

If you missed last month’s broadcast of The Sagebrush Sea, watch the complete program online here at PBS.

Nest watching can be a lot harder than sitting at a desk!


p.s.  The activity at this nest has a lot in common with other raptor nests.  I love the interactions among the chicks!

(video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

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Jun 15 2015

Peregrine Watching at Pitt and Westinghouse

Published by under Peregrines

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)

Pitt Peregrines:

Because his development is delayed, we can’t predict when the Cathedral of Learning peregrine chick will fledge but we can always get together to watch his parents and talk about peregrines.

Beginning June 19 I’ll be at the Schenley Plaza tent (most days) during lunch hour to watch peregrines in my favorite setting.  Check the Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch calendar for meeting times.   It’ll be a Peregrine Fan Reunion.


PGC & PennDOT look for the peregrines' nest at the Westinghouse Bridge, 20 May 2014 (photo by John English)

PGC & PennDOT at the peregrines’ nest at Westinghouse Bridge, 20 May 2014 (photo by John English)

Westinghouse Bridge Peregrine Banding:

The PA Game Commission will band the two peregrine nestlings at the Westinghouse Bridge on Monday June 22 at 9:00am.  PennDOT and the banding team will use a bucket truck to access the nest.  The nest is under the bridge deck.  Norfolk Southern Railroad prohibits access under the Westinghouse Bridge.  Click here for a map showing a sidewalk viewing location on the nearby East-Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard Bridge.


(Schenley Plaza tent photo by Kate St.John; Westinghouse Bridge 2014 banding photo by John English)

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Jun 15 2015

Hard To Keep Track Of

Published by under Peregrines

Fledgling #2 on the rescue porch, 14 June 2015 (photo by Terry Wiezorek)

Fledgling #2 on the rescue porch, 14 June 2015 (photo by Terry Wiezorek)

Fledgling birds are hard to keep track of.  Hard on their parents.  Really hard for humans!  Yesterday’s Peregrine Fledge Watch in Downtown Pittsburgh was a case in point.

By Saturday evening Fledgling#2 had flown for the first time and ended his day on the Union Trust Building.  Sunday morning he was still there when Doug Cunzolo arrived.  Soon the bird flew to the Courthouse ledge, then an hour later to Union Trust on Grant Street.  So far so good.

The bird’s parents had their hands full babysitting #3 at the nest and persuading #1 to fly high.  They were busy.  We watched #2.

Peregrine falcon watching young learning to fly, Downtown Pittsburgh, 14 June 2015 (photo by Terry Wiezorek)

Adult peregrine watches youngsters learning to fly, Downtown Pittsburgh 14 June 2015 (photo by Terry Wiezorek)

Just before noon it started to rain so we stopped watching on Grant Street and sheltered under the scaffolding around the corner.  We thought #2 wouldn’t fly in the rain.  Hah!

When the rain was over he was gone.  All five of us searched the ground, buildings and plazas along Grant Street and Fifth.  We knew he wouldn’t be hit by a car because traffic was at a standstill, detoured for the Pride Parade.

Fledge Watch continued, we left, others arrived.  Then at 2:30pm Terry Wiezorek was watching on Fifth Avenue when PGC Officer Kline walked up with a cage and said, “Are you looking for this?”

Fledgling #2 at the Security Desk, awaiting delivery to the rescue porch (photo by Terry Wiezorek)

Fledgling #2 on his way to the rescue porch (photo by Terry Wiezorek)

#2 had been on the ground at BNY Mellon.  Who knew!

By 4:00pm Terry knew #2 was on the rescue porch and #3 was at the nest.  She could hear a fledgling, perhaps #1, calling for food.  She watched Dori and Louie for clues.  Where is #1?

Hard to keep track of!


(photos by Terry Wiezorek)

p.s.  After last night’s heavy rain (2.25 inches!) the birds probably won’t fly for a while and may be even harder to find.  More news later.

p.p.s. 9:15am all 3 accounted for: 2 on UTB, one at nest.

UPDATE, June 16, 9:40am: #1 on BNY Mellon ledge on 5th Ave at 6th across from ivy-covered old jail wall (a different building than Main), #2 on dormer at roof line of Union Trust, #3 sleeping in nest, Dori on Courthouse knob, Louie off hunting.

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Jun 14 2015

Now Fruiting: False Solomon’s Seal

Published by under Plants

Fruit of False Solomon's Seal (photo by Kate St. John)

Fruit of False Solomon’s Seal (photo by Kate St. John)

In June there’s a blooming hiatus between Spring’s woodland wildflowers and field flowers in July.  The plants I notice this month are the ones in fruit.

Here’s a woodland plant that bloomed last month.

False Solomon’s Seal has set fruit but it isn’t ripe yet.  In the fall its berries will be red.

Click here to read more about it and see what the plant looked like in bloom.


(photo by Kate St. John)


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Jun 14 2015

Quick Peregrine Update

Published by under Peregrines

Louie during Downtown Fledge Watch, 13 June 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Louie (adult male) perched at the Frick Building, 13 June 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Downtown:  Status as of June 14, 7:00 a.m.

If you come Downtown, the best location for observing the nest ledge is at the Union Trust Building sidewalk on Fifth Ave. The ledge is the top balcony of Macy’s Annex on Scrip Way.  When there’s a fledgling on the “rescue ledge” it can be seen from Mellon Square.

We think Fledgling#1 left the “rescue ledge” yesterday morning.  We don’t know where he landed but his parents do and that’s all that matters.

As of 8:00pm, Robin reported that Fledgling#2 landed on the 4th floor ledge of the Union Trust Building.  He flew up to it from the ledge above the Frick Building entrance.  Up is good.  4th floor is good.  This morning Doug Cunzolo saw him fly to the Courthouse.  The bird is making progress.

As of 7:00am today (June 14), the 3rd nestling is still hanging back inside the nest area.

Thank you, Robin and Doug, for your reports.

If you have time, we need watchers in the evenings after 5:00pm.  No need to sign up.  Just come on down.  Make sure you write down the phone numbers on this flyer in case you need them.


Neville Island I-79 Bridge:  Status as of June 13 afternoon.

Red takes a walk in the safe zone, 13 June 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Red takes a walk in the safe zone, 13 June 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

On Friday the female fledgling, “Red” above, landed on a barge traveling down the Ohio River and had to be rescued by PGC Officer Kramer.  She would have starved without her parents as she traveled to New Orleans (or wherever).  He took her back to Neville Island.

Yesterday afternoon Anne Marie Bosnyak saw a second fledgling flapping on the top arch of the bridge after many days of assuming he’d died. So there are two!  Great news!


(photos by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

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Jun 13 2015

Snakes In The Grass

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Black rat snake,perhaps a young one, along Nine Mile Run Trail, Frick Park, Pittsburgh, 6 June 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Black rat snake,perhaps a young one, along Nine Mile Run Trail, Frick Park, Pittsburgh, 6 June 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

If snakes give you the creeps close your eyes.  I’ve placed my poor quality photo at the top so you have time to stop looking.

Last Saturday near Duck Hollow a cyclist stopped to tell me there was a big snake by the trail.  He said he could tell by my gear that I was interested in nature and would want to know.  (I must look like someone who approaches snakes.)

I’m glad the cyclist told me.  The sunning snake was four feet long and very twisty as if it had wrapped tightly around a sapling and was unable to straighten out.  I know almost nothing about snakes but guessed by the shape of its head and round eyes that it wasn’t venomous.  Why twisted?  I posted my photo at the PA Herps Facebook page to find out.

Pam Fisher identified it as a black rat snake and said that snakes sometimes make their bodies twisty to break up the visual pattern.  For this snake though, his camouflage trick attracted attention.

I don’t look for snakes so the ones I find really have to stand out.  For more than 20 years I’ve visited Jennings Prairie to see the birds and wildflowers but have never seen its famous endangered resident, the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.

Dianne and Bob Machesney have visited Jennings much more than I have and they’d never seen the rattlesnake either until…  On June 4 they found a rattlesnake sunning, close enough for a zoomed in photo.

Dianne wrote, “After all these years, this is the first time we saw an Easter Massasauga Rattlesnake in the wild. The field had recently been mowed and she was sunning herself.  The milky eyes mean she is getting ready to shed.”

Massasauga Rattlesnake at Jennings (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Massasauga Rattlesnake at Jennings Prairie, 4 June 2015 (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Perhaps cool mornings in early June are the best time for seeing snakes in the grass.

You can open your eyes now.  😉


(poor quality photo of a black rat snake by Kate St. John.  High quality photo of a Massassauga rattlesnake by Dianne Machesney)

9 responses so far

Jun 12 2015

Downtown Fledge Watch Begins Tomorrow, June 13

Published by under Books & Events

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watchers, 2010 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watchers, 2010 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

Dateline June 12, 2015:

As you can see from my earlier post we missed the first fledgling but there are still two who haven’t flown.

Downtown Fledge Watch starts tomorrow at Fifth and Grant, perfectly positioned for incoming fledglings.

Click here for ALL the details.

Additional considerations:

Weather:  We won’t be out there in thunderstorms.  Volunteer Training will be held rain or shine (Sat. 6/13 10:00am & Mon 6/15 noon).  If it is raining we will move to Macy’s Annex roof/overhang on Fifth Ave at Cherry Way after we meet at Mellon Square.

Saturday:   Volunteer Training at 10:00am at Mellon Square (see above note on weather).  Otherwise, business as usual at Fifth and Grant.

Sunday:  Parking, etc.  On street parking is free but be careful where you put your car if you’d like to leave around noon.  The Pride Parade starts at noon at Grant & the Boulevard of the Allies, marches up Grant to Fifth Avenue and turns left down Fifth Avenue, then right on Liberty Avenue and ends at the grandstand at Liberty & Sixth Avenues.

I’ll post fledgling status as I get the chance.

Never a dull moment.


(photo of Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, 29 May 2010 by Sharon Leadbitter)

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Jun 12 2015

Lunchtime Excitement

Published by under Peregrines

PGC WCO Kramer rescues Fledgling#1 (photo by Michael Leonard)

PGC Wildlife Conservation Officer Kramer rescues Fledgling#1, Downtown 11 June 2015 (photo by Michael Leonard)

Lunch hour in Downtown Pittsburgh was extra exciting yesterday when one of the three peregrine nestlings made his first flight.  Fledgling #1 landed safely on BNY Mellon’s plaza at Fifth and Grant and was rescued promptly by PGC Officer Kramer who placed him high on a nearby building to start over.

Michael Leonard, an Aviary volunteer and Pittsburgh Falconut, was passing by the area and helped guard the bird until the PA Game Commission arrived.  Then he snapped this rescue photo.  Great job, everyone!

Fledgling#1 is just fine so he’s ready to make his second flight from a much higher location than his inaccessible nest.  WCO Kramer put him on the “rescue porch” where he immediately and actively(!) checked out his surroundings.  He was not banded (no bands available at time of rescue).

Downtown Pittsburgh, first fledgling on the "rescue porch," 11 June 2015(photo by Kate St. John)

Downtown Pittsburgh, Fledgling#1 on the “rescue porch,” 11 June 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

His June 11 flight was two days earlier than I expected but weeks of preparation paid off.

Knowing that Fifth and Grant was likely to be Ground Zero for fledglings, I circulated this flyer with the PGC phone number to nearby businesses and security guards.  Perhaps someone used the flyer to make the call.

I also knew that rescued fledglings would need a higher zone than the 7th floor nest for their second take-off so I proposed a location, Art McMorris approved it, and Larry Walsh cleared the way.  Thanks to John Conley who handles on-the-ground details and to The Business Most Affected By This (whom I won’t reveal for privacy of the porch & fledgling.)  Many thanks to all!

Meanwhile two youngsters were still waiting for take off yesterday afternoon.  The brown one looks like he might fly today.  The other is younger and will wait a while. But who knows how long?  I’m afraid to predict at this point.

Two remaining peregrine nestlins at Downtown Pittsburgh nest, 11 June 2015 (photo by Matt Digiacomo)

Two remaining peregrine nestlings at Downtown Pittsburgh nest, 11 June 2015 (photo by Matt Digiacomo)

Downtown Fledge Watch starts tomorrow where Fledgling#1 landed.  Chances are there will be some excitement this weekend.  Click the link for details.

C’mon down!


p.s. Check Matthew Digiacomo’s Flickr page for recent photos from the nest.

(photo credits:  PGC rescue by Michael Leonard, Fledgling#1 on the “rescue porch” by Kate St. John, two nestlings by Matthew Digiacomo)

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Jun 11 2015

Almost The Same

Published by under Peregrines,Songbirds

Downy woodpecker juvenile and adult (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Downy woodpecker juvenile and adult (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

In most bird species by the time baby birds leave the nest they resemble their parents, but they don’t look quite the same.  The young are still in juvenile plumage.

Peregrine falcons, for instance, are the same size and shape as their parents but the juveniles are brown and cream colored where the adults are charcoal gray and white.  The juvenile plumage lasts two years and may protect young peregrines from attack by territorial adults.  (“I’m too young to breed. Don’t hit me!”)

Comparison of adult and juvenile peregrine plumage (photos by Kim Steininger)

Comparison of peregrine plumage: adult (left, looking at photographer) and juvenile (right, looking down) — photos by Kim Steininger


Pictured at top, the two downy woodpeckers are parent and child.  You can tell who’s who by their behavior — the parents feed their kids.  You can also tell by plumage.

On Throw Back Thursday, learn the color differences between juvenile and adult male downy woodpeckers at They Almost Look Alike (from 2008).


(photo credits:  downy woodpeckers by Marcy Cunkelman, peregrine falcon photos by Kim Steininger)

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