Falcons and Skunk Cabbage

This week is spring break, but I’ve had wonderful OLLI provided experiences, all having to do with that additional level of awareness Alice mentions in her comment to the last post. After the geology walk on Wednesday, there was a class about the peregrine falcons that call Pittsburgh home. There are nesting boxes on the Gulf Tower downtown and the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh,Cathedral_before_cleaning_was_fin_2
both evidently look like cliffs to the falcons. You can see a webcam and learn about the Gulf Tower pair here. There is one egg in the nest already. That website from Pittsburgh’s National Aviary has links to the Cathedral of Learning webcam and to a bird blog written by Kate St. John, who was one of the presenters at our class. Our other presenter was Dr. Tony Bledsoe of the Biological Sciences Dept. at Pitt, who did a great job giving us all the facts about falcons.

Yesterday we went on a bus trip to the Powdermill Nature Reserve, the biological research station of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. You have to understand: I am very much a city person. I haven’t had a lot of contact with "nature," and I approach each event with a mixture of curiosity, awe and fear. I wasn’t sure what I was going to see at this time of year, possibly more mud, but I figured I had nothing to lose.

We spent the morning learning about the sustainable facilities development project and the Marsh Machine, their waste water treatment greenhouse. Powdermill Run is one of only a few streams in Pennsylvania considered excellent quality, never having been polluted by mine drainage. Here is an excellent article from the Post Gazette about the new facility, which, incidentally, uses carpeting made from recycled plastic bottles, counter tops made from compressed paper, flooring tiles from recycled tires.

After lunch, we took advantage of the beautiful spring day and walked on some of the trails at the reserve. I got my first good look at skunk cabbage,


loved the little ferns just beginning to grow,


and marveled at the rushing stream filled now with rainwater and melted snow. (Our guide, Theresa, is speaking with one of the members of our group.


My friends in Chicago used to tease me–I was never lost in the city, but take me out where there are no street signs and I’m immediately lost. I need a lot of help learning to see in the natural environment.

6 thoughts on “Falcons and Skunk Cabbage

  1. Very nice. Too bad I hadn’t learned to explore a city when I lived in Pittsburgh as I have learned now to do; no matter where I am there’s much to be learned and admired about a place. Excuse me for messing up this comment post. I’ve been reading and catching up on my blogging friends all afternoon, and it’s beginning to show!

  2. Very nice. Too bad I hadn’t learned to explore a city as I have learned now to do; no matter where I am there’s much to be learned and admired about a place.

  3. Facinating. I have to see if we have anything like that here in the inner city. But remember, there is only chaparalle. No trees, no streams, and sometimes only concrete. Great deco building. 🙂

  4. You’re a real optimist, Karen. Backpacking is on my short list of things I’ll never do. Many years ago, when I was fiftyish, we went on a whitewater rafting trip–5 nights camping out. I loved it, but I was very happy to get back to water from a faucet and a toilet.

  5. LOL…I remember going on field trips with geology professors in college…so fascinating, isn’t it? I am so glad you are getting out in nature…lot to be learned, and the more you know, the more comfortable you will become venturing out. Try and go on a birding trip this spring when the hummingbirds are mating…that is quite a show. But not R rated, I promise!!!

  6. The Evanston (Ill.) library has a falcon cam as well (http://www.epl.org/falconcam/) – it’s great fun to watch once the eggs hatch. Thanks for letting us know about another falcon site.
    It’s great you’re discovering “the great outdoors.” Let me know when you’re ready to go backpacking….

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