Oct. 29th, 2014: Allegheny Land Trust: Wingfield Pines & PENNDOT Wetlands

Well hey there fellow bird likers!!! My name’s Ryan and this is my first “blog,” not coincidentally about birds (Aves), because that’s what I like to blog about! I look at, listen to, identify, study, understand, admire, imitate, count, rescue, photograph, draw, paint, sculpt, papier-mâché, and simply LOVE all things feathered! I hope to entertain both bird-lovers and animal-lovers alike, through fascinating stories and insight about “birding,” as we “birders” call it. I’ll also be painting a much more vivid picture of the bird world through my copyrighted bird photography and literal paintings of birds! But even beyond that, I hope to inspire others to realize that birds aren’t just horrid little critters and stupid noisy pests (besides pigeons, starlings, house sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, and female goldfinches) but rather interesting and nice-looking and kind of special, when you think about it.

So join my flock, won’t you? There’s plenty of room in this nest for everyone! 😉

Birds are everywhere! Maybe even above you right now! Whoa!!! (If you look closely, you’ll see about 6 crows in this photo!)

Birds are everywhere! Maybe even above you right now! Whoa!!! (If you look closely, you’ll see about 6 crows flying through this photograph of the clouds!)

For my inbloguration, I shall give you all a detailed account of my adventure to the Allegheny Land Trust’s Wingfield Pines area followed by a brief evening jaunt into the PENNDOT Wetlands on October 29th, which isn’t even my most recent outing as of this posting, it’s just taken me 6 days to write this. So as I’ve said, last week I visited Wingfield Pines, which is one of my very favorite places in all of southwestern Allegheny County to go birding. And this time, just like every time I visit here, I wasn’t disappointed, because it was full of birds!!! Immediately upon arrival I heard some kind of bird pecking on the wood of a tree, and I looked up and sure enough there was a bird up there! A downy woodpecker, in fact! I differentiated it from the near-identical hairy woodpecker because this one looked all downy. It took me a bit longer to make this distinction than I’d like to admit, however, and once I’d finally settled on the species it flew off before I could really scrutinize it more deeply to determine if it was a boy or girl. Oh, well, there’s always the next one! That’s the thing I love most about birds: one will fly away, but soon enough you’ll see another, and that one is usually better than the last!

There was an incredibly big group of mallard ducks at Wingfield Pines. (Photograph taken with my Verizon Cosmos 3 phone, through just 1 of my 2 binocular lenses.) You can tell these are mallard ducks because of the green on their heads, as I don’t recall any other North American duck that has any green on the head. I’m also not aware of any other water-fowl that gets together in huge groups like this, so that alone is a telltale sign that you’ve got yourself some beautiful mallard ducks. There was also a pair of green-wing teals in here (not pictured; though maybe that’s one of them there in the back, it’s hard to tell with the lighting.)

There was an incredibly big group of mallard ducks at Wingfield Pines. (Photograph taken with my Verizon Cosmos 3 phone, through just 1 of my 2 binocular lenses.) You can tell these are mallard ducks because of the green on their heads, as I don’t recall any other North American duck that has any green on the head. I’m also not aware of any other water-fowl that gets together in huge groups like this, so that alone is a telltale sign that you’ve got yourself some beautiful mallard ducks. There was also a pair of green-wing teals in here (not pictured; though maybe that’s one of them there in the back, it’s hard to tell with the lighting.)

The thing about Wingfield Pines is this: there are these big interconnected ponds there full of filthy brown water. BUT, it’s not a swamp or anything, these ponds were put there, as in made by humanity. There are a couple signs placed throughout the area that seem to explain everything to visitors, but I consider these a blot on the landscape, so in protest I’ve chosen not to read them. However, I’ve pretty easily deduced on my own that these ponds just circulate the gross mucky water amongst one another, and keep it contained so it doesn’t leak into nearby Chartiers Creek. Which is nice, because on days like this where I’m walking all around for over an hour, I get pretty thirsty, so it’s good to be able to safely quench my thirst in the creek!

In the background of this photograph you can clearly see the artificial water spouts used to decorate the otherwise ugly ponds here, with a beautiful foreground of those famed “Wingfield Pines.” Both of these are good examples of what the grounds crew has recently done here in order to make visiting the area a pleasant experience, especially for birders like me. (i.e. primo bird habitats: ducks love water, and tree birds love pines!)

In the background of this photograph you can clearly see the artificial water spouts used to decorate the otherwise ugly ponds here, with a beautiful foreground of those famed “Wingfield Pines.” Both of these are good examples of what the grounds crew has recently done here in order to make visiting the area a pleasant experience, especially for birders like me. (i.e. primo bird habitats: ducks love water, and tree birds love pines!)

I walked around some more and found a bunch of chickadees. They were amongst a mixed flock of other birds which I didn’t identify because I was too busy counting the chickadees. 18! A new personal record for this location! (Though I suppose I could’ve counted the same birds multiple times, there’s really no way to tell individual birds apart until you’ve been birding for like 10 years, at least.) After that kind of excitement, I decided this area was tapped, so I headed back to my car. (Yes, I drive to go birding, and I’m well aware that’s not a very environmentally-conscious thing to do, and that birds depend on the environment, but I’m already fully ashamed of this fact on my own, so I don’t need any of you hassling me further about it, please…)

This is my best attempt at photographing a black-capped chickadee through my binoculars, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. This guy (it was a male, I’m not being sexist!) was a really difficult subject because he kept moving around so quickly, in fact I don’t think any other North American bird is as quick as the chickadee. They ought to have been named “quickadees.” I know this one was a black-capped instead of the very similar Carolina chickadee because he had such a prominent black cap (shown above.)

This is my best attempt at photographing a black-capped chickadee through my binoculars, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. This guy (it was a male, I’m not being sexist!) was a really difficult subject because he kept moving around so quickly, in fact I don’t think any other North American bird is as quick as the chickadee. They ought to have been named “quickadees.” I know this one was a black-capped instead of the very similar Carolina chickadee because he had such a prominent black cap (shown above.)

After such a long and strenuous hike through “The Pines,” I decided to push myself even further , because I knew there were still some birds out there! So I went to visit the nearby PENNDOT Wetlands. (Oddly named, if you ask me, since there aren’t roads going through there or anything like that.) I don’t often visit this area since I usually have my dog Huck with me, and dogs aren’t allowed there because they would track mud all over the place, but luckily on this occasion Huck had an infected leg wound, so I left him at home to heal while I went out to enjoy the wilderness alone!

Here’s a selfie of myself in front of the wettest part of the wetlands. (Don’t worry, I didn’t actually get wet!) You can tell by that look on my face that I’m having the time of my life!!!

Here’s a selfie of myself in front of the wettest part of the wetlands. (Don’t worry, I didn’t actually get wet!) You can tell by that look on my face that I’m having the time of my life!!!

Unfortunately there weren’t many birds here besides chickadees, which frankly I was quite sick of by this point. A bald eagle did fly overhead, but it was an immature bird (no, it wasn’t calling me names or anything, “immature” is a term we experts use for birds that aren’t fully mature, like adults) which didn’t have a white head yet, so it hardly looked much different than your ordinary hawk, even.

This bat was flying around the wetlands in the twilight. Although they do fly, bats are not technically considered birds, so I don’t really care about them.

This bat was flying around the wetlands in the twilight. Although they do fly, bats are not technically considered birds, so I don’t really care about them.

As the sun went down, I decided to call it a (lovely) night. All in all, I saw, heard, or assumed a total of 35 bird species all day, which is a new personal record for an October the 29th! Amazing! Let this be used as proof that although fall migration has come to an end and it’s kind of getting too cold to go outside anymore until the better birds come back next spring, you can still have some CRAZY adventures while out birding this time of year!

My final and perhaps favorite photograph of this fine evening, entitled “Dusk’s Darkness Fully Embraces the PENNDOT Wetlands.” What I particularly like about this image is how the moon appears to be cradled in the branch of that tree. (You’d better believe that was an intentional artistic choice! Though it took me a good long while to set up this shot so perfectly, and by the time I was done it was way too dark to see, and I tripped over so many sticks and rocks on my way out of there. Worth it!)

My final and perhaps favorite photograph of this fine evening, entitled “Dusk’s Darkness Fully Embraces the PENNDOT Wetlands.” What I particularly like about this image is how the moon appears to be cradled in the branch of that tree. (You’d better believe that was an intentional artistic choice! Though it took me a good long while to set up this shot so perfectly, and by the time I was done it was way too dark to see, and I tripped over so many sticks and rocks on my way out of there. Worth it!!!)

Thanks for reading! Wait, what was that that just went past your window? Maybe it was a bird, you’d better go check! 😉

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One Response to Oct. 29th, 2014: Allegheny Land Trust: Wingfield Pines & PENNDOT Wetlands

  1. Okay, as someone has pointed out, I do not need to call them “mallard ducks,” because simply “mallards” will suffice. Sheesh, excuse me, bird nerds!

    Liked by 1 person

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