SPORTS & OUTDOORS

Songbirds of Spring

An avian chorus is warming up, a spring concert that begins with a quiet movement and builds to a wild paean to the dawn that almost bounces us out of our beds. Take some time to listen to the growing swell of sound, and since there is usually a relationship,…
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The origin of spring

My benchmark for the onset of spring follows neither the facts of planetary motion, nor the predictions of a rodent. In my mind, spring starts when the daily average high temperature begins to increase after bottoming out in late January. By using this ruler, my favorite part of the year, spring,…
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The perfect snow

I’m both amused and dismayed by media weatherspeak. I’m amused by the hyperbole of Storm Watcher Central and Severe Weather Tracker. You’ve seen the flashing alerts across the screen.

A Different Kind of Hunt

The Christmas hunt was long a holiday tradition. Armed with rifles and shotguns, Christmas guests would choose teams for a “side hunt” and fan out over field, woodland and riverbank. Winners bagged the largest number of birds.
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A view of nature

Winter slows the primal routines of nature. Trees shed delicate, food-​factory leaves before they freeze. Forests subsist on sugar hived in roots protected from the cold by the consistently above-​freezing deep soils.

Duck, Duck, Gull

Winter weather on our three rivers brings a variety of duck and gull species to western Pennsylvania. So when frozen floes churn by or great sheets of ice cover upstream sections of the Allegheny or the Mon, the time is right within the city limits or towns nearby to look…

Golden Eagles

Invisible superhighways. That’s one way to describe the rising air currents that will whisk raptors through central Pennsylvania during this season’s migration. Golden Eagles, attuned to the subtle relationships between topography and wind, will scan our state’s prominent ridges and deep valleys as they soar southward as they have for…

A Flight of Fancy

A casual glance at Tom Erdner’s Gibsonia patio on this fine Sunday wouldn’t reveal anything unusual.But there are a few clues.For instance, on the table where he’s sitting, there’s a pen, note pad, watch, calculator and cell phone.Then there’s the serious look on Erdner’s face as he keeps looking back…

The Hummingbird is a Powerhouse

Endurance athlete, feather-​weight fighter, acrobat: all describe the Ruby-​throated Hummingbird, smallest member of eastern North America’s avifauna and the only hummer to breed in western Pennsylvania. If you could hold one of these tiny birds to your ear, you’d hear a heart beating 250 times a minute — at rest.
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The course loved ’round the world

The U.S. Golf Association began staging the U.S. Open — the ultimate national championship — in 1895, and moves it year to year around the country. The USGA requires, first of all, a golf course that offers a stiff challenge, where the rough is deep, the greens fast and par…

On Warblers

Spring begins with song, the dawn chorus warming up with a few notes in March and growing into full avian voice by May. Some of our best singers are the wood warblers, migratory songbirds, typically weighing under half an ounce, that winter from South America to the Caribbean and return northward…
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Call them crazy

Tony Modzelewski can’t explain why he jumped off the Fort Pitt Bridge in January 1975, but modern psychology has him covered. Modzelewski was 17 years old, celebrating the Steelers’ first Super Bowl victory, and the group of revelers he was with decided to walk across the bridge.
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Row your boat

You should see Pittsburgh from down here, with nothing but a shell of wood and a few threads of spandex between you and the Allegheny, the water slapping at your elbows and the skyscrapers jutting like exclamation points at the end of the river.
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August meadow

August afternoons resemble the blazing passion of new love: intense and torrid. August evenings are the antithesis: gentle and serene. They are a mature experience that is like a long, tender embrace.
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The dead of winter

I have often tried to find the beauty in a frigid day. I have frequently searched for loveliness in a meadow swept bare and brown by icy winds. I have repeatedly tried to uncover elegance in snow-​wrapped woodlands.
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