SPORTS & OUTDOORS

A Flash of Blue

A ratchety, staccato rattle announces the arrival of a Belted Kingfisher along one of Pittsburgh’s riverbanks, over a stream, or across a pond. I love the sound of the bird, so distinctive, as I scan for it in the sky. And I’m not alone. The great English poet Gerard Manley…

Arnold Palmer

Arnie Palmer was at home in Latrobe that September afternoon having a quiet birthday when the doorbell rang. There, wearing a warm grin, stood a kindly old gentleman, gray where he wasn’t bald, who was just five years out of the White House and who, some two decades earlier, had…

A little yellow friend

The potato chip bird. that’s how my students remember it. At first, they think it’s a canary. I show them pictures on the opening day of class, and they see yellow and call out “Big Bird?” “No,” then, “Canary?” “Wrong continent.” That’s before they’ve learned to use their eyes and…

Jennings Environmental Education Center

Among the many delightful, ecologically interesting places to visit within a short distance from Pittsburgh is the Jennings Environmental Education Center. This gorgeous destination along Route 8 is about 12 miles north of Butler, across from the historic Old Stone House. It is a wonderful place for a quick hike…

The art of contrition

There once was a “golden age” in sport, the glorious time of Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey and all the rest. Today, we are in the Mea Culpa Age, in which frolicsome, rich athletes turn to passionate, broad-​spectrum apologies, seeking forgiveness for such foibles as juicing, gun-​toting, wife-​beating and the…

Wintering in Pittsburgh

It may be funny to think of Pittsburgh in the same geographic thought as, say, Miami, but for dark-​eyed juncos, which spend many months to our north, we’re all sand and sunsets.

Nature’s shape shifter

Pennsylvania stands near the center center of an intriguing and complex natural phenomenon. Across the recent span of roughly three decades, coyotes have exploited every available habitat here, from remote woods of the Allegheny National Forest to Pittsburgh’s urban fringe, while carving out a still-​evolving ecological niche. All but unheard-​of…

Dutch Hill Forest

One of the many beautiful areas in western Pennsylvania for hiking or paddling is the Clarion River. Designated a wild and scenic river, the middle Clarion runs along the southern boundary of the Allegheny National Forest and is bordered by many other protected lands — state park land, state forest, game lands…

The old college try

Every year at this time, as college football arrives, I’m reminded of an old movie that pops up on the classic channels now and then — “The Male Animal.” The tale deals with the two principal functions of the American college: education and football. In that order. Usually.

Red-​bellied woodpecker

A tree is a house. it’s not just an isolated organism, but also a host to forms of life from mammals to birds to insects to fungi. A tree is one element of a larger ecosystem and simultaneously a microcosm of it. And you can tell a lot about a…

Soaring majesty

It’s only recently that bald eagles have been able to call Pittsburgh home. For 200 years, obstacles such as habitat loss, pollution, persecution and pesticides have kept them away, but as the region’s environment improved, so did the chance of bald eagles successfully roosting here once again.

McConnells Mill State Park

In southwestern PA, it is a challenge to find remote and scenic hikes. But one is only about an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh, just off of Rt. 422 in eastern Lawrence County, in McConnells Mill State Park.

The Greatest Sport?

As far as I’m concerned, the summer of 2013 was a bust. It was supposed to be the summer of the 17-​year cicada, humming with a biblical infestation of the things. But there wasn’t so much as a chirp or whirr, and not one gawking husk on a fence post.…

The house finch

It’s no surprise that a city defined by former immigrant neighborhoods would be the gateway for yet another group of newcomers forced to gain a foothold in unfamiliar terrain. Such is the case with Carpodacus mexicanus — the house finch — which was often called the California linnet and the Hollywood finch before it…

Opening Day, Minus One

Dunbar creek runs into the Youghiogheny River just north of South Connellsville in Fayette County. Vestiges of the interurban streetcar lines are all over. A massive stone arch that was once part of a bridge crossing the Dunbar Creek valley stands like an ancient Roman aqueduct by the coke oven…
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