ENVIRONMENT

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…

Sudden goodbye

by Douglas Heuck
In 1967, we arrived at our island cottage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and of course, the first thing we kids did was explore our distantly familiar summer home. On that particular day, we found a bat inert on the dining room floor.

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…

Is better good enough?

A standing-​room-​only audience has packed the Avalon Municipal Building on a rain-​soaked April evening to hear Allegheny County Health Department officials explain the latest consent decree to correct air quality violations at the coke works across the river. It’s a tough crowd.

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 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…

Exploring the Fort Necessity area

One of the most interesting historical sites in the Laurel Highlands is the Fort Necessity National Battlefield. And a new destination for hiking and exploring in the region is a property currently owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and about to be added to Forbes State Forest, adjacent to the…

The wood duck

Changing habitat has complex consequences for birds. Some species prefer deep, old growth forests. Others thrive around patchwork clearcuts. Some require grasslands to breed, while others reproduce in swampy bottomlands. Some of our notorious losses — the ivory-​billed woodpecker and Carolina parakeet — needed relatively narrow bands of Southern wetland so much that when…

Taking full flight

Pittsburgh’s once-​endangered National Aviary wrapped up 2013 as the most successful year in its 60-​year history and capped a dramatic six-​year expansion. With record visitors and record numbers of new birds joining its collection (many living two to three times their life expectancy), the North Side institution has come a…

French Creek Watershed

When we in Pittsburgh look out on the Allegheny River, it can remind us that the water flowing past has its origins in some faraway places worth visiting and exploring. One of these is the broad valley of the west branch of French Creek in Erie County.

Wintering in Pittsburgh

With winter’s chill approaching, most birds long ago migrated south. Migration actually begins in August and continues through the milder months of September and October. Birds wing their way to more abundant food sources, with some of Pittsburgh’s species heading deep into South America to tropical climes. A few hearty…

Oil Creek State Park

Western Pennsylvania has an abundance of extraordinary places to hike. A few of these, such as Oil Creek State Park in northern Venango County, provide substantial regional history along with a scenic landscape.
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