Nature | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Friday, August 31, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Sara Bir is nosy. She peeks into backyards, deep corners of the forest, and Walmart parking lots. 

She’s a forager with an eye for forgotten fruit, abundant harvests, and nature’s strangest offerings. 

Bir is the author of The Fruit Forager’s Companion, a book filled with recipes, tips, and tricks for the everyday forager. On Sept. 1, she will team up with White Whale Bookstore in Bloomfield and a fellow fruit-lover Andrew Moore for a book signing and discussion.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 12:14 PM

After nearly 21 years here, tomorrow's my last day at City Paper.

I'm heading to 90.5 WESA, where I'll be arts and culture reporter.

I'd like to thank all my colleagues over the years, our readers, and all the people and institutions I've written about, for making it such a memorable ride. It all started back in 1997, when nobody at CP had email yet and the whole office shared one dial-up internet connection.

If you'll indulge me, to cap things off, here are some of my own favorite articles from over the years, culled from some of the nearly 1,100 issues I've been part of here.

Many are long-form pieces, from the days when we had the time and newsprint to run such articles weekly; they were a challenge to report and write, but looking back, they're some of the most worthwhile things I did.

All but one of these 18 articles are from 2003 or later, because that's as far back as CP's online archive goes. (Too bad; I have some faves from the early years, too.)

In chronological order:

This 2002 piece on motorcycle road-racer Keith Reed is not in our archive, but was cut-and-pasted by an enterprising message-boarder. (I think a few drop-caps are missing, but like some text magically salvaged from the library of Alexandria, it's mostly there.)

An April 2004 profile of falconer and bird-of-prey expert Earl Schriver, whose life's mission is to disabuse the public of what he called "the Bambi complex."

Big ideas are fun. Here's "Muse You Can Use," a May 2005 piece on what art's good for or whether it needs to be good for anything at all.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Starting Saturday, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will be open until 8 p.m. nightly (and 10 p.m. Fridays) in anticipation of a rare bloom by its reeking corpse flower, Romero.

click to enlarge Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory begins new hours in anticipation of popular, smelly flower
Photo courtesy of Phipps Conservatory
The corpse flower
Named for filmmaker George Romero (Night of the Living Dead), Romero the corpse flower is one of the most famous plants at Phipps.

As you might imagine, corpse flowers, found wild only in Sumatra, mimic the scent, look and even temperature of rotting flesh to attract the insects that pollinate them. However, they typically bloom only once every six to 10 years for 12 to 48 hours. And while the bloom is expected this month, Phipps says that the exact timing is impossible to predict.

Romero last bloomed in 2013, to record-breaking crowds. After blooming, the flower went dormant for eight months before sending up leaf buds that reached 12 feet high. More than 12,000 guests visited Romero the last time the corpse flower began to emit its rotten stench, even its namesake filmmaker.

Phipps horticulturalists are monitoring the rise of the current 8-foot-tall bloom at the conservatory's Palm Court and updating fans on social media. (@RomeroatPhipps is the flower’s Twitter handle.) 

In light of this rare event, Phipps is offering two months of free membership to applicants through June 17. Activities expected for the ghastly bloom will be posted to or call 412-622-6914 to find out more.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are at 1 Schenley Drive, Oakland.

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 3:01 PM

Tomorrow, the National Aviary unveils two species of birds new to Pittsburgh at its latest indoor free-flight bird show, Nature’s Voice.

click to enlarge Premiere Aviary show brings new bird species to Pittsburgh
Photo by Courtney Linder
The Aviary's Cathy Schlott with Severus, a palm-nut vulture, at a press preview of Nature's Voice.
The program's stars are a pair of tiny burrowing owls, named Addie and Denver, and a palm-nut vulture named Severus.

Expect to see the long-legged burrowing owls fly to the front of the stage and flit from rock to rock. As their name suggests, they’ll burrow into holes carved into a piece of stone created for the set — a quick game of owl peek-a-boo that lets you get close enough to examine their minuscule yellow eyes.

Burrowing owls are native to Western North America and parts of South America. These owls were hatched and hand-raised at the National Aviary last year, but this will be their first flight before the general public.

Similarly premiering is the Aviary’s palm-nut vulture. And tomorrow, Severus will soar across the theater, showing off his nearly 6-foot wingspan. 

This bird isn’t your typical vulture. Rather than the archetypal all-black scavenger, dressed for a funeral and with a naked head and neck, this vulture is black and white with a white-feathered neck and head, and only its face pinkish-red. And rather than scavenging carcasses, palm-nut vultures, which are native to sub-Saharan African, stick mostly to a vegan diet of fruit from the oil palm.

Cathy Schlott, the Aviary's manager of animal training, said at today's press preview that the palm-nut vulture is uncommon in captivity.

“Only four institutions have them, so they’re really rare to see,” says Schlott.

This is much more than a bird-watching session, though.

Nature’s Voice utilizes theatrical lighting, sound, video and immersive set design to highlight the spectacle of live birds flying overhead.

“It really is a multisensory experience for the audience,” says Aviary spokesperson Robin Weber.

Nature’s Voice will be presented daily at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., except on Tuesdays, when the birds are resting. The show is open to the public beginning Friday, Jan. 8. In addition to the cost of general admission, tickets for the program are $5 each.

The National Aviary is located at 700 Arch St., on the North Side.

Tags: , , , , ,