RAPTOR ROW RIDE ALONG
Then take a ride down Raptor Row
The Steel Valley Trail Council’s April 29 bike ride aims to capitalize on the public’s rapt attention for raptors.
The Raptor Row Ride along the Great Allegheny Passage Trail will have stops not just at the Hays bald eagles’ nest, which people around the world watch via “eagle cam,” but also at several lesser-known nesting sites where birds of prey successfully raised offspring last year.
Those include a rare osprey nest near Kennywood, two redtailed hawk nests, a kestrel nest and a great horned owl nest. At each stop, members of the Three Rivers Bird Club will let riders use scopes to get closer views of the nests and will answer questions about any raptors that may be present. There are no guarantees. But the event’s timing is promising.
Organizers know the owl nest is inactive this year, but they plan to station an Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center representative with a captive owl there as well as a scope for viewing the nest and Duck Hollow, a vibrant birding area on the other side of the Monongahela River.
Stationed at the end at the Hays eagle nest will be National Aviary ornithologist Bob Mulvihill and other experts, some of whom have been monitoring the eagle family since they arrived in 2013.
“It was an incredible experience,” says SVTC board member Roy Bires of Swissvale, who helped document the eagles that first year.
Both a biker and a birder, he came up with the idea for this ride, which is sort of a celebration of how dramatically the Mon has rebounded. “It’s now supporting a family of eagles and a family of osprey.”
Last weekend, he confirmed brooding behavior at the osprey nest, including a third osprey that appears to be looking for a nest. Another observer glimpsed a baby eagle. “This is the first time that I have heard someone from the trail claim to see the eaglet.”
Mr. Bires believes participants have a good chance of seeing osprey, eagles and red-tailed hawks. On Thursday, he confirmed that there were chicks in the hawk nest near the Rankin Bridge. “It’s pretty good timing.”
He knows the birds already bring bikers out to the trail, and he’s hoping this event draws enough of them to make it an annual ride.
Bikers can choose to go various distances, starting at Town Center at the Waterfront in Homestead. A sold-out VIP ride starts at 8:30 a.m., at least a halfhour before other riders, who get rolling from 9-11 a.m. Bikers can do a 13.5-mile round trip or stretch that to 18 miles to also visit the kestrel nest, which is in
Above right: A kestrel hovers. Above left: A red-tailed hawk rests in a tree. Top: The female bald eagle returns to her nest in Hays.
Roy Bires of the Steel Valley Trail Council checks out the Hays eagles nest from the Great Allegheny Passage Trail with his grandchildren, Addie and Sean Curran.