Then take a ride down Rap­tor Row

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page - By Bob Batz Jr.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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

Getty Im­ages Lake Fong/Post-Gazette Getty Im­ages

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.

Brigitte Busch

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.

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