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Spot birds of prey from your bike

Mary Ann Thomas
| Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
The first egg at the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest was laid Friday, Feb. 10, 2017
Pennsylvania Game Commission
The first egg at the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest was laid Friday, Feb. 10, 2017

Cue the bald eagle.

The Steel Valley Trail Council is sponsoring the Raptor Row Ride on April 29, which is likely Pittsburgh's first-ever bike event spotlighting the nests of the region's birds of prey.

The off-road trail ride features stops at the nests of the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagles, ospreys, red-tailed hawks, American Kestrels, and a rescued live owl from the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center.

The 13.5-mile bike ride traverses the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Steel Valley Trail, which are segments of the Great Allegheny Passage. The route will follow the banks of the Monongahela River from Hays to McKeesport.

To help cyclists actually see the raptor nests without lugging around binoculars and scopes, the Three Rivers Birding Club, the National Aviary and local photographers will be stationed at the nest sites with optics and a guide to where the birds are.

Roy Bires, 68, of Swissvale, organized the inaugural ride to give the public a chance to see the raptor nests.

Bires was one of the several observers, including a National Aviary ornithologist and a Tribune-Review reporter, to witness the hatch of the Hays bald eagles' first chick in 2013, the formerly endangered birds' first young in the city in more than 150 years.

Bires has been an avid chronicler of the Hays eagles and other local birds of prey ever since.

Last year, he counted 10 newly hatched young raptors — bald eagle, osprey, great-horned owl and red-tailed hawk — within only a 6-mile section of the trail.

“We thought the ride would be a celebration of the success of those birds,” he says.

However, given that birds operate on their own schedule, there is no guarantee that cyclists will see all of the raptors.

Cyclists also will be given an opportunity to spot the recent handiwork of some beavers who have whittled down some young trees along the Monongahela.

Bires is expecting at least 80 riders who will travel in groups staggered throughout the morning.

The ride to all four of the 2016 nest sites is about 13.5 miles round trip on a mostly level paved surface. There will be an optional extension of the ride to a new kestrel nest site in McKeesport, making for an 18 mile round trip. Or riders can take a 4-mile route to just see the bald eagles

Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Steel Valley Trail Council, which is responsible for maintaining the portion of the Great Allegheny Passage from the end of the Sandcastle Waterpark parking lot through the Waterfront in Homestead, past Kennywood into McKeesport as well the connector to Clairton.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or on twitter @MaThomas_Trib

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