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Cycling enthusiasts prey on Steel Valley trail nesting scenes

| Thursday, May 4, 2017, 3:09 p.m.

Cyclists were not disappointed with views of the nests of the bald eagle, osprey, red-tailed hawk and American kestrel for the recent Raptor Row Ride in the Homestead area, which was organized by the Steel Valley Trail Council.

More than 50 cyclists pedaled the 18 mile route with stops at raptor nests where volunteers were stationed with spotting scopes and telescopic cameras offering upclose views.

Adding to the festivities was a captive great-horned owl stationed along the trail, maintaind by the Humane Animal Wildlife Rescue Center.

"We were very pleased that the birds were cooperative at the nests and were viewed by all of the riders," says Roy Bires, event organizer and member of the Steel Valley Trail Council and the Three Rivers Bird Club.

Highlights included views of the new eaglet at the Hays bald eagle nest and confirmation in McKeesport of the nesting of American kestrels, small and colorful falcons.

The course followed the Monongahela River, traversing the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Steel Valley Trail which winds through Pittsburgh's Hays neighborhood, Baldwin, West Homestead, Homestead, Whitaker, West Mifflin, Duquesne and McKeesport. The trails are part of the Great Allegheny Passage running from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland.

The section of trail including the bald eagle nest is the fourth most popular destination of Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which encompasses 25 miles of trails along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers in Allegheny County, according to a study by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

"It's important that the work of our organization along with our partners provides the opportunity for people to get on a bike or to walk, run or roller blade to see majestic wildlife and to see it close to the trail," says Jeff McCauley, director of stewardship for the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

Volunteers for the ride included members of the Three Rivers Birding Club, the National Aviary and the Humane Animal Wildlife Rescue Center in Penn Hills.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at mthomas@tribweb.com.

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