Philadelphia’s glass skyline is killing birds. A new Fairmount Park building has a solution.

Philadelphia’s glass skyline is killing birds. A new Fairmount Park building has a solution.

Philadelphia’s glittery, and ever-expanding skyline, is a thing of beauty — at least to the human eye. If you’re a bird, though, it’s a death trap.

In late August, I went for a stroll along the Schuylkill waterfront, which has filled in over the last decade with an impressive lineup of sleek glass towers. The river is a major flyway for birds migrating between Canada and South America, and as I looped around the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research, next to the South Street Bridge, I spotted a clear casualty of all that development: a dead, female American redstart warbler. It had slammed into the glass facade and died instantly.

A few weeks later, I took the same walk. Another dead warbler lay in the same spot.

Inga Saffron

These two warblers were found on the ground next to the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research. The one on the left, a female American redstart, was discovered on Aug. 20. The one of the right was photographed a month later in the same location.

Somehow, builders and architects remain largely in denial about their contribution to the crisis. Both know that people love being inside glass towers because they offer astounding views. From a distance, their reflective skins seem to melt into the sky. But it’s developers who are the ones really committed to building with glass. Cheaper and easier to install than many of the alternatives, glass cladding is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The thing is, it wouldn’t take much to significantly reduce the carnage. Just a short distance upstream from Center City’s soaring glass towers is a modest new structure that bills itself as Philadelphia’s first totally bird-safe building. Called the Discovery Center, it demonstrates that we can enjoy both birds and buildings.

The little pavilion is the new home of Audubon Pennsylvania and Outward Bound, two nonprofits that joined forces to rescue a forgotten reservoir deep inside Fairmount Park. Once the city’s main source of drinking water, the reservoir was shut down in the 1970s and barricaded behind a high fence. Over time, the 37-acre basin evolved into Philadelphia’s largest bird sanctuary, a way station for 170 species. The man-made lake was the perfect base for the two groups, so they made a deal with the city to manage the property and reopen it to the public.

TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

As Center City’s skyline has added more glass towers, it has become an obstacle course for birds, which mainly migrate at night.

Since the work of Audubon and Outward Bound revolves around nature, they wanted their new headquarters to have expansive views of the birds and the water. But because they also see themselves as environmental champions, they knew it wouldn’t do to have birds crashing into the picture windows.

Birds generally migrate at night, when the winds are lighter. Every few days, they stop to rest and feed. Because of the way their vision works, they are drawn to points of light in the midst of darkness, says Christine Sheppard, a bird collisions expert at the American Bird Conservancy.

Nearly half the crashes actually occur in the suburbs, where large picture windows reflect nearby trees. But urban buildings account for the other half. Things are so bad at the Minnesota Vikings’ new glass-enclosed U.S. Bank Arena that crews must come out every morning to sweep up the dead birds. Ironically, recent improvements in glassmaking technology that make such buildings possible, also have made it more difficult for birds to recognize the hard surface. Unlike the wavy glass of the 19th century, today’s panels are flawless.

Philadelphia Water Department

The reservoir in Fairmount Park was the main source of Philadelphia’s drinking water from the 1880s to the 1970s.

Many of the techniques they used at the Discovery Center were developed by Daniel Klem, a professor of ornithology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. He found that glass etched with translucent lines or dots could help birds recognize the presence of a solid wall. In 2014, his ideas were put to the test when the Javits Convention Center — once known as New York’s deadliest bird-killer — was reclad with dotted glass by FXCollaborative. Now it’s the most bird-friendly building in town.

That kind of glass is expensive, so Digsau’s Jules Dingle limited its use to the Discovery’s Center’s signature feature, a 30-foot, rock-climbing tower, which looks out over the reservoir. The rest of the building, which includes offices and conference rooms, hugs the ground along the park’s Reservoir Drive, in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood across the road from Smith Playground.


The facade of the Discovery Center uses cedar charred using the Japanese shou sugi ban method to create a waterproof seal. It is so bird-friendly that the architects embedded nesting boxes on the surface.

Like many Digsau buildings, the design is deeply textured and hinges in interesting ways. You enter the site through an angled portal that has been shaped to reveal the lush expanse of the old reservoir in one powerful frame.

Although the building is clad in cedar wood, it boasts a wall of windows overlooking the water. Dingle screened some with wood slats. For the rest, he came up with an ingenious solution that cost all of $275: He strung a curtain of plastic cord over the windows. In another location, he pasted plastic decals on the glass.

By using a variety of strategies, Dingle believes the Discovery Center can serve as a showroom of bird-friendly hacks. The building is considered so safe that Dingle even embedded nesting boxes into the cedar facade, which was given a charred black, waterproof coating using the Japanese shou sugi ban method.

Obviously, not all these tricks will work on a glass skyscraper. But etched and dotted glass are frequently employed by architects to reduce sun glare and heat. You can see the material on the Erdy McHenry’s Evo, which may be the most bird-friendly tower on the Schuylkill.


The screen over the donor wall helps birds detect the presence of glass. The decorative gate was designed by artist Warren Holzman.

The reason the etched, or fritted, glass isn’t used more often is that it interferes with the fantasy that there is nothing between the viewer and the great outdoors. But once the eye adapts, the views are still magnificent. The momentary adjustment is a small price to pay for saving millions of birds.

Several states, including California and Minnesota, have adopted laws requiring bird-friendly designs. Why not Philadelphia? It’s a lot better option than sweeping up the dead birds in the morning.

Google Maps

The Discovery Center is on the east bank of the Schuylkill, on Reservoir Drive, in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.


Children’s Hospital’s new Roberts Center for Pediatric Research is where two dead warblers were found.

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Community to break bread, discuss what matters to them during citywide table talks

Community to break bread, discuss what matters to them during citywide table talks

One day last year, Pedro Ramos ate seven meals in a matter of hours.

It didn’t matter what was served, the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation recalled Thursday. What mattered were the conversations with strangers taking place throughout the city at more than 300 locations, where people discussed issues that matter most to them.

Now he’s looking forward to chowing down once again with Philadelphians of various ages, cultures, and neighborhoods.

On Thursday, he helped the Philadelphia Foundation and the Knight Foundation, two of the event’s presenting sponsors, host a kickoff event at Reading Terminal Market to talk about last year’s success and introduce the 2018 program, which begins Nov. 8.

The Inquirer is also a presenting sponsor. Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes the Inquirer, the Daily News, and, is owned by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which operates under the auspices of the Philadelphia Foundation.

On the Table Philly is a citywide event hosted by Philadelphians on the same day in various spaces — from private homes to office buildings — that allows strangers to have dialogue for 90 minutes over breakfast, lunch, or dinner about topics that matter most to their communities and build bridges across societal barriers. The Knight Foundation sponsors On the Table events in 10 other cities. The first was in Chicago, which Ramos said served as a model for Philadelphia’s program.

“We’re living in a time now where everywhere you look, every headline, whether it’s in print or radio or television, suggests we have simply lost the ability to talk to one another,” said Anuj Gupta, manager of the market.

Hosts from last year’s On the Table Philly event said Thursday that sharing a meal with a table of strangers solves that problem.

“That whole theory that when you get in front of people … it’s a lot easier to understand, and you can have more empathy for [people’s] positions,” said Jennifer Lynn Robinson, a 2017 host and president of women’s advocacy group FemCity Philadelphia. “It’s different when you’re breaking bread with people at a table.”

Some hosts already have chosen topics to chew over during their On the Table discussions. The Rev. Rubén Ortiz, director of national programs for Esperanza in the Hunting Park section of the city, said he will host a conversation about intergenerational faith. Robinson wants to discuss how the #MeToo movement affects the networking relationships between men and women. Mika’il Abdul-Karim, a personal trainer at Diverse Body Sculpturing in East Mount Airy, will host three sessions about nutrition, health, and men’s egos.

Ramos said more than 2,000 Philadelphians attended last year’s events, two-thirds of which were outside Center City. He said he’s confident this year’s On the Table event will draw more than 3,000 participants.

As a bonus, this year’s event will offer mini-grants to attendees who are “on the verge of being able to do something from their conversation,” Ramos said. The grants will be for a few hundred dollars, and details will be released closer to the event.

“The idea is to continue to make this a more day-to-day thing, not a once-a-year thing,” Ramos added.

Vikings 23, Eagles 21: Penalties, turnovers plague Birds in rare home loss

Vikings 23, Eagles 21: Penalties, turnovers plague Birds in rare home loss

The last time the Eagles filed off their field against the Minnesota Vikings, they planned a Super Bowl trip and light poles were greased on Broad Street. This time, they had a losing record and didn’t resemble any of the characteristics of the team that made history in Philadelphia.

The Eagles fell to 2-3 after a 23-21 loss to the Vikings on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. If there wasn’t panic arriving at the stadium, then they should be more alarmed after dropping back-to-back games for the first time since December 2016. That was also the last time they had a losing record — and they’re playing closer to that team than a championship contender.

“If you look back two years ago, a 7-9 season, we made mistakes at the end of games that ended up costing us wins,” center Jason Kelce said. “Last year, we played smart football, played as a unit, in sync, and we won football games. I really do think it’s as simple as that. … Everybody’s got to take a long look in the mirror.”

What they see after Sunday won’t be pretty — especially on offense. The Eagles fumbled twice, including one that was returned for a touchdown and one 6 yards away from the end zone. They scored only three first-half points. And when they had the ball at the Vikings’ 30-yard line in the fourth quarter down by six points with a chance to win, two penalties knocked them backward and they were forced to punt.

“It starts with me,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “I want to make sure that the guys understand that we can’t do these things. We can’t self-inflict and expect to win. Championship teams just don’t do that.”

Carson Wentz finished 24 of 35 for 311 yards with  two touchdowns and a fumble. Zach Ertz led receivers with 10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Jay Ajayi rushed eight times for 29 yards and also fumbled. The Eagles were penalized eight times for 52 yards. It was the fifth time this season they failed to score more than 23 points.

DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Zach Ertz catches a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in front of the Vikings’ Mike Hughes (center) and Harrison Smith. The catch brought the score to 23-21, but the Eagles couldn’t grab an onside kick to try for a field goal.

The Eagles didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter, when Wendell Smallwood’s 12-yard scoring run (and subsequent two-point conversion) cut a 20-6 deficit to 20-14. The home crowd had been disappointed throughout the afternoon, but the fans started to come to life after that score.

The excitement reached a crescendo when Nigel Bradham jumped on the ball after the Vikings threw an errand backward pass. The Eagles regained possession at Minnesota’s 30-yard line. A touchdown and extra point would have given them the lead. A field goal would make it a three-point game.

So what happened? The Eagles committed an illegal formation to nullify a 6-yard gain, a penalty that pushed them back to first-and-15 and Pederson considered inexcusable. After a Vikings penalty, Wentz was charged with intentional grounding to make it third-and-20. The offense was left with a fourth-and-20 from the 40-yard line.

“We have a chance as an offense to pretty much put us in position to win the game … and we go backwards,” Ertz said. “That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

Pederson turned down a 58-yard field-goal try and decided to take a delay of game and punt. The Eagles considered the 35-yard line and in to be kicker Jake Elliott’s range on Sunday, and they were 5 yards beyond. Pederson did not consider it a moment for a desperation field goal.

The problem was the defense allowed the Vikings to drive down for a field goal to make it a nine-point game, and there was not enough time for the Eagles to come back. They scored a late touchdown, but they helped fantasy football owners more than Eagles fans. The missed opportunity earlier in the fourth quarter was their undoing.

“These little mistakes that can sometimes go overlooked are killing us,” Wentz said. “We’re playing like we’re a young, rookie team, and we’re not.”

If it was just about that fourth-quarter sequence, it might be easier to digest. But the problems occurred earlier in the game, too.

The Eagles defense, which held the Vikings to only 16 points, lived up to its bend-but-don’t-break billing at home. And the offense, which entered the game with only seven first-quarter points in four games, had two three-and-outs in the first quarter before a second-quarter field goal.

With a 3-3 score and possession, the Eagles made a crucial error. Lane Johnson was beaten by Stephen Weatherly, who sacked Wentz. The ball popped loose. Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph caught it and rumbled 64 yards for a game-changing touchdown.

“I have to pick my game up,” Johnson said. “I’ll bite the bullet on this one.”

The Eagles offense continued to stagnate, and then the Vikings made it a two-possession game before halftime after the officials threw the flag on a Michael Bennett sack. Bennett dragged Kirk Cousins down below his knees, prompting the officials to call roughing the passer. It was the first time the Eagles have been victims of the new point of emphasis by officials, and the crowd was furious. There was booing and choice words, and the fans only became more enraged when the Vikings turned the penalty into a 3-yard touchdown pass two plays later to take a 17-3 lead into halftime.

“He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force,” referee Walt Coleman said of Bennett.

There was offensive promise to begin the third quarter, with two third-down conversions that helped the Eagles drive all the way to the Vikings 6-yard line. But Ajayi lost the ball and the Vikings recovered. The turnover spoiled a pristine scoring chance.

Jalen Mills, who had been the subject of fans’ anger throughout the week, was beaten by Vikings receiver Adam Thielen for a 68-yard gain on the next play. Although the Eagles kept the Vikings to only a field goal on that possession, that gave Minnesota a 20-3 lead.

It was too much to overcome. When the Eagles beat Minnesota in January, they were the team that forced turnovers and capitalized with touchdowns. On Sunday, the Vikings did it to them. And with three losses in five games, the Eagles’ problems have become a weekly trend. They have only three days to fix it before playing the New York Giants on Thursday.

“Frustrated? Yes. Concerned? No,” Wentz said. “We have veteran guys on this team, guys that have been through it all, know how to win. I think we’ll get this thing going.”

Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman’s newsletter for Eagles fans. .

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz to co-chair Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz to co-chair Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign

By Suzanne Gamboa

Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan, an adversary of President Donald Trump, has signed on to be one of four national co-chairs of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Her commitment to Sanders, the Vermont independent who announced his presidential bid on Tuesday, comes as the Democratic field is growing and competition for high-profile supporters is intensifying.

Cruz told NBC News in a telephone interview Thursday that she has working relationships with several of the senators who are running or may run. But she has been working with Sanders since 2016, “looking for a path for Puerto Rico.”

“A lot of the things he’s been fighting for all his life I’ve been fighting for all my life,” Cruz said. “Things like let’s not put wealth before health.”

She also named Sanders’ efforts on education, collective bargaining, the rights of people in the LGBTQ and transgender communities, and other issues.

She said he has had a long commitment to being in the forefront of structural changes, even when they were not popular.

“Right now the United States has a president in the White House who is not up to the job,” Cruz said. “He does not represent values of integrity and unity, values of inclusion.”

With Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another Democratic presidential candidate, Sanders co-sponsored legislation to wipe out the island’s $73 billion debt that it still grapples with today.

Sanders also introduced a $146 billion Puerto Rico recovery plan. Neither bill made it out of committee.

Nonetheless, Cruz said in a statement that Sanders would offer “a new path toward the resolution of many of the issues facing Puerto Rico,” including a “new relationship” with the United States.

“In our darkest hour, he was there for us, not because it was politically convenient but because it was the right thing to do,” Cruz stated.

Cruz vaulted to national attention when she criticized the Trump administration’s slow response to the 2017 hurricane.

Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote in the general election, despite being U.S. citizens, but are able to vote in the primaries. Island residents who move to the mainland can vote in primaries and general elections once they register to vote in their state.

“This is personal. The president came and threw paper towels at us,” Cruz said. “He continues to disregard the pain of people from Puerto Rico.”

Sanders’ support from Cruz, a high-profile Latina, could help him with minority communities.

Sanders struggled in his 2016 campaign to win black voters. Latinos divided generationally in the 2016 primary, with younger Latinos backing Sanders.

Along with Cruz, Sanders also named Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner; U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen as national co-chairs.

Cruz said not to expect to see her talking only to Latino groups and Turner only to African-Americans. There won’t be any “walls that keep us in our corner because that will be ineffective,” she said.

Cruz said she had conversations with other campaigns. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro made Puerto Rico his first stop after announcing his presidential bid. Cruz walked him through a neighborhood, La Playita, still recovering from the hurricane and showed him initiatives taken to help residents prepare for the next storm.

“I think he, Julián, went into this for the right reasons,” Cruz said. “But again, I have a long-standing relationship with the senator and Bernie has a long-standing relationship with causes that touch the Latino community.”

Suzanne Gamboa is a national reporter for NBC Latino and

20+ Creative DIY Furniture Hacks

20+ Creative DIY Furniture Hacks

Repurposing old furniture into something that is not only practical but also unique and modern is the ultimate way to recycle. With a little bit of creativity, there are so many clever ways to use broken appliances, old furniture, or even everyday household items. What once was garbage (ready to fill the landfill), can be turned into unique home decor instead. Check out these unique and easy DIY furniture hacks to get inspired!

Easy DIY furniture makeovers and ideas! A lot of repurposed thrift store projects and chalk paint ideas so that you can do it for cheap. Before and after photos of dressers, tables, shelves, tv stands and more! For bedrooms and living rooms.

1. Dining Room Chair Bench

Instead of tossing those old or broken dining room chairs, turn them into a cozy indoor or outdoor bench. I can’t think of a better way to repurpose dated furniture! The paint alone gives them a fresh new look. Go get the details and instructions here.

How to turn chairs into a bench. -- Easy DIY furniture makeovers and ideas! A lot of repurposed thrift store projects and chalk paint ideas so that you can do it for cheap. Before and after photos of dressers, tables, shelves, tv stands and more! For bedrooms and living rooms.

2. File Cabinet To Garage Storage

I think just about everyone has had one of these metal file cabinets at some point– dents and all! Take out the drawers and turn that huge hunk of metal onto its side to create garage storage space for your brooms, rakes, shovels, and much more! Even the sides have gotten a makeover with peg boards for other miscellaneous garage items. Go check out the details here.

Turn an old file cabinet into garage storage! -- Easy DIY furniture makeovers and ideas! A lot of repurposed thrift store projects and chalk paint ideas so that you can do it for cheap. Before and after photos of dressers, tables, shelves, tv stands and more! For bedrooms and living rooms.

3. Kids’ Craft Table From A Crib

My daughter would love this! Turn an old crib into something useful like a craft table by simply removing one side, painting the “table top” with chalk board paint, and installing a few hooks for supplies. Check out the full details and instructions over at A Little Learning For Two.

refurbish a crib into a craft table for the kids! -Easy DIY furniture makeovers and ideas! A lot of repurposed thrift store projects and chalk paint ideas so that you can do it for cheap. Before and after photos of dressers, tables, shelves, tv stands and more! For bedrooms and living rooms.

Pallet Wood Stenciled Table.

Pallet Wood Stenciled Table.

I link up great projects with ideas and inspiration from other bloggers. Lately I’ve been busy with my own projects and making this DIY Pallet Wood Table.

I was inspired by this one, from the cover of  magazine, it’s free out here on the West Coast of Canada. I’m not sure if theirs was made from a pallet or not – works for me though! Here is how I made mine!

Let’s get started! We find the bigger pallets for wider planks and chunkier legs. After dismantling your pallet we give it a really good clean. We use bleach and water – you don’t know where it’s been and what it was used for.

We found with our inside table that the wood shrank so now we put our wood indoors for about a week. Then we cut the wood to size and gave it a rough sand. I just used our existing coffee table for size.  We like this look for joining the sides and legs – my hubby does this for me, he’s awesome! The screws are on the inside and they aren’t seen.

I fill in any nail holes on the outside from the pallet now.  Those boards are just resting on the top for now. They get screwed in from the underside later.

Then it’s the painting. I use two layers – a dark and a light or a light and then a dark color. We like dark legs with the tops having a dark color and then a light color. I go for shades of the same color and we get our paint free from our recycling depot or cheap mis-tints at the paint store. Then comes lot’s of sanding. Distress it until you are happy with the look.

Even with some wood showing looks good too.

So easy to use, just make sure your surface is clean.

When I was happy with the look, I gave it a coat of Polycrylic in matte to protect it and then it’s done. We like the fact that we can use it with kids around so it can get dinged up and that it was so cheap to make!

Thank you Desirée and The 36th Avenue blog for hosting my pallet coffee table tutorial!
~ Heather

Is this fabulous or what!

Heather I love the finish that you did, the numbers, the color…

I like everything ABOUT it!