Apr 16 2014

Is It My Turn?

Published by under Peregrines

Louie asks, "Is it my turn?" (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower, Pittsburgh)

This week at the Gulf Tower, peregrine parents Dori and Louie are in the home stretch of The Big Sit with their five eggs due to hatch between April 19 and 21.  Meanwhile they trade off incubation duty, though not always willingly.

April 7 was a typical “Day In the Life of Incubating Peregrines.”  Click on the photo (or here) to watch the slideshow.

In the half-light of 7:00am Dori awakes to a call from Louie.  He incubates until she returns at 10:00, but when he wants to take over at 1:20pm and again at 2:10pm, she says No.  After the second denial she watches him circle above.  Was he annoyed?  It’s not until 3:20pm that she finally relinquishes her place.

“Is it my turn?” asks Louie.  As the chicks get close to hatching Dori will be saying “No” more often.

The Gulfcam is zoomed in close so you can watch for pips in the eggs.  See them here.

 

(snapshots from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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Apr 15 2014

It Was Fun While It Lasted

Published by under Plants,Weather & Sky

Bloodroot blooming at Cedar Creek Park, 12 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

During the past three days we had a burst of blooms in Pittsburgh.  Between Saturday morning’s foggy low and Sunday’s high of 82F the landscape transformed from incipient buds to gorgeous flowers.  (Today will be different, but more on that later.)

On Saturday I found bloodroot at its peak at Cedar Creek Park in Westmoreland County (above) as well as spring beauties…
Spring beauties (photo by Kate St. John)

trout lilies…
Trout Lily at Cedar Creek Park, 12 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

and hepatica.
Hepatica blooming at Cedar Creek Park, 12 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

This morning the temperature is dropping fast.  It was 65oF at 5:00am and has already fallen to 47oF as I write.

Tomorrow’s prediction: 21oF at dawn. This will surely ruin the flowers.

It was fun while it lasted.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Apr 14 2014

Dorothy’s Daughters

Published by under Peregrines

Beauty, Rochester NY, April 2014 (photo from RFalconcam)

A horrific peregrine falcon fight in Ohio last Friday reminded me that life isn’t always rosy for Dorothy’s daughters.

In the thirteen years she’s nested at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, Dorothy has fledged 42 young.  Eleven chose nest sites where observers were able to identify them. Six of those are Dorothy’s daughters.  Here are their stories.

Beauty, pictured above, hatched in 2007 and flew north to Rochester, New York.  There she nests on the Times Square Building with DotCa.  For two years her life was like Peyton Place with a territorial fight and DotCa’s philandering.  This spring is considerably calmer and she’s already laid three eggs.  Follow her news and live video at RFalconcam.

 

Belle, hatched in 2003, flew west to the bell tower at the University of Toledo, Ohio.  Now 11 years old she was in a life-threatening territorial fight on Friday that scattered her four eggs and left her with injuries around her eyes.  Belle returned to incubate but as you can see below, she’s not in good condition.  Her mate, Allen, collected their four eggs and is incubating more often and providing more food.  We hope the intruder is gone and Belle recovers soon.  See photos of the fight and follow news of Belle and Allen at the Toledo Peregrine Project Facebook page.
Belle with injuries from fight, Univ of Toledo bell tower, 11 April 2014 (photo from Univ.Toledo falconcam)

 

Belle’s same-year sibling, Hathor also flew west where she nests at the Macomb County Building in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Barb Baldinger checked the nest last week and counted four eggs. Here’s Barb’s photo of Hathor and her mate Nick in March. Their nest is not on camera but you can follow their news on the Peregrine Falcons Southeast Michigan Facebook page.
Hathor at Macomb County Courthouse (photo by Barb Baldinger)

 

Maddy, Class of 2004, nests at the I-480 Bridge at Valley View near Cleveland, Ohio. It’s a tough site to monitor but Chad+Chris Saladin observe at the bridge when they get a chance. Here’s one of their photos of Maddy at home in 2011.
Maddy flies past her home, the I-480 bridge near Cleveland (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

 

Yellow, Class of 2009, has nested at the Killen Power Station in Wrightsville, Ohio since 2011 but has not been confirmed yet this year (and there are no photos of her).

 

And finally Blue, Class of 2011, tried to nest at the Green Tree water tower in 2013. The nesting attempt was discovered during a construction project and, though the project was delayed, the nest failed. Identified by Shannon Thompson who took her photo above, Blue and her mate are gone this year, replaced by a completely new pair.  Perhaps we’ll hear of her somewhere else some day.
Female peregrine at Green Tree water tower (photo by Shannon Thompson)

 

Six daughters, six different lives.

 

(photo credits:
Beauty in Rochester, New York, photo from RFalconcam
Belle, injured in Toledo, Ohio, photo from Univ of Toledo falconcam via Toledo Peregrine Project
Hathor and Nick at Mt. Clemens, Michigan, photo by Barb Baldinger
Maddy, I-480 Bridge, photo by Chad+Chris Saladin
Blue, Green Tree water tower, photo by Shannon Thompson
)

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Apr 13 2014

Flowering Trees

Published by under Phenology,Trees

Red maple flowers, 10 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring is getting a boost on this warm and sunny weekend but we still don’t have blooming cherry trees, dogwoods or hawthorns.  If you look closely, though, you’ll see one native tree has small red flowers.

Shown above are the male flowers on a red maple.  The sepals and petals are only half as long as the stamens that stick out to catch the wind or tap the backs of bees. The flowers are a favorite with bees but red maples are so versatile they can be pollinated by both insects and wind.

Individual red maple trees can have all male, all female, or both sexes of flowers.  The female flowers have no “fuzz” because they have no stamens (of course).

Look closely to see the tiny flowers.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Apr 12 2014

Holding His Own

Three healthy eaglets at Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest, 11 April 2014 (phot ofrom the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam)

If you’ve been worried about the survival of Eaglet#3 at the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest, you can ease your fears a bit.  Today the eaglets are 15, 13 and 10 days old.

On April 3 I described how competition among bald eagle siblings can cause the smallest eaglet to starve if food is scarce.   The good news is that the older they get, the better their chances for survival.

So far so good.  Eaglet #3 is active and growing and he’s getting fed.  Food is abundant. He’s holding his own.

The food supply is one more indication that Pittsburgh is a great place to raise a family.  But we knew that.  :)

 

(snapshot from the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam.  Click on the image to watch the live stream)

Update:  Hmmmm. At 9:25am the three eaglets were very hungry and there was nothing to eat yet.  Eaglet#1 took a whack at Eaglet#3 who crouched with his face down to avoid attention.   Hmmmm. We shall see…

Eaglet#3 crouches to avoid another hit from Eaglet#1 (snapshot from the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam)

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Apr 11 2014

Ruddy Bubbles

Ruddy ducks are migrating through Pennsylvania right now but we’re not going to see the most interesting part of their lives because they reserve it for their breeding grounds in the prairie potholes of North America.

Unlike most ducks, ruddies don’t court while they’re away from home nor do they molt into breeding plumage before they begin migration.  Instead they save their efforts for the big splash on the breeding grounds.  At that point the males will be a deep ruddy color and their bills will be sky blue.  They show off this beauty in an exaggerated bubble display.

Cornell’s Birds of North America describes the display like this (paraphrased):  “The male holds his head, tail and two rows of head feathers (“horns”) erect.  His inflates his neck and begins beating his bill slowly at first against his neck, forcing air out of the feathers.  This causes bubbles to appear in the water.  His beating intensifies toward the end of the display with a concomitant movement of his tail over his back and his head slightly forward over the water.  And then he utters a low belching sound.”

Who knew that male ruddy ducks bubble and burp?  I’m going to have to go West to see it.

(video from YouTube)

http://slatermuseum.blogspot.com/2010/11/ruddy-ducks-are-odd-ducks.html

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Apr 10 2014

Reminder! BirdSafe This Sunday at Noon

Published by under Books & Events

Song sparrow dead, Golden-crowed kinglet stunned by collisions (photos by Kate St. John and Shawn Collins)Become a BirdSafe Pittsburgh volunteer this Sunday. Meet at the National Aviary, 100 Arch Street, on Sunday April 13, noon-to-2:00pm to learn what to do.

Questions?  Email Matt Webb at birdsafepgh@gmail.com

Click here for more information.

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Apr 10 2014

Speaking Of Red-Rimmed Eyes…

Published by under Water and Shore

Horned grebe (photo by Shawn Collins)

I mentioned last month that ring-billed gulls in breeding plumage have red rimmed eyesHorned grebes go a step further.  Their eyes are not only red-rimmed but the eyes themselves are red with a red line from eye to bill. They look like they’ve been on a binge.

Shawn Collins photographed this horned grebe in March when it was partway into breeding plumage.

When they’re finished molting they’re even more colorful but it’s harder to see their eyes.

Three horned grebes in breeding plumage (photo by Shawn Collins)

Last Sunday there were lots of horned grebes at Moraine State Park and they continue this week on regional lakes and rivers, migrating to their breeding grounds in Canada.

Look at their heads.  Yes, they have “horns.”

 

(photos by Shawn Collins)

p.s. Horned grebes (Podiceps auritus) also breed in Europe and Asia where their English name is “Slavonian grebe.”

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Apr 09 2014

Jeepers Creepers

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Because I live in the city, I have to leave home to hear frogs calling.  Though there are streams and a wetland in Schenley Park, the wetland is too recently restored and probably too isolated to have spring peepers.  The park is surrounded by dense city neighborhoods and all of its water flows into a mile-long culvert that takes it to the Monongahela River. Where would frogs and fish come from?  Not from downstream.

So I was delighted to hear spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) by the Sunken Garden Trail at Moraine State Park last Sunday.  I made a point of sitting near the wetland, surrounded by their sound.  Hundreds of them called in front of me but I couldn’t see even one because they’re so small and good at hiding.  The video above (from Wisconsin) shows how tiny they are.

As a group the peepers were almost deafening but I heard two wood frogs and a single creaking sound among them.  It sounded like a western chorus frog but it was probably an angry spring peeper.  Wikipedia says, “As in other frogs, an aggressive call is made [by spring peepers] when densities are high. This call is a rising trill closely resembling the breeding call of the southern chorus frog.”

The video below gives you an idea of what I heard.  Listen for the quacking of wood frogs at the beginning.

Jeepers creepers, do you hear the peepers?

Update: Check the comments for places where readers have heard peepers in the City!

(videos from YouTube)

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Apr 08 2014

Pittsburgh Peregrine Update, Early April

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy with one old egg, 3 April 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Today’s post is long but with eight nest sites there’s a lot of peregrine news in Pittsburgh.  Some sites are exciting, others are boring (incubation), but that’s par for the course in early April.

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh: We have the best falconcam ever at this site but only sad news to watch. At 15 years old, Dorothy laid one egg on March 20 and then stopped. She was egg bound but expelled it on the night of March 29-30. E2 continues to court and bring her food.  Dorothy stands over the egg but never incubates.  For now she waits. See her here.

 

Dori and Louie take turns at the nest on the Gulf Tower (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
Gulf Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh: This nest exchange snapshot sums up the happy status at Gulf Tower right now.  After two years on a short building on the other side of town, the peregrines came home to Gulf where we can watch them on camera(*).  We think this is still Dori (banding name “Mary Cleo,” Akron, 2007) and Louie (Cathedral of Learning, 2002) based on appearance and behavior though we’re awaiting band confirmation.  Dori laid 5 eggs March 10 to 19 and began incubation midday March 17 just after her fourth egg, so we expect hatching to begin April 19 to April 21.  We’ll zoom in the camera soon so you can watch for pips.  See them here online.  (*Donate at the link so we can get a better camera. Mark your donation for “Conservation and Field Research Department” and write “Gulf Tower camera” in the comments.)

 

Peregrine at Green Tree water tower, 1 April 2014 (photo by Leslie Ferree)
Green Tree water tower:  Green Tree has had a complete changeover in resident adults this year.  Last year Dorothy and E2′s daughter Blue was here with an immature unbanded male. This year Shannon Thompson confirmed the female is unbanded and the male has bands.  On April 1 Leslie Ferree captured this photo of one of the adults hiding his/her legs.  The pair has been very active, eggs are in progress, but so are intruders.  Over the weekend Jill Dunmire noticed the male is missing three primary wing feathers, probably because of a fight.  Photographers, please visit this site.  Let’s identify the male. Click here for directions.

 

Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Robert Stovers on Wikimedia Commons)
Neville Island I-79 Bridge:  This bridge was over the top with excitement last Sunday.  Anne Marie Bosnyak witnessed an intruder scuffle (right over her head!), a food exchange, and e-chupping from the likely nest location.  The last time she saw the pair mate was on March 31 so they are probably on eggs.  Who knew it could be so exciting? Click here for information on where to watch, though it might be boring now with incubation underway.

 

Peregrine at Tarentum, 28 March 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Tarentum Bridge:  Speaking of boring, only one bird has been visible at a time at Tarentum since the third week of March.  Observers usually see the female, Hope (from Hopewell, VA, 2008).  If this pair is on the same schedule as last year the eggs will hatch a few days after Gulf Tower’s, around April 22 to 24.  But this is only speculation.

 

Peregrine looking inside a hole on the McKees Rocks Bridge, 31 March 2014 (photo by Leslie Ferree)
McKees Rocks Bridge:  There’s no news from this site except:  On March 31 Leslie Ferree photographed a peregrine looking into the holes in the bridge structure.  Was it looking for a pigeon meal or visiting its own nest?  See the tiny red circle above.  (update: Leslie Ferree answers my “Is it the nest?” question in the comments below.)

Monaca/Beaver bridges:  This elusive pair has chosen the big Monaca-to-Beaver railroad bridge as their home. They were seen copulating on February 23 and flying around the bridge on March 29, but other than that there’s no news from here.

Westinghouse Bridge:  No peregrine news at this site but plenty of people news:  A woman went missing under the bridge and a firefighter was killed by a train during the search. Then our keen observer, John English, hurt his foot and hasn’t been able to visit.  Here are his instructions on where to watch.  Please visit if you get a chance.

 

April’s both exciting and boring.  It’s a good time to get out and watch.

(photo credits:  Cathedral of Learning: National Aviary falconcam, Gulf Tower: National Aviary falconcam, Green Tree water tower: Leslie Ferree, Neville Island Bridge: Robert Stovers on Wikimedia Commons, Tarentum falcon: Steve Gosser, McKees Rocks Bridge: Leslie Ferree)

 

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