Archive for May, 2010

May 31 2010

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch Update #2

Published by under Peregrines

I’ve spent hours and hours, day after day, at the Schenley Plaza tent but not one of the young peregrines has fledged at Pitt — at least not as of 2:00pm today when I last looked. 

By 8:00am all the birds were off the nest and out of the camera’s view.  By noon all five were on the nestrail — proof that none had fledged.  I looked at the nestrail at 2:00pm, saw five birds (I think) and jumped into my car because a thunderstorm was coming.  It was a cloudburst so I’m sure none fledged at that point.

The Fledge Watch schedule has changed because of the weather forecast.  It is now:

  • Tuesday June 1, ONLY from 5:30pm until 7:00-ish.  Rain is forecast all day Tuesday until 5:00pm.  If it’s still raining at 5:00pm this slot will be canceled too.
  • Wednesday June 2, very briefly 8:00-8:20am + noon to 2:00pm. This is the “good weather” day.  Lunchtime Watch has been expanded.  I won’t be there after work but you’re welcome to come on your own.
  • Thursday June 3, very briefly 8:00-8:20am + 1:15pm to 2:15pm + 5:30pm until 7:00-ish.
  • And maybe some times on Friday June 4.  I’ll know more about Friday in the next day or two.  Stay tuned.

(photo by Jennie Barker on Saturday May 29.  That’s me gazing through Mary DeVaughn’s super binoculars)

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May 31 2010

Unusual nest

Last Thursday on Craig Street I noticed two women taking cellphone pictures of the underside of Kiva Han’s awning.

When I found out what they were looking at, I took a picture too.

This is a very bad photo from my cellphone but if you look closely inside the red circle you’ll see two baby robins, almost old enough to fly.  Both are standing tall with their necks stretched up and their beaks open. 

It was hot that day and it must have been very hot under the awning.  They were panting. 

Interestingly, their nest is only a few yards from the traffic signals where the “Don’t Walk” robin had a family last year. 

I wonder if this nest is hers.  I wouldn’t be surprised.

If you haven’t read about the Don’t Walk Robin, here’s her story in three parts:  Don’t Walk, Getting ready to walk, Don’t Walk, Fly.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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May 29 2010

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch Update


We’ve been having fun at Fledge Watch for the past two days, even though none of the youngsters has fledged as of noon today.

The juvenile peregrines have been easy to find and their parents have been putting on a show.  The youngsters flap and run on the nestrail, then sit and rest while Dorothy & E2 give flying lessons, demonstrate prey exchange, and circle over our heads.  Though we know they aren’t doing it for our enjoyment, we’re impressed anyway.

You’ll find five to twenty of us at the tent.  We often discover we know each other, even though we’ve never met.  For starters, everyone knows my name from this blog but you might know each other from the blog comments or the webcam chat.  If you’re on the chat, say your chat name and you’ll be surprised how many people know you.  Today I met mindysmom + dh, charliechaplin, cousin, whitch and thewildsow.  And I know I’m forgetting many names!

In the photo above I’m the one pointing up, describing where to find the peregrines on the Cathedral of Learning.  In the photo below we’re all gazing up to see them.

So come on down to the Schenley Plaza tent for Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch.  The new times are listed below, weather permitting.  Hope to see you there.

  • Tuesday June 1, very briefly 8:00-8:20am + noon to 2:15pm + 5:30pm until 7:00-ish.   Watch the skies!  If it’s raining I won’t be there.
  • Wednesday June 2, very briefly 8:00-8:20am + 1:00pm to 2:15pm.    None after work on Wednesday.
  • Thursday June 3, very briefly 8:00-8:20am + 1:00pm to 2:15pm + 5:30pm until 7:00-ish. 
  • There are also unofficial times:  I believe at least one young peregrine will fly this weekend so I’ll be stopping by briefly in the mornings and evenings every day, though my exact times are unpredictable.
  • And I will extend Wednesday lunchtime if Tuesday is rained out, so watch the blog for more updates.

News about the streaming cams:  It looks like the streaming cameras will be down until Tuesday.  Someone has to get into both the Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning to fix them and that’s not possible on this holiday weekend.  :(

Special thanks to Jennie & Ken Barker (mindysmom + dh) for these Fledge Watch photos and to Mary DeV (wildSow) for bringing her high-powered binoculars and telescope.

A partial key to who is who:  In the first photo, “mindysmom” is in the yellow shirt, ”whitch” is in the red shirt.  In the second photo “TheWildSow” is in the dark blue Tshirt.  Oh, and on the chat my name is “KPeregrine.”

(photos by Jennie and Ken Barker)

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May 29 2010

Good Mom!

Published by under Peregrines


This picture is not recent — it was taken on May 4 — but I knew you’d like it. 

This is Val, the female peregrine at the Westinghouse Bridge, protecting her nest and eggs.  Her chicks hatched some time before May 21 (we’re not sure when; there’s no webcam) so her babies are about a week to ten days younger than those at the Gulf Tower. 

She’s very protective. 

What a good mom!

(photo by Joshua Parry)

6 responses so far

May 28 2010

Anatomy: Tarsus

Published by under Bird Anatomy

I’m back on track after a side trip to pin-feathers.

Today’s anatomy lesson goes back to the birds’ feet.  Last time I talked about toes.

What’s connected to the toes?   The foot.

So where’s the bird’s foot?

It’s called the tarsus, but we call it the bird’s leg.  Weird, eh?

Human toes are connected to our feet and our feet walk on the ground. To make this possible, we have many bones in our feet and ankles.

Birds walk on their toes and have one bone, the tarsometatarsus, that’s formed by the fusion of what would have been their ankle (tarsal) and foot (metatarsal) bones if they were mammals.

So how is this different from mammals?  Cats and dogs walk on their toes too but their foot bones are not fused.  What they have in common with birds is that all of these animals look as if their knees bend backwards because their “knees” are actually their ankles.

Confusing?  Well, fortunately you can still call this body part a “leg” in general conversation.  When you want to be exact you can call it a tarsus (indicated by the red arrow).

(photo of a palm warbler by Chuck Tague)

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May 27 2010

Goofing Around

Published by under Peregrines

Today the young peregrines at the Cathderal of Learning are very active — ledge walking, making short-hop flights and goofing around. 

As I find interesting photos from the snapshot cam I’ll post them here, so watch this space for updates throughout the day. 

(The white dot on the photos is bird “poot.”  There’s no way to avoid it on days like this.)

NOTE:  If you’re having trouble seeing the streaming webcams today, follow the advice at this link and you’ll be back in business.


Pre-dawn exercise.  “We gotta be ready when the sun comes up!”
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A short-hop flight, yesterday afternoon.
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They’re climbing everywhere — into the gully and under the snapshot camera.  The red arrow shows how they get out of the gully. The blue arrow is a bird under the snapshot cam.
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He asks himself, “Am I missing anything down there?”
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And he decides, “No, I’m not missing anything.  I’ll keep going up.”
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Close-up of a young peregrine.
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“I’m a blur!”
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(photos from the National Aviary webcam at the University of Pittsburgh)

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May 27 2010

Bears???

Published by under Mammals


Let me start by saying that in 17 years of hiking alone I have only once seen a bear in the wild. 

Granted, I have not been looking for them, but now it seems that I stand a better chance of seeing a black bear in my own city neighborhood than out in the woods.

Bears have been big news in Pittsburgh for the past two weeks.  At this time of year teenage bears leave home for the first time (mama bear pushes them out so she can start her next family).  They’re on the move, have no idea where to go, and are looking for a place to call home. 

What’s unusual is that two or more of them are roaming the city and suburbs of Pittsburgh.  Bears have been seen in Tarentum, Natrona Heights, Brentwood, Baldwin, Overbrook and Frick Park.  They’ve been seen so frequently that the Game Commission has set traps for them and my friend, Wildlife Conservation Officer Beth Fife, showed how the traps work on KDKA.  (Beth is also the one who bands the peregrine falcon chicks.  She’s a busy lady!)

But the big news for me occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning — 3:30am — when my neighbors called the cops on a bear at Magee Field.

I know what that bear was up to. 

I’m a neighborhood cleanup volunteer for Magee Field and I can tell you it’s a black bear’s dream.  There’s a lot of garbage in open barrels and no one gets in your way.  Don’t show up early, though.  There are ball games at the Field until 10:00pm and some nights the drinkers — who happen to be garbage generators – hang out on the bleachers, drinking and eating and leaving a lot of food behind. 

The best way to catch a bear, as Beth will tell you, is with jelly donuts.  During my garbage roundups I’ve found pizza, sandwiches, chips and, yes, donuts.  No wonder the bear stopped by.

So I’m taking Beth’s advice.  I’ve pulled in my bird feeders and will keep my garbage bag indoors until the morning of Garbage Pickup Day. 

City or country the message is the same:  Don’t feed the bears!

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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May 27 2010

New Adventure This Morning

Published by under Peregrines


The juvenile peregrines are ledge-walking at the Cathedral of Learning.  This morning one of them explored the snapshot camera.

Don’t expect to see all five on camera today. 

They will definitely fledge soon. 

See this Peregrine FAQ for more information on fledging.

(photo from the National Aviary webcam at the Cathedral of Learning)

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May 26 2010

Prodigal Son

Published by under Peregrines


Yesterday afternoon was full of adventure for one of the five young peregrines at the University of Pittsburgh.  It’s an incident that happens every year but this time we saw it on video.

Just after 2:00pm one of the male nestlings was daydreaming on the front perch when his brother decided to use the nest as a runway. Flapping wildly and paying no attention, his brother careened to the front of the box.

Bump!  Whoops!  The young male was knocked off his perch into the gully two feet below.

The nestling was fine, he wasn’t hurt, but he had never encountered this situation before and didn’t know how to get back to the nest … yet.

When his parents found out what happened they did what all peregrine parents do — they withheld food until the youngster was hungry enough to come get it.  Nothing motivates a young peregrine so much as hunger.  He’ll even learn to fly if it’s the only way he’ll get fed.

So all the nestlings waited.  And waited.

At 4:50pm Dorothy stopped by to check and offered a scrap of meat from the corner of the nestbox.  It wasn’t a real meal.  The nestling below did not come up.

“Well,” thought Dorothy, “they’ll just have to wait.”

At 5:15pm she perched on the nestrail above his best escape route and looked down on her son in the gully.  He was fine.  He just had to figure it out.

Finally, after 6:30pm, he discovered he could get back to the nest if he went to the spot his mother seemed to indicate and scrabbled up a bulwark on the left side of the box.  (This area isn’t visible on the camera.  I happen to know what it looks like up there.)

The noise riveted his siblings.

Suddenly he appeared on camera!  They stared at him in wide-eyed wonder.  “What happened?  Are you OK?”

He stared back, then went to a corner to preen.  “I’m fine.  Give me a break.”

It wasn’t until 8:00pm that Dorothy finally brought them a real meal and by then they were so hungry all five screamed at the tops of their lungs.

“Good,” thought Dorothy, “The prodigal son returned.  It was well worth the wait.”

p.s.  To see how it happened, watch these two hotspots from the Cathedral of Learning archives: ”Bumped out of the nest” and “The adventurer returns.”  Thanks to Jennie Barker for spotting these!

p.p.s.  Now that one of them has been off the nest, the other four will be brave about ledge-walking too.  You often won’t see all five on camera.  They’re getting ready to fledge.

(photo from the National Aviary webcam at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, video from the lost archives of Wildearth.tv)

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May 25 2010

Meet Me At The Tent

Come to the Schenley Plaza Tent at any of the dates and times listed below for the Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch.

It’s my favorite time of year when the nestlings learn to fly.  I’ll be at Schenley Plaza gazing at the top of the Cathedral of Learning, watching peregrines.

Want to see them too?  Come join me!

We’ll see them stand on the railing and flap like crazy.  If we’re lucky, we’ll see their parents give flying demonstrations.  If we’re really lucky, we’ll see a young bird make its first flight, just like this video from Stephen Tirone.

And no matter what we’ll swap stories and talk about peregrines.

Meet me at the tent at any of these dates and times, weather permitting.  (The peregrines won’t fledge in steady rain and I won’t be there either.)

  • Friday May 28, noon to 2:15pm. Kick off the Memorial Day Weekend with peregrine fun.
  • Saturday May 29, 8:00am to 11:00am.  I’ll stay until noon if I know you’re coming!
  • Tuesday June 1, noon to 2:15pm. This is the Rain Date for Friday May 28, but I’ll be at Schenley Plaza on June 1st even if it didn’t rain on Friday.
  • Wednesday and Thursday June 2 & 3, 1:00pm to 2:15pm.
  • I am likely to be at the tent after work on Tuesday June 1 and Thursday June 3.  Stay tuned for confirmation of the after-work times.

p.s. Check the newest Peregrine FAQ that describes what you’ll see — and not see — on camera as the young peregrines leave the nest.

(photo of the Schenley Plaza tent by Kate St. John)

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