Jun 20 2011

I Was Just Leaving!

Published by at 7:00 am under Birds of Prey,Peregrines


Sometimes I see the best birds when I’m looking for peregrines.

Last week I spent every lunch hour looking for the juvenile peregrines from Pitt.  I walked a big loop and checked St. Paul’s Cathedral, Webster Hall, Heinz Chapel, the Cathedral of Learning and the tall buildings to the west but I could never find all four juveniles at the same time — only two.

I’m not surprised.

By now the young peregrines fly well and are becoming independent.  They visit places far from the nest, pursue their parents whenever they show up, and play half-hearted aerial games with each other when they get bored. 

Dorothy and E2 are avoiding them by staying away from the Cathedral of Learning.  It’s very quiet in Oakland.

On the other hand…

On Friday I saw a juvenile peregrine on St. Paul’s steeple as I began my lunchtime loop.  The next time I looked he was gone.  The third time I glanced up a large raptor was flying toward the steeples. 

A red-tailed hawk?  No.  An immature bald eagle!

He circled up over Craig Street and by the time I passed St. Paul’s he was very high up, almost a speck in the sky.  Then a smaller, faster, fiercer speck attacked him!

A highly skilled, very territorial peregrine falcon repeatedly dove on the eagle with talons bared.  The eagle was forced down and away to the east.  He looked as if he was saying, “Sorry!  I was just leaving!”

Good job, E2!  Still keeping the area safe for his offspring.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

21 responses so far

21 Responses to “I Was Just Leaving!”

  1. Jennieon 20 Jun 2011 at 7:30 am

    Wow! Your description of events made me feel like I was there watching, too. What a wonderful thing to witness. It’s a good thing the immature eagle got the message, as I’m guessing E2′s attacks would have increased in intensity.

  2. Tracion 20 Jun 2011 at 8:21 am

    Oh – but Kate!! A Bald Eagle in Pittsburgh!!!

    Do you think it was looking for a place to nest? Would a Bald Eagle adult even nest on an urban building? Did it really even pose harm to the Falcons??

    I wish I could have seen it – but am so glad you did!!

  3. Kate St. Johnon 20 Jun 2011 at 9:16 am

    This eagle was too young to nest and was probably passing through. Actually, he was DEFINITELY passing through.
    Bald eagles nest near water because they eat fish. It’s very unlikely that they’d nest in the city. Here’s information on their nesting habits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_Eagle#Reproduction

  4. Anne Marieon 20 Jun 2011 at 9:26 am

    That is so cool! Have you ever seen a bald eagle in this area before Kate?

  5. Kate St. Johnon 20 Jun 2011 at 9:48 am

    I’ve seen one over Greenfield/Hazelwood at the Monongahela River. An adult was seen repeatedly flying over the Forbes Ave exit of the Parkway last winter.

  6. Karen Langon 20 Jun 2011 at 10:20 am

    Got to keep those “kids” safe from the larger raptors…E2 is a great DAD…hope he had a nice father’s day yesterday.:) Saw both Dorothy, E2 and 1 juvie this am before work…2 on Heinz Chapel and 1 on the Cathedral of Learning.

  7. Barb Simonon 20 Jun 2011 at 12:50 pm

    i saw one, many years ago, on a tree overhanging the banks of the Beaver River where Rt 18 crosses from Rochester into New Brighton. I thought that was a good sighting.

  8. John Englishon 20 Jun 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Must be a day for sightings. Caught a glimpse of one on St. Paul’s around 09:30 this morning. Darn cars kept honking at me to move so I could not tell who it was ;-)

  9. John Englishon 20 Jun 2011 at 1:35 pm

    BTW, the P-G Creature Feature for today is Beth Fife and the banding of the COL falcons. http://www.post-gazette.com/multimedia/?ClipID=5963663
    A bit late, but still worth a watch.

  10. Peteron 20 Jun 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Wow! Wish I could have seen this! I’d just about given up on seeing the falcons anymore this year. No one has been on St. Paul’s when I’ve been by and I’d pretty much given up on looking. Hmmm, might have to rethink.

    Until your update I was feeling very lucky to have seen two at the chemistry building behind Soldiers and Sailors on Saturday afternoon. I saw one fly into a vent up top. Sat and watched for probably 20 minutes waiting to see a parent either come yelling to get out of there, or to see more than it’s head pop out. No such luck. Just lots of explaining to people what I was doing, followed by puzzled looks, shrugged shoulders, and being looked at like I was crazy. (“There’s nothing up there Peter!”) Eventually I saw something fly and was convinced it wasn’t a hawk with the better look at it’s silhouette. Running around the side of the building I ran into a lady out gardening and we had a nice talk. She’d been keeping an eye on them too. I lamented not having my camera or binoculars with me at the time. Shortly thereafter, she went inside, and came back out a few minutes later with hers! She was so kind. Hooray for all you falcon fans out there. Getting a look at the one up on the edge of the roof I could see it was one of the kids, but couldn’t tell which.

    Now with so many reports of them being around campus, I’ll have to resume my searches! Thanks for the updates from everyone. I’ll be sure to watch out for those cars at St. Paul’s. John does have a point about the cars there. :-)

  11. Michelleon 20 Jun 2011 at 3:43 pm

    My son and I saw one of the (I assume) juvenile peregrines in Lawrenceville yesterday morning as we were leaving church. At first I thought it was a red tail hawk, but my son, the bird fanatic, said no that call is wrong, – it is definately a young falcon! we looked up and he pointed out the falcon flying away from the church steeples chasing a bird – and noted that the tail was also wrong for a hawk. I guess that field guide was a good gift when he was 5.

  12. Kate St. Johnon 20 Jun 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Wow! They’re everywhere! I was lamenting that they were gone from campus & wondered what they were up to. This is great news. The Chemistry Building! Lawrenceville!
    Today I counted 5 peregrines at lunchtime (the first time in a long time that I’ve seen so many): 2 on the CL, 1 on Heinz Chapel, 1 on St Pauls & 1 perched on the equipment on top of the water tower that’s up in Schenley Farms.

  13. Heatheron 20 Jun 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Kate, do you have any tips on spotting silhoutted birds of prey and vultures?

    There was a bird that was definitely the size of a vulture around Waterworks. It was circling. I didn’t see the white on the wings that I normally do on a turkey vulture, though. It was against a cloudy, white sky so it was hard to keep my eyes focused on it.

    It had me wondering because I was north of Harrisburg in the farmland areas in late May when I saw a glimpse of a bird between a few trees. It didn’t look like a vulture… something about the wings and the flight.

    It looped around and landed in a tree, just off the side of the road. My aunt, my mother and I all got a great look at a golden eagle. Got a good look at the beak and facial features, and the (huge) size of the bird and I would have definitely called it “dark brown” rather than black — another tip-off in the brief second I saw it flash between trees.

  14. Kate St. Johnon 20 Jun 2011 at 8:47 pm

    HMANA (Hawk Migration Association of North America) has a printable PDF of hawk silhouettes that’s really helpful. Links to it are on this webpage: http://www.hmana.org/read_article.php?id=10

    p.s. Today I saw a turkey vulture fly at the same altitude over St. Paul’s Cathedral. Its silhouette wwas very different. Unlike the bald eagle, the turkey vulture looked as if it had no head but a very large tail.

  15. Caitlinon 20 Jun 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I’d argue that Oakland’s been anything but quiet! I’ve heard noisy squawks the past several days both from my apartment (near Center and Craig) and at Heinz Chapel. Those falcons have quite the set of lungs to them!

  16. Monikaon 21 Jun 2011 at 7:25 am

    Wow Kate a juvenile bald eagle! So cool!

  17. Peteron 22 Jun 2011 at 9:55 am

    Sure am glad I was so late leaving home this morning.

    On my walk in I saw at least three of our peregrines. I would have missed them all except as I was near Bayard & Craig I heard the noisy kids screaming. Look up to see two birds chasing a third. What was really cool is that the one dropped something and the other two went diving after it! Didn’t take them long, I’d guess it fell less than 10 feet. I’d like to think this was the next phase of their training. But could also see how somebody just dropped it because of all the hub bub, or even it being a slightly flubbed prey exchange.

    I looked for them in the direction of shadyside/friendship and eventually one came flying back along Bayard and took a turn towards St. Paul’s. OK, so I’m taking a detour this morning. Down to St. Paul’s and I didn’t see anyone on the steeples, but I did spy someone on the top of the Webster Hall penthouse. Looked like they were enjoying breakfast.

    Then further down along fifth (after crossing the street and remembering not to stop in the middle to get honked at – thanks John!) Someone came flying over silently and back towards the Cathedral of Learning. Over that way I found Dorothy (guessing) up on Heinz Chapel. Thankfully she was facing east so her white breast was easy to discern in the morning sun.

    Now I’m pumped for a great day!

  18. Heatheron 22 Jun 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks, Kate!

  19. Anne Marieon 22 Jun 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Peter… Thanks for sharing this info!

    We were both in luck this morning. I was walking north on Craig toward Forbes. I saw a bird carrying another bird… it attempted to land on the building right next to the PNC bank and when it did, the prey fell to the ground. Heading over to inspect, I (and the work men on the corner) hear the loud screeching of a juvenile, who I’m presuming was complaining because it had just dropped its breakfast!! :-) I found the poor dead pigeon in the courtyard, then ran a block to get to my rooftop view of the area and found a juvenile on Webster hall. None that I could see near the dead pigeon. This was all around 9am. Heard and then saw some action (3 peregrines.. i believe 2 juvies) around the Cathedral about 2pm this afternoon too!

  20. Elizabethon 22 Jun 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Hey Kate,

    Here in Salt Lake City we have a webcam for Peregrine Falcons that are nesting on top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. They have four babies this year that are expected to start flying as early as July 4th. I saw one of them practicing today – he was getting a tiny bit of lift in the nestbox. http://wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/learn-more/peregrine-cam.html

    -Elizabeth

  21. Monikaon 28 Jun 2011 at 2:30 pm

    They may not nest in Pittsburgh proper, but they’re not too far away!

    http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2011/06/16/eaglet-makes-three-for-bald-eagles-in-crescent-township/

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