Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

Oct 17 2014

Who Owns The Sky?

Last week’s sensational bird video showed a red-tailed hawk attacking a personal drone in Cambridge, Massachusetts (above). The drone lost.

Drones are popular because they’re easy to fly and come with onboard videocams.  Open the box, assemble a few pieces, turn on the camera, and fly it up and into … trouble, if you aren’t careful.  Novices don’t realize who owns the sky.

When Amazon Prime announced plans last December to deliver packages using drones it sounded simple but the initial hype failed to mention the regulatory, mechanical and natural hurdles.   Blog posts at Slate and The Atlantic immediately set the record straight.

At Slate Konstantin Kakaes explained how unreliable drones are right now and how much the FAA controls the airspace.  Drone pilots looking for killer video ignore the law to their peril and have been arrested.

The next day Nicholas Lund at Slate and Megan Garber at The Atlantic were quick to mention the bird factor.  Click on The Atlantic link to see five videos of angry bird attacks.

The FAA limits personal drones to a 400-foot ceiling — that’s below the 30th floor of the Cathedral of Learning — but birds of prey limit flying threats to a much lower level than that.  Red-tailed hawks near the Cathedral of Learning are frequently reminded that peregrines own the airspace above the treetops.  Drone pilots could learn a valuable lesson from a bald eagle who strayed into Dorothy’s zone.

Birds have owned the sky for 160 million years.

Take that you pesky airplane!

 

(drone video by Christopher Schmidt on YouTube. Click on Christopher’s link to read more about the hawk video)

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Oct 06 2014

Locate And Protect Eagle Roosts

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald eagle adult and two juveniles, Crooked Creek (photo by Steve Gosser)

In the winter, bald eagles are more social than your typical bird of prey.  Most raptors are paired or alone in the non-breeding season but bald eagles congregate in large numbers where food is plentiful.  Visit Conowingo Dam in November and you’ll find hundreds of eagles every day.

Eagles have to sleep somewhere so when night falls they roost together.  Sometimes a few choose a temporary location.  Often a large group roosts in the same place every year.

Roosts are so important to bald eagles’ lives that they’re protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act which prohibits disturbing eagles in any way that “substantially interferes with their normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.”  On paper this protects their roost trees from being cut down even when the eagles aren’t there.

But the Act can’t protect a place no one knows about.  Where are the roosts?

To answer this question the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) has been mapping bald eagle roosts in North America using their own and others’ eagle tracking data. (CCB and others have fitted eagles with satellite backpacks.)  So far they’ve located more than 1,000 roosts.  Now it’s our turn to help.

Last month CCB launched an online Eagle Roost Registry.  Click here to see a map of the 1,000 roosts.

Do you know of a roost that’s not on the map?  Contact Libby Mojica at the Center for Conservation Biology (ekmojica@wm.edu, 757- 221-1680) or visit the online registry to sign up.

Click here for more information at the Center for Conservation Biology.

 

(photo of bald eagles at Crooked Creek by Steve Gosser)

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Sep 22 2014

Highest Hawks

Kettle of hawks, Kittatinny Ridge, PA (photo by Meredith Lombard)

Every dot is a hawk.  Can you count them?  Better yet, can you identify them?

Pennsylvania’s hawk watches see their highest daily counts this month.  On a busy day the sky looks like the photo above, taken by Meredith Lombard at Kittatinny Ridge in September 2011.

Experts can tell you these are broad-winged hawks — except perhaps that white one — but you can accurately guess the species if you know the month and location of the photo.  Broad-winged hawks pass through our state in record numbers in mid September.

Up close they look like this.  Not so blurry.  Actually a bit colorful.

Broad-winged hawk on migration in Pennsylvania (photo by Meredith Lombard)

Why are there so many of them?  Broad-wings are woodland hawks.  What’s the most common and widest-ranging habitat north of here?  Woods.

By the third week in September the bulk of broad-wings has passed by.  The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch had its highest daily total of 1,880 birds on September 14.  Hawk Mountain saw 975 on September 15 and Waggoner’s Gap saw 1,333 hawks on September 16.  None of the sites have seen higher counts since but never fear, great birds are still on the way.  The Allegheny Front will make up for quantity with quality when the golden eagles come through in November.

Where are the broad-wings now?  More than 80 hawk watch sites report in daily at Hawkcount.org where you can find a snapshot of the totals on the home page (scroll down).  Drill into the sites with the highest counts and you’re likely to find the broad-wings.

Last week’s winner was…

Detroit River Hawk Watch in Brownstone, Michigan where there were incredible numbers:  39,720 on September 18, 53,055 on September 17 and 68,655 on September 16 (68,193 broad-wings!).  The site is flat (no mountain, no cliff) but southbound hawks have to cross the Detroit River somewhere and this is it.

Check out the counts at Corpus Christi, Texas.  Some of the broad-wings are already there.

 

(photos by Meredith Lombard)

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Sep 01 2014

For All The Working Birds

Harris' Hawk working as a falconer's bird in Spain (photo by Manuel González Olaechea y Franco via Wikimedia Commons)

Some birds work for a living just like we do. This Harris hawk hunts for a falconer in Spain.

This year’s most famous working bird is Rufus the Hawk who patrols Wimbledon to scare away pigeons.  Click here for the beautiful Stella Artois commercial in which he stars.

Today humans get a day off in the U.S.

Happy Labor Day.

 

(Harris Hawk working as a falconer’s bird at Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Photo by Manuel González Olaechea y Franco via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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Aug 26 2014

A Look Back at the Hays Eagles

 

It’s hard to believe it’s been less than two months since crowds flocked to the Three Rivers Heritage Bike Trail to see the bald eagles fledge at Hays.  A few dedicated eagle watchers still visit the site but this month they usually come up empty-handed.  The young eagles have left for parts unknown and the adults lounge out of sight.

Boring as the eagles are right now, they’ve fostered a huge fan club and several reunions including a picnic last Saturday. Love for these birds has created many lasting friendships.

WQED’s Michael Bartley captured the excitement when he visited the bike trail in May.  On site, he chatted with me about the eagles’ popularity and with the National Aviary’s Bob Mulvihill on what to expect from the eagle family in the weeks and months ahead.  Though the video was filmed on a weekday in May you can see the trail was crowded with watchers.

As Michael says, “We haven’t seen the last of bald eagles in Pittsburgh. If you can’t wait til next year, here’s a look back at the birds that flew away with the city’s heart.”

 

(webisode by WQED Pittsburgh)

 

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Aug 11 2014

Industrial Nesting

Juvenile opsrey flying at Duquesne, PA (photo by Dana Nesiti)

This year intrepid birders reported osprey nests in some unlikely places along Pittsburgh’s rivers.

Anne Marie Bosnyak monitored a nest near Neville Chemical on the Ohio River and last week Dana Nesiti followed up on a lead about a nest at the Union railyard in Duquesne.

On Thursday Dana went exploring and found the osprey nest atop an old power tower. There were three full grown youngsters in it.  Look at the cables draped beneath the sticks. Talk about industrial!

, Duquesne, August 2014 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Though his photos don’t show it, this nest is in an ugly spot that’s off-limits to all but railroad employees.  To ospreys the lack of humans is just what they had in mind.

There are other advantages, too.  Look east of Kennywood on Google Earth and you’ll see the railyard is on the Monongahela River near the Braddock Locks and Dam. The dam provides a variety of fishing opportunities in a very compressed space. There are lake-like conditions upstream, very active fish feeding in the turbulence below the dam, and fish resting in the quiet pools downstream.  It’s a great spot for “fish hawks.”

 

When Dana arrived on Thursday he saw three juveniles in the nest but two of them could already fly.  They put on a show.

Osprey at Duquesne, August 2014 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

…and flew by their nest-bound sibling.

Osprey at nest, Aug 2014 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

 

On Friday, Dana returned to the site and was lucky to see the last of the three juveniles make his first flight.  Here he goes!

1…

Osprey flying for the first time, 8 Aug 2014 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

2…

Osprey fledging, 8 Aug 2014 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

3…

Osprey fledges, 8 Aug 2014 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

 

Yay!

The two Neville Island ospreys fledged, too.  It’s been a successful year for “industrial” ospreys.

 

(photos by Dana Nesiti)

p.s. The Neville Island nest site is very close to the Emsworth Lock and Dam.  I see a pattern here.

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Jul 24 2014

TBT: V is for Vulture

Published by under Birds of Prey

Turkey vulture in flight (photo by Chuck Tague)

Throw Back Thursday (TBT):

Now that the Hays bald eagles have flown from the nest, many of us watch the skies for a glimpse of them.

Did you know there’s another large raptor in Pittsburgh that can fool you into thinking it’s an eagle?

Learn how to identify soaring turkey vultures.  Believe it or not they’re more common here than eagles.  Click to read: V is for Vulture.

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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Jul 14 2014

Peregrines, Eagles and Two Events

Peregrine at Green Tree water tower, 1 April 2014 (photo by Leslie Ferree)
Here’s the latest news of Pittsburgh’s peregrines and bald eagles plus information on two events:  Westinghouse Bridge Fledge Watch, July 18-20, and the Eagle Lovers Outing on August 2.

Peregrine News

Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress)
Westinghouse Bridge
Peregrine season isn’t over!  Two nestlings at the Westinghouse Bridge will fledge next weekend.  John English has organized a Peregrine Fledge Watch for Friday July 18, 6-8pm, Saturday July 19, 2-4pm and Sunday July 20, 2-4pm.  Click here and scroll down for directions.  Please contact John at Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page or leave a comment on this blog if you plan to attend.  I’ll be there on Saturday. C’mon down!

Green Tree Water Tower
Green Tree wins the prize for strangest peregrine behavior.  After a long absence during the heart of the breeding season, a pair of peregrines is again at the Green Tree water tower.  What happened between April 1 (the date of Leslie Ferree’s photo above) and now?  Did the old pair leave and a new pair show up?  Stop by the Green Tree water tower and tell us what you see.  Peregrines always surprise us.
UPDATE, 16 July:  Tim and Karena Johnson visited the water tower recently and saw a pair of red-tailed hawks perched on the railings. Since we know that peregrines drive out red-tails — and all other hawks — within their territory it’s probable that the peregrines are not at the water tower at all.
UPDATE, 17 July: Mary Jo Peden, one of the long-time Green Tree monitors, saw a peregrine at the water tower today. It had been exactly two months since she last saw one there. So, yes, they are there but not often.

 

Dorothy and E2 after a bowing session at the Cathedral of Learning nestbox (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
University of Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning
Dorothy and E2 are present every day but not often seen because they’ve found new hiding places in which to molt.  The snapshot camera shows they still visit the nestbox for brief bowing sessions (last Friday, above).  Meanwhile the streaming falconcam and infrared array have both shut down and need an on-site visit from a skilled technician with access to the ledge.  This maintenance will be scheduled in the fall.

 

Peregrine with pigeon meal, Tarentum Bridge, 3 July 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Tarentum
Rob Protz reports that “mom” peregrine (nicknamed Hope) was at the Tarentum Bridge with her remaining juvenile for several hours on July 8.  The youngster, whom Rob calls “Screecher,” was begging loudly for food.  It sounds like Hope is weaning him from dependence on his parents.  Pun intended!

Gulf Tower, Monaca Bridge, Neville I-79 Bridge and McKees Rocks Bridge:  No updates from any of these sites but at this time of year that’s good news.

 

Bald Eagle News

One of the juvenile Bald Eagles from the Hays PA nest (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Hays
All three eaglets fledged successfully in late June and are flying so well that they’re hard to find. They are out and about learning the ways of eagles and how to find food.  Meanwhile, to wrap up the season, Eagles of Hays PA and Urban Eagles in Pittsburgh are planning an Eagle Lovers Outing and tour on Saturday August 2, starting at 11am at Vallozzi’s Restaurant in Greensburg, PA.  Click here for more information.

Harmar and Crescent Township  There’s no update from our other eagle sites but, as for peregrines, no news is good news at this time of year.

 

With no nest activity, the next six months will be very boring for peregrine and bald eagle fans.  We’re looking forward to 2015.

 

(photo credits in order of appearance:
Peregrine at Green Tree water tower, 1 April 2014 (photo by Leslie Ferree)
Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress)
Dorothy and E2 at the Cathedral of Learning nestbox (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera)
Peregrine with pigeon meal, Tarentum Bridge, 3 July 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Juvenile bald eagle from the Hays PA nest (photo by Dana Nesiti)

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Jul 04 2014

Happy Fourth of July 2014

Published by under Birds of Prey

One of the juvenile Bald Eagles from the Hays PA nest (photo by Dana Nesiti)

This juvenile bald eagle is only four months old, hatched at the Hays nest in Pittsburgh, PA.

Thanks to Dana Nesiti for his photo from the Eagles of Hays, PA Facebook page.

Happy Fourth!

 

(photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays, PA)

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Jul 03 2014

TBT: Six Years of Bald Eagle Success

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald eagles in Butler County, PA (photo by Chuck Tague)

It’s Throw Back Thursday…

Six years ago bald eagles were doing well in Pennsylvania with 140 active nests.  Back then we knew it was only a matter of time before they’d be off Pennsylvania’s endangered list but we couldn’t imagine how quickly that would happen.

Who knew that by July 2014 we’d have 250 nests in Pennsylvania, three of them in Allegheny County, and one in Pittsburgh that’s internationally famous because of its webcam!

Click on the bald eagles’ photo above to go back in time to July 2008 when there were no eagles to watch at the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and far fewer eaglecams.  At that time one of the famous eaglecams was at Norfolk Botanical Gardens where the pair had a Peyton Place year and an ailing eaglet.

After you read the 2008 Norfolk eagle story, you might be wondering what happened to the eaglet with avian pox.  Nicknamed Buddy he lives in captivity because his beak grows in a deformed shape and must be trimmed once a month so he can eat.  Though otherwise healthy, he would die in the wild without this treatment.  He will never fly free.

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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