Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

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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Jun 21 2014

He’s Flying at Hays!

Published by under Birds of Prey

First fledgling from the Hays Bald Eagle nest (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Dear Readers, there’s nothing like an in-person visit to correct a beautifully written but inaccurate story.  This morning I wrote that #3 had flown but I confused #3 with H3.  My original incorrect story follows.  Watch for the correction(**) at the end!

He hatched last and flew first! (**)

Yesterday morning the three Hays eaglets were still walking up and down the branches near their nest and testing their wings (click here for video). At 10:14am one left the nest but no one saw where it went. Then at 1:20pm that eaglet flew!  And guess what …drumroll…  the first to fly was Eaglet#3, the smallest and last to hatch. (** ummm. no.  See note at end!)

In early April we worried that #3 might not make it because he was so small and his oldest sibling bopped him on the head whenever his parents brought in food. But #3 proved to be a tough little bird who could “elbow” his siblings out of the way and get his share first.

As they grew we figured out that #3 is smallest because he’s male and his siblings are female.  This gave him First Flight advantage because he’s more maneuverable than his bigger, heavier sisters.

Yesterday at the Eagle Watch, Dana Nesiti was ready with his camera in case one of the eaglets flew.  At 1:20pm a young eagle went airborne and Dana captured it all.

The juvenile’s first landing was on the ground (uh oh!) but he got up and flew again, this time right past his mother.  Great shot, Dana!

Eaglet #3 flies past his mom on Fledge Day (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Congratulations, #3!  And thank you, Dana Nesiti, for sharing your photos!

See more of the first flight and great eagle photos at Eagles of Hays PA.

Visit the Hays Eagle Watch today and see the eagles in person.  Click here for directions and here for the weekend-only parking map.

Wooo hooo!

(photos by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA)

 

(**) CORRECTION at 9:00pm!

I went down to the Eagle Watch this afternoon and learned my mistake. The watchers are as certain as they can be that the first to fledge is one of the two females.  Most say it was “H3.”  

H3 means “3rd to Hatch” but in eagle terminology it’s “3rd hatch of this mother” not “3rd hatch this year.” H1 was last year’s solo juvenile, H2 is this year’s first female, H3 is the 2nd female, H4 is the male.

This terminology is foreign to me, a veteran peregrine watcher.  Peregrine eggs hatch all at once so it’s impossible to identify the young by their hatch order and equally impossible to identify them by their birth order to the same mother.

So… This year’s male hasn’t flown yet.  But he will soon.  His sister H2 may have fledged today just before sunset.  Stay tuned at Eagles of Hays PA and the Hays Eaglecam.

p.s. The Post-Gazette says the eaglet flew at 10:14am.  This is because the bird left the nestcam view at 10:14am. She was not seen flying until 1:20pm.

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Jun 13 2014

Fledge Watch Opportunities This Weekend

Wtaching the eagles at Hays (photo by Kate St. John)

Want to see peregrine falcons or bald eagles?  This weekend four sites in the Pittsburgh area have young raptors ready make their first flight.

Watch Peregrines at …

  • Monaca-East Rochester Bridge:  Four juvenile peregrines are fledging at this site June 11-16.  The nest is over water so your watchful presence may save a young peregrine’s life if it lands in the river (you can alert a nearby boater).  There are no officially organized times to watch at this bridge though I can tell you I plan to stop by on Saturday.  Click here for a map.
  • Neville Island I-79 Bridge:  One female peregrine is due to fledge from this site June 14-19.  Anne Marie Bosnyak and Laura Marshall will be at the adjacent Port Authority Park-n-Ride and Fairfield Inn parking lots for much of the weekend. I plan to visit too at 9:00am Saturday.  Watch this blog or Pittsburgh Falconuts for dates and times.  Click here for a map.

Juvenile bald eagles at the Hays nest, 11 June 2014 (photo from the PixController eaglcam atHays)

Watch bald eagles at…

  • Hays eagle nest:  Three eaglets have been flapping like crazy on camera this week so it’s only a matter of time before one of them makes his first flight.  Dedicated eagle fans will be watching from the Three Rivers Heritage Bike Trail all weekend.  Bob Mulvihill from the National Aviary will be there on SUNDAY at 9:00am.  C’mon down any time.  It’s free!  Click on Bob’s name or here for a map.
  • Harmar eagle nest:  This nest is much harder to watch since the Hulton Bridge construction closed the small parking lot with the best view.  Eagle fans have been known to stand by the side of busy Hulton Road in Oakmont. (Yow!)  Before leaf-out there was a good, safe view from the patio behind Oakmont High School. Bring a birding scope and look for watchers on the Oakmont side of the river. If you find a good place to stand, leave a comment with directions.

The weather will be great for Fledge Watching.  Let’s get outdoors!

 

p.s. Happy news from Westinghouse Bridge:  On June 11 PGC’s Tom Keller found a day-old hatchling at the Westinghouse Bridge peregrine nest (two eggs still unhatched).  PGC will band the chick(s) in 18 to 22 days.  Peregrine monitor John English is looking forward to a Fledge Watch in mid July.

(photo of Hays Eagle Watch site by Kate St. John, photo of Hays eaglets from the PixController Hays eaglecam)

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