Archive for the 'Nesting & Courtship' Category

May 22 2013

Bridge Babies!

Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Robert Stovers on Wikimedia Commons)

After three disappointing banding attempts at Pittsburgh area bridges, Dan Brauning struck peregrine gold yesterday at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge, pictured above.

Last week he and Art McMorris brought back disappointing news from Tarentum, Westinghouse and McKees Rocks:  solo abandoned eggs at Tarentum and McKees Rocks, and a single handicapped nestling with a poor prognosis at Westinghouse.

But yesterday was good.  Dan found three peregrine nestlings at the Glenfield span of the I-79 Neville Island Bridge.  The two males and one female chick are 22 days old.

Anne Marie Bosnyak and Laura Marshall monitor this site and were on the scene.  When they arrived at 9:00am they saw both adult peregrines on the bridge and hunting in the vicinity.  Around 10:00am Dan and PennDOT went under the bridge and walked the catwalk from Neville Island to Glenfield but found no peregrines.  If there were baby peregrines on the bridge why weren’t their parents defending them?

On the way back to the Neville Island side Dan checked some additional nooks.  One of the parents arrived with prey and was so stunned that humans were approaching her nest that she perched silently for a moment.   Then all hell broke loose.  Kak and attack!   The noise signaled her mate to come quickly and he joined the fray.

Both adults are banded and now their chicks are, too.  Dan was able to read the bands on the mother peregrine:  black/red 62/H born in 2010 in Canton, Ohio.  Ohio peregrine fans, this is Magnum, photographed by Jeff McDonald on New Year’s Day at Cork-Bocktown Rd.

The chicks are due to fledge on June 5 and they will need watchers!  The only reason we know of this site is because a fledgling fell in the river last year and was rescued by boaters.  Imagine if no one saw him!   Stay tuned next week for information on where to watch and when.  Earmark June 5-10!

Meanwhile in Beaver County…

After the I-79 Bridge banding, Dan met up with WCO Matt Kramer and confirmed that peregrines are not nesting at the Monaca-East Rochester Bridge as they have since 2007.  Instead they’ve moved 1.25 miles downstream to the huge railroad bridge across the Ohio at Monaca-Beaver.

Ohio River railroad bridge, Beaver, PA

I’m surprised they moved but not surprised they chose this bridge.  It’s the tallest in the area, has a long westward view down the river, and is perfect for nesting if you can stand the roar and thump of trains.  Back in March 2008 several of us witnessed a territorial battle at this bridge.

Why didn’t peregrines move here earlier?  Perhaps there wasn’t the proper substrate for making a scrape until now.

In any case, they’ve chosen an inaccessible spot near the top so their babies won’t be banded.  Sneaky!

 

(photo of Neville Island I-79 Bridge from Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge by Kate St. John)

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May 20 2013

Save The Date: Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)

UPDATED May 30.

Save the date!  Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch will be Thursday May 30 through Wednesday June 5.

We’ll gather at the Schenley Plaza tent, above, to watch for the young peregrine’s first flight from the Cathedral of Learning.

See him walk the ledges and flap his wings to prepare for his big adventure.  Watch Dorothy and E2 show him how to fly with some really cool flight demonstrations.  See Dorothy keep the area safe for fledglings.  Last year she attacked a bald eagle!

I’ll be there with peregrine fans from Pittsburgh Falconuts and volunteer peregrine monitors from the bridges.  We’ll all swap stories about peregrines.  I can hardly wait!

My challenge, as always, is to predict the best watching days.  With one male chick this year I expect the time span to be brief.  Male chicks normally fly early and improve their skills quickly.

So here’s the schedule but check the blog for updates because this event is very weather dependent.  Peregrines don’t like to fledge in the rain.  (UPDATED May 30.)

  • UPDATE:  Thur. May 30, 1:00pm to 2:00pm.  Baby started ledge walking on May 28.  On May 29 he perched in the keyhole while his parents put on an airshow.  Great peregrine watching! Come to the tent.
  • UPDATE:  Fri. May 31, 12:30pm to 2:00pm.  Slight chance of thunderstorms; hoping the weather cooperates during my extended lunch hour.
  • Sat. June 1, 4:00pm to 6:00pm, weather dependent.  Watch the weather.  Rain and thunderstorms predicted.  I won’t be there if it’s raining/storming.
  • Sun. June 2, Weather Dependent!  noon to 2:00pm, possibly extended hours (stay tuned).  Watch the weather — more rain and thunderstorms predicted.  Though our chick will be anxious to fly I won’t there if it’s raining/storming.
  • Mon. June 3, noon to 2:00pm + after work 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  I bet he’ll be flying by now but he won’t go far.  This may be the best day.
  • Tues. June 4, noon to 2:00pm + after work 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  If Monday wasn’t best, Tuesday will be.  Stay tuned for updates.
  • Wed. June 5, 12:30pm to 2:00pm.  Might be canceled if activity is on the wane.  If “Baby” has left the nest zone, this day will be a bust. Stay tuned.
  • June 6 and remainder of the week: Not scheduled.  Stay tuned.

 

Come on down to Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch!  Meet me at the tent!

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

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May 19 2013

Woodcock Family

Published by under Nesting & Courtship

Woodcock mother and chicks (photo by Charlie Hickey)

It’s hard enough to find a woodcock let alone an entire family.

Early this month at Magee Marsh, Ohio I heard that a woodcock was nesting in a grassy sward of the parking lot.  I found the spot easily — it was surrounded by police tape — but I could not find the mother bird incubating her eggs.  I looked for quite a while but she was too cryptic for me to see.

Her eggs hatched the following week and Charlie Hickey was there to capture a family portrait.  I love how her chicks have cryptic down and tiny versions of her very long beak.

I wish I’d seen them, but then… I couldn’t even find their mother.

 

(photo by Charlie Hickey. Click on the photo to see more pictures of this woodcock family)

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May 15 2013

We Three … Are Actually Four

Three peregrine chicks visible at the Downtown Pittsburgh nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

Yesterday morning three peregrine chicks hopped all over the place at the Downtown Pittsburgh nest.

Thanks to Donna Memon for capturing this image at just the right moment!

 

UPDATE ON THURSDAY MAY 16:

Aha!  I love to be proved wrong when the news is happy!  There are FOUR chicks in the Downtown nest.  Thanks to Nathalie Picard for alerting me.  Here’s a screenshot:

Four chicks at the Downtown peregrine nest  (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

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May 12 2013

Happy Mothers’ Day

Dorothy and Baby, 8 May 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy and her chick have been emblematic of mothers’ love this year.  Above, Baby leans on Dorothy.

 

And here Dorothy watches over Baby as he sleeps.
Dorothy watches over Baby, 8 May 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers, and especially to my own mom who reads this blog every day.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

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May 10 2013

Mothers’ Work

Mallard with ducklings (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We tend to think that birds with precocial chicks have an easier time as parents than those whose nestlings are naked and blind at birth, but this isn’t necessarily so.

Ducklings can walk, swim and feed themselves shortly after they hatch but their mobility is problematic.  They have no idea where to find food nor how to stay safe.  All they know is “Stay with Mom!”

Mother leads them to feeding areas and shows them what to taste.  The ducklings peck in the vicinity until they find good food.

Her hardest responsibility is protecting them from danger.  Baby ducklings are tasty morsels for raptors, minks, cats, dogs, large fish and snapping turtles.  If you watch a mallard family day to day you’ll notice the number of ducklings decreases over time.  Mom does her best but danger lurks.

This mother mallard has had pretty good success so far.  Out of 8 to 13 eggs she still has six chicks.

Until they can fly she has mothers’ work to do.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original. Today’s Tenth Page is inspired by page 483 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)

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May 09 2013

How Many Nestlings?

 

Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine nest (photo by Christopher Rolinson)

Now that the falconcam is running and the peregrine chicks are mobile we’ve been trying to count white, fluffy heads.  How many chicks are at the Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine nest?

A week ago Chris Rolinson, associate professor of photography and photojournalism at Point Park University, set up a time-lapse camera to take snapshots of the nest.  Many hours later he retrieved the camera hoping for lots of peregrine activity, but they did not oblige.  On the other hand, he captured a really clear shot of one of the parents, a chick, and a prey item at the ledge edge.  Click on the image above for a larger view.

The falconcam also takes snapshots but it sways in the wind so most of its images are blurs of the facade.  Yesterday there were three tantalizing photos.

Here a chick traveled closer to the nest opening.  He looks pretty big.

Peregrine chick walks to the front (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

And around one o’clock they lined up so we could count heads.  In the marked up snapshot below there are three peregrine chicks facing us.

Three chicks visible, Downtown nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

A few minutes earlier there may have been a fourth with his side to the camera and his face hidden by the wall.  His nearest sibling appears to be looking at him.  (Notice that his location is dark-colored in the image above.)

Possibly four chicks visible, Downtown nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

So how many chicks do Dori and Louie have?  Certainly three, perhaps four.

Watch the Downtown Pittsburgh falconcam and tell me what you think.

 

p.s. We’re looking forward to more from Chris Rolinson when the chicks are more active.

 

(photo at top by Christopher Rolinson.  Time-stamped photos are from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

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May 06 2013

Downtown Peregrines On Camera At Last

Downtown Pittsburgh Peregrines website at the National Aviary

It’s been two years since we’ve seen Pittsburgh’s Downtown peregrine family on camera.

Louie and Dori used to nest at the Gulf Tower where we had a great close-up view of their activities but in 2012 they abandoned Gulf for a building on Fourth Avenue.  They’ve nested in the same place this year but I was unsuccessful in finding the proper contact to permit a camera.

It looked like we’d have another year without a view of the Downtown pair until Amanda McGuire came to the rescue.   She works for Point Park University and her balcony is Louie and Dori’s favorite perch during the nesting season.  I was excited when Amanda said, “I think we can put a webcam on my balcony” so I began a flurry of email to put everyone in touch with each other.

Amanda made all the arrangements with Point Park, Bill Powers of PixController donated his time and equipment, and Point Park University donated the camera location and Internet access.  It all came together when Wildearth began streaming and the National Aviary put the Downtown peregrine page on their website.

The webcam is located here on the National Aviary website or by clicking on the image above.  That’s Dan Costa’s photo of Dori on the splash-screen.

When you watch the webcam, keep in mind that it’s a block away from the nest so you’re seeing an exterior view without sound and nightlights.  Bright sunlight hides the interior space so you’ll find that best viewing is during cloudy days or at dawn and dusk.

The image below shows the nest opening with Louie perched on the left while it rained Monday evening, April 29.  Yes, Louie matches the building.

Downtown falconcam view with Louie at left, 29 April 2013 (photo from the Downtown falconcam at Point Park University)

Here’s a marked up snapshot that describes what you’re seeing.

Description of Downtown falconcam scene (snaphot from the Downtown falconcam at Point Park University)

By now Louie and Dori’s chicks are moving around the nest and visible in the back corner.  They’re white and fluffy but will turn brown as they grow their juvenile feathers.  Fortunately they’ll move to the front of the nest opening as they grow up.

Around June 1 they’ll attempt their first flight and leave the nest, so now’s the time to watch.  Click here or on the image at top to see them on the National Aviary website.

 

(images from the National Aviary’s Downtown Pittsburgh Falconcam)

p.s. Yes, this temporary camera is blurry.  We’ll have something better next year.

p.p.s. Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group have been watching this cam for several days and have captured snapshots of Dori and Louie in the nest area.

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May 03 2013

Touching

Dorothy touches beaks with her nestling  (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

With only one nestling, Dorothy and E2 are spending lots of quality time with their only chick.

Above, after puttering around the edge of the nest Dorothy returns to the center and touches beaks with Baby.

 

Later, E2 takes over nest duty.  He and Baby gaze into each others’ eyes.
E2 and Baby have a long look (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

And they touch beaks, too.
E2 and Baby touch beaks (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

In a large brood these moments are fleeting.  We’re getting a new look at peregrine family life this year.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

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May 03 2013

Incubation Chamber

Egg illustration by Stuart Lafford from Michael Walters Birds' Eggs, published by Dorling Kindersley

Last week we examined a newly laid bird’s egg.  This week things get more complicated.

Eggs are tiny incubation chambers with all the tools needed to transform an embryo into a baby bird.  The right temperature gets the process rolling.

As an egg is incubated the embryo changes and the membranes take on the critical functions of respiration, circulation and excretion.   The yolk and albumen shrink as they’re consumed and the shell participates in respiration and bone construction.

This illustration by Stuart Lafford, from Birds’ Eggs by Michael Walters, shows what’s going on inside.

  • The embryo, surrounded by the amnion, floats in a fluid cushion.
  • The yolk is attached to the embryo’s belly and shrinks as its food is consumed.
  • The allantoic sac acts like a sewer collecting excretion from the embryo.  It also functions in respiration because it’s pressed against the chorion for air exchange.
  • The chorion supports all the embryonic structures and acts like a lung, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through the shell’s pores.
  • The shell thins as the baby bird takes up calcium to construct its bones.  The thinning allows for increased air exchange so the growing embryo receives more oxygen.  It’s also easier to break the thinner shell at hatch time.

In a matter of weeks the egg contains a baby bird … and then he breaks the shell.

The egg has fulfilled its role as an incubation chamber.

 

(illustration by Stuart Lafford from Birds’ Eggs by Michael Walters, published by Dorling Kindersley, 1994, used by permission. Click on the image to visit Stuart Lafford’s website. This “Tenth Page” article is inspired by page 425 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)

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