“It’s a hard life” certainly describes the first few nesting days of the Hays bald eagle pair.
Above, on February 18 Mother Eagle waits out a snowstorm while incubating the egg she laid the day before.
Below, it’s -4 degrees at the nest on Friday morning, February 20. The sun is shining so it has already “warmed up” from a low of -7. (*temperatures are from the Allegheny County airport less than 3 miles away)
Later that day, at 4:40pm, she laid her second egg. It was 11oF at the time. Click here or on the picture for video of her second egg.
Then yesterday, Saturday February 21, it snowed several inches and …
… then turned into rain .. and then freezing drizzle. Below she sleeps in the icy nest before dawn this morning (February 22).
If you haven’t been watching the Hays Bald Eaglecam, now’s the time to start. Last night Mother Eagle laid her first egg of 2015, revealed on camera at 7:37 pm.
Bald eagles are one of the earliest birds to lay eggs in Pennsylvania because their young take so long to grow up and fledge. The pair at Hays in the City of Pittsburgh has been courting, mating, and tidying their nest since January. Then on Sunday the female eagle started spending her nights on the nest — just in case.
We saw the first egg on Tuesday, February 17 at 7:37pm when she stood up and looked at it. (After laying an egg the female bird usually stands over it until the shell dries.)
Dedicated eagle watchers are already calling this egg “H5″ in anticipation of its hatching. (“H” is for Hatch Hays, 5 means the fifth hatchling (see the comment below from Joyce)) Its hatching event is a pretty good bet. The first egg a bald eagle lays is always the first to hatch — if it’s fertile — and fertility is not in doubt with the amount of mating this pair has been up to.
Egg #2 is due on Thursday or early Friday when the temperature dips to -8 oF. Mother Eagle will certainly be clamped down to keep the egg(s) warm! We’ll have to keep an “eagle eye” on her to see her reveal Egg#2.
Sometimes you can tell who drilled a hole just by looking at it.
This one caught my eye at Raccoon Creek State Park. I can tell by its big, rectangular shape that it was made by a pileated woodpecker.
Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are the size of crows, mostly black with white on their necks and faces, white on their wings (seen in flight) and a red crest. Males, like the one below, have red foreheads and mustaches where the females are black.
Male pileated woodpecker (photo by Dick Martin, 2009)
These are huge woodpeckers! And so are their holes. Here’s a closer look.
As you can see, the hole is oblong — about 9″ tall by 3.5″ wide — and hollow inside. The male chooses the site and excavates the interior, gathering wood chips in his beak and throwing them out the “door.” Eventually his mate helps, too. It takes them 3-6 weeks to finish a new nest hole each spring.
They only use the nest for one season, but nothing goes to waste. Pileated woodpeckers stay on territory all year long and use their old holes for roosting at night. They usually roost alone but on cold winter nights like these “Ma” and “Pa” may roost together to stay warm.
Maybe even in this hole.
(photos of woodpecker hole by Kate St. John. photo of pileated woodpecker in Cumberland County, PA by Dick Martin, 2009.)
With very cold weather on its way tomorrow it’s hard to believe that … In three to four weeks ice will start to break up in southern Pennsylvania and ducks will begin to migrate north. When they do, they’ll be in an amorous mood.
Last month Cornell Lab eNews featured this video of courtship behavior in mallards, king eiders, common goldeneyes and red-breasted mergansers. Watch the video and you’ll learn their moves before their return in early spring.
When the ice breaks up goldeneyes will throw back their heads and “crow.”
In case you missed it … there are two baby African penguins at the National Aviary!
African penguins nest in burrows or caves on the southwestern coast of Africa where they’re endangered due to overfishing, habitat loss and human encroachment. The birds are monogamous so once they’ve picked a mate they’re together for life.
These penguin parents, Sidney and Bette, are members of the penguin flock at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. They’ve been a couple for four years and have already hatched three sets of chicks. This fall they spruced up their nest and Bette laid two eggs on November 9 and 11. The eggs hatched right on time: December 15 and 18.
Above Sidney watches as Bette turns to rearrange the nesting material while she keeps the chicks warm. Below, Sidney broods them too.
This is a good time to watch the nest online. After the first of the year National Aviary staff will move the babies indoors to hand-rear them. The Aviary explains, “This special upbringing will ensure they are ready to fulfill their future roles as ambassadors for their species in the National Aviary’s educational and interactive programs.”
Click on the screenshots or here to watch them online. After they move indoors visit the National Aviary to watch them grow up.
Barn owls nest in structures — often in barns — but they don’t need entire buildings to make them happy. A right-sized hole and good interior space are what they look for when they’re ready to nest. If you can satisfy their needs with a smaller structure the owls will make it home.
As barn owls declined due to habitat loss, wildlife agencies across the U.S. worked to restore their populations by installing barn owl nest boxes. This modern-looking box, designed and sold by Pittsburgh-based Barn Owl Box Company, was installed at Lake Apopka Restoration Area in Orange County, Florida.
The boxes are also popular with farmers and vintners who’ve learned that barn owls are a great alternative to poison rodent control. The owls are tolerant of humans, tolerant of each other (no fights), breed like crazy at successful sites, and focus their hunts on the highest density rodent locations. Lots of rodents lose their lives to feed the baby owls.
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.”
Last week Marcy Cunkelman found a cedar waxwing nesting in her garden. For other birds, this would be a very late nest but for cedar waxwings it’s right on time.
Waxwings build their first nests in mid June when other birds have already fledged young. They start late because their main food source is sugary fruit and that’s not available until mid-summer. Yes, waxwings eat insects (have you seen them fly-catching?) but they only feed insects to their young during the first 1-2 days of life. After that they feed them mostly fruit.
This early August nest is the pair’s second brood. In order to complete the cycle before the end of summer Mrs. Waxwing starts building her second nest before the first “kids” have flown, on approximately Day 10 of their 15.5 days in the nest. By the time she finishes building, her first kids are fledging and she’s laying eggs.
She’s able to do this because her mate does the vast majority of the feedings. He feeds her on the nest and he feeds the “kids” until 6-10 days after they’ve fledged. In August he’s one busy bird!
Cedar waxwings’ dependence on fruit makes them highly nomadic with little site fidelity. They’ll nest where there’s lots of fruit — cherries, dogwoods, raspberries, crabapples, honeysuckle and ornamentals — and won’t come back if it’s gone.
Marcy has plenty of fruiting trees and shrubs in her garden. The waxwings obviously love it.
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!
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.
…and flew by their nest-bound sibling.
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!
The two Neville Island ospreys fledged, too. It’s been a successful year for “industrial” ospreys.