Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

Mar 30 2015

Night Roost

Dorothy roosting at the nest, 29 March 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy roosted at the nest last night.  Here she is standing over the scrape with her beak under her right wing.

She’s probably feeling “egg-y.”

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh, 29 March 2015, 10:16 p.m.)

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Mar 25 2015

Dorothy Then And Now

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy, March 2010 and March 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam atUniversity of Pittsburgh)

Many of you are looking forward to Dorothy having eggs and chicks this spring at the Cathedral of Learning.  Others, knowing her age, have asked about her status.  Today I’ll explain her condition and why you should not be surprised when she doesn’t have viable eggs this year.

Dorothy is 16 years old, elderly for a wild peregrine.  Her fertility dropped to a single fledgling in 2013 and collapsed in 2014 after she became egg bound.  In the top photo she was sleek and alert in her fertile years (photo from 2010).  In the second photo, she is rumpled and slow moving now.  Consistently rumpled feathers are an indication of ill health in birds.

I have watched Dorothy since 2001 when she was only two years old.  For more than a decade she was full of vitality, totally in control.  She only began to hint at her age in 2013.  This year her decline is pronounced.  There are differences in her behavior that tell me she is past her prime.

THEN: 2001 to 2013 NOW: 2014 and 2015
Many courtship flights including aerial prey exchange in January, February, March No courtship flights in 2015. No aerial prey exchange since 2013.
Perching and mating(!) on the lightning rod on top of the Cathedral of Learning Has not been on the lightning rod. Has not been seen mating this spring.
Laid down only to incubate. (Peregrines roost and sleep in a standing position) Lies down to sleep in nest though there are no eggs
Agile at all times Opens wings to steady herself while walking on nest rail. Is slow moving
Always perched above the 27th floor. Rarely perched on A/C units Perches as low as 12th or 13th, often on A/C units.
Sleek feathers, alert stance Rumpled rough feathers, hunches more often

 

When I see her lying down in the nest without any eggs, I worry.  This is an unnatural position for a peregrine falcon that isn’t incubating.

Dorothy sleeping on her belly, though she has no eggs (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

For now Dorothy is staying close to home. She is often seen on camera or perched at office windows, gazing in.  These are endearing traits that make us love her more, but that does not change the fact that she is elderly.

Dorothy’s chances of producing healthy peregrine chicks this year is very slim.

 

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

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Mar 23 2015

Peregrine Quest: Mixed Results

Peregrine Quest view from Flag Plaza, 3/22/15 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Sunday afternoon five of us scoured Downtown Pittsburgh looking for the peregrine falcon pair who haven’t used the Gulf Tower nest since March 10.  They’ve got to be nesting somewhere by now, but where?  Our Peregrine Quest came up with mixed results.

Doug walked Gateway Center/Market Square.  Denise and her husband checked midtown including the 2012-2013 nesting zone. I checked Penn/Liberty and went to the North Shore for a wider view and John English went to Flag Plaza.  Only John saw peregrines and he saw them almost immediately.  (UPDATE: See Doug’s comment below.)

After John texted me with two peregrine sightings back-to-back — one flew past BNY Mellon down the Forbes-Fifth canyon and one perched on UPMC (U.S. Steel Building) —  I raced over to Flag Plaza to see them, too.  I hadn’t been there long before we saw an exciting but silent interaction.

A female peregrine was flying around UPMC and approaching the building again from the left when a male peregrine popped out from behind the building (using it as a blind) and attacked her from above!  She evaded his dive-bombing and sailed around UPMC one more time, then circled up and sailed off toward Oakland.

Here’s a map of the buildings (red pins), the peregrine perch (green pin), our vantage point (brown pin), and the peregrine flight paths during our half hour of watching.   After the attack the male perched on UPMC for a while but we missed seeing him leave.

View Downtown Pittsburgh, Peregrine Tussle, 3/22/15, 2pm in a larger map

 

Why would a male peregrine attack a female during nesting season?  The only time I’ve seen this happen is when the pair has eggs in the nest, the female is busy at the nest, and a new female shows up.  The male then defends his territory, nest, and mate from an intruding female.  So my guess is that the Downtown peregrines already have a nest.

We learned that they’re spending time at this end of town, but we still don’t know where they’re nesting.

 

(view from Flag Plaza, photo by Kate St. John with lousy late afternoon light)

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Mar 20 2015

Peregrine Quest! March 22, 1pm, Downtown

Empty Gulf Tower nest, 19 March 2015 (photo from National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

The empty nest at the Gulf Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh

They’ve done it again!  The Downtown peregrines have been absent from the Gulf Tower since March 10 … yet they have been seen Downtown.

Apparently they are planning to nest somewhere else … but where?  Let’s find out.

Join Pittsburgh Falconuts on our quest to find the Downtown peregrines.  We’ll meet on Sunday March 22 at 1:00pm at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 28 Market Square and fan out from there.

If you can’t make it, wish us luck.  We’ll need it!

 

Thanks to John English of the Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page for organizing this quest.

(photo of the empty Gulf Tower nest from the National Avairy falconcam)

 

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Mar 07 2015

Woo Hoo!

Dori and Louie court at the Gulf Tower nest, 6 Mar2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Yesterday I fretted that Dori and Louie might not nest at the Gulf Tower because they hadn’t been seen there since February 20. I was so concerned that they might be using their old nest site on 3rd Avenue that I went over there at 5:00pm to find them. But no peregrines.

This morning I pulled two motion detection images from the Gulfcam and found out why they weren’t at 3rd Ave.

Here they are after everyone left for the weekend!

Just after 5:50 pm Friday, Louie was moving so fast he was a blur.  :)

Louie lifts off from the nestbox at Gulf Tower (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Woo hoo!

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower, Pittsburgh)

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Mar 06 2015

What’s Up With These Peregrines?

Magnum perched at Neville Island while her mate flies by, 28 Feb 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

February and March are great times to watch peregrine courtship in Pittsburgh.  Unfortunately our two sites with webcams — Pitt and the Gulf Tower — have little or no courtship activity.  What’s up with these peregrines?

Nearly every day I visit the University of Pittsburgh to check on Dorothy and E2.  They’re usually perched on the Cathedral of Learning but they don’t make courtship flights like they did in the old days.  This is probably because, at age 16, Dorothy isn’t interested anymore.  She seems to be in “hen-o-pause” since her egg bound episode last spring.

Sadly this means the pair is rarely on the webcam.  Twice last week E2 tried to lure Dorothy to the nest but she visited only once.  This is in stark contrast to her prior habit of sitting at the nest for hours and courting several times a day, even in February snow.  I don’t expect any peregrine chicks while Dorothy is in charge.

At Gulf there’s a beautiful new HD webcam — and no peregrines!  They visited the nest on February 7 and 20 but Ann Hohn at Make-A-Wish confirms what the camera says:  No peregrines have been there for two weeks.  This is highly unusual if they intend to nest at Gulf.  I wondered if they’d gone back to their old 2012-2013 nest site near Point Park University so I checked it last Saturday.  No peregrines there.  No peregrines anywhere Downtown.  What’s up?  I don’t know.

The bright spots have been the bridges.

I’ve only been to the Westinghouse Bridge once this year, but I saw a peregrine perched on it when I drove by on February 22.  At Tarentum I saw both peregrines in courtship flight on nestbox-installation day.  And at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge, Anne Marie Bosnyak saw the peregrines court and mate last Saturday.  They even stayed long enough for Anne Marie to go home for her camera and take these beautiful photos of Magnum and her mate.  Love is in the air at Neville.

Magnum at Neville Island, 28 Feb 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

So far there are no sightings at the Monaca-East Rochester Bridge, the McKees Rocks Bridge, and the Greentree water tower — though that doesn’t mean there aren’t peregrines.

If you have any news, post a comment to let us know … What’s up with these peregrines?

 

(photos of Magnum and her mate by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

p.s. Folks in Johnstown are hoping their lone male peregrine on the First National Bank Building attracts a mate soon.

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Feb 28 2015

New Nest Box at Tarentum

Tarentum Bridge nestbox project, The Bucket Truck, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

The PennDOT Bucket dips down to the middle pier at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

If you saw the peregrine banding at the Tarentum Bridge last May, you’ll remember the nest was in a dangerous place.  The entrance hole pointed down over open water and there were no perches nearby.  After banding the chicks the PA Game Commission placed them on the mid-river pier where they learned to fly in safety.  (Click here to see last year’s site.)

Thinking ahead to this year, it’s no wonder the Game Commission decided to place a nestbox on the bridge. Rob Protz, Marge Van Tassel and I braved 9oF to watch the installation yesterday morning.

Brrr!   Marge took our picture with one of the PennDOT crew.

PennDOT bridge worker + Rob Protz + Kate St. John (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

PennDOT bridge worker, Rob Protz and Kate St. John at Tarentum Boat Ramp, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Before the installation began we saw two peregrines!

Around 9:00am the female 69/Z, nicknamed Hope, flew from the bridge.  Rob Protz saw her land in a tree so we went over and Marge took her picture.  (This was one of the few times I’ve ever seen a peregrine perched in a tree.)  Within a half hour, Hope’s mate came by for a courtship flight and the pair disappeared upriver.

Female peregrine, Hope, perched in a tree in Tarentum, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Female peregrine, Hope, perched in a tree in Tarentum, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Meanwhile PennDOT District 11 blocked a lane of traffic on the bridge, set up the Bucket Truck, and delivered PA Game Commission biologist Tom Keller to the catwalk.  While he climbed down the ladder to the mid-river pier, Hope returned and noticed something was up. She watched the project from the upriver navigation light.

Female peregrine, Hope, watches the nestbox project from the upriver navigation light (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Female peregrine, Hope, watches the nestbox project from the upriver navigation light (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

The Bucket delivered tools, gravel and the new nestbox to Tom.

Tom Keller guides the nestbox as it drops from The Bucket Truck (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Tom Keller guides the nestbox as it drops from The Bucket Truck (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

While he cleared ice from the pier he was joined by another member of the PennDOT crew.

PGC's Tom Keller and  PennDOT worker installing nestbox on Tarentum Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

PGC’s Tom Keller and PennDOT worker install nestbox at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

They positioned the box with its back to the prevailing wind, drilled holes to anchor it, added a perch pole, and filled it with gravel.

Tarentum Bridge nestbox (photo by Tom Keller)

Tarentum Bridge nestbox (photo by Tom Keller, PA Game Commission)

Ta dah!

Tom Keller, PGC, and PennDOT worker District 11 next to new peregrine nestbox on the Tarentum Bridge (photo from Tom Keller)

Tom Keller and Steve from PennDOT with new peregrine nestbox at Tarentum Bridge (photo from Tom Keller)

Now we wait and see, and hope that “Hope” will use it this year.

 

(photos by Marge Van Tassel, Kate St. John and Tom Keller.  See captions for photo credits)

p.s. Steve, picture above on the bridge with Tom, is the one who built the box of cedar to PGC’s specification.

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Feb 25 2015

Peregrine Nesting Season is Almost Here!

Peregrine nestlings, two weeks old at the Gulf Tower, 7 May 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Though the Hays bald eagles are incubating eggs in their icy nest, Pittsburgh’s peregrines are hanging back — but that’s about to change.

Peregrines in western Pennsylvania lay eggs from mid-March to early April.  In late February they make courtship flights together when the weather is good (when has it been good?!).  Then in early March they bow at the nest.

You can watch this up close on the National Aviary falconcams:

Drama is possible at any site in March. Younger peregrines arrive to challenge the older ones.  (Not only is Dorothy 16, but Louie at the Gulf Tower is 13 this year.)  Nevertheless by mid-May there will be bright-eyed nestlings on camera.

To get you in the mood for nesting season, click here or on the photo above for nesting highlights from last spring at the Gulf Tower.

Peregrine nesting season is almost here!

 

p.s.  Pittsburgh’s six other peregrine sites can be monitored from the ground:

  • Tarentum Bridge: PGC and PennDOT will install a nest box this Friday 2/27 at 9:00am.  Come watch from the boat ramp under the bridge.  There were 2 chicks here last year.
  • Monaca-East Rochester Bridge: 4 chicks in 2014
  • Westinghouse Bridge: 2 chicks in 2014
  • Neville Island I-79 Bridge: 1 chick in 2014
  • McKees Rocks Bridge: Nest could not be found
  • Green Tree water tower:  No nest in 2014

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

p.p.s.  Right on schedule, guess who came to visit at the Cathedral of Learning nest this afternoon … E2 calls, “Hey, Dorothy!”

E2 calls for Dorothy to come bow at the nest (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Pitt)

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Feb 09 2015

Pittsburgh Peregrine In Wetzel County

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine falcon bands captured on camera at Wetzel County 911, New Martinsville, WV

An immature peregrine falcon banded at Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower last spring has been hanging out in Wetzel County, West Virginia this winter.

Staff at Wetzel County Emergency Services in New Martinsville wondered about the bands on this “hawk” so they took a picture on January 23 and sent it to the banding lab at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

Patuxent knew the bands were issued to a peregrine in Pennyslvania so they sent the photo to Art McMorris asking if he recognized them.  Indeed, he did.

This male peregrine was banded at the Gulf Tower on May 20, 2014 by Dan Brauning and Tom Keller. At only 8 months old he’s still in brown juvenile plumage so he resembles a young red-tailed hawk.  I’m glad he revealed his bands.

As Art said, “It’s nice to know that another one of our peregrines is out there, doing well in the world!”

 

Click here for banding event “baby pictures” of the siblings last May.

(photo from Wetzel County Emergency Center staff in New Martinsville, West Virginia)

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Jan 24 2015

Johnstown Peregrine On The News

Published by under Peregrines

Screenshot from WJAC news of Johnstown peregrine

No, this peregrine is not in jail.  It’s looking into an office window.

If you’re not a member of Pittsburgh Falconuts’ Facebook page or PABIRDS you may not know that a peregrine falcon has been hanging out at the First National Bank in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Until last winter peregrines were unheard of in the city made famous by The Johnstown Flood.

The bird became famous himself (or herself?) when a bank employee snapped this photo from her office window.  Click here or on the screenshot above to watch the news on WJAC-TV, Johnstown.

Peregrines have never nested in Johnstown but spring is coming and this falcon may be creating a completely new territory and advertizing for a mate.

Thanks to Johnstown birder Linda Greble (seen in the video) for being such a great advocate for peregrine falcons in Johnstown.

 

(screenshot from WJAC-TV online news.  Click on the image to see the video)

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