Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

Jul 02 2014

Two Peregrine Chicks at Westinghouse

Published by under Peregrines

Two peregrine chicks at Westinghouse Bridge on banding day, 1 July 2014 (photo by Thomas Keller, PGC)

Two peregrine chicks at Westinghouse Bridge on banding day, 1 July 2014 (photo by Thomas Keller, PA Game Commission)


Just when you thought peregrine nesting season was over, there’s one more nest remaining to fledge in Pittsburgh.

Yesterday morning Tom Keller of the PA Game Commission rode with PennDOT in their graciously provided bucket truck to band the nestlings at the Westinghouse Bridge.  This late nest was first confirmed on May 20 when Dan Brauning and Tom Keller found the female incubating three eggs.  On June 10 Tom confirmed the first hatchling.  Yesterday he banded two females.  (One egg didn’t hatch.)

This late-in-the-season nest cycle is probably a re-nesting after the first attempt failed.  Nest failures at natural cliff sites can be caused by predation but this location is so inaccessible that the re-nest is probably due to a changeover in adults after a peregrine-vs-peregrine challenge.  The banded female, Hecla, hatched in 2009 at the Ironton-Russleton Bridge in Ironton, Ohio and has been present at Westinghouse since 2012.  Perhaps her banded mate is new but no one has been able to read his bands.  He’s still unidentified.

Westinghouse site monitor (and proud “papa”), John English, organized a Banding Watch under the bridge.  Thanks to photos from watchers Maury Burgwin and Donna Memon, I’ll tell the rest of the story in pictures.

The bucket near the nest, peregrine "mom" flies by (photo by Maury Burgwin)

Bucket at the nest, upset peregrine mother, Hecla, flies by (photo by Maury Burgwin)


Female peregrine on the attack on Banding Day (photo by Maury Burgwin)

Hecla is very angry. “Get away from my babies!” (photo by Maury Burgwin)


Hecla's mate (unidentified) does a barrel roll to defend his nestlings on Banding Day (photo by Maury Burgwin)

Hecla’s mate (unidentified) in a barrel roll defending his nestlings (photo by Maury Burgwin)


Female peregrine, Hecla, defending her nest on Banding Day, 1 July 2014 (photo by Maury Burgwin)

Hecla flies under the bridge to attack the banding crew (photo by Maury Burgwin)


Male peregrine drives a gull away from the Westinghouse bridge during the excitement on Banding Day (photo by Donna Memon)

Worked up about the banding, the male peregrine drives away everything from the Westinghouse bridge including this hapless gull. “Sorry! Just leaving!” says the gull. (photo by Donna Memon)


Stay tuned for Fledge Watch, July 18, 19 and 20!   Check John English’s Westinghouse Peregrines webpage or Pittsburgh Falconuts for details.


(photo credits:
Nestlings by Thomas Keller, PA Game Commission.
Action shots of adult peregrines by Maury Burgwin.
Peregrine-vs-gull encounter by Donna Memon

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Jun 23 2014

Downtown Lunch

Published by under Peregrines

Five peregrines in Downtown Pittsburgh, 21 June 2014 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Five peregrines in Downtown Pittsburgh, 21 June 2014 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Is this a flock of crows?  No!

Anne Marie Bosnyak went Downtown last Saturday to find Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower peregrines and she hit the jackpot.  At the corner of Fifth and Wood she saw two on the edge of the Citizen’s Bank Building.  As she watched, an adult arrived with food and four juveniles popped in for a meal.  From the looks of this, I doubt they were planning to share.

When they aren’t hanging out elsewhere the youngsters have lunch at the U.S. Steel Tower where Patti Mitsch can watch them outside her 38th floor window.  Here are four snapshots from cellphone videos she shared with me on Facebook.

Peregrine leftovers on the ledge, U.S. Steel Tower (photo by Patti Mitsch)

Juvenile peregrine with leftovers on the ledge, U.S. Steel Tower (photo by Patti Mitsch)

Two snapshots, juvenile peregrine on US Steel Tower ledge (photos by Patti Mitsch)

Peekaboo at the US Steel Tower ledge (photos by Patti Mitsch)


And just to prove that peregrines match the buildings, here’s another close-up.

Peregrine falcon juvenile at U.S. Steel Tower (photo by Patti Mitsch)

Juvenile peregrine at U.S. Steel Tower, 9 June 2014 (photo by Patti Mitsch)

If I had a peregrine outside my window I’d be unable to work for days! ;)


(top photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak.  Juveniles at U.S. Steel Tower by Patti Mitsch)

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Jun 20 2014

Take That, You Pesky Airplane!

Published by under Peregrines

Adult female peregrine attacks remote-controlled model glider (photo by Steve Shinn)

It looks like Photoshop, but it’s not.  The bird and the plane are actual size, frozen in time in Steve Shinn’s photograph.

The peregrine is a wild bird who nests on the seaside cliffs near Los Angeles, California.  She has “kids” on the cliff and won’t tolerate anything flying near them.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

The plane is a radio-controlled glider, guided by a human on the ground.  Model airplane enthusiasts love the wind above the cliffs for testing their equipment.  They have not thought that peregrine falcons could be a hazard.

Steve Shinn stops by the cliffs frequently during peregrine nesting season to capture awesome photos of their activities.  He was lucky to be there the day this female peregrine had had enough.

Annoyed by the glider invading her airspace, she flew out ahead of it, talons dangling, watching her chance.

Boom!  She grabbed it in mid-air and bit the “neck” to sever its spinal cord but it didn’t die quickly.

Peregrine grabs and bites the "neck" of a radio-controlled model glider (photo by Steve Shinn)

Steve writes, “Having grabbed this invader, she naturally wanted to chew off its head.  Fiberglass is a tough nut to crack even for a Peregrine.  … She has been reported to have ripped off the canopy of one plane and caused another to plunge into the ocean.”

You’d think the glider fans would learn.

“Take that, you pesky airplane!”


(photos by Steve Shinn.  Click here to see more of his peregrine photos.)

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Jun 20 2014

Peregrine Update, Pittsburgh

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine falcon (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)Here’s a quick update:

Gulf Tower peregrine family:  Yesterday morning, June 19, I heard from Amanda McGuire that the Downtown peregrines are hanging out near Point Park University and Oxford Center.  You may remember her balcony at Lawrence Hall was the rescued juveniles’ way station last year, the place where they rested near the (former) nest after rescue from the ground.  At 7:45am Amanda texted me saying:

Just ran for my life… There’s a peregrine on a little perch a floor below my balcony… and another one circled over me as I was looking over the edge.  |  They’ve been loud the past couple of days. Yesterday around 7pm there were two flying around Oxford Center.  |  I thought about going back out to get you a picture… but after that second one swooped by, I think I’m just gonna stay inside.  | One of them has the voice of their dad. Volume-wise at least… Luckily it’s not as long winded.

If you want to see the Gulf Tower peregrines, check out the area only three to four blocks from the Gulf Tower.

Westinghouse Bridge peregrine banding, Tuesday July 1, 10:00am:  The Westinghouse Bridge family is maturing later than other Pittsburgh area nests (perhaps this is a re-nesting).  On July 1 the PA Game Commission will band the nestling(s) when they are approximately 20 days old.  PGC’s Peregrine Falcon Coordinator, Art McMorris, writes:

We will meet at 10:00 AM on US Route 30 east of the bridge. From the east, driving westbound towards the bridge, there is a pull-off on the right side of the road about 1/3 mile before the bridge, across from Clyde Ave. … PennDOT will set up the snooper crane and we will access the nest via the crane. Everyone going onto the bridge deck to observe should have the standard safety equipment: at a minimum, a hard hat and safety vest. Others who would like to observe can watch from locations near the bridge. Observers can help by taking photographs in hopes of documenting the identity of the adults.

For more Banding Day information, contact John English at Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page or leave a comment here.

(photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

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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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Jun 10 2014

Falcons Stick Together

American kestrel fledgling at Engineering Hall, Univ of Pittsburgh (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

This story has a sad ending but the middle is so amazing that it’s worth the telling.

At 10:00am Michelle Kienholz texted me with an odd sighting at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health: “Peregrine on GSPH? One of the Cathedral of Learning peregrines is yelling and dive-bombing it.”

Michelle sent a cellphone photo of the attacked bird perched on the windowsill but neither of us could determine the species.  Michelle didn’t have binoculars and her photo was tiny.

Forty-five minutes later she texted again after she saw it more clearly:  “Red-tailed hawk — taking quite a beating from E2 still.  Can’t tell if windows are affecting how wings held or if injured but I see red-tails on the building all the time.  45 minutes on the same cramped ledge with a crazed falcon seems odd.  … Doesn’t look especially stressed though.”

Almost an hour later at 11:30am:  “Red-tail moved to Sennott Building, so he can fly.”

But this was not the end of it.

At 1:30pm Michelle sent an email about another bird of prey perched at the entrance to the Engineering Building.  Observers had seen him hit a window in the early morning.  Melissa Penkrot at the School of Engineering was concerned because this juvenile male kestrel had been perched there since 7:00am.

Juvenile American kestrel at Engineering Building (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

In between meetings, Michelle ran down to check on the kestrel while Melissa called the Game Commission. The kestrel continued to stand in plain sight so Melissa put up a sign so folks would not try to touch it.  Interestingly, she could see the Sennott Building from the kestrel’s location.

Michelle returned an hour later and saw the kestrel hop up on the rust-colored sculpture and make a slow wobbly flight across the street.  Before she returned to work she told the security guard at the parking garage that the Game Commission was coming for the bird.  He assured her he’d be there into the evening and would keep an eye on it.  That was at 2:45pm.

Alas, when Michelle returned at 7:00pm the security guard told her the red-tail had barely waited for her to leave.  While the kestrel’s back was turned the red-tail swooped in and killed him.  Not a happy ending.

But there is a happy middle.

In the morning E2 spent at least 45 minutes attacking and finally moving that red-tailed hawk away from the area.  E2 was as focused and relentless as he is when his own fledglings are threatened.  Yet he has no babies this year.  Why did he attack the red-tail?

I think E2 recognized the fledgling as a baby falcon — not a peregrine, but certainly a falcon — and his protective instincts kicked in.  He doesn’t have his own “kids” this year but when he saw a dazed juvenile falcon he knew the red-tail was up to no good and did everything in his power to move the danger away.  He did a good job.  The red-tail was deterred.

Vulnerable American kestrels often fall prey to red-tailed hawks.  The kestrel’s own parents could not have protected him, but a peregrine did.

Falcons stick together.


p.s.  Kestrels are known to help peregrines: see this blog from 2012.

(photos by Michelle Kienholz)

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Jun 06 2014

Peregrine News Around Town

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy at Pitt, no egg (photo from National Aviary falconcam)

Dorothy at Pitt, no egg (photo from National Aviary falconcam)


Peregrine activity at Pittsburgh’s two fledged nest sites has moved out of easy view but three locations still await the excitement of first flight.  Here’s the latest peregrine news in a long blog post.  Don’t miss the end as the best is always last.


Cathedral of Learning:

PGC's Tom Keller collects the unincubated egg at Pitt (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam)

PGC’s Tom Keller collects unincubated egg at Pitt (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam)

Yesterday Tom Keller of the PA Game Commission removed Dorothy and E2’s unincubated egg.  This was not to change Dorothy’s mind about standing at the nest but to test the egg.  Dorothy and E2 always visit the nest at this time of year and Dorothy loves to sunbathe there.

Some of you were worried that the peregrines were sad about the egg.  I don’t think so.  Not sad, just bored.

Meanwhile the infrared lamp that provides night vision has burned out so the nighttime video looks like “snow.”  We will replace the lamp before the next nesting season.


Gulf Tower:

Two fledglings exercise their wings on the Gulf Tower pyramid roof, 31 May 2014 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Two fledglings exercise their wings on the Gulf Tower pyramid roof, 31 May 2014 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Last Saturday at Fledge Watch we saw two juveniles on the Gulf Tower roof while the remaining three nestlings waited to launch.  By dawn on Wednesday only one female remained at the nest.  She looked as if she was ready to fly but she was cautious — a good trait in the urban environment where buildings, glass, and chimneys pose unnatural threats to survival.  She flew on Wednesday.
One juvenile at the Gulf Tower nest at dawn, 4 June 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

That same day at the U.S. Steel Tower, a friend of Steve Gosser’s sent him a mystery photograph, “What is this bird?”  A juvenile peregrine outside the office window!  The Gulf Tower “kids” are exploring Downtown.

Peregrine fledgling outside a window of the USSteel Tower, 4 June 2014 (photo by Anonymous)

Peregrine fledgling at U.S.Steel Tower, 4 June 2014 (photographer is anonymous)


Green Tree water tower:

Green Tree water tower, nesting territory of a pair of peregrines (photo by Shannon Thompson)

(photo by Shannon Thompson)

No peregrines have been confirmed at the Green Tree water tower for many weeks though several of us have looked while driving by. This site has been disappointing for two years in a row. If you do see a peregrine at the water tower, let me know.


Tarentum Bridge:

Peregrine "Hope" at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Steve Gosser)

Mother peregrine, Hope, at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Steve Gosser)

Though there were two fledglings at the Tarentum Bridge on May 29, only one has been seen since then.  Time will tell if the second one is merely hiding or gone missing. If you see one or both at Tarentum, let me know.


Westinghouse Bridge:

Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress)Tom Keller checked the Westinghouse nest on May 30 and found the female still on eggs.  He’ll check again in mid-June.


McKees Rocks Bridge:

McKees Rocks Bridge (photo by Robert Strovers on Wikimedia Commons)

McKees Rocks Bridge (photo by Robert Strovers on Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license)

Old news, but good news…  On May 23, the PA Game Commission and PennDOT used the bucket truck to search for the peregrines’ nest at the McKees Rocks Bridge. Despite their efforts they were unable to locate the nest because the peregrines defended an inaccessible area. They confirmed that the female is unbanded while the male is still Bravo (V over H (blk/green)) from Cleveland’s Terminal Tower in 1999, son of Zenith and Bullet. He was first recorded at McKees Rocks in 2008. This year he’s 15 years old. His unbanded mate indicates that female peregrines from remote sites (or perhaps from man-made inaccessible sites) are finding homes in Pittsburgh.


Neville Island I-79 Bridge:

Magnum walks the I-beam toward her nest (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Magnum near her nest at Neville I-79 Bridge, 25 May 2014 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

At the Neville Island I-79 Bridge one female chick is getting ready to fledge.  She was 22 days old when banded on May 28 so she’ll probably fly June 14-19.  The nest location makes for an easy Fledge Watch so stay tuned for dates, times and directions. The Watch will probably begin on Friday, June 13th — perhaps sooner! Pittsburgh Falconuts, look for news from Anne Marie Bosnyak.


Monaca East Rochester Bridge:

Female peregrine at Monaca-East-Rochester Bridge, 2012 (photo by Steve Leiendecker)

Female peregrine at Monaca-East-Rochester Bridge, 2012 (photo by Steve Leiendecker)

Four chicks — three females and one male — were banded at the Monaca-East Rochester Bridge on May 21 at 18 days old.  They will probably fledge from June 11 to 16.  Start watching on June 10 (or earlier!) and you’ll see lots of activity beneath the bridge.  It’s easy to see the bridge from the community park on the Monaca downriver side.  Keep an eye out for the mother peregrine!  I hear she is very fierce.


(photo credits are in the captions except for: Westinghouse Bridge photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress and Gulf Tower juvenile at the nest from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

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Jun 01 2014

News From Gulf Peregrine Fledge Watch

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch, 31 Mat 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

An enthusiastic crowd of seven watched seven peregrines yesterday afternoon at Flag Plaza.  To beat the heat we stayed in the shade.

The view from the plaza takes in all the key buildings where Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrines hang out plus a lot of airspace nearby.

The Fledge Watch view from Flag Plaza (photo by Kate St. John)


We saw all five juveniles — three at the nest zone and two on the Gulf Tower pyramid roof.  From their behavior we surmised that:

  • Two have fledged.  Last night we saw a juvenile fly around the roof of the U.S. Steel Tower and another on the stone “ball” on top of Gulf’s pyramid.  Two juveniles spent this afternoon on the pyramid steps — probably the same two.
  • Three juveniles spent all day at the nest zone but often out of webcam view.  They use adjacent ledges (same floor) to make short practice flights from pillar to pillar.  If you’re watching on the Internet you think they’re gone.  Nope!
  • All five juveniles did some energetic flapping.  We saw one fly when Dori stopped by the pyramid with a treat.
  • Louie and Dori perch on the high corners of the U.S. Steel Tower (UPMC) to watch their “kids.”  At one point both peregrine parents were on U.S.Steel and the five juvies were in view on Gulf.  The entire peregrine family!

When peregrine watching was dull, local wildlife caught our attention including: a male American kestrel, a northern mockingbird, chimney swifts, northern rough-winged swallows, American robins, common grackles, a yellow warbler, house finches, song sparrows, house sparrows, and European starlings.  And we saw a groundhog climb a tree by the parking lot!  Going up was easy for this large rodent.  Down was a stumble.

Groundhog in a tree at Flag Plaza, 31 May 2014 (photo by Kate St.John)


Flag Plaza has lots of free parking and a good view of seven peregrines.  Come on down today, June 1, noon to 4:00pm.  Click here for directions.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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May 30 2014

Reminder: Gulf Fledge Watch This Weekend

Third peregrine chick about to take off, 6:30am May 30 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Join us at Flag Plaza above Downtown Pittsburgh to watch the Gulf Tower peregrines fledge.  We’ve added an hour this evening because we know that 3 of them have already fledged.  (The one that’s flapping took off just after this snapshot!)

  • TODAY May 30, 7:00pm-8:00pm.
  • Saturday May 31, noon to 4:00pm
  • Sunday June 1, noon to 4:00pm.

Click here for more information and directions.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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May 30 2014

Neville Island Peregrine News

Published by under Peregrines

Male peregrine at Neville Island I-79 shouts as Dan Brauning takes his picture (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Frozen in time, the female peregrine at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge shouts at the PA Game Commission’s Tom Keller and Patti Barber as they arrive to band his nestling on Wednesday May 28.  Patti took his picture.  This male is banded!  We won’t know his identity until Patti’s photo tells the tale.

I was out of town Wednesday morning and missed the excitement.  Anne Marie Bosnyak, Peter Bell, and Laura Marshall observed the banding from nearby.  While we wait for official news from the Game Commission, here’s what we know so far.

Based on Anne Marie’s close observations, we think incubation began on April 1.  Hatching probably occurred on May 6 when Anne Marie watched the male bring food into the nest and then bring it back out when the female — still in the nest — told him “Not yet.”  On May 25 Anne Marie used her new camera (yay!) to confirm that the female is still Magnum, hatched in 2010 at Canton, Ohio.

Below, Magnum walks the girder to the nest hole on May 25.  The floor of the nest is that plate with many rivets.
Magnum walks the I-beam toward her nest, Neville I-79 Bridge (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Thanks to PennDOT’s assistance, Patti and Tom got access to the site on Wednesday at 9:00am.  To everyone’s surprise, Magnum stayed in the nest while the male flew around and shouted.  (Typically the female attacks while the male stays back.)  PGC found only one chick in the nest, a female, plus some unhatched eggs which they took for testing.

Here Tom Keller holds the chick for banding.

Tom Keller holds the female chick at Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Congratulations to Magnum and her mate whose chick will fledge June 14-19.

Meanwhile we look forward to hearing of her father’s identity.


(photos by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

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