Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

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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May 29 2014

Gulf Tower Fledgling Visits Liberty Center

Published by under Peregrines

@PondLadyDi had a visitor outside her office this afternoon! Here are two tweets I received with pictures of one of the Gulf Tower fledglings.

Liberty Center, at 1001 Liberty Avenue, is almost due north of the Gulf Tower with a clear view of the nest.

Peregrine fledgling at Liberty Center (photo and Tweet from @PondLadyDi)

Gulf Tower fledgling at Liberty Center (photo by @PondLadyDi)

He looks as if he landed in a puddle but he was able to navigate and leave the railing.

(photos snapped by D Schaub a.k.a. @PondLadyDi)


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May 23 2014

Two At Tarentum

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine chick, Tarentum Bridge, 22 May 2014 (photo by Sean Dicer)

Peregrine chick, Tarentum Bridge, 22 May 2014 (photo by Sean Dicer)

A small, enthusiastic crowd was on hand yesterday morning for the peregrine banding at the Tarentum Bridge, rewarded by close looks — and photos — of the two peregrine chicks: one male and one female.

The event began at the boat launch parking lot where viewers watched as the PA Game Commission’s Dan Brauning and Tom Keller and the PennDOT crew swung the bucket under the bridge to the nest hole on the main-channel arch.  We knew the nest location because Rob Protz, myself, and others had seen juvenile peregrines peeking from the hole.

PennDOT bucket approaches the nest hole, 22 May 2014 (photo by Mike Fialkovich)

PennDOT bucket approaches the nest hole, 22 May 2014 (photo by Mike Fialkovich)

The adult peregrines attacked but could not deter the banders.  However, when the bucket got to the nest hole the two chicks were huddled far inside out of reach.  Tom Keller crawled into the hole!  Look at him stand on the bucket edge before he disappeared inside!  Yow!

PGC Wildlife Biologist Tom Keller disappears into the peregrines' nest hole, Banding Day Tarentum, 22 May 2014 (photo by John English)

PGC Wildlife Biologist Tom Keller disappears into the peregrines’ nest hole, Banding Day Tarentum, 22 May 2014 (photo by John English)

Tom retrieved the chicks and the bucket swung up to the sidewalk to weigh and band them.  The crowd joined to watch.

Tom Keller, left, and Dan Brauning, right, band peregrine chicks at Tarentum Bridge, 22 May 2014 (photo by Mike Fialkovich)

Tom Keller and Dan Brauning band a peregrine chick at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Mike Fialkovich)

Each chick received two bands: US Fish & Wildlife on the right leg, color band on the left leg.  Here, Dan Brauning crimps the silver USFW band.

USFW band on Tarentum peregrine chick (photo by Sean Dicer)

USFW band on Tarentum peregrine chick (photo by Sean Dicer)


Dan estimated the chicks were 35 days old yesterday — only four to nine days away from first flight.  Rather then put them back in the nest hole, exposed over open water, Dan wet them down (to keep them from trying to fly right away) and placed them on the mid-river bridge pier where there’s a good “runway” for take off.

Stop by the Tarentum Bridge soon to watch these young peregrines.  They’ll be making their first flight some time between Memorial Day and the end of the month.

Peregrine chick banded at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Sean Dicer)

Peregrine chick banded at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Sean Dicer)

Let the fun begin!

(Thanks to photographers Sean Dicer, Mike Fialkovich and John English for generously lending their photos)

p.s. Click here for Mary Ann Thomas’ report at Alle-Kiski TRIBlive

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May 22 2014

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch: May 31, June 1

Published by under Peregrines

Location of Flag Plaza (via John Enlgish on Pittsburgh Faclonuts Facebook page) I don’t know about you but without a successful nest at Pitt this spring I’m starved for a Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza.  It’s always been a great time to get together and indulge our passion for peregrines.

With that in mind, Pittsburgh Falconut John English and I are going to hold a Gulf Tower Fledge Watch at Flag Plaza on Saturday May 31 and Sunday June 1.

My “guess-timate” is that the Gulf Tower chicks will fledge between May 29 and June 3 with the most exciting activity on Sunday June 1.

Where: Flag Plaza (Boy Scouts building), 1275 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
When:  Saturday May 31 & Sunday June 1, noon to 4:00pm, weather permitting.

John or I (or both of us) will be on site during those times — though not if it’s raining or stormy.

Come for as little or as long as you’d like.  Bring binoculars if you have them.

Hope to see you there!

Please leave a comment below if you plan to come.

(map from John English via Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page)

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May 22 2014

Peregrine News: Monaca and Westinghouse

Published by under Peregrines

Monaca East Rochester Bridge, 2012(photo by PGC WCO Steve Leiendecker)

Monaca East Rochester Bridge:

With thunderstorms predicted yesterday (they never happened) the peregrine bandings at Tarentum and McKees Rocks Bridges were postponed.   Instead, the PA Game Commission’s Dan Brauning and Tom Keller went to the Ohio River in Beaver County to the Monaca East Rochester Bridge pictured above.

Last year this peregrine pair nested on the huge inaccessible Monaca-to-Beaver railroad bridge.  No one could tell if the nest was successful. This year they appeared to have come home so Dan and Tom investigated.  Dan wrote on May 21:

Tom Keller, I, and a team from PennDOT accessed the bridge this morning, and found 4 healthy chicks, 1 male and 3 females. The birds are about 18 days old today.

The adult female is an extraordinarily aggressive bird, hitting every one of us during our visit under the bridge.  She is the same female as was previously observed there — 75/Y, from Harrisburg.  If you know Tom, ask him about his new scar.  The male never came close.

Local observers that could be on the lookout for fledging in about 25 days would be appreciated.  The nest is far out over water, about 3 bays out from the pier on the Monaca side of the river.  The young should be able to get onto the catwalk, and therefore have good prospects for developing strongly before fledging.

Here’s a photo of this amazingly aggressive mother peregrine, 75/Y, taken on banding day in 2012 by Game Commission WCO Steve Leiendecker before she attacked him.  She never gives up.
Female peregrine at Monaca-East-Rochester Bridge, 2012 (photo by Steve Leiendecker)

If you’re in the Monaca area, start monitoring this bridge on June 11 for fledging activity (that’s four days ahead of “25 days”).


Westinghouse Bridge:

Westinghouse Bridge with PennDOT bucket truck about to look for peregrines' nest (photo by John English)
Tuesday afternoon, after the Gulf Tower banding, Dan and Tom went to the Westinghouse Bridge where a peregrine pair has been active for several years.

Using the bucket truck they looked for signs of a nest under the bridge while John English took photos from below.

PGC & PennDOT look for the peregrines' nest at the Westinghouse Bridge, 20 May 2014 (photo by John English)

The male was present but no female came out to “kak” and attack.

Male peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge (photo by John English)

Surprisingly, she was still incubating three eggs.  This is a late nest, perhaps a renesting after a territorial fight between males.  The female is still Hecla (68/H) from Ohio’s Ironton-Russleton Bridge 2009, resident since 2012.

If you’re in the vicinity of East Pittsburgh/North Versailles, please check under this bridge for peregrine activity.  There’s no way we’ll know if the nest is successful without some watchful eyes below.


(Monaca photos from May 2012 by WCO Steve Leiendecker, PA Game Commission. Westinghouse photos by John English)

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May 21 2014

Fledge Watch Coming Soon!

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrine chick on Banding Day, 20 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Today the three oldest Gulf Tower peregrine chicks are 31 days old.  Click on the photo above for a slideshow of yesterday’s banding event and you’ll see that a few of the five chicks are brown while at least one is quite downy.  They grow up fast!

I’ve tracked Pittsburgh peregrine fledge dates for many years and if my records are any indication the Gulf Tower chicks will fledge at 39 to 44 days.  That’s next Thursday, May 29 through Tuesday, June 3.   I could be wrong. They might be earlier or later…

Pittsburgh Falconut John English and I will organize a Gulf Tower Fledge Watch for next week — dates and times to be announced.  Here’s the view John had from Flag Plaza during yesterday’s banding.  (Notice Dori flying in to attack the banders!)  As at the Cathedral of Learning we’ll have a good long view to see all the action.

Dori flies in to attack the banders at Gulf Tower (view from Flag Plaza by John English)

Check back here or on Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page for Gulf Tower Fledge Watch dates and times.  Coming soon!

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Click here for KDKA’s news of the Banding Event.

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May 20 2014

Two Males, One Female and Two …?

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine chick from the Gulf Tower nest, Banding Day, 20 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Today’s peregrine banding at the Gulf Tower was a happy return to Pittsburgh’s first nest site. Peregrines nested there continuously from 1991 to 2011 but left it in 2012 and 2013 while workmen were installing the new lighting scheme on the roof.

After two years on a short building Dori and Louie came back to the 37th floor and so did Dan Brauning, PA Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Chief, and Tom Keller, PGC biologist.  Dori remembered the routine and was on guard as soon as Gulf Tower Maintenance popped open the access window.  She’s seen this before!

Dori waits to defend her chicks against the banders (photo by Kate St. John)

Dan and Tom carefully went out on the ledge.  Not only is it a sheer drop to the street but Dori and Louie attacked while the men very gently collected the chicks.

Dori strafes Tom Keller (photo by Kate St. John)

Indoors all five chicks passed their physical exam with flying colors but it was hard to sex them by weight. At 28-30 days old there was one obvious female, two males, and two others on the weight borderline between male and female designation. Dan gave them female bands and listed them as “unknown.” We’ll certainly find out what sex they are when they nest.

Three Gulf Tower chicks after banding (photo by Kate St. John)

The “kids” were back in the nest in no time, had a quick snack and fell asleep.  The excitement was so much for them that they slept for several hours … like babies.  :)


I’ll be putting my best photos into a slideshow soon.  Watch this space for more!


(photos by Kate St. John)

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May 19 2014

In For A Surprise

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrine chicks, 17 May 2014 (photo from the National Avairy falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Pittsburgh’s peregrine falcon chicks are in for a surprise this week (and next).  Dan Brauning and Tom Keller are coming to town.

Dan Brauning, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Diversity Chief, and PGC wildlife biologist Tom Keller will visit six of Pittsburgh’s eight peregrine nest sites to band the chicks.  At each site they’ll walk and reach into dangerous high places, collect the chicks, weigh and band them and return them to the nest.

You’re welcome to observe from nearby. Bring binoculars and a camera and you might get a good snapshot of the adults’ bands.  At the bridge sites it’s the only way we find out who’s nesting there.

Tuesday, May 20:

  • Gulf Tower, 9:00am:  Watch the webcam just after 9:00am and you’ll see the “kids” cluster at the back of the nestbox while their parents scream, swoop and attack.  The banding won’t last long so tune in early or meet Pittsburgh Falconut John English before 9:00am at Flag Plaza, 1275 Bedford Avenue, where there’s an eye-level view of the Gulf Tower nest area.
  • Westinghouse Bridge, 12:30pm:  For the banders this will be a two step process: walk the catwalk to find the nest then use the snooper crane to access it.  Meet John English at noon at Wendy’s on Route 30 in North Versailles and he’ll guide you to a viewing spot below the bridge.  He’ll be wearing his peregrine ballcap and binoculars so you can’t miss him.

UPDATE!! Predicted thunderstorms have rescheduled the Wednesday and Thursday bandings. They will be on …

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Wednesday, May 21:

  • Monaca/East Rochester Bridge, 9:00am. We’re not sure if the peregrines chose this bridge or the large railroad bridge this spring. If they chose Monaca/East Rochester, it will become clear right after 9:00am when they raise a fuss. If so, viewing may be good from the community ballpark on the Monaca side.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Thursday, May 22:

  • Tarentum Bridge, 8:30am.  Meet Rob Protz at the Tarentum public boat launch under the bridge.  If you’re coming from Route 28, take the First Avenue exit from the bridge ramp and it’ll put you right there.  Expect a small crowd with cameras and binoculars.  You can’t miss it.
  • McKees Rocks Bridge, after the Tarentum banding.  This one is hard to view because the bridge is huge and the banders aren’t sure where the nest is.  There are no viewing plans (that I know of) because we won’t know where to stand until the nest is found.

Wednesday, May 28:

  • Glenfield-Neville Island I-79 Bridge over the Ohio River, 9:00am.  Meet at the west end of the Fairfield Inn and Suites parking lot on Grand Avenue on Neville Island. This is the end of the bridge where the nest is located. See the comments below for more information from Anne Marie Bosnyak.

What about the nests at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning and the Green Tree water tower?

  • Cathedral of Learning:  As we know from watching the webcam, Dorothy and E2 have only one egg and they’ve never incubated.  Some time this week the Game Commission will collect the egg and test it for fertility, etc.  Don’t be surprised when it’s gone.
  • At the Green Tree water tower the pair is present but has never incubated so there’s no reason to visit the site this year.

If you take photos at one of the bandings, let me know and I’ll post them with news.  Leave a comment to alert me.


(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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May 12 2014

Start Late, Finish Early

Gulf Tower chicks eat dinner, 6 May 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

With two Pittsburgh raptor nests on camera we’re able to watch the nest cycle differences between peregrine falcons and bald eagles.  A big difference is timing: Peregrines nest later but they finish earlier.  We’re about to see that unfold.

Back in March it felt like peregrine egg laying was “late” because the Hays bald eagles had been incubating for two and a half weeks before Dori laid her first egg at the Gulf Tower.  In fact Dori was early, even by her own standards.  We just didn’t realize how much earlier bald eagles begin.

On May 6 (above) the peregrine nestlings were still developmentally behind the eaglets.  They weren’t very mobile and were still covered in fluffy white down with no apparent flight or facial feathers. They looked like babies.

On that same day the eaglets had been mobile for two weeks, had already grown some head and body feathers and had started to grow flight feathers.  They already looked like eagles (below).  PixController’s YouTube video of the bald eagles’ growth in April shows how they got to this stage.

Pittsburgh Hays eaglets, 6 May 2014 (photo from the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam by PixController)


Despite their late start the Gulf Tower peregrine chicks are about to surpass the Hays bald eagles.  The table below shows they’ll depart their nest two+ weeks before the eaglets.  The peregrine fledglings will fly right away (departing a cliff nest requires flight) while the eaglets will likely flutter from their tree to lower vegetation or the ground where they may wait 1-3 weeks before flying again.

Keep in mind that fledge dates are just estimates.  Young birds learn to fly on their own schedule.


____________ 1st Egg Hatch 1st Flight/Nest Departure
Gulf Peregrines 3/10 4/20-4/23 5/28-6/02 (5.5 wks)
Hays Eagles 2/20 3/28-4/02 6/16-6/28 (11-12 wks)



Start late, finish early.  Peregrines are faster than eagles in everything they do.


(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower and the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam via PixController)


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