Apr 09 2015

Four Eggs!

Dorothy incubating after laying her 4th egg (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

At 2:02pm Dorothy laid her fourth egg.

She looks tired. Now she can rest!

 

LATER:  Here’s the entire Pitt peregrine family at 4:39PM.

E2 inspects the 4 eggs as he relieves Dorothy in incubation (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at University of Pittsburgh)

E2 inspects the four eggs when he comes to relieve Dorothy (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at University of Pittsburgh)

 

(photos from the National Aviary snapshot cam at University of Pittsburgh)

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Apr 09 2015

Location, Location, Location: PBS NATURE April 15


Last night we learned about nests on PBS NATURE‘s Animal Homes.  Next Wednesday Episode 2 will take us inside bird and mammal homes chosen for their prime locations.  Tune in at 8:00pm EDT to learn:

  • When beavers hear running water they feel compelled to build. Once started they alter the landscape and never stop improving their dams, canals, lodges and storage facilities.  Did you know they move rocks?
  • Hooded mergansers nest in hollow trees 50 feet above the forest floor.  When the “kids” leave the nest, watch out below!
  • Find out why eastern woodrats are called “packrats.”
  • Learn that the safest place to build a black-chinned hummingbird nest is near the ultimate enemy.
  • Visit a bear den in the Allegheny Mountains of Garrett County while Maryland DNR tags a black bear mother with four cubs.  How do you keep bear cubs warm while their mother is “out cold?”  Cuddle them!

Watch Animal Homes: Location, Location, Location on PBS NATURE, April 15 at 8:00pm EDT.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(video from PBS Nature, Animal Homes Episode 2, Location, Location, Location)

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Apr 08 2015

Peregrines Around Town

Though all eyes are on Dorothy and E2 at the Cathedral of Learning, there are up to 10 other peregrine sites in the Pittsburgh area. Here’s all the news.

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh:

Dorothy incubating her eggs, 8 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at University of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy incubating her eggs on a gray morning, 8 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at University of Pittsburgh)

The Big Sit begins:  Except for a few standing-up moments, it appears Dorothy began incubation yesterday so we can expect her eggs to hatch around May 10 if they are viable.   In the meantime she’s now a media star for having laid three eggs at age 16 after her egg bound episode last spring.  Click on these links to read about her third egg, learn what egg bound means, and why those of us who know her can see that she’s showing her age.

 

Westinghouse Bridge:

Peregrine falcon, Hecla, at the Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Hecla at the Westinghouse Bridge, 4 April 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Peregrines have nested at the Westinghouse Bridge since at least 2010 but can be hard to find.  Volunteer monitor John English solved this problem by introducing local peregrine fans to the site — and they have helped.  Dana Nesiti photographed the female on April 4 and confirmed she’s still Hecla, born at the Ironton-Russelton Bridge, Ohio in 2009.  Then on April 6 Dave Kerr heard a peregrine calling and watched as it presented prey to Hecla on the catwalk.  The nature of that exchange indicates she’s on eggs.  Yay!

 

I-79 Neville Island Bridge:

Magnum at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

Magnum at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge, 4 April 2015 (photo by Anne Marie Bosnyak)

In 2012 we learned that peregrines were nesting at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge when one of their young was found swimming in the Ohio River.  Last year a similar mishap probably killed their lone nestling who went missing after a bad storm.  But, so far so good this year.  Anne Marie Bosnyak has seen the pair calling, mating, and exchanging prey and their behavior now indicates they are probably incubating eggs.  Anne Marie confirmed that the female is Magnum, hatched at Bank One, Canton, Ohio in 2010.  The male is still unidentified.

 

Tarentum Bridge:

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

Hope at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Steve Gosser)

Hope from Hopewell, Virginia (2008) has made the Tarentum Bridge her home since 2010.  Rob Protz checks on her every week — sometimes several times a day — but she is quite skilled at avoiding detection. Rob saw her eating prey on Easter Day but he couldn’t see where she went when she flew under the New Kensington side of the bridge.  Last year’s nest site was so inaccessible that the PA Game Commission installed a nestbox for her this winter.  She doesn’t seem to be using it yet.

 

Elizabeth Bridge: NEW SITE?

One of two peregrines on the Elizabeth Bridge, 26 March 2015 (photo by Jim Hausman)

One of two peregrines on the Elizabeth Bridge, 26 March 2015 (photo by Jim Hausman)

Imagine Jim Hausman’s surprise when he examined his photos of a peregrine on the Elizabeth Bridge and found out there were actually two!   This bridge over the Monongahela River hasn’t been on our radar as a peregrine nest site but now it is.  Jim keeps checking but hasn’t seen any peregrines there again.  However, these birds are notoriously sneaky when they’re nesting so they might be at the Elizabeth Bridge, just keeping a low profile.  If so, this site would be the ninth location in our metro area.

 

Downtown Pittsburgh:

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

The Downtown peregrines are nesting somewhere but not at Gulf (photo from the Gulf Tower falconcam)

Speaking of sneaky peregrines, the downtown peregrines have abandoned the Gulf Tower again but are still nesting in the city center. At Peregrine Quest on March 22 we saw peregrines Downtown, could tell by their behavior that they were probably nesting, but did not get a hint at their nest location.  Later Heather Jacoby made several trips to their last known sighting — 9th Street at Liberty Avenue — but came up empty though she saw them flying by. The pair is Downtown but they’re not letting us know where.  If you see them, please leave a comment to let us know!

 

 

Highland Park area: Solo Peregrine

Peregrine in Highland Park ,March 2015 (photo by Maury Burgwin)

Peregrine in Highland Park, March 2015 (photo by Maury Burgwin)

For a week in mid-March, Maury Burgwin saw and photographed this peregrine in the Highland Park area.  If it had stayed in Pittsburgh it could have made a tenth peregrine site, but it was alone and it hasn’t been seen lately.  Perhaps it moved on.

And finally, these three sites are mysteries:

  • On March 30 Leslie Ferree saw a possibly immature peregrine at the McKees Rocks Bridge where peregrines have been known to nest for many years.
  • The peregrine pair at Monaca, Beaver County have moved to the inaccessible railroad bridge instead of using the easy-to-monitor Monaca-East Rochester Bridge.  Extremely sneaky!
  • And, though nesting was attempted in 2013, there are no peregrines at the Green Tree water tower this year.  None at all.

 

(photo credits:
Cathedral of Learning: Dorothy and 3 eggs from the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh. Click on the image to watch the live feed.
Westinghouse Bridge: peregrine female, Hecla, by Dana Nesiti
I-79 Neville Island: peregrine female, Magnum, by Anne Marie Bosnyak
Tarentum Bridge: peregrine female, Hope, by Steve Gosser
Elizabeth Bridge: unidentified peregrine by Jim Hausman
Highland Park area: unidentified peregrine photographed by Maury Burgwin
)

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Apr 07 2015

Three Eggs!

Published by under Peregrines

Three eggs as of 7 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Three eggs at the Cathedral of Learning as of 7 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy laid her third egg this morning at 4:04am. In this snapshot, she’s leaving to eat breakfast.

She paused on the front perch …

Dorothy with her three eggs, 7 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy with her three eggs, 7 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

…and E2 came into the picture to cover the eggs.

E2 on the nest while Dorothy eats breakfast, 7 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

E2 on the nest while Dorothy eats breakfast, 7 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

 

At 16 years old, every egg is a miracle for this matriarch peregrine falcon. Her second egg on April 4 spawned a follow-up Post-Gazette article and a video on KDKA.  Her celebrity is growing.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh.  Click on the image to watch the live feed)

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Apr 06 2015

Yellow Throats and Bloodroot: What to Expect in April

Published by under Phenology

Yellow-throated warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

Yellow-throated warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

Spring is off to a slow start this year.  Last month I predicted coltsfoot would bloom in March but it didn’t appear in Schenley Park until April 4.  Since the city is always warmer than the countryside I’m sure many of you are still waiting for coltsfoot.

Despite my poor March prediction I’m going to make one for April.  Maybe spring will “catch up” this month.  If so, you can expect to find…

  • The earliest warblers arrive in early to mid April before the leaves open.  Look for yellow-throated warblers and Louisiana waterthrushes along the streams and creeks.  Yellow-throats walk the high trunks and larger branches of sycamores.  Louisiana waterthrushes walk the stream edges bobbing their tails.  Both sing loudly to be heard over the sound of rushing water.
  • The purple martin scouts are back.  Very soon, perhaps today, the swallows will return — tree, northern rough-winged, and barn.  By end of April we’ll have gray catbirds, blue-gray gnatcatchers, ruby-crowned kinglets, and hints of the big migration in May.
  • April is woodland wildflower time.  Walk in the woods to see bloodroot, spicebush, spring beauties, hepatica, harbinger-of-spring, spring cress, twinleaf, violets and more.  The bees and flies are out visiting the flowers.
  • Pollen counts will rise by the end of the month when the tree flowers bloom.  Those that rely on wind pollination (oaks and pines, for instance) will make allergic folks miserable but all of us will enjoy the downy serviceberries and flowering cherries.

Here’s a taste of Spring to come.

Bloodroot blooming at Cedar Creek Park, Westmoreland County, 19 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bloodroot at Cedar Creek Park, Westmoreland County, 19 April 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Spicebush in bloom, Schenley Park 2013 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spicebush in Schenley Park, 13 April 2013 (photo by Kate St. John)

It’s a good month to be outdoors.

 

(photo credits: Yellow-throated warbler by Steve Gosser.  Bloodroot and spicebush by Kate St. John)

p.s. Yellow-throated warblers are southern birds that are expanding their range northward. They’re in southwestern PA but not northern … yet.

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Apr 05 2015

Two Eggs!

Dorothy with 2 eggs, 4 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy with 2 eggs, 4 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Yesterday morning Dorothy made news in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with an article about her miracle egg, laid at age 16 (click here to read).

Then yesterday afternoon at 3:33pm she performed another miracle and laid a second egg.

A year ago on this date she was recovering from being egg bound on egg#2 so she’s already doing better this year than last. Definitely a healthy sign.

Last evening I saw Dorothy shake open her brood patch and warm the eggs but …

Dorothy incubating 2 eggs, 4 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy appears to be incubating at 6:42pm … (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

… this was not the start of incubation.  It was only a temporary warming.  As you can see from this overnight footage she isn’t incubating yet.

Not incubating yet, 1:39am, 5 April 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy roosting near her two eggs, 5 April 2015, 1:39am  (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Peregrines begin incubation after the female lays her next-to-last egg.  Technically the eggs hatch in 32 days but it’s hard to tell when incubation begins.  (The textbooks used to say 33-35 days. )

Delayed incubation results in synchronous hatching.  All the peregrine eggs hatch on the same day (except for the one laid after incubation began) and all the chicks are the same age.  Peregrine nestlings do not compete with each other for food like bald eaglets do.  There is no danger of siblicide.

The fact that she isn’t incubating means Dorothy thinks there’s another egg in her but we don’t know how many.  We have no hatch date estimate yet.

 

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

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Apr 04 2015

The Sound Of Peepers and Woods

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Last Tuesday afternoon the frogs at Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Reserve in Beaver County, PA were singing up a storm so I recorded them with my cell phone.

The loud peeps or “crrrreeeep” sounds are spring peepers.  The low mutterings or quackings are wood frogs.

There are so many wood frogs in this audio that you can’t hear individuals.  There are so few spring peepers that you can hear each one.  There might be more species here but I don’t have the ear to hear them.

Check out this list of western Pennsylvania frogs for more possibilities.

 

(video recorded on March 31, 2015 by Kate St. John)

 

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Apr 03 2015

I See Change

Leaves unfurling weeks ahead of schedule, 25 March 2012 (photo by Kate St. John)

Leaves unfurling, 25 March 2012 (photo by Kate St. John)

On a global scale, 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded but climate change is complicated on the local level.  In Pittsburgh we’ve changed into yo-yo extremes.

Pittsburgh’s last two winters were colder than normal but three years ago it was really hot.  Spring came six weeks late in 2014 and six weeks early in 2012.   This photo of leaves opening on March 25, 2012 is impossible during this year’s cold spring.

I noticed the changes in 2012 but wouldn’t have remembered them if I hadn’t taken a picture.  That’s the beauty of keeping a nature journal and it caught the attention of climate journalist Julia Kumari Drapkin.  She noticed that local experience of climate change is ahead of the science curve and often raises interesting questions so she decided to flip the typical reporting model and founded the iSeeChange crowd-sourced almanac.  Everyday observations and questions now become radio stories.

Fast forward to 2015 and iSeeChange has radio partners across the U.S. and in Africa.  The Allegheny Front joined last month so now western Pennsylvanians can record what we see and ask questions about what’s going on in our area.

Last month I signed up for iSeeChange as a quick way to record the signs of spring.  In Pittsburgh it’s been cold and variable (click here for the Allegheny Front’s story) but the weather’s different out West.  Colorado is hot and already has mosquitoes!

You can contribute, too.  As Julia says, “Everyone’s an expert in his own backyard.”  Click here to join the iSeeChange almanac.

Post your observations. Upload photos and sound clips. Ask about what puzzles you.

Outdoor changes are always interesting.  Maybe yours will be on the radio.

 

Listen to The Allegheny Front in Pittsburgh on WESA-FM 90.5 every Saturday at 7:30am and on other stations in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia at the times listed here.  You can also listen any time online at The Allegheny Front.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Apr 02 2015

Learn About Nests on PBS NATURE, April 8

Just in time for nesting season PBS NATURE premieres their three-part series Animal Homes.  Episode 1 on April 8th is devoted to Nests.

Using time lapse photography, infrared light and tiny HD cameras, the producers got up close and personal during all the stages of nest building.  The Anna’s hummingbird above is just a taste of the beautiful footage and intimate looks at the birds.

Each nest is custom made.  The wonder is that strong, resilient, and intricate nests are woven out of grass and twigs using only a beak.  And some build with mud, sticks or merely leaves:

  • Red ovenbirds (rufous hornero) of South America build an oven-shaped nest entirely of mud with an amazing internal baffle that forces them to squeeze in sideways.  Watch what they do when the cowbirds come.
  • A male osprey attracts a mate while he builds a 400-pound nest from scratch, stick by enormous stick!
  • Male Australian brush turkeys build compost heaps of leaves where multiple females deposit their eggs, as many as 50 eggs per heap.  It doesn’t matter whose kids they are.  The “kids” are self sufficient when they hatch.
  • Chalk-browed mockingbirds battle shiny cowbirds at the nest and sometimes win.

And if you bird by ear, don’t just “watch” the show.  Listen, too!  There’s a message in the soundtrack, the song of a familiar North American bird whose name is a nod to the name of the program.  I thought its voice was misplaced in the South American footage until I read on Wikipedia that “It occurs from Canada to southernmost South America and is thus the most widely distributed bird in the Americas.”

Very cool, PBS NATURE!  I learn something new every day.

Watch Animal Homes: Nests on PBS NATURE, April 8 at 8:00pm EDT.  In Pittsburgh it’s on WQED.

 

(video from PBS NATURE)

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Apr 02 2015

Dorothy Laid An Egg

Dorothy inspects her egg, 2 April 2015, 6:41am (snapshot from the Naitonal Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy laid her first egg of 2015 this morning at 6:41 am at the Cathedral of Learning.

At 16 years old she is elderly for a peregrine falcon, so every egg is a miracle.  This is her latest ever first egg date.  In her prime, she always laid in mid March.

Shortly after laying the egg, she called E2 and he came to see.

Dorothy and E2 discuss the first egg (photo from teh National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

7:52am:  E2 brought breakfast for Dorothy. After she left to eat he zoomed in to guard the egg.

E2 arrives to guard the egg (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam ay University of Pittsburgh)

 

And here’s a video of the egg laying, thanks to Bill Powers at PixController. There is no color in the video because it happened just before dawn.

Watch Dorothy and E2 here on the National Aviary falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.

If you’re new to peregrines, click here for information on their nesting habits.  Learn about the color of their eggs and their strategy for incubation.

 

(snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning)

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