Jul 18 2014

Cute Gray Kits

Published by under Mammals

Gray fox kits, Allegheny County, June 2014 (image from Tana A's video)

Last month when I wrote about red fox kits in Calgary, Tana left a comment that she had gray fox kits in her suburban backyard north of Pittsburgh!  Her discovery is especially cool because gray foxes are said to be less tolerant of civilization than red ones.

Filming from her upstairs window, Tana captured the gray fox family on video on June 21.  The screenshot above shows only four but click on it to watch the entire 16 minutes and you’ll see seven!  Don’t forget to read her description below the video for the background story.

Meanwhile here are some cool facts about gray foxes:

  • Unlike the red fox, which was imported around 1750 for the fox hunt sport, the gray fox is an expert at climbing trees.  It easily shinnies up trees and nimbly jumps from branch to branch.
  • Gray foxes eat the same foods as red foxes but make their home in deciduous forests with rocky, brushy terrain while the red fox prefers old fields and rolling farmland.
  • Gray foxes are monogamous and pair for life.  Both parents raise the family of 4-6 kits during the spring and summer.  (Seven is a big litter!)
  • The family group stays together until the juveniles disperse in late fall. The youngsters may later make their home as much as 52 miles away from their birthplace.
  • Predators of the gray fox include humans (people hunt them), great horned owls, domestic dogs and sometimes coyotes. Unfortunately vehicles kill them, too.

Tana was lucky to see the kits.  Within days their parents taught them to conceal themselves as they move about.  She only gets an occasional glimpse at dusk or hears a parent make a warning bark.

What a privilege to see them.  So cute!

 

(screenshot from video by Tana on YouTube)

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Jul 17 2014

TBT: New Tenants?

Pigeon at the Pitt nest box, 21 June 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On Throw Back Thursday (TBT), a 2014 replay of something that’s happened only three other times since 2008…

Word must have gotten out that the Pitt peregrine nestbox wasn’t used much this spring. Some surprising new tenants stopped by last month.

On June 21 a pair of pigeons inspected the site for three hours.

“Wow, honey!  Look at this perfect location.  I’ve heard it’s dangerous up here but this area looks completely safe.  What a cool place to nest.  We could move in immediately!”

Pigeons at the Pitt peregrine nest, 21 June 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

After three hours they began to wonder… “Did you hear something? I have a creepy feeling we’re in danger.”

Cathedral of Learning pigeons on alert (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

The pigeons never moved in.  ;)

 

Click here for a story about pigeon nest-shoppers in 2008.

 

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

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Jul 16 2014

Bridge Gone, But Not Its Peregrines

Published by under Peregrines

I-90 Inner Loop Bridge demolished in Cleveland, Ohio, 12 July 2014 (screenshot from cleveland.com video)

(screenshot from cleveland.com)

 

Perhaps you saw the news Dick Rhoton sent me of the I-90 Inner Belt Bridge demolition in Cleveland last Saturday, but you might not have realized its significance to birds.

The bridge is gone, but not its peregrines.

The old span, built in 1959, was home to a pair of peregrines for all their productive years but was also rusty, corroded and becoming dangerous.  Pictured below on a foggy day in a 2012 by Chad+Chris Saladin, you can see a pier of the new I-90 bridge being built to its right.   The new span is finished now, carrying traffic in both directions while it waits for the eastbound lanes to go up where the old bridge stood.

Underside of old I-90 Inner Loop span in 2012 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Though a nest box was provided on the new span, Newt and Bolt chose the old bridge as usual this year and raised one juvenile who fledged at the end of June — all this despite the fact that demolition contractors were taking apart the bridge around them.   By the time of the final implosion, their home was a gap-toothed structure with four of its five spans already gone.

Here’s a photo of the nest site in 2012 by Chad+Chris Saladin.  Look at the condition of that bridge!  Traffic was still using the bridge when this picture was taken.

Peregrine nest at old I-90 Inner Loop span, 2012 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Everyone worked together to make sure the peregrines were safe.  As demolition day approached, Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW), Ohio Dept of Transportation(ODOT) and the demolition contractor discussed the peregrines’ status and decided that with two weeks of flight experience the juvenile would be able to get out of the way.  The remaining danger was that the birds might be perched on the old structure during the explosion so the contractor scheduled a warning blast to tell the birds to evacuate.

Saturday morning Laurie and Jenny from DOW were stationed with binoculars and spotting scope to watch for the peregrines.  The warning blast went off five seconds ahead of the main blast and then ….  BOOM!  Click here or on the screenshot at top to watch the bridge collapse.

After the dust cleared at least two, maybe all three peregrines, were found.  As Chris Saladin wrote:

“I’m thrilled to report that the juvie and at least one adult were spotted by DOW’s Laurie and Jenny following the explosion of the remaining parts of the dismantled old I-90 Bridge this morning!! We would assume that both adults are probably okay, since two of the three peregrines were spotted (and if the juvie “sensed” her need to leave the structure one would assume that each adult would have an even more developed sense of danger and would know to depart). … [Laurie] let us know that after the “dust cleared” she and Jenny were able to see the juvie through the spotting scope and then saw an adult fly by the juvie. Additionally, Tom from ODOT let Laurie know that as DOW was moving to a different angle for viewing he saw one adult plucking prey on a top beam of the fallen span, about 30 feet off the ground!”

We hope Newt and Bolt will find the nest box on the new bridge just as inviting as the old one.  It will be impossible to “go home” next spring.

(top photo is a screenshot from cleveland.com.  Click on it to read the whole story.  Remaining two photos by Chad+Chris Saladin)

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Jul 15 2014

Teenagers

Published by under Songbirds

Downy woodpecker "teenager" (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Songbirds grow up so fast that within days of fledging they aren’t babies anymore.

Suddenly they are teenagers — able to find their own food, almost independent of their parents, a little cocky and a little unsure of the world.

Marcy Cunkelman captured these photos of teenage woodpeckers in her garden.

Above, a young downy woodpecker looks like an adult except for the colors on his head.  He fledged with a splash of red on top but that will soon be replaced with black feathers and the red will move to his nape.  Meanwhile he shows off an intricate black-and-white pattern on his forehead as he looks calmly at the camera.

Below, a young red-bellied woodpecker has subtle colors on his face and head with dull gray cheeks and faint orange on his nape. He looks startled. “What is a camera?  Is it dangerous?”

"Teenage" red-bellied woopecker (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Perhaps your backyard has more starlings than woodpeckers.  (Mine does.)  Click here to see what teenage starlings look like.

 

(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

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Jul 14 2014

Peregrines, Eagles and Two Events

Peregrine at Green Tree water tower, 1 April 2014 (photo by Leslie Ferree)
Here’s the latest news of Pittsburgh’s peregrines and bald eagles plus information on two events:  Westinghouse Bridge Fledge Watch, July 18-20, and the Eagle Lovers Outing on August 2.

Peregrine News

Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress)
Westinghouse Bridge
Peregrine season isn’t over!  Two nestlings at the Westinghouse Bridge will fledge next weekend.  John English has organized a Peregrine Fledge Watch for Friday July 18, 6-8pm, Saturday July 19, 2-4pm and Sunday July 20, 2-4pm.  Click here and scroll down for directions.  Please contact John at Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page or leave a comment on this blog if you plan to attend.  I’ll be there on Saturday. C’mon down!

Green Tree Water Tower
Green Tree wins the prize for strangest peregrine behavior.  After a long absence during the heart of the breeding season, a pair of peregrines is again at the Green Tree water tower.  What happened between April 1 (the date of Leslie Ferree’s photo above) and now?  Did the old pair leave and a new pair show up?  Stop by the Green Tree water tower and tell us what you see.  Peregrines always surprise us.
UPDATE, 16 July:  Tim and Karena Johnson visited the water tower recently and saw a pair of red-tailed hawks perched on the railings. Since we know that peregrines drive out red-tails — and all other hawks — within their territory it’s probable that the peregrines are not at the water tower at all.
UPDATE, 17 July: Mary Jo Peden, one of the long-time Green Tree monitors, saw a peregrine at the water tower today. It had been exactly two months since she last saw one there. So, yes, they are there but not often.

 

Dorothy and E2 after a bowing session at the Cathedral of Learning nestbox (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
University of Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning
Dorothy and E2 are present every day but not often seen because they’ve found new hiding places in which to molt.  The snapshot camera shows they still visit the nestbox for brief bowing sessions (last Friday, above).  Meanwhile the streaming falconcam and infrared array have both shut down and need an on-site visit from a skilled technician with access to the ledge.  This maintenance will be scheduled in the fall.

 

Peregrine with pigeon meal, Tarentum Bridge, 3 July 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Tarentum
Rob Protz reports that “mom” peregrine (nicknamed Hope) was at the Tarentum Bridge with her remaining juvenile for several hours on July 8.  The youngster, whom Rob calls “Screecher,” was begging loudly for food.  It sounds like Hope is weaning him from dependence on his parents.  Pun intended!

Gulf Tower, Monaca Bridge, Neville I-79 Bridge and McKees Rocks Bridge:  No updates from any of these sites but at this time of year that’s good news.

 

Bald Eagle News

One of the juvenile Bald Eagles from the Hays PA nest (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Hays
All three eaglets fledged successfully in late June and are flying so well that they’re hard to find. They are out and about learning the ways of eagles and how to find food.  Meanwhile, to wrap up the season, Eagles of Hays PA and Urban Eagles in Pittsburgh are planning an Eagle Lovers Outing and tour on Saturday August 2, starting at 11am at Vallozzi’s Restaurant in Greensburg, PA.  Click here for more information.

Harmar and Crescent Township  There’s no update from our other eagle sites but, as for peregrines, no news is good news at this time of year.

 

With no nest activity, the next six months will be very boring for peregrine and bald eagle fans.  We’re looking forward to 2015.

 

(photo credits in order of appearance:
Peregrine at Green Tree water tower, 1 April 2014 (photo by Leslie Ferree)
Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress)
Dorothy and E2 at the Cathedral of Learning nestbox (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera)
Peregrine with pigeon meal, Tarentum Bridge, 3 July 2014 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Juvenile bald eagle from the Hays PA nest (photo by Dana Nesiti)

4 responses so far

Jul 13 2014

Hover Flies Up Close

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Hover flies mating, Custards Marsh (photo by Shawn Collins)

Here’s a beautiful close-up of two hover flies mating on a chicory flower, taken by Shawn Collins with his macro lens.

Who knew that the female is larger than the male? That their eyes are different colors? That they have knobs on their heads … Are those antennae?

Awesome photo!

 

Click here to browse Shawn’s photostream on Flickr.

p.s. Oh no!  Yesterday Shawn’s Canon T3i died on an Err 30 while shooting marbled godwits and willets at Conneaut Harbor, Ohio.  Bad break!  He’ll be camera-less until next Saturday.  :(

(photo by Shawn Collins)

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Jul 12 2014

Rare in Pink

Published by under Plants

Pink touch-me-not (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

I’ve seen yellow and orange touch-me-not but here’s a rare jewelweed in pink.

Thanks to Marcy Cunkelman for sending this along.  It blooms in her garden.

 

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

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Jul 11 2014

Slow Down And Watch

Here’s a beautiful wildlife video of beetles and birds in slow motion.

Slow down and watch.

Happy Friday!

 

(video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology via YouTube)

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Jul 10 2014

TBT: The Size of Baby Birds

Published by under Bird Behavior

Wood duck mother and babies (photo by Chuck Tague)
On Throw Back Thursday (TBT), let’s revisit an article on the size of baby birds.

Have you ever seen a tiny baby pigeon walking around with its parents?

No.

Why do we see baby ducks but never baby pigeons? Click here to read why.

 

(photo of wood duck mother and babies by Chuck Tague)

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Jul 09 2014

Feed Me!

Published by under Bird Behavior

Chipping sparrow juvenile, begging from adult (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Early July is a great time to watch songbird families.  Many baby birds have just fledged and are still dependent on their parents for food … or they would like to be.

Marcy Cunkelman sees the family interactions up close in her birds-and-butterflies garden.  Here are some of her family portraits.

Above, we see that fledglings are the same size as their parents but don’t always look like them.  You can tell they’re related by their actions as this young chipping sparrow begs for food while his parent leans away from the noise!  The juvenile’s stripes provide camouflage but make him resemble a song sparrow more than the pale, plain-chested adult.

Below, a tree swallow feeds her newly fledged baby.  Since swallows capture insects on the wing, the juveniles have to fly well enough to catch bugs before they’re able to feed themselves.
Tree swallow feeding young (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

And below, a downy woodpecker offers a seed to his baby.  When the babies are young the parents lead them to the feeders and offer them seeds.  Pretty soon the juveniles figure out that it’s faster to get the seeds on their own.
Female downy woodpecker feeding young (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

Soon the youngsters will be independent.  Meanwhile you’ll see them say, “Feed me!”

 

p.s. Wissahickon Nature Club will have an outing to Marcy’s garden this coming Saturday, July 12.  Click here for details.

 

(all photos by Marcy Cunkleman)

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