Jun 04 2013

Fledged? Yes!

Published by under Peregrines

Pitt fledgling, 3 June 2013 (photo by Peter Bell)

Monday was a down-and-up day.

The weather started out “down,” cold and cloudy.  Around 7:00am Peter Bell texted me that he thought Dorothy and E2’s chick had fledged at Pitt.  This information was followed by almost four hours of confusion.

At 7:20am I was on Forbes Ave at CMU and could see Dorothy and E2 on the nest side of the Cathedral of Learning staring intently into the gully.  If their youngster had fledged, why were they looking in the gully?  Peter walked around the building and couldn’t find the fledgling.  Did he fly?

We both had work to do so the suspense remained until Peter went back to the Plaza at 11:00am.  By then it was obvious.  Baby had fledged.  He was perched on the west 25th floor ledge.  Things were looking up.

That’s where he stayed all day.  Kim Getz saw him from inside the building at lunchtime and sent this photo from her zoom camera.  (She was careful to stand far back from the window so he wouldn’t notice her and be startled into flight. Thank you, Kim!)

Young fledgling chilling on 25 west, 3 June 2013 (photo by Kim Getz)


At 7:00pm the sky cleared and Dorothy brought dinner in an amazing aerobatic display.  They shared the meal, then she gave him a flight demonstration and perched were she could watch his area.  He walked back to a quiet corner to roost on 25.

Here they are at dinner time: Baby on left, Dorothy on right.  He’s not such a “baby” anymore.

Pitt fledgling and Dorothy, 3 June 2013 (photo by Peter Bell)


The day ended “up.”

Come see him at Fledge Watch today at the Schenley Plaza tent:  noon to 2:00pm and 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

(first and last photos by Peter Bell. Middle photo by Kim Getz)


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Jun 03 2013

Peregrine News Around Town

Published by under Peregrines

Baby on the nestrail, 1 June 2013 (photo by Steve Petricca)

At the Cathedral of Learning:

As of yesterday, June 2, Dorothy and E2’s chick hadn’t fledged but he’s getting his exercise. On Saturday Steve Petricca digiscoped a closeup of him on the nestrail with a watchful look on his face.

On Sunday the weather was gorgeous but too windy for first time fliers.  Baby eventually flapped on the nestrail (click here for Sharon Leadbitter’s video), Dorothy kited in the wind, and E2 pulled off a hiding trick by disappearing into the fretwork.  Can you find him in Max Moritz Terry’s photo below?
E2 perched in his "hiding" window (photo by Max Moritz Terry)


Downtown Pittsburgh:

Friday night a juvenile peregrine was found on Smithfield Street (perhaps on the sidewalk) and was rescued by a firefighter who kept him overnight at the station.  The Game Commission released him after dawn on Saturday.  This is the third rescue from this nest this year.  I wonder if this one was a “repeat offender” or the third bird who fledged last Thursday.

Later on Saturday the fourth and last Downtown nestling fledged at 1:55pm. Donna Memon created a video hotspot in the WildEarth archives that shows the bird taking off.  Click here, start the video and then click on the Archives tab to see the hotspots list.


Westinghouse Bridge:

Great news!  When Dan Brauning and Art McMorris visited the bridge in mid-May they thought the 10-day old chick looked handicapped and wouldn’t survive, but PennDOT checked on him last week and he’s thriving.  John English monitors the site and is excited to begin Fledge Watch June 13-ish.


Green Tree Water Tower:

Both birds are still present though their nest has failed.  The male is unbanded but Shannon Thompson is working hard to read the female’s bands.  The female gets tantalizingly close to revealing her identity … but doesn’t.  Look at her hide her bands while raising her foot as if to show them off!  Sneaky.

Female peregrine at Green Tree water tower (photo by Shannon Thompson)


Neville Island I-79 Bridge:

The three nestlings are due to fledge beginning June 6.   Fledge Watch starts June 5.  Click here for directions.


Thanks to everyone for all your photos and observations of Pittsburgh’s peregrines!


(photos by Steve Petricca, Max Moritz Terry and Shannon Thompson)

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Jun 02 2013

This One Is OK

Published by under Plants

kate_w_cow_parsnip_20130601_rsz4_diannemKate St. John next to Cow Parsnip (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Long ago I learned, “Look but don’t touch.”  This is a good rule of thumb when you’re not sure of what you’re looking at outdoors.

Yesterday I attended the Wissahickon Nature Club’s annual picnic at Mingo Creek County Park.  At Wissahickon we’re all curious about nature.  Some know birds best, some know plants, others know insects, so our outings are really informative.  We examine everything, we teach each other, we look up the mysteries, and we all learn something.

Yesterday I learned about cow parsnip, a large plant that I had largely ignored.  Here I am standing next to it.  Notice that I’m not touching it.  That’s a good thing if you’re not sure what it is!

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum) is a native member of the parsley family.  Though it’s a good plant and was used medicinally by Native Americans, it looks a lot like giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), an invasive plant from Eurasia that’s so toxic it causes nasty skin rashes if you merely brush against it.  With so many botanists in the group I knew this plant was safe.

The umbels of cow parsnip and giant hogweed look similar to the untrained eye.  The flower is large and pretty.

Cow Parsnip flower umbel (photo by Dianne Machesney)


The real difference between the good plant and the bad one is that the stems and sheaths of cow parsnip are green.

Leaf sheath on Cow Parsnip (photo by Dianne Machesney)


This green sheath is good (cow parsnip).   The bad one, giant hogweed, has purple splotches on its stem and sheaths and thick hairs at the leaf joint (but who wants to get that close!).  Interestingly, poison hemlock, another bad member of the parsley family, also has purple splotches on its stem.

Rule of thumb in this case: green is good, purple is bad.

But the real rule of thumb is Look But Don’t Touch.

…which explains why I’m overdressed on a hot day.  I always wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat, and sunscreen outdoors.  You can’t see my ankles but my socks are pulled over my pant legs to keep out ticks.  This outfit saves me a lot of itchy aggravation later.

We may look odd, but ask us about cow parsnip and we’ll tell you, “This one is OK.”


p.s. See the Comments for further discussion.


(photos by Dianne Machesney)

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Jun 01 2013

Up Before Dawn

Published by under Peregrines

Baby is up and out before dawn (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

The sun rose at 5:52am this morning but our young peregrine is so active and ready to fly that he was out of the nest before dawn.

This snapshot at 5:39:58 was the last before he hopped up to the nestrail and out of view.

His mother can tell this will be a busy day of babysitting!


…Meanwhile at dawn at the Downtown nest, the last chick (probably female) was still waiting to fly. Anne Marie Bosnyak saw two of her three siblings and both parents Downtown last evening.


UPDATE at 6:44am:  Heavy rain messed up his plans.  He’s temporarily rained out.
Baby's plans got rained out (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)


UPDATE at 8:30pm:  The weather was surprisingly good today.  At Fledge Watch (4:00pm-6:00pm) Baby exercised his wings on the nestrail but did not fledge.  Dorothy and E2 provided some amazing flight demonstrations in the wind.


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

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May 31 2013

Meanwhile at Pitt

Baby on the nestrail, 30 May 2013 (photo by Peter Bell)

The Downtown peregrines kept the PA Game Commission busy all day Thursday.  Meanwhile at Pitt…

During Fledge Watch yesterday Baby made it up to the big nest rail (bulwark) for the first time.  This is the launch zone, the place where the chicks run and exercise their wings, the last stopping point before first flight.

Typically the peregrine chicks practice on the nestrail for a day or two before they fly for the first time, but who knows with Baby.  He still has downy white feathers on his legs and he looks clumsy in this photo, but he’s also very curious and ready for new adventures.  I’m sure he’ll fly early.  I don’t think he’ll wait until June 3!

Come on down to Fledge Watch and see.  Click here and scroll down for the schedule.  If bad weather forces a cancellation — which it might this weekend –I’ll post it at that link.


photo by Peter Bell)

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May 30 2013

Fledged For A Ride

Published by under Peregrines

Fledgling Peregrine from Downtown on car roof  (photo by Ericka Houck))

This morning was way too exciting!

When the owner of this pickup arrived at his truck near Third and Wood, there was a large raptor on his roof.  He thought it would fly away, but it didn’t.  Young peregrines grounded like this just stand there.

So Paul drove over to the Aviary with the bird on his roof!  (1.8 miles including crossing the Allegheny River)  The peregrine hung on.  Aviary staff Chris Gaus and Teri Grendzinski called the PA Game Commission emergency number 724-238-9523 and captured the bird for safe keeping until a Wildlife Conservation Officer could arrive to return the bird to a high launch near its nest.  In the meantime the Aviary nicknamed the bird “Paul” for the driver who rescued him.

Here’s hoping “Paul” will learn from this mistake and not go car surfing again any time soon.

Thanks to Teri and Chris and the Aviary staff for the rescue and to Ericka Houck for the Twitter photo!

(photo by Ericka Houck of the National Aviary See Ericka’s tweet here.)



NOON UPDATE on “Paul’s” return:  Here’s a photo from Amanda McGuire showing “Paul” returned to a high perch across the street from the nest.  (The nest itself is inaccessible.)

Rescued peregrine waits for Mom & Dad to feed him Downtown, 30 May 2013 (photo by Amanda McGuire)



UPDATE AT 5:00pm:  At 3:30pm I received news that a second fledgling was standing on the sidewalk near Point Park University.  Point Park police sheltered her and the PA Game Commission took her up to the same high spot where “Paul” was perched.  When they dropped off his sister (yes, she’s female), “Paul” flew away (yes, he’s male; the size difference was obvious).  “”Sis” is getting re-oriented and will eventually leave on her own.   …Three of the four Downtown chicks flew today.  I wonder where the third bird is…!

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May 30 2013

Revised! Pitt Fledge Watch Schedule

Baby in the keyhole during his off-the-nest adventure (photo by Peter Bell)

In my Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch announcement I said, “If the chick is off camera, come on down! The best view is from the tent.”

Well, our peregrine chick has been on and off camera for two days!  On May 28 he ledge-walked up to the webcam and yesterday he jumped into the gully below the nest.  His prior-year brothers who explored the gully took more than 24 hours to return to the nest.  Baby made it back in only 7 hours.  A record!

On his way back topside he spent at least half an hour perched in the keyhole — see Peter Bell’s photo above.  Several of us at Schenley Plaza saw his parents put on a fancy airshow but didn’t make the connection that it was for Baby’s benefit.  Peter’s photo proved it.

So, yes, the chick is off camera and, yes, the best viewing is from the tent.  Come on down today through June 5!   Click here and scroll down for the REVISED SCHEDULE.

(photo by Peter Bell)

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May 30 2013

A Day In The Life of Six Peregrines

Downtown peregrines, parents trade places, chicks watch (photo by Christopher Rolinson, StartPoint Media)

A week ago on May 23 Chris Rolinson set up his time-lapse camera at Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall to capture snapshots of the Downtown peregrines.  My favorite is this one of Dori leaving the nest and Louie coming in.  Awesome wing action!  Look at the chicks watch and call.

Chris also created a video from the time-lapse snapshots.  Click on the photo to watch a quick day in the life of six peregrines.

Today the youngsters are all brown with a full set of flight feathers and they’re ready to fly.  Visit Third Ave Downtown to watch.

(photos and video by Christopher Rolinson of Point Park University and StartPoint Media)

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May 29 2013

Fledge Watch: I-79 Neville Island Bridge

View Peregrine Viewing at Neville Island I-79 Bridge in a larger map

When Dan Brauning banded three peregrine chicks at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge on May 21, he estimated they would fledge in 18 days.

This puts their big adventure on June 6 to 13 with the best weekend viewing on June 8 and 9.

These birds need watchers!   The only reason we know about this nest is because a fledgling landed in the Ohio River last year.  He was able to swim but if he hadn’t been rescued by a boater he would have tired and drowned.

  • Where to look:  The nest is over water, under the bridge deck, on the downriver side, closest to Glenfield (north end of the bridge).  Look for peregrine activity in the vicinity of the blue pin on the bridge above.  When you first arrive, scan the water for a swimming bird … just in case.
  • Where to stand:  Peregrine monitors Laura Marshall and Anne Marie Bosnyak watch from the Fairfield Inn parking lot on Neville Island (south end of the bridge).  Park at the Port Authority Park-n-Ride right next to the Fairfield Inn.   NOTE:  There is no public access on the Glenfield side though viewing would be best from there.  If you have contacts in Glenfield or at the marina please leave a comment on this blog so we can begin to coordinate a better viewing location.  UPDATE:  See Laura’s comment below about the best viewing locations.
  • When to go:  Daytime hours June 6 to 13 — especially the weekend of June 8 and 9.
  • Coordinating with other watchers:  Laura and Anne Marie really need your help June 8 and 9 because both of them will be out of town.  If  you’d like to watch with others, leave a comment so I can start an email list — or join the Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group where you can coordinate with other Pittsburgh area peregrine fans.
  • Emergency number:  If a fledgling needs to be rescued, call the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523.

Right now there are three Fledge Watch opportunities in the Pittsburgh area:

  1. May 25 through June 7:  Downtown on Third Ave between Smithfield and Wood.
  2. June 1 through 5 (or so):  Pitt peregrines at Schenley Plaza
  3. June 6 through 13:  I-79 Neville Island Bridge from Fairfield Inn parking lot.


Stay tuned for more details on Fledge Watch dates, times and locations.  These events are weather dependent!

(map embedded from Google)

3 responses so far

May 28 2013

Young And Curious

Published by under Peregrines

Curious chick examines the webcam (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

The peregrine chick at the University of Pittsburgh won’t be ready to fly for a week but he’s a little bored at the nest so today he climbed up to the camera and gave it a look.

When he’s not investigating his surroundings he’s perfectly camouflaged when he lies down on the nest.  Can you find him in this picture?

Peregrine chick camouflaged on the nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)



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

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