Monthly Archives: June 2009

They’re Still Babies

Peregrine fledglings at Univ of Pittsburgh, 8 June 2009 (photo by Kimberly Thomas)

Today at lunchtime I walked around the Cathedral of Learning looking for peregrine fledglings on my way to the Schenley Park tent.

As I came to the Bigelow side of the building I found two perched on the 25th floor roof-edge so I called Kimberly Thomas who works on 27 and left a message.  "Look outside your window."  Kimberly had her camera ready and sent me the pictures tonight.

Based on size, these two fledglings appear to be brother and sister though we couldn't tell that from the ground.  Down at Schenley Plaza we watched them and waited for something interesting to happen.  Soon they made us laugh.

The fledglings puttered, looked for their parents, and stared at everything that moved.  Suddenly a pigeon flew by and landed on the same roof edge about 30 feet away.

"Food!" thought the female fledgling.  Since she hasn't flown much she didn't even consider using her wings to get to the pigeon. Instead she walked the wall until she was 10 feet from it.  The pigeon stretched its neck very tall.  (What's that about?)  The peregrine paused and bobbed her head.  She seemed to be thinking, "How am I going to get that pigeon?  I don't think I can walk fast enough to catch it."

It was a stand-off for about two minutes and then the pigeon turned his back, walked away and laid down on the wall.

The peregrine laid down too.

"If only Mom were here she'd catch that pigeon and we could eat."

Still babies!

For two more photos of the fledglings exploring the roof, click here and here.

(all photos by Kimberly Thomas)

Chance to Spot a Recluse

Ovenbird (photo by Chuck Tague)If you want to see an ovenbird, this is the time to do it.

Ovenbirds are forest dwelling warblers the color of fallen leaves.  They usually spend their time walking the forest floor, weaving through the undergrowth, perfectly camouflaged as they feed on invertebrates among the logs and leaves. 

They even take ground-dwelling to an extreme and place their nests on the ground.  The female builds it in the shape of a beehive oven - hence their name.

Though hard to see they are easy to hear.  Their song is a very loud "tee-CHUR tee-CHUR tee-CHUR tee-CHUR tee-CHUR" that carries easily through the forest.  

I always hear more ovenbirds than I see, except right about now. When this recluse has young babies he becomes protective and brash. 

Today I was harassed by an ovenbird at Ohiopyle State Park.  As I walked through the woods I heard a loud warning "Dink!"  In an effort to identify the source I paused to listen, and it didn't take long to find out.  The ovenbird was so provoked that he flew toward me, perched above me, raised his head feathers and repeated "Dink!"  Then he sang to make me go away.  He didn't know his song would charm me.

Eventually he moved away and grabbed a small caterpillar from a leaf.  Instead of eating it himself he flew off with it, so I knew he had babies to feed.  I followed him with my binoculars in hopes of seeing his oven-shaped nest.  To my surprise a fledging popped out of the undergrowth and he stuffed the caterpillar in its mouth.  The fledgling was gawky but special to me - my first view of a young ovenbird.

Soon the fledglings will be self sufficient and their parents will stop caring when I walk by.  So now is the time to see an ovenbird.

(photo by Chuck Tague)

June Blooms: Yellow Clintonia

Yellow Clintonia along Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (photo by Kate St. John)

Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) is blooming now in the mountains.  I found these beautiful flowers when I hiked the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail last weekend. 

Clintonia is a member of the Lily family named for Dewitt Clinton, a naturalist and governor of New York.  Its fruit is a dark blue beadlike berry from which it acquired its third name:  Bluebead. 

(photo by Kate St. John - using my cell phone.  Click on this photo to see Chuck Tague's close-up of the flower.)

Update on Fledge Watch at Pitt

Midday Saturday, Jun 6:  Six of us watched this morning but nothing exciting happened.  It was foggy until 8:45am and boring by noon because...

The male chick who fledged yesterday perched on 38th floor east.  His parents brought him a nice meal and he went to sleep. 

The three sisters were on & off the nestrail and flapped a little but only got a tidbit.  Dorothy and E2 were not feeding them much, so they whined and whined about food but they didn't fly.  Instead they went to sleep. 

We did get to see Dorothy warn away a kettle of vultures, but that was all that happened between 11:00 and noon.  It was like watching water boil.

Sunday late afternoon, Jun 7:  I stopped by at 4:00pm and still nothing had happened.  Three peregrine chicks on the nestrail and one on the roof.

Sunday night:  I wasn't at the tent but others were there.  See many comments below.  Another one fledged.

Monday morning, Jun 8:  A third peregrine chick has fledged.  They are getting harder to keep track of because they can be anywhere now.

One Fledged!

Three peregrine chicks perch on the nestrail at Univ of Pittsburgh (photo by Mark Klingler)

OK, so I used an exclamation point in the title but the event was far from dramatic. 

When I arrived at Schenley Plaza at lunchtime I saw three peregrine chicks on the nestrail (pictured here) and both adults on the lightning rod.  I couldn't find the fourth chick but I figured he was behind the nestrail.  Except for run-and-flap exercises by the "girls" on the nestrail, all the birds were calm and almost bored under the gloomy, chilly, overcast sky. 

My friend Karen came over from Alumni Hall and we sat and chatted about current events and peregrines in other cities, and then she said, "Oh, by the way, one fledged." 

"Where?  Here at Pitt?"

"Yes, look at the stone peak to the left of the southeast dining ledge." 

And there he was, just sitting there minding his own business - even before we arrived.  Dorothy and E2 could tell he was fine and were busy watching the three girls to see if they were about to fly. 

Karen and I continued to watch for another half hour but nothing happened.  

As I said in an earlier post, Fledge Watch can be hours of boredom punctuated by moments of excitement.  I guess we were all at work when today's exciting moment occurred.

(photo of three peregrine chicks on the Cathedral of Learning nestrail yesterday, courtesy of Mark Klingler.)


p.s  This fledge event was so understated that I forgot to mention it to "J" who was sitting on the other side of the tent.  Sorry, J!

p.p.s. Check my Peregrine FAQs for more information.  Today I posted an entry about the fledging process.


Adult peregrine falcon carrying prey (photo by Kim Steininger)


Today was a great day for Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza.

The weather was good, the chicks walked the nest rail and the parents flew nicely for us.  Well actually they flew for their own reasons, but it was nice.  Best of all we got to see Dorothy and E2 fly acrobatic maneuvers, bring prey and feed the chicks.

Morning shift (before work):  All four chicks waited on the nestrail while both parents were out hunting.  E2 arrived with heavy prey in his talons and flapped hard to bring it up to the nest area.  He and the four "kids" ate breakfast, then Dorothy arrived with more food.  "Incoming!"  They weren't hungry so she cached it for a later meal.  Suddenly E2 kakked and dive-bombed the roof while the chicks cowered.  He saw something dangerous but it went away and he calmed down.  Still, he gave me a start! - and I was late for work.

Midday shift (lunchtime):  The chicks flapped a lot and the parents flew in great acrobatic demonstrations.  This inspired the "kids" to flap even more, but no one fledged.

Evening shift (after work):  What a crowd we had tonight!  I had so much fun I stayed until 7:45pm.  Again all four chicks walked and flapped but no one fledged.  At first only Dorothy was babysitting, then E2 called "Incoming!" and arrived with dinner.  Rather than drop it off, he and Dorothy did a mid-air prey exchange.  While she and the chicks ate he loafed on the lightning rod until he saw a pigeon he thought might be tasty.  He stooped off the building like a shot, the pigeon flew an evasive maneuver, put on a burst of speed and got away.  Wow!  I don't know about the pigeon's heart but ours were racing! 

Thank you to everyone who came to the tent.  It's been great to meet you and fun to watch peregrines with you.  

Come to Fledge Watch at the tent.  Maybe they'll fly tomorrow!

(photo by Kim Steininger)

All Gone, But Not Flown

E2 looks up from the nest; the nestlings are all ledge-walking (photo from the National Aviary webcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Surprise!  After months of watching peregrines on camera the babies have walked away, leaving only "Dad" in sight.

Here's E2 looking up to the nestrail where his youngsters are perched.  Today all four graduated to the ledge-walking phase.  As far as I know they haven't flown yet. 

At Fledge Watch at lunchtime I saw three of them on the nestrail flapping like crazy.  By the time I got back to my desk and had a chance to check the camera, the fourth had left the nest and was probably up there too.  That's a surprise!  I didn't expect them to be so active when it's cold and sprinkling and very, very gray.  

Perhaps one of them will fledge later today. ...Wish I could be out there watching!

(photo from the National Aviary webcam at University of Pittsburgh)

June Blooms: Wild Yam

Wild Yam (photo by Dianne Machesney)Though the subject says "June Blooms" I'm starting this month's flower series with a plant whose flowers are far less noticable that its leaves.

Wild Yam used to be my mystery plant.  In May I would see a single whorl of pleated, heart-shaped leaves floating above a stem.  (Imagine this plant with only the bottom whorl visible.) 

What could it be?  My Newcomb's wildflower guide requires a flower to key out the identity of a plant so I was stumped. 

Eventually I noticed it had matured into a vine with insignificant flowers sprouting from the second whorl.  Newcomb's said:  Wild Yam, Dioscorea quaternata

The root of this plant was used by early Americans to treat colic and it has other medicinal uses as well.

I like Wild Yam because it's pretty.  I remember it because it was a mystery. 

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

Hey, little brother!

Four peregrine chicks at Univ. of Pittsburgh (photo from the National Aviary webcam)

"What's it like on the nestrail?" ask these peregrine sisters. "How come you can get up there and we haven't been able to yet?" 

That's what it looks like they're saying as their brother comes down from the nestrail with his back to the webcam. (See that brown feathered back at the bottom of the picture?)

Today at lunch time Fledge Watch, Little Brother hopped up on the nestrail and walked all the way to the west end of it.  From Schenley Plaza we couldn't see the nest but we had excellent views of Dorothy, his mother, making circles in the sky and Little Brother's adventure. 

The sisters were watching too.  A co-worker who viewed the webcam while I was at Schenley Plaza said the sisters moved their heads as if they were at a tennis match. 

And get a load of the look on the face of sister #3 at the far left.  Apparently she doesn't approve of ledge-walking.  Harumph!  😉

Come on down to Schenley Plaza and join us.

(photo from the National Aviary webcam at University of Pittsburgh)