Archive for March, 2010

Mar 22 2010

Streaming Webcams update

Published by under Books & Events

If you've been having trouble seeing the National Aviary's streaming webcams, here are some technical tips on what to do.

  • If you used to be able to see the stream but now see a big, white, spinning circle or no video at all:  This means your computer thinks it's connected to the stream but it it isn't.  To set it straight, close all your browser windows.  Then open one browser window -- !do not go to the webcam pages yet! -- and empty cache.  To empty cache in Internet Explorer 8, choose Tools > Internet Options > [Delete] browsing history.   To really convince your computer to behave, reboot it, empty cache and don't view either of the streaming videos until your computer has been running for about 5 minutes.
  • Chat problems:
    • Chat does not work on the Gulf Tower webpage.  You can sign in but you'll see nothing.
    • If you sign into Gulf Tower chat it may confuse your computer.  Close your browser windows and reopen.  Only sign in to Cathedral of Learning chat.
  • If you're having problems all the time:
    • Wildearth has learned that Firefox's update 3.6 does not work with their web pages.  NOTE ON MARCH 23:  Firefox 3.6.2 does work.  If your Firefox is not on that version, you'll need to update it
    • If you don't have java enabled on your computer, you won't be able to see the streams.
  • AUDIO WITH NO VIDEO was fixed (we hope) on March 24:  If you can hear the audio and see the ads but have no video, then empty your browser's cache and reload the page.  In Internet Explorer 8, choose Tools > Internet Options > [Delete] browsing history.

If your problems persist after this Wednesday, please leave a comment here and I will forward it to the National Aviary or you can contact them yourself.

3 responses so far

Mar 20 2010

2 Eggs at Gulf Tower, 4 at Pitt

Published by under Peregrines

Reporting egg counts is like reporting hockey scores, except the action is a lot slower. 

First, a picture of Tasha this morning at 6:40am with two eggs (pink arrow is pointing to them).  She laid the second one yesterday and spent a lot of time calling last night ... or was that Louie making all the racket (see below).  Who knows why!

When I tuned in this morning, she called again and I heard Louie answer from somewhere in the background.  Then she left the nest.  I'll bet he brought her breakfast. 


Next, is a photo showing Dorothy and E2 bowing over their four eggs at The Cathedral of Learning this morning at 9:00am.  He was incubating while she ate.  Now she's returning to take over nest duty.

Back at the Gulf Tower, here's a photo of Louie calling to Tasha to come to the nest at 10:10am today.  I learned from Ann Hohn that Louie often sits in and around the nest and "he is VERY noisy. He calls for her all the time."

And a CORRECTION!  On Saturday night I said the following video was Louie & Tasha courting at the nest.  I was wrong.  It's a video of Louie and his new mate, Dori, at the nest at 6:55pm Saturday, March 20.  PixController made it into a YouTube video.  Click here to watch.

(photos from the National Aviary webcams at the Gulf Tower and University of Pittsburgh)

10 responses so far

Mar 19 2010

Anatomy: Throat

Published by under Bird Anatomy

It's been "All Peregrines, All The Time" for the past week but for those of you following the anatomy lessons, never fear.  The series continues every Friday (barring a peregrine "emergency") because I haven't gotten halfway through the bird yet.

We've just reached the underside where the body part names are often the same ones we use to describe our own anatomy, so you're going to have an easy time of it for a while.  Stay with me, though.  It will get interesting later on.

First up is the throat and the best bird to illustrate this is a male ruby-throated hummingbird.  Just in case you're wondering where his throat is I've pointed to it with a pink arrow.

The throats on female ruby-throated hummingbirds are white.  The males have iridescent red feathers which only look this red when the light catches them just right -- and then they're so red they knocks your socks off.

Yes, the throat on a bird is where you'd expect it to be.

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

One response so far

Mar 18 2010

Wilmington: Is the Fighting Over?

Published by under Peregrines

Three days ago, viewers of the Wilmington, Delaware falconcam were shocked to see two male peregrines locked in combat on the nest.  The fight lasted more than an hour and in the end the vanquished left and the victor paced the gravel with a white feather and blood from the loser's breast on his beak. 

What now?

An hour later the resident male peregrine visited the nest and calmly surveyed the scene.  He had won the battle, but his long-time mate was dead and the new female who challenged her was claiming the nest as her own. 

This peregrine nest at the Brandywine Building in Wilmington, Delaware has seen more than enough trouble in the past year.  Last May, two peregrine chicks were found dead and the other two leapt or were carried from the nest, though still unable to fly.  One chick was rescued and placed back in the nest only to disappear a few days later.  No young survived.

What danger would prompt the young to leap?  What would kill them without eating them?  Around that time, a second female peregrine had arrived and was harrassing the resident female.  On rare occasions an intruder will invade the nest and kill her rival's young.  Is that what happened here?  No one knows because there was no webcam. 

But this year there is a webcam, installed by the Delmarva Ornithological Society, and it has already helped solve the mystery of the fight for this nest.  At the end of Monday's fight, we knew the resident male had won -- for now.

Is the fighting over?  Will the resident male and the new female peregrine be able to raise a family in peace?  We don't know, but the webcam will help us find out.  Click on the photo above to visit the Wilmington falconcam.

In the meantime, see slides of Monday's fight and read about it on Kim Steininger's Wilmington Falcons blog.  Her March 15th entry includes a link to a 21-minute video of the fight. 

And don't miss the rest of Kim's Wilmington Falcons website.  You'll really enjoy her photos!

(photo from the Delmarva Ornithological Society webcam at the Wilmington, Delaware peregrine nest)

11 responses so far

Mar 17 2010

First peregrine egg at Gulf Tower, 3 at Pitt

Published by under Peregrines

We had lots of action at the Pittsburgh peregrine nests overnight.

Tasha2 at the Gulf Tower laid her first egg of 2010.  Click on her photo above to see a nighttime image of her with the egg, captured by Marianne Atkinson before 5:00am.  As Marianne watched, Tasha carefully moved the egg to the right and into the scrape.  In the nighttime image, the egg is the white circle and Tasha is bending her head down with her tail in the air.

Meanwhile at the Cathedral of Learning, Dorothy laid her third egg as shown below.  

The eggs are white in nighttime pictures because they're made visible using infrared light.  In daylight the eggs are a deep red-brown color.  Yes, that's the egg between Tasha's feet.  

So why do Dorothy's eggs look pink on the streaming cam at Pitt?  Because the infrared light is very close and the camera can see infrared, even during the day. 

Don't miss the action!

  • Watch the Gulf Tower streaming camera here,
  • The Cathedral of Learning streaming camera here, and
  • The snapshot cam at the Cathedral of Learning here.

Now that Dorothy has laid her third egg she will likely begin incubation.  See the Peregrine FAQs for more information.

(photos from the National Aviary webcams)

10 responses so far

Mar 16 2010

Urban Kestrels, New York

Published by under Birds of Prey

I think of kestrels as rural birds because I often see them perched on wires above fields.  In fact, they're cavity nesters so if they find a good hole to nest in and plenty of food they'll set up shop anywhere that affords them a long sight line to the next meal.

American kestrels are our smallest falcon, only the size of robins, and they capture small prey: grasshoppers, mice and small birds.  This earned them the nickname Sparrow Hawk so I shouldn't be surprised that they hang out in cities where there are plenty of house sparrows.  In our biggest city?  Yes, kestrels nest in New York.

For many years a small group of dedicated New Yorkers has been studying the city's kestrels and keeping tabs on their nests.  Three years ago they realized the task was too big for them alone so they published a poster (Have You Seen This Bird? in 14 languages!) and "Birding Bob" DeCandido began emailing a Kestrel newsletter.  The group has grown as people discover kestrels, begin monitoring their nests, and rescue the fledglings who land in unsafe places. 

Monitoring kestrel nests can be fun.  The birds often choose nest sites in the damaged cornices of old buildings.  What a surprise when they poke their heads out of the holes!  The challenge comes when the young fledge and land on the street.  Fortunately people rescue the birds and they get excellent rehab care.  I was hooked when I read Jim O'Brien's blog about the release of the rescued kestrels in Central Park last June.  Too bad I don't live in New York.  I'd have been there!

Overall, American kestrels seem to be doing well but the count of kestrels at eastern hawk watches has declined for the past 20 years.  This is worrisome, so anything we can do to help kestrels is a plus.  Thanks to these folks -- Robert DeCandido, Jim O'Brien, Deborah Allen, Bobby Horvath, Cathy St. Claire, Chad Seewagen and K.A. Peltomaa -- and to those who've learned from them, New York City's kestrels may be the most successful breeding population on the East Coast.

If you live in New York and want to help, click on the poster link above for more information or contact Robert DeCandido 718-828-8262 (rdcny<AT>, Jim O'Brien (YoJimBot<AT> or Deborah Allen (DAllenyc<AT>   Just change the <AT> to an @ sign to send them email.


p.s.  I love how this urban kestrel is perched on a wire... razor wire.

(photo by Robert DeCandido, PhD)

4 responses so far

Mar 14 2010

Second peregrine egg at Pitt

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy laid her second egg this morning at 11:52am (Daylight Savings Time).   Nora, who posts on the CMNH Falcon Forums, captured the first photos of it.  Here you can clearly see both eggs just minutes after the second one was laid. is archiving footage from the streaming cams so I found and marked the timeframe in which Dorothy laid the egg.  Then Bill Powers of PixController kindly posted it on YouTube here.  It's amazing to watch.

Meanwhile, as of 8:45pm tonight Tasha2 at the Gulf Tower has not yet laid her first egg.  She's not late though.  She usually lays on or before St. Patrick's Day.

For more information on peregrines, see the Peregrine FAQs.

(photo from the National Aviary snapshot webcam at the Univ of Pittsburgh, and thanks to Nora's quick reflexes)

5 responses so far

Mar 14 2010

Coming Soon to a Lake Near You

As soon as the lakes thaw the ducks will be here.  But when will that be?

I was hoping to spend today happily watching ducks but several factors argue against it.

  • My favorite lakes are still frozen according to reports on PABIRDS
  • Pittsburgh's rivers are flooded, debris-filled and swift.  Fortunately the flood isn't major, but conditions aren't good for waterfowl.
  • Yesterday's rainstorm was windy.  Not a good time for ducks to fly into our area.
  • And it will rain more today, which is unpleasant for me though not for ducks.

I hear there are ducks at Shenango River Lake, 1.5 hours north.  They're coming soon to a lake near me.  The only question is... When?

Update, 6:00pm:  Well!  I made the trip to Shenango and found ten species of ducks, including green-winged teal and canvasbacks.  There weren't any buffleheads yet.  Wait until next weekend.

(photo of a male bufflehead by Brian Herman)

6 responses so far

Mar 13 2010

Anatomy: Lores

Published by under Bird Anatomy

Dorothy's egg pre-empted my normal Friday anatomy lesson.  Now that the first excitement is over, I can resume our regular programming (as we say in the TV business) with a bird anatomy lesson you can apply right away. 

In the spring, the lores on many birds become colorful in preparation for breeding.

What are the lores?  The lore (singular) is the space between the bill and the eye, indicated by the pink arrow.  Since there are two of these spaces, the word is usually plural. 

The lores are often featherless on water and wading birds.  Even so they turn gorgeous colors in the spring.  Click to see the beautiful green lores on this great egret and the yellow ones on this double-crested cormorant.   

Closer to home, I'll be watching the lores on white-throated sparrows.  They become bright yellow, a pretty sign of Spring.

(photo of white-throated sparrow by Marcy Cunkelman.  Click-through photos by Chuck Tague)

No responses yet

Mar 12 2010

First Peregrine Egg at Pitt!

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy laid an egg overnight!  Here she is, examining it. 

I first saw the egg via infrared light at 6:16am when she left the nest.  Under infrared light the red egg looks white.  Click on Dorothy's photo to see the first daylight image of the egg, alone in the twilight before dawn. 

More news - and images - as the day unfolds! 


Nora at the CMNH Falcon Forums captured an image of Dorothy with her first egg at 1:29am today. Wow!

Check my Peregrine FAQs for questions, answers and information on peregrine falcons and their nests.

(photo from the National Aviary's snapshot webcam at Pitt's Cathedral of Learning. To see the snapshot camera, click the link on the camera name.  To see the streaming camera click here.)

21 responses so far

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