May 18 2010
At the peregrine banding this morning we learned there are three male and two female chicks at the Cathedral of Learning this year.
It was a typical banding day.
For starters, it rained. Guests and officials assembled in the banding area with suppressed excitement. The media arrived with several reporters, photographers and a TV camera crew.
The adult peregrines became wary as banding time approached. They probably guessed something was up because of the indoor noise and the memory that their chicks are banded every year at this age.
Dorothy perched atop the snapshot camera. E2 waited on the roof to swoop at intruders.
As soon as Beth Fife and Doug Dunkerley of the Pennsylvania Game Commission began to approach the nest E2 flew by, kakk-ing in alarm, and Dorothy jumped into the nest with wings spread and hackles raised. “Stay away from our babies!”
Beth captured Dorothy in a large net (like a butterfly net) and handed her into the building so she and Doug could collect the chicks without being attacked. Then Beth gathered the chicks into two large pasteboard boxes and brought them indoors.
All five chicks and their mother received health checkups from Dr. Robert Wagner from University of Pittsburgh Veterinary Services. The chicks were weighed to determine their sex and then banded. Three boys and two girls. All healthy.
The banding took only half an hour and then Beth and Doug were ready to return them to the nest, but not before cleaning up the mess — enough to fill two plastic grocery bags.
Believe it or not an avid young birder is now in happy possession of Dorothy’s garbage. Just as he did last year, he will identify the feathers and determine what prey the peregrines are eating. Some of us took a quick look at the debris and identified blue jay, oriole and possibly indigo bunting feathers. But we couldn’t look long. It smelled bad!
When the chicks were safe in the nest, Dr. Todd Katzner released Dorothy who flew back to the nest immediately and saw that her kids were fine. Beth looked out to make sure Dorothy was OK and, in a parting shot, Dorothy got the last word. She swooped at Beth’s head and nearly hit her. Yow!
“Don’t mess with my nest!”
(photos by Kate St. John and from the National Aviary snapshot webcam. Watch the streaming cam here)