Archive for May, 2012

May 05 2012


Published by under Water and Shore

Here on Lake Erie's shore there are a lot of water birds I don't see at home.

Terns, for instance.

In Pittsburgh we only see a few terns per year during migration and you have to go out of your way to do so.  Dedicated birders wait at Dashields Dam on the Ohio River in early April for terns and gulls to fly by.  (I'm not that dedicated.)

Terns are more plentiful in northwestern Ohio.  Common and black terns breed there, though in small numbers.  Forster's and Caspian terns pause in Ohio on the way to their breeding grounds.

Since I don't often see terns I have to think to identify them.  Caspians require the least thought because they're easy.  They're the largest tern in the world -- the size of a herring gull -- and they have large orange beaks that look like a carrot attached to their faces.

If they're barking I know them right away.  To me they sound like wild parrots.  Click here to hear.

This one barked at Steve Gosser when he took his picture.


By the way, if you're up near Foxburg in Clarion County, stop by the Red Brick Gallery (17 Main Street, Foxburg, PA 16036) to see a display of Steve Gosser's beautiful bird photos.  Gallery hours are Fridays 4-8pm, Saturdays 12-8pm, and Sundays 1-6pm.  The show runs through May 28.

Here's the show announcement.  Sorry I missed the opening last weekend.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

2 responses so far

May 04 2012

Crowds of Warblers

When I saw a hooded warbler in Schenley Park Tuesday morning I knew it was time...

The warblers are here!

Tuesday's birds were just the leading edge of a huge, singing wave of tiny, colorful birds heading north to breed.

Many warbler species are just passing through.  We see them for a week or two and then they're gone.  In the fall they pass through again heading south, but then they're silent and dull looking.

So there's no time to waste.  I'm dropping everything and heading for Magee Marsh in northwestern Ohio where I know the warblers are easy to see and very plentiful.  I'll be there for part of The Biggest Week in American Birding and so will thousands of others. It's a crowd scene of birds and birders.

If you're thinking of birding Magee Marsh there's still time. The warblers will be going strong through mid-May.

This weekend I plan on seeing a prothonotary warbler.  That's where Bob Greene photographed this one.

(photo by Bobby Greene)

2 responses so far

May 03 2012

Hatching Is Hard Work

By now it's safe to assume that Dorothy's fourth egg will never hatch.  Perhaps it wasn't viable. Perhaps the pip we saw was actually just a white spot -- a dab of poot from one of the chicks.

It takes a while to be sure an egg won't hatch because the entire process from pip to liberation takes 50-72 hours for peregrines.

Hatching is the first major effort of a new bird and he's on his own to complete it. His mother insists on being present for the hatch but she doesn't break the shell.  Her only assistance is to move the shell away when it's finally opened.

How does the chick get out of the shell?

When a baby bird is ready to hatch its body takes up almost all of the egg's interior.  Though it's in cramped quarters the chick has a tool, a temporary structure on top of its beak called an egg tooth, that's sharp enough to cut the shell.

First the chick positions its head at the large end of the egg near the air space and uses its egg tooth to break the interior membrane.  Now it can breathe and "peep."  The parents can hear the peeping.  How cool!

The chick rests a while.  Then it starts rubbing its egg tooth against one spot on the shell until it makes a hole -- the pip.  Starting at the hole, the chick now turns inside the shell bit by bit and hammers the circumference of the egg.  Turn, hammer, rest.  Turn, hammer, rest.  When the line is complete the chick pushes the large end of the shell with its head and shoulders and the small end with its feet to separate the shell.  Mom steps in and removes the shell.

It's possible for the baby bird to mess this up and the mistake can be fatal.  The chick must work fast enough that he remains damp inside the shell.  Otherwise the membrance dries out and traps him inside.  This year at Cleveland's Terminal Tower one of the peregrine chicks hammered the shell longitudinally.  The effort took so long that he died before he could open the egg.

Hatching is hard work.  It's a wonder that chicks know what to do while in the shell.  It's a wonder they turn and tap the circumference.  It's a wonder they have the energy to complete it and break free.

Every hatchling is a tiny miracle.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, 27 April 2012, 4:37pm)

7 responses so far

May 02 2012

Third Adult Peregrine Annoying Dorothy and E2

Published by under Peregrines

Today on the falconcam you've seen Dorothy and E2 away from the nest quite a bit.  They're able to leave the chicks because the nest is warm enough that the chicks are OK without brooding. 

Meanwhile Dorothy and E2 have been off camera because they're busy defending their territory.  Today at 1:30pm Karen Lang and I saw E2 attack a third adult peregrine approaching from the south.   Dorothy had already come back to the Cathedral of Learning with two primary feathers askew on her right wing as if something had hit her.  Was that evidence the third adult (intruder?) had hit her?  We don't know.  

E2 chased the third adult away past Flagstaff Hill while Dorothy circled above Frick Fine Arts.  Both of them are still vigilant, gazing toward the south.

5 responses so far

May 02 2012

South Wind

Songbirds migrate at night and they like to have a tail wind so this week's weather has been great for moving north.

Before dawn on Monday the wind swung around to the south. That morning I saw my first Baltimore oriole of the year and heard a red-eyed vireo in Schenley Park.

Yesterday I saw a chestnut-sided warbler, a hooded warbler (pictured above), white-throated sparrows and many rose-breasted grosbeaks.

Despite the rain I bet it will be another good day for birds.

I wonder who arrived last night on the warm wind.

(photo of a hooded warbler at Sewickley Heights Park, April 28, by Shawn Collins)

7 responses so far

May 01 2012

Henry’s in Ohio!

Published by under Peregrines

This news just in:  Henry's in Ohio!

If you watched Dorothy and E2's nest last year you may remember their son Henry who made a name for himself in July.

On July 7 Henry hit the glass wall at SEI only three days after his sister Yellow died there.  Injured but able to fly, he made his way back to the Cathedral of Learning where his parents fed him while he recovered.  Before the accident he was nearly independent but the resumed feedings taught him that whining brings food.  This made him one very loud peregrine.

Fast forward to Shaker Heights, April 29.

Henry showed up at a low point for the Tower East nest site.  The building had undergone extensive outdoor work since January that culminated in three weeks of roof work in early April.  This was too much for the established peregrine pair, Diana and Stator, so they abandoned the site.

Then on April 29 (Cleveland Forums user) "bobbytimewarp" saw a peregrine on the Tower East building.  The bird's size was confusing -- he seemed large -- so Bobby's initial thought was that the bird was female.  Chris Saladin stopped by with her camera and took some amazing photos while Henry put on a show.  He chased a red-tail, an immature bald eagle, and a kettle of broad-winged hawks.  Very macho!   Check out his antics here.

Using her photos Chris was able to read Henry's bands and the question "Who is he?" made its way to Art McMorris, Pennsylvania's peregrine coordinator.  And that's how I learned Henry's in Ohio.

Here he is in Shaker Heights yesterday.   Doesn't he look handsome!

(photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

16 responses so far

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