Archive for June, 2012

Jun 15 2012

Watch These Bridges

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine season isn't over yet. Not only do we have two peregrine families on buildings but we now have five (5!) active sites on Pittsburgh area bridges. Four nests are confirmed, the fifth is very likely.

Here's a roundup of bridge news beginning with our newest site, then traveling upstream. The PA Game Commission appreciates peregrine watchers at all the sites, especially at this newest one.

Neville Island I-79 Bridge (also called the Glenfield Bridge) over the Ohio River, Glenfield-to-Neville-Island  (photo by Robert Strovers on Wikimedia Commons)
New!  For five years peregrines have been seen near the I-79 Neville Island Bridge but this month they gave themselves away.  On June 9 a peregrine fledgling was rescued from the Ohio River below the bridge and sent to a rehabber.  Art McMorris, the PA Game Commission's Peregrine Coordinator, needs your help monitoring this site.  If you go:  The peregrines favor the Neville Island end of the main span.  Best views might be from the marina on the Glenfield side.  Please report findings on PABIRDS or leave a comment here and I'll send you Art's contact information.


Monaca East Rochester Bridge over the Ohio River, US Route 51, Monaca-to-East-Rochester. (screenshot from video)
Peregrine falcons have been monitored at this bridge since 2007.  This year three males and one female chick were banded on May 22.  They fledged in early June and can often be seen perched on the power-towers on either side of the river.  Click on the photo to see an old video of the 2008 banding from Beaver County Times Online.



McKees Rocks Bridge over the Ohio River at McKees Rocks. (photo by Robert Strovers, Wikimedia Commons)
Joe Fedor first noticed peregrines at this bridge in 2008.  Since then they've been here every year.  Sometimes their nest is found, sometimes not.  This June 1 the Game Commission confirmed their nest by finding a feathered chick too old to band.  The McKees Rocks Bridge is so large that it's hard to see the peregrines unless they perch somewhere else -- such as on the power tower near Alcosan.



Westinghouse Bridge over Turtle Creek valley, US Route 30 at East Pittsburgh. (historic photo by Joseph Elliott, Library of Congress)
Peregrine chicks were first banded at this bridge in 2010. This year the Game Commission confirmed a nest with four eggs on June 1. That's late for eggs in Pennsylvania but it may be because there's a new adult female here. (She hatched at the Ironton-Russell Bridge in Ironton, Ohio in 2009.) Was there a territorial dispute and a new nesting attempt? We'll know more by early July when the Game Commission re-checks the nest.


Tarentum Bridge, PA Route 366 over the Allegheny River at Tarentum.  (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)
Present since 2010, this is the first year a peregrine nest has been confirmed. Two chicks fledged early this week and the entire family has been putting on a show since then.  Yesterday Sharon Leadbitter watched them flying low over the river and snapped this photo of an adult perched on the super-structure.

Right now Tarentum is the most fun to watch.   Neville Island I-79 is most in need of watchers.

(photo credits above.  Click on each image to see its original)

p.s. I forgot to mention 40th Street Bridge over the Allegheny River. Peregrines have been seen there. Check it out!

20 responses so far

Jun 14 2012

Baby Falcon?

On Tuesday morning I got a phone call from University of Pittsburgh Facilities Management that made my heart fall to the floor.

Phil Hieber said that an injured baby falcon, possibly a peregrine, had been found at the Posvar Hall garage.  The people who found it had put it in a box and wanted to know what to do.

My first thought was, "Oh no!"  and then I remembered that people often mistake other birds of prey for young peregrines.  And I reminded myself that I'd seen all three juveniles high on the Cathedral of Learning only two hours earlier and they had not been lower than the 30th floor for days.

I couldn't afford to leave work Tuesday morning but if this was one of our "juvies" I would drop everything and run to Pitt.  How could I tell it was a peregrine over the phone?

Was the bird banded?  Phil said it was not so I knew it wasn't one of our peregrines.  (Whew!)

I urged them to call the ARL Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Verona, 412-793-6900, and drive the bird over there.  Then I emailed Jill Argall at the Wildlife Center to let her know an injured bird was on its way, and I asked her to let me know what it was.

Later that day Jill replied that it was a kestrel and it was doing fine.

Indeed it was a "baby" (small) falcon.

American kestrels are our smallest falcon so they do resemble peregrines.  I know they're in Oakland because I've seen them on campus.  Last Saturday an adult male kestrel flew by the Cathedral of Learning and perched on the flagpole at Carnegie Museum.

I'm glad to know the kestrel is doing well.  Sighs of relief all around!


(photo of a kestrel on a flagpole (though not at Pitt) by Brian Herman)

p.s. If you are in the Pittsburgh area and find an injured animal or bird, call the ARL Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Verona, 412-793-6900. 

4 responses so far

Jun 13 2012

Four Peregrines At Tarentum

Published by under Peregrines

Great news from the Tarentum Bridge!

In April it seemed there were no peregrines at the bridge.  Now there's a family of four.

  • In late May, Rob Protz reported peregrines going in and out of the bridge structure near the New-Kensington-side pylon.
  • On June 1 the PA Game Commission confirmed two adults and one feathered chick too old to band.
  • On June 10 Amy Henrici and Pat McShea saw one fledgling.
  • Rob Protz confirmed two fledgings on the evening of June 11.
  • And on June 12 Marge Van Tassel photographed the family of four.

The peregrines were there all the time but the adults hid their nest for as long as possible until the demands of their two chicks gave them away.  Now you can see them up close from the Tarentum side boat ramp.

Marge's photo below shows what the area looks like without magnification.  There are four peregrines on the near pylon (red arrows).

But they aren't always that far away.

Marge and Rob both report that the father peregrine likes to hunt for pigeons in the box girder cubbyholes.  Pigeons are plentiful on the landside span so "Papa" perches above the boat ramp area and waits for a tasty meal.

Here he is.  I sure wish we could read his bands from this photo!


His "kids" beg from above while their mother, nicknamed Hope, watches nearby.  (I've brightened this photo of one of the fledglings so you can see it better.  The backlighting makes it tough!)


They're a busy family right now and will be easy to see in the next few days.

If you're in the area, stop by the Tarentum Bridge to watch peregrines.

To get there from Route 28 Expressway:  The Tarentum Bridge carries PA 366 over the Allegheny River.  From Rt 28 expressway, take the exit for "PA 366 East. New Kensington, Tarentum."  In 1 mile you're in the heart of Tarentum at the bridge.  Take the First Avenue exit (it's the first off-ramp just as you start onto the bridge).  First Avenue is under the bridge.  Ta dah! You're there.

(first photo (of the whole bridge) by Kate St. John, all other photos by Marge Van Tassel)

14 responses so far

Jun 12 2012

I Don’t Care How Big You Are

In June I can hear the locations of red-tailed hawks before I see them, not because the hawks are making any noise but because they're surrounded by crowds of small birds who are shouting at them.

The hawks are huge, the songbirds small, so the birds of prey try to ignore their tormentors and find food -- a mouse, a rabbit, an exposed fledgling songbird -- but that's exactly why they attract a crowd.

Tom Merriman found this red-tail in Mount Oliver with his back turned to the shouting. Did it work?

Probably not. It's mighty hard to hunt by stealth when everyone knows you're there.  If the songbirds sustain their attack the hawk usually gives up and leaves without catching anything.

Peregrines attack bald eagles.  Robins harass red-tails.  Chickadees chase blue jays. All of them shout, "I don't care how big you are.  Stay away from my babies!"


(photo by Tom Merriman)

p.s. This photo has an imbedded quiz.  Can you identify the small bird harassing the red-tailed hawk? Leave a comment with your answer.

13 responses so far

Jun 11 2012

Pay No Attention

In Schenley Park on Saturday I found this not-quite-fledgling Baltimore oriole perched low near the trail.  I noticed him only because his father made a warning sound and leapt away from the area.

The father bird distracted me (on purpose) but I remembered where he'd made the sound and looked when he left.  His baby was among the leaves, immobile and stoic.  The little bird didn't move a muscle.  He didn't make a sound. His survival depended on it.

When I saw him I stepped way back and used binoculars to view him. I knew not to stare.

Only a few days ago a young man had asked me about a nest of baby birds he'd found in a shrub in his yard.  Day after day he had moved the leaves to look at the babies.  Then one day the nest was knocked down and all the babies gone without a trace.  He knew they were too young to fly and wondered where they went. Sadly the young man's attention probably revealed the nest to a predator.

I didn't want my attention to end this tiny oriole's life so I quickly snapped his picture and hurried down the trail.

On my return trip three hours later I didn't pause but a quick glance assured me his strategy was working. He was still perched, motionless. He looked like a leaf.

Pay no attention.

(photo by Kate St. John)

3 responses so far

Jun 10 2012

In The Garden Of Your Mind

Published by under Books & Events

(in case you haven't seen this...)

Why is Mister Rogers on the blog today?

Because his message has been remixed in a very cool video and you know what he says...?

"It's good to be curious about many things."


I love being curious.  It's why I write this blog.


(video remixed by John Boswell for PBS Digital Studios)

p.s. PBS posted this video on Friday June 8. By Sunday at 6:00am it had been viewed nearly 3 millions times! Click on their link to see more.

6 responses so far

Jun 09 2012

Pitt Peregrine News, June 8

Yesterday at Fledge Watch we often saw all five peregrines at the same time:  Dorothy, E2 and the three "kids."

The youngsters practiced flying (above) and one even tried a prey exchange with Dad ... which he missed and dropped to the ground.   I missed it, too.  I was at work.  🙁

In the evening Dorothy demonstrated how to kite from the lightning rod (below). She hung onto the perch and opened her wings in the steady wind, practicing balance and control without having to go anywhere.  In a couple of days the fledglings will copy Mom and try this exercise.

Fledge Watch is no longer a scheduled event but you can find out when the falcon watchers will be at the Schenley Plaza tent by checking Pittsburgh Falconuts on Facebook for dates/times.  Some of us will be there at mid-day today.

(top photo of juvenile flying by Peter Bell, bottom photo of Dorothy kiting on the lightning rod by Sharon Leadbitter)

One response so far

Jun 08 2012

Fledge Watch Friday

Published by under Peregrines

All the Pitt nestlings have flown. Last evening we saw all five peregrines perched on the Cathedral of Learning. Today the "kids" may branch out & visit other buildings.

I'll be at Fledge Watch from 1:00 to 2:00pm (possibly as early as 12:45pm) and after work starting at 5:30 pm. Hope to see you at the Schenley Plaza tent.

2 responses so far

Jun 08 2012

Meanwhile, Down The Street

This week it's been "All peregrines, all the time" but falcons aren't the only birds of prey nesting around Schenley Park.

Down the road on the other side of Phipps Conservatory there's a red-tailed hawks' nest with two young birds that soon will fly.  If you've walked near the pond under the Panther Hollow Bridge you've probably heard their whistle-whine.  "Come feed me!"

In late April they hadn't hatched yet when I encountered Gregg Diskin with his camera in Schenley Park.  He told me he planned to photograph the nestlings as they matured.

Because their stick-nest is deep it wasn't possible to see them until they were tall enough to look over the rim.  At first they were fluffy white, just like baby peregrines, but now they've grown feathers to match their parents' coloration. In Gregg's photo above they're about halfway there.

At last they are full grown.  When I saw them yesterday they were at the gawky stage --  fully feathered with downy fluff on their heads -- and they were whining loudly.  Their voices echo under the bridge.


If you'd like to see them, walk the valley under the Panther Hollow Bridge and look up.  But don't pause on the path where there's a lot of bird poop.  You don't want to be in "poot" range.  (Click here to see.)

(photos by Gregory Diskin)

No responses yet

Jun 07 2012

Peregrine versus Bald Eagle … Guess Who Won

If you live on the coast you probably see bald eagles all the time but here in Pittsburgh it's astonishing to see one in the city, especially in June, especially at the University of Pittsburgh a mile from the Monongahela River.


So imagine our amazement at the Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch yesterday when an immature bald eagle appeared over Schenley Plaza riding a thermal.


Everybody had just focused their binoculars on the eagle and I was explaining why it didn't have a white head and tail (they don't turn white until the eagle matures at age four to five) when ... Bang!  A peregrine came out of nowhere and attacked him.


It was the eagle's turn to be astonished.  Dorothy zoomed up and dove again. Bang!  "Stay away from my babies!"

The eagle tried to lose altitude to get out of her way but he maneuvered like a C-130 cargo plane versus Dorothy, the fighter jet.

She was relentless, fast and dangerous.  The eagle flipped upside down to show his talons, hoping to fend her off, but he made a mistake.  He kept flying toward the Cathedral of Learning where Dorothy's three youngsters waited and watched.


Again and again she dove on him, driving him past the Cathedral of Learning toward Downtown.  "Move it, buddy!"


Just before they disappeared she came close for good measure.


A minute passed.

Dorothy returned to the Cathedral of Learning victorious.

It was all in a day's work for a mother peregrine falcon.  Go, Dorothy!


(photos by Peter Bell)

23 responses so far

« Prev - Next »