Archive for June, 2013

Jun 12 2013

Peregrine News Around Town

Published by under Peregrines

Silver Boy chases Dorothy at Pitt (photo by Peter Bell)

At Pitt:  Our youngster is in the "chase me" phase.  If he had brothers and sisters he'd be chasing them. Instead he chases his parents who willingly oblige.  Above, he dives on Dorothy.  Notice the size difference!  Female peregrines are larger.

Those of us who watch him from the ground are currently calling him Silver Boy in keeping with the tradition of ID-by-color of the USFW band.  (His band has no colored tape; it's silver.)  When we text each other he's SB, two initials that happen to include all his previous non-names as well.

Downtown:  There's been no news of this family since the week they fledged except for this:  Last Friday a dead female juvenile peregrine was found on Grant Street, her body recovered by Beth Fife.  This was one of at least two females hatched at the Downtown nest this year.  We know there were at least two because one female was rescued on May 30 while another was still unfledged in the nest.

If you have any news from Downtown, please post a comment.

I-79 Neville Island Bridge:  These peregrines have been a lot of fun to watch.  At 4:00pm yesterday Laura Marshall reported that all three birds had fledged and were staying up high.  Then at 7:00pm she and Anne Marie Bosynak were standing in the park-n-ride lot when one of the juvie males flew rapidly across the river from Glenfield and tried to land in the bushy trees near them.  This was probably his first encounter with vegetation and he got tangled in the branches.  Like any toddler he called for Mom, picked himself up and apparently tried again on another set of bushes.   His parents merely watched.  Youthful enthusiasm!

Westinghouse Bridge:  Fledge Watch begins tomorrow!

Monaca Bridge:  Last Friday Becky Smith saw two peregrines flying and swooping with each other at the big black railroad bridge.  Their behavior this spring indicates they have young in the nest who may be ready to fly.  Stop by the bridge and see if you can spot fledglings.

Tarentum Bridge:  Though this nest failed Rob Protz reports that the peregrines are still there.  Occasionally he gets a good view of the female.

Green Tree water tank:  This nest failed as well but Mary Jo Peden and Shannon Thompson report that one or both peregrines are visible nearly every time they stop by.  I stopped by on Sunday and saw the female.


Our peregrines are off camera now but they're really busy.  Check them out at any of these locations.

(photo by Peter Bell)

10 responses so far

Jun 11 2013

New! Westinghouse Fledge Watch, June 13-18

Published by under Peregrines

Westinghouse Bridge peregrine nest location (photo by John English)

Late breaking news!  A healthy young peregrine will fledge from the Westinghouse Bridge this weekend.  Join his Fledge Watch, June 13-18.

This is a Watch we thought would never happen.

When Dan Brauning and Art McMorris visited the Westinghouse Bridge on May 16 the lone nestling was seven days old and appeared to be handicapped and unlikely to survive.  In late May PennDot's John Kleiber checked on the bird and was surprised to find a healthy, well fed youngster.

Yesterday Dan Brauning and Tom Keller of the PA Game Commission visited again, intending to band the bird, but he was too old to approach.  In Dan's photo below you can see he's already fully feathered and might have flown too soon with dangerous results.

Nestling at Westinghouse Bridge, 10 Jun 2013 (photo by Dan Brauning, PA Game Commission)

Dan estimates this youngster will fledge on or about June 15.

So, yes, there will be a Fledge Watch at the Westinghouse Bridge beginning this Thursday.  John English is organizing the watch and has provided everything you need to know on his website including contact information.

Contact John to coordinate your visit.  Check his website or Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group for more information.

Happy flying, little bird.

(bridge photo by John English.  Peregrine photo by Dan Brauning, PA Game Commission)

3 responses so far

Jun 10 2013

Our Birds’ Eye View

View of Schenley Park from the Cathedral of Learning (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In good weather this is what Pitt's peregrines see every day.  From their perspective, the sky is the most interesting part.

We, of course, find the ground more interesting so it takes up most of the picture.

Between our two points of view is the horizon. Notice how the edge is flat, no hills or mountains.

Pittsburgh was the shore of an ancient inland sea (we used to be at the beach!) and our hills are actually erosion cuts into that flat landscape.  The tops of the hills are what's left of the original shore and they're all the same height -- about 1200 feet above sea level.  Chestnut Ridge, 34 miles away, is the nearest mountain but it's only 2,119 feet high, easy for birds to cross.

In the valley below the Cathedral of Learning, near the bottom right of this photo, is the Schenley Plaza tent where we sat during Fledge Watch.  To a peregrine we humans are mere dots.

But they probably weren't looking at us.  They're more interested in the sky.  😉


(photo by Chloe Fan on Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the image to see the original.  This photo was taken in 2009 prior to construction of The Porch restaurant.  Can you tell what else has changed? )


p.s. See this comment for news of Pitt's juvenile peregrine and the comments on yesterday's blog for news from the I-79 Neville Island Bridge.

3 responses so far

Jun 09 2013

Watch The Parents

Published by under Peregrines

Adult peregrine at I-79 Neville Island Bridge (photo by Gene Henderson)

It's embarrassing to give advice and not benefit from it myself.

Yesterday morning I met Laura Marshall and Gene Henderson for Fledge Watch at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge.

While we watched from the Fairfield Inn lot, Laura described the nest location in the middle of the span and I gave pointers on how to find the fledglings:  "Watch the parents.  They'll show you where the fledglings are."

In the beginning both peregrine parents were perched on a bridge abutment on the Glenfield side.  Gene had been over there but they made warning sounds so he left.

The adults stayed at Glenfield a long time and then, in an unusual move, both flew to our side of the river and perched on a similar abutment.  (Here's Gene's photo of an adult on that abutment.)

Sometimes the mother bird, Magnum, swooped down to the river and disappeared for a while. Sometimes we heard a juvie whining.

I walked to the Park-n-ride lot with two Fairfield Inn guests but we had to stay back because "Dad" peregrine made warning sounds at our approach.

Did we benefit from these parental clues?  No.

Laura guided me and Tricia McIntyre to the Glenfield side where she has permission to watch the birds on private land.  Magnum was still on the abutment on Neville Island and we saw two juvies walk the I-beam near the nest. None of us had seen the third juvie yet when Laura said, "There's a peregrine on the piling across the river."  Ta dah!  It was the third bird. He had fledged!

He was safe from predators on a concrete island eight feet above the water.  His parents visited and demonstrated how to flap away.  He dealt with three people in a fishing boat by shouting and walking away.  (Read about the boat beginning with Mark B's comment here.)  He was fine.

In retrospect Magnum and her mate showed us exactly what was going on.  I'll bet their fledgling was on the Glenfield side when Gene was over there -- hence their warning.  They accompanied their son when he flew to the Neville Island side and "dad" warned us away.  Magnum swooped down to the piling and we heard the juvie's calls echo under the bridge.

I should learn from my own advice:  "Watch the parents.  They'll show you where the fledglings are."


(photo by Gene Henderson)


p.s.  Fledge Watchers still needed at this bridge!  Click here for directions.

5 responses so far

Jun 08 2013

Success Through Landscaping

Published by under Schenley Park,Trees

Catalpa tree blooming in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

When most other trees have already set seed, northern catalpas put on their show in June.  Right now they're flowering in Pittsburgh.

Northern catalpas (Catalpa speciosa) are not only late to flower but they're slow to leaf out, retaining that fresh green color of early spring much later than other trees.  Their flowers become long bean pods in the fall.

Though native to North America, catalpas were uncommon until landscapers fell in love with them.  Their original range was in wet soil along streams, lake shores and swamp margins.  Some sources say northern catalpas were limited to a small area near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

But their trumpet flowers turned the tide.  Landscapers planted varieties that could grow almost anywhere and now they do.  Catalpas escaped cultivation and expanded their range across the eastern U.S., from Massachusetts to Kansas, from Wisconsin to South Carolina.

Catalpas are now so successful that they sprout up in waste places and along roadsides, a dramatic success thanks to landscaping.


(photo by Kate St. John)


2 responses so far

Jun 07 2013

He Stoops To Conquer

Published by under Peregrines,Tenth Page

Peregrine falcon, Mo, tucks his wings in a stoop (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Peregrines are famous for speed when diving on their avian prey.  The dive was named a "stoop" because the word means "to bend the head or body downward and forward."

The stoop is amazing in many ways:

  • Peregrines dive at a 30 to 60 degree angle.
  • They may start the stoop 5,000 feet away from the prey and drop 1,500 to 3,400 feet in altitude.  These distances are exceeded when a falcon sky-dives with a falconer.
  • Land-based speed calculations have clocked them at 100 to 273 miles per hour.  Falconer Ken Franklin sky dives with his falcon at 242 mph.
  • Peregrines can accelerate from 100 to 200 mph in eight seconds according to Ken Franklin.
  • At 150 mph they tuck their wings tight and extend their shoulders, making their bodies into a diamond shape.
  • At 200 mph peregrines pull in their shoulders and extend their heads to become extremely streamlined.
  • Because their acute vision is at a 40 degree angle, they reduce drag and keep an eye on their prey by not diving straight at it.  Instead they spiral downward keeping the prey to the side so they can see it.  Their logarithmic spiral is rarely noticeable from the ground.

Here are three examples of diving peregrines, thanks to Chad+Chris Saladin.

Above, Mo is tucked into an arrow shape in Canton, Ohio.

Below, Rocky at Cuyahoga Valley National Park shows how peregrines hold their wings slightly open at the shoulder.  If he was going faster his shape would be more angular.

Peregrine falcon, Rocky, in wing-tuck stoop (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)


And finally, Dorothy and E2's son Henry shows off his flying prowess at Tower East in Shaker Heights, Ohio.   His angle of attack is dramatic but he's not traveling so fast that he has to tuck in his wings.

Peregrine falcon, Henry, stooping in Shaker Hieghts Ohio (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)


He stoops and conquers.


(photos by Chad+Chris Saladin. Today’s Tenth Page is inspired by page 122 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)


p.s.  She Stoops To Conquer is a play by Oliver Goldsmith first performed in 1773.

4 responses so far

Jun 06 2013

Synchronous Fireflies

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Fireflies are just starting to emerge in southwestern Pennsylvania and with them the opportunity to see a very special phenomenon.

Most fireflies flash individually but in a few special places on earth -- pockets in the Appalachians and in Thailand -- the males flash in synchrony.   While the female fireflies wait on the ground, the males fly above and flash together -- blinking in synchrony 6 to 8 times, then pausing for 8 seconds.  Their display is so beautiful that these sites have become meccas for firefly lovers.

Right now this light show is going on in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Elkmont, Tennessee as you can see in the video above.

If Tennessee is too far away, you can see them closer to home in the Allegheny National Forest.  Synchronous fireflies were discovered there in 2011 and studied last year by the experts from Tennessee who found that we have the same species that displays in the forest near Elkmont.

See them for yourself at the first annual PA Firefly Festival, June 21-23 at the Black Caddis Ranch Bed & Breakfast in Kellettville, PA.  Volunteers will guide you to the light show from 9:00pm to midnight on Friday and Saturday.  Visit the PA Firefly Festival website for more information.

We're lucky to have such a cool light show near home.

(video from Knoxville News Sentinel on YouTube)

5 responses so far

Jun 05 2013

Water Feature

Published by under Bird Behavior

European starling enjoying the water line break (photo by Kate St. John)

On Memorial Day weekend my neighbors noticed a tiny leak coming from their retaining wall.  Within a day the leak had grown and caused the land to subside near the wall.  The city-water pipe is leaking from the area near their water shut-off.

Since then the leak has grown into a creek while we wait for the water company to dig up the street and replace the pipe.

The neighbors aren't happy but the birds are loving it.  Grackles, robins, starlings, mourning doves, song sparrows, cardinals, and house sparrows visit the water feature every day.  They bathe and drink and run through the stream.

They're the only ones who will miss it when it's gone.

(photo by Kate St. John)

One response so far

Jun 05 2013

Fledge Watchers Needed at I-79 Neville Island Bridge

Published by under Peregrines

Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Robert Stovers on Wikimedia Commons)
Fledge Watchers needed!

The three peregrine nestlings at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge are due to fledge in the next seven days.  Laura Marshall and Anne Marie Bosnyak need your help observing at this site.  If a fledgling lands in the river he must be rescued or he will drown.

Weather permitting, Laura will be watching at these dates and times if you wish to join her.  Meet her under the Fairfield Inn sign on Neville Island.

  • Wednesday June 5, 10:00-12:00.
  • Thursday June 6, on and off 7:30-11:30.
  • Friday, June 7, off and on all day on both sides of the river.  Stop below the Fairfield Inn sign.  If no one's there, look for Laura with binoculars on the other side of the river and wave.  She'll come over and bring you around to Glenfield side where she has permission to stand.
  • Saturday, June 8, 7:30-9:30am.  If you can come at other times, please do!
  • Sunday, June 9, after 12:00pm.
  • Next week to be announced: Anne Marie will coordinate on Monday.

If you can't make it at these times, please visit on your own.  Watchers at all times are greatly appreciated!  Click here for directions.

Leave a comment if you wish to contact Laura directly and I'll put you in touch with her.


(photo of I-79 Neville Island Bridge from Wikimedia Commons)

7 responses so far

Jun 04 2013

An Afternoon With Pittsburgh’s Eagles

It was hot and breezy last Saturday when Glenn Przyborski went down to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail to see the bald eagles' nest at Hays.

Glenn is a cinematographer so of course he took his camera and a really good scope.  His resulting video is a gorgeous, intimate look at the bald eagle family and their nestling who's due to fledge near the end of this month.

Watch it on YouTube above, or see it in HD on Glenn's Vimeo site.

(video by Glenn Przyborski, Przyborski Productions)


p.s.  You can tell it was hot on Saturday because the eagles are panting.

p.p.s  Glenn used a 2000mm Celestron C8 telescope to get these great close-ups!

6 responses so far

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