May 19 2014

In For A Surprise

Published by at 7:00 am under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrine chicks, 17 May 2014 (photo from the National Avairy falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Pittsburgh's peregrine falcon chicks are in for a surprise this week (and next).  Dan Brauning and Tom Keller are coming to town.

Dan Brauning, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Wildlife Diversity Chief, and PGC wildlife biologist Tom Keller will visit six of Pittsburgh's eight peregrine nest sites to band the chicks.  At each site they'll walk and reach into dangerous high places, collect the chicks, weigh and band them and return them to the nest.

You're welcome to observe from nearby. Bring binoculars and a camera and you might get a good snapshot of the adults' bands.  At the bridge sites it's the only way we find out who's nesting there.

Tuesday, May 20:

  • Gulf Tower, 9:00am:  Watch the webcam just after 9:00am and you'll see the "kids" cluster at the back of the nestbox while their parents scream, swoop and attack.  The banding won't last long so tune in early or meet Pittsburgh Falconut John English before 9:00am at Flag Plaza, 1275 Bedford Avenue, where there's an eye-level view of the Gulf Tower nest area.
  • Westinghouse Bridge, 12:30pm:  For the banders this will be a two step process: walk the catwalk to find the nest then use the snooper crane to access it.  Meet John English at noon at Wendy's on Route 30 in North Versailles and he'll guide you to a viewing spot below the bridge.  He'll be wearing his peregrine ballcap and binoculars so you can't miss him.

UPDATE!! Predicted thunderstorms have rescheduled the Wednesday and Thursday bandings. They will be on ...

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Wednesday, May 21:

  • Monaca/East Rochester Bridge, 9:00am. We're not sure if the peregrines chose this bridge or the large railroad bridge this spring. If they chose Monaca/East Rochester, it will become clear right after 9:00am when they raise a fuss. If so, viewing may be good from the community ballpark on the Monaca side.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Thursday, May 22:

  • Tarentum Bridge, 8:30am.  Meet Rob Protz at the Tarentum public boat launch under the bridge.  If you're coming from Route 28, take the First Avenue exit from the bridge ramp and it'll put you right there.  Expect a small crowd with cameras and binoculars.  You can't miss it.
  • McKees Rocks Bridge, after the Tarentum banding.  This one is hard to view because the bridge is huge and the banders aren't sure where the nest is.  There are no viewing plans (that I know of) because we won't know where to stand until the nest is found.

Wednesday, May 28:

  • Glenfield-Neville Island I-79 Bridge over the Ohio River, 9:00am.  Meet at the west end of the Fairfield Inn and Suites parking lot on Grand Avenue on Neville Island. This is the end of the bridge where the nest is located. See the comments below for more information from Anne Marie Bosnyak.

What about the nests at Pitt's Cathedral of Learning and the Green Tree water tower?

  • Cathedral of Learning:  As we know from watching the webcam, Dorothy and E2 have only one egg and they've never incubated.  Some time this week the Game Commission will collect the egg and test it for fertility, etc.  Don't be surprised when it's gone.
  • At the Green Tree water tower the pair is present but has never incubated so there's no reason to visit the site this year.

If you take photos at one of the bandings, let me know and I'll post them with news.  Leave a comment to alert me.


(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “In For A Surprise”

  1. Anne Marieon 19 May 2014 at 7:20 pm

    >> He’ll be wearing his peregrine ballcap and binoculars so you can’t miss him.

    Really? I was at that Wendy’s last week…. there were at least 5 people wearing peregrine ballcaps and sporting binoculars! 🙂

    and for the Glenfield/I-79 banding, I’ll be there… arriving between 8 and 8:30 to watch for the parents. Last year when Dan and Tom arrived, the parents were both absent and the lack of screeching and attacking made us all think we were wrong and that there wasn’t a nest…luckily that wasn’t true. (see Kate’s blog 5/22/13) I’ll park at the Port Authority Park & Ride under the bridge and will either be in the lot under the bridge or in the Fairfield parking lot closest to the bridge. I don’t have a peregrine ballcap, but I’ll have binoculars and a camera!!

  2. Kate St. Johnon 19 May 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Anne Marie, I am bummed out that I will be out of town for the I-79 banding. Alas! Alas!

  3. Anne Marieon 19 May 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Oh that is too bad… I’ll try to take some good pictures.

  4. Helenon 20 May 2014 at 10:23 am

    I watched the Gulf Tower banding this morning. Mom was not happy. After they were put back – they all looked shell shocked – like “what happened?”. So cute with those wide eyes. They were frozen, for a while, in the position they were replaced. I love this web cam. I’ve learned so much along with Kate’s blogs. Oh, the camera lens was also cleaned – big difference.

  5. Suzanneon 20 May 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Why do they band the falcons, please?

  6. Kate St. Johnon 20 May 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Suzanne, Peregrine falcons are still endangered in Pennsylvania. When we read the bands on birds later in their lives we learn where they came from, where they went, and how old they are. This is useful for a still-endangered species. Here’s more on how & why we band peregrines in Pennsylvania:

  7. Suzanneon 20 May 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Thank you! I hadn’t realized that peregrine falcons were still “endangered” and hoped against hope that they were not being banded out of curiosity.

    The link you provided is illuminating, thank you very much!

  8. Carolynon 27 May 2014 at 10:43 am

    Is the Neville Island bridge nest located on the opposite side this year…closer to the port authority lot? Is banding still on for 5/28?

  9. Kate St. Johnon 27 May 2014 at 11:05 am

    Carolyn, yes & yes

  10. Gary Sonnenbergon 28 Nov 2016 at 4:15 pm


    Interesting article on the banding. I hope it all went well. I didn’t realize that certain areas would need to “bring in” someone to do banding like this.

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