Archive for May, 2017

May 31 2017

An Uneasy Truce

Published by under Bird Behavior,Mammals

Curve-billed thrashers and round-tailed ground squirrel eating mealworms, Tucson, Arizona (photo by Donna Memon)

Curve-billed thrashers and ground squirrel near Tucson, Arizona (photo by Donna Memon)

In Arizona:

These species tolerate each other at the feeder but their relationship is rocky elsewhere.

In Donna Memon’s backyard two curve-billed thrashers wanted this round-tailed ground squirrel to step away from the mealworms.  Though they poked her she wouldn’t leave. This squirrel is so feisty that she chased a roadrunner!

Away from the feeders it’s all out war. Ground squirrels raid bird nests to eat eggs and nestlings.

Curve-billed thrashers try to avoid predation by nesting in cholla cactus.

Cholla cactus with bird nest (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Cholla cactus with bird nest (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Steve Valasek found an occupied nest at Hassayampa River Preserve northwest of Phoenix.

Curve-billed thrasher nest in cholla cactus (photo by Steve Valasek)

Curve-billed thrasher nest in cholla cactus (photo by Steve Valasek)

Safe from ground squirrels, heat is the big problem at the cactus nest sites.

Curve-billed thrasher and chick pant in the hot nest (photo by Steve Valasek)

Curve-billed thrasher and chick panting in hot nest (photo by Steve Valasek)

 

How do the chicks fledge?  Very carefully!

 

(photo credits:
curve-billed thrashers with ground squirrel by Donna Memon
cholla cactus photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original.
curve-billed thrashers’ nest by Steve Valasek
)

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May 31 2017

Gulf Tower Fledgling Update, May 30

Two chicks at Gulf Tower nest, 30 May 2017 at 7:39pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Two chicks at Gulf Tower nest, 30 May 2017 at 7:39pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Yesterday at Gulf Tower Fledge Watch it appeared that one, maybe two, of the peregrine chicks had fledged.  I found one chick off camera on the same level as the nest.  Where were the other two?

I used this clue: Find the parents and look where they are looking.  Yesterday Dori and Louie often perched just above the observation deck and stared at the deck floor.  I wondered if one or both were there.

Last evening Anne Marie Bosynak stopped by Flag Plaza and saw all three youngsters.  One had fledged to the observation deck area.  (Aha!)  The other two were on the nest level.

By 7:30pm two birds were back on camera.  This morning all three are off camera again. They will probably fly today.

I won’t be holding a Gulf Tower Fledge Watch but if you’re downtown keep your eyes on the sky and on nearby buildings.  The Gulf Tower peregrine chicks are learning to fly.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

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May 30 2017

Why Peregrines Don’t Fledge In The Rain

Gulf Tower peregrine nest on a wet morning, 27 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Gulf Tower peregrine nest on a wet morning, 27 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Why do I cancel Fledge Watch if it’s raining?  Am I just a wimp about getting wet?

No.  It’s because there’s nothing to see.  Young peregrines avoid flying in the rain.

On a peregrine’s first flight he needs some wind — not too much! — and an updraft to hold him up.  He also needs to be in good flight condition with strong muscles and dry feathers.

Wet feathers are heavy and make it hard to fly.  Birds know this instinctively so they wait until they’ve dried off.

Bird rehabbers know this, too.  When a young peregrine is rescued from the street, the rescuer wets him down before putting him out on a high ledge to start over.  Wet feathers prevent the rescued peregrine from leaping out of the rescuers hands.

There is one exception to this first flight rule.  When there’s danger at the nest, peregrine chicks of this age will fly, even in poor conditions, even if they’ve never flown before — but it can end badly in a crash.

What danger could there be at a city nest?  Humans!  We are the peregrines’ #1 enemy.  That’s why it’s important for all of us to stay away from peregrine nests and the windows that look out on them during these last days before first flight.

 

p.s.  Today, Tuesday May 30, there is no chance of rain and the peregrines haven’t flown yet so …  I’ll be at Gulf Tower Fledge Watch, 11:30a-1:30p, on the sidewalk leading up to the Pennsylvanian railroad station.  Details here.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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May 29 2017

Two Fledge Watches: Gulf and Pitt

Three young peregrines at the Gulf Tower, 29 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Three young peregrines at the Gulf Tower, 29 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Two Fledge Watch locations this week!

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch continues May 29 and 30:

Even though you don’t always see them on camera the three young peregrines at the Gulf Tower haven’t flown yet.  There are still two more days of Gulf Tower Fledge Watch:

  • Today, May 29 Memorial Day, 11:30a – 1:30p at the Flag Plaza parking lot.  Plenty of free parking!
  • May 30, 11:30a-1:30p at the sidewalk leading up to the Pennsylvanian railroad station.

 

Meanwhile across town …

Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is scheduled for June 2-6:

Three peregrine chicks at Cathedral of Learning, 29 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Three peregrine chicks at Cathedral of Learning, 29 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The peregrine chicks at the Cathedral of Learning are losing their down and turning brown so it’s time to plan for Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch.

Meet me and/or John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts at the Schenley Plaza tent, Friday June 2 through Tuesday June 6, 11:30a – 1:30p.

Click here for a Google map of Schenley Plaza.

Schenley Plaza tent (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Plaza tent

As always, check the Events page for last minute updates.  Fledge Watch will be canceled if it’s raining.

What a busy week!  It’s convenient that the two nests hatched a week apart.

 

(peregrine photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning. Schenley Plaza tent photo by Kate St. John)

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May 28 2017

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch Update, May 26 & 27

Gulf Tower, location of nest as seen from Flag Plaza (photo by John English)

Gulf Tower, location of nest as seen from Flag Plaza (photo by John English)

Yes!  Gulf Tower Fledge Watch at Flag Plaza today, Sunday May 28, 11:30a to 1:30p.

Yesterday, Saturday May 27, I stuck to my plan but I missed some fun.

It rained in the morning so I didn’t plan to hold a Gulf Tower Fledge Watch at Flag Plaza.  However, the rain stopped by noon so John English, John Bauman and Anne Marie Bosnyak went over to see what was up.  Here are John English’s pictures.

At top is the view of the Gulf Tower with the nest area circled in yellow.  It’s very easy to see the peregrines with binoculars.  John took these photos through his scope.

Below, one peregrine chick perches on the pillar near the nest.  You can see the falconcam from Flag Plaza.

One young peregrine perched on the pillar at the Gulf Tower nest (photo by John English)

One young peregrine perched on the pillar at the Gulf Tower nest (photo by John English)

 

Louie, circled top left, and Dori, circled at right, watch over the “kids” at the nest (yellow square) as fledging time approaches.  They’re waiting for the next step:

When a chick flies for the first time one of the parents, usually the male, follows the chick to its landing place and makes sure it’s safe.  If all is well, the parent brings food to the chick at its new perch.  To us humans it looks like food is the reward for a job well done.

Both peregrine parents watch the 'kids' as fledging time approaches (photo by John English)

Both peregrine parents watch the ‘kids’ as fledging time approaches (photo by John English)

 

My reluctance to vary Saturday’s Watch schedule was due to my experience on Friday May 26.

The weather forecast said the rain would end around 11am but it was still pouring at 11:15a so I posted to Twitter and Facebook that I wouldn’t be Downtown until noon.  Unfortunately, Margaret was already on her way and wondered where I was when she arrived at 11:30a.  She sat out the rain under the railroad station portico, out of sight of the sidewalk were I set up my scope at noon.

After the drizzle stopped, Janine and Barb stopped over from the Federal Building around 1pm.  We were thrilled to see Louie hunting close by as he dove on two mourning doves near the Federated Investors building.  The doves escaped.  Whoosh!

Margaret found us at 1:15pm.  It started to rain hard at 1:30pmso Fledge Watch ended.

Fortunately, the weather looks good today and tomorrow so I’ll be at Flag Plaza both days, 11:30a to 1:30p.

 

(photos by John English, Pittsburgh Falconuts)

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May 27 2017

Now Blooming: Pink Lady Slipper

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Pink lady slipper (photo by Paul Staniszewski)

Pink lady slipper (photo by Paul Staniszewski)

Paul Staniszewski reminded me this week that pink lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule) are blooming now in Pennsylvania’s woods.

Take some time to look for them this weekend.

Last year I found some in a deer exclosure at Ohiopyle State Park.

 

(photo by Paul Staniszewski)

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May 26 2017

Gulf Tower Fledge Watch: The Forecast

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

It doesn’t look good for Gulf Tower Fledge Watch this weekend.  As of this writing I have altered the schedule.

Today, Friday May 26:  yes, I’ll make the attempt AFTER NOON.  See you downtown at 1100 Liberty Avenue after the rain stops.  (It’s pouring now.)  Click here for directions.

Saturday May 27:  no

Rain and thunder forecast, May 26-27, Pittsburgh (mage from weather.gov)

Pittsburgh rain and thunder forecast, 26-27 May 2017 (image as of 26 May from weather.gov with relevant times framed in orange)

 

Sunday, May 28: yes.  The forecast has changed for the better. See you at Flag Plaza.

Monday, May 29, Memorial Day: yes. See you at Flag Plaza.

 

 

(screenshots of the Hourly Weather Forecast for Pittsburgh, PA from weather.gov as of 8am 26 May 2017)

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May 26 2017

First Robins Have Fledged

Fledgling American robin in D.C. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Fledgling American robin in D.C. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On May 23 I saw my neighborhood’s first American robin fledgling of 2017.

He’s the same size as his parents but has a speckled chest, almost no tail (his tail hadn’t grown in yet), and a loud voice.  He follows his mother around my backyard.  When she walks three paces, he walks three paces.  He maintains his distance, begging periodically, until she has food in her beak.  Then he rushes at her to get it.

In four weeks, around June 20, he’ll become independent.  Meanwhile his mother will build another nest, lay, incubate and hatch another brood.  If she’s quick about it they’ll fledge five weeks after he did, around June 27.

Robins raise two or three broods per year and though only one or two survive per nest it’s enough to keep their population booming.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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May 25 2017

Flying Tigers

Tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Female eastern tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

There are tigers in the park, floating among the trees, gliding in the sunshine, visiting the flowers.

Eastern tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) first appeared in Schenley Park in April.  Their caterpillars feed on many kinds of trees including wild cherry, magnolia, tuliptree, cottonwood and willow, so they get started early and can produce two to three broods per year.

You can sex this butterfly by color.  Female tiger swallowtails have iridescent blue on both sides of their hindwings.  The males are black where the females are blue.

While you’re looking closely to figure out their sex, notice that their tiny bodies are striped, too.

Eastern tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Eastern tiger swallowtail (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Striped all over, tiny tigers.

 

(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

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May 24 2017

Looking Speckled

Cathedral of Learning chicks, 23 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Cathedral of Learning chicks, 23 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

At 29 days old, the peregrine falcon chicks at the Cathedral of Learning look different than they did a week ago on Banding Day.  Their juvenile feathers now give them a speckled brown-and-white appearance.

For comparison, here’s what they looked like on May 16.

Cathedral of Learning peregrine chicks, 16 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Cathedral of Learning peregrine chicks, 16 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Even though they’re older they still act like baby birds.  They sleep on their bellies and whine at their parents.  In the photo at top, two chicks shout at one of their parents while a third sleeps on her belly.  When they shout like this, one of the parents is perched above them out of reach.  😉

 

Meanwhile at the Gulf Tower …

Three peregrine chicks at the Gulf Tower, 23 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Three peregrine chicks at the Gulf Tower, 23 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

… the peregrine chicks are a week older (35 days old) and already look quite brown.  When they’re not sleeping or eating they spend time pulling white down from their bodies.

The transformation is amazing.  Here’s what they looked like a week ago.

Gulf tower peregrine chicks, 16 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Gulf tower peregrine chicks, 16 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

The Gulf Tower youngsters will fly by the end of the month so come on down to Fledge Watch at midday, May 26-30, to see them getting ready to go.  Click here for date, time and location.

Keep an eye on the sky and check the Events page before you come Downtown!  Fledge Watch is a fair weather event so I will cancel if it’s raining. (Ugh! Rain is predicted all weekend.)

 

p.s. Yes, there will be a Fledge Watch for the Cathedral of Learning peregrines — probably June 2-6 — but I haven’t scheduled it yet.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at University of Pittsburgh and Gulf Tower)

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