Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

Jan 20 2017

Eagle Season Is Warming Up

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald eagle pair at their nest in Hays, 11 Jan 2017 (photo from the Hays Eaglcam thanks to PixController and ASWP)

Bald eagle pair at Hays nest, 11 Jan 2017 (photo from Hays Eaglecam at ASWP’s Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page)

Pennsylvania’s bald eagle season is warming up.  Eagle pairs are visiting their nests and the first egg in Pittsburgh is only four weeks away.  Here’s how to stay in touch while we wait for that happy event.

Two Pittsburgh eaglecams — Hays and Harmar — are up and running thanks to the collaboration of Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP), PixController and the PA Game Commission.  The cams are on ASWP’s Eaglecam website including links to Bald Eagle Q&A and Educator Resources.

  • The Hays eaglecam in the City of Pittsburgh is broadcasting all day but not overnight until February because its solar batteries aren’t getting enough sun. (No surprise in Pittsburgh’s overcast winter.)
  • The Harmar eaglecam above Route 28 near the Oakmont Bridge is currently running overnight but may need to go into No-Night mode for the same reason.
  • You can Chat about eagles with other watchers by clicking on the chat button to the left of the camera views.

If you missed a few days of activity and want to catch up, visit ASWP’s Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page for recent news.  The Hays photo (above) and screenshot (below) are from their January 11 Facebook post.

Screenshot from Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page (click on the image to see the post on Facebook)

Screenshot from Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page (click on the image to see this post on Facebook)

 

The eagles aren’t always on camera, though, and the nestcams don’t show them in flight.  When the weather’s fine you can see a lot from the ground.  Click here for directions to the Hays viewing area or see excellent photos online by Annette Devinney and Dana Nesiti, two of the many photographers who visit our Pittsburgh area eagles.

So keep on watching in the days ahead.  If history is any guide, the first egg will appear at Hays February 14-20.

It won’t be long now!

 

(photo and screenshot from ASWP’s Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page; click on the images to see the Facebook post)

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Jan 15 2017

Hawks Soaring

Red-tailed hawk soaring (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Red-tailed hawk soaring (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Though they won’t lay eggs until March or April, red-tailed hawks are already thinking ahead in western Pennsylvania.

On sunny days in January, they claim their nesting territory by soaring above their chosen land, a gesture that says “This is mine!”

Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are generally monogamous and mate for life.  The pairs soar together in courtship flight, the male higher than his lady.  Sometimes both of them dangle their legs or he approaches her from above and touches her with his toes.

After the female zooms to the nest area the male goes into roller coaster mode, steeply flying up and down, ending with his own zoom to the female and then … perhaps they’ll mate.

Watch for soaring hawks today.  The weather promises to be sunny.

 

(photo by Cris Hamilton)

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Jan 07 2017

7 Peregrines, 7 Merlins

Peregrine on porch railing at Lawrence Hall, 30 Sep 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Peregrine on porch railing at Lawrence Hall, 30 Sep 2016 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Seven was the magic number for two iconic falcons during Pittsburgh’s Christmas Bird Count last weekend.

During Count Week, which includes the three days before and after Count Day (31 Dec 2016), observers saw seven peregrine falcons and seven merlins within the circle.

Two of the seven peregrines were elusive on Count Day but visible during Count Week.

  • 2 at the Cathedral of Learning on 30 December, (We saw one on Count Day.)
  • 1 Downtown at Lawrence Hall on 2 January 2017, perched as shown in Lori Maggio’s photo above,
  • 1 in Kilbuck Township on Count Day December 31,
  • 1 in Oakmont area on Count Day,
  • 2 in Shaler Township on Count Day.
Merlin (photo by Chuck Tague)

Merlin (photo by Chuck Tague)

All seven merlins were seen on Count Day, December 31:

  • 1 in the Oakmont area
  • 3 in Penn Hills
  • 3 in the City of Pittsburgh: 2 at Schenley Park and 1 along the Ohio River within the city limits.

So if you’re looking for falcons this winter, visit Pittsburgh’s 7-mile-radius count circle shown below.

Map of Pittsburgh's Christmas Bird Count circle, PAPI (screenshot from Audubon Society Christmas Count map)

Map of Pittsburgh’s Christmas Bird Count circle, PAPI (screenshot from Audubon Society Christmas Count map)

Seven is the magic number.

 

(photo of Downtown peregrine by Lori Maggio, photo of merlin by Chuck Tague. Screenshot of Pittsburgh Count Circle map from Audubon CBC website; click on the image to see the original)

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Jan 05 2017

Owls Come A’Courting

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)

On Throw Back Thursday:

January’s the month when great horned owls court and nest in southwestern Pennsylvania.  If you hear them hooting, they’re planning to nest in your neighborhood.

Read more about their courtship and hear them hooting in this vintage article from 2010:

Whoooo Said That?

 

p.s. Listen in South Oakland near the Anderson Bridge. The pair in Schenley Park will let you know they’re there.  🙂

(photo by Chuck Tague.  The owl’s white throat feathers are showing because he’s hooting.)

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Jan 04 2017

Bald Eagle Hatchling in Florida

Published by under Birds of Prey

Screenshot from Southwest Florida eaglecam

Screenshot from Southwest Florida Live Eaglecam

Are you anxious for bald eagle season to get underway in Pittsburgh?   Can’t wait to watch baby eagles on camera?  Get a jump on the season at the Southwest Florida Eaglecam.

Bald eagles M15 and Harriet are nesting in Fort Myers, Florida in view of three eaglecams.  This year Harriet laid two eggs and one hatched on December 31.  Their eaglet is already growing.

Click here or on the image above to watch M15, Harriet and eaglet E9.  Will Harriet’s second egg hatch?  We’ll have to wait and see.

 

p.s. Thanks to Tom Balistreri (@tombalist) for alerting me to this happy event.

(screenshot from Southwest Florida Live Eagle Cam sponsored by Dick Pritchett Real Estate.  Click on the screenshot to watch the eaglecam.)

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Nov 25 2016

Merlins This Month At Schenley Park

More than a decade ago four merlins used to hang out at Schenley Park Golf Course every winter.  They were often seen at dusk in the area near the club house just before they flew to roost.  For a few years they were reliable every winter and then they were gone … until now.

Merlins (Falco columbarius) are small falcons that eat birds for a living, though they choose smaller prey than peregrines do.  You could mistake one for an immature peregrine except for this:  Merlins are smaller and darker, their malar stripes are less pronounced, and they are very fast in level flight, rapidly pumping their wings.

Most merlins nest in Canada and migrate south with their prey.  Some go as far as South America.  Others stay in the southern U.S. and a few, very few, spend the winter in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This month two merlins came back to Schenley Park.  Just like those a decade ago, these birds prefer perches with long views in every direction.  You can find them at dawn or dusk at the highest elevation of the golf course near Darlington Road at Schenley Drive. They perch on treetops or dead snags near hole #2 and the fairways of holes #3 and #4.

If you’ve never seen a merlin, watch this video of a falconer’s merlin on the hunt to get an idea of their size and flight style.

 

p.s.  If you go look for the merlins, keep in mind that this is a golf course.  You must stay out of the way of golfers and not tread on the tees and greens!  Watch from the sidelines.

(video by Primitive Tim on YouTube)

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Nov 21 2016

Bald Eagle Days

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald Eagle at Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

Bald eagle watching the parking lot, Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

This month the Hays bald eagles are at home in Pittsburgh but not nearly as easy to find as they will be during the nesting season. If you need an “eagle fix” make a trip to Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Maryland, just south of the PA border on the Susquehanna River.  The dam’s tail waters attract hundreds of bald eagles in November.

To celebrate the eagles locals hold an annual event called Conowingo Eagle Day.  This year it was on Saturday November 12 and was so well attended that sponsors had to run a shuttle bus to the viewing site.

Annette and Gerry Devinney went to Conowingo Eagle Day and, yes, the eagles were spectacular.  Annette brought back these photos.

Bald eagle with fish at Conowingo (photo by Annette Devinney)

Bald eagle carrying a fish at Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Three bald eagles, chasing at Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

Two immature bald eagles chase an adult, Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Bald eagle at Conowingo (photo by Annette Devinney)

Bald eagle fishing in flight, Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Bald eagle at Conowingo (photo by Annette Devinney)

Another drag of the talons. Did he get it? (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Caught it! (photo by Annette Devinney)

Caught it! (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

This year’s Eagle Day is over and the huge crowds are gone, but the eagles are still at Conowingo for a couple of weeks.  If you have the time, it’s worth a November trip to see them on the Susquehanna.  Here’s a map.

Thank you, Annette for sharing your photos.

 

p.s. If you don’t know Annette Devinney, she’s the heart of Pittsburgh’s bald eagle community. Annette knows a lot about bald eagles, she takes gorgeous photographs, and she knows everyone. Every August Annette throws a big picnic reunion for Pittsburgh’s bald eagle fans.  Annette and her husband Gerry travel far and wide keeping track of the area’s eagles.  You’ll find them at the Hays Eagle Viewing Site in the months ahead.  See her photos on Facebook.

(photos by Annette Devinney)

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Nov 05 2016

Some Mouse Is Gonna Die

Red-tailed hawk on the hunt at the Allegheny Front (photo by Steve Gosser)

Red-tailed hawk on the hunt at the Allegheny Front (photo by Steve Gosser)

Steve Gosser captured this red-tailed hawk on the hunt at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch last week.

He wrote on Facebook:

While seeing this isn’t that scary for us, if you’re a little mouse seeing this would be terrifying. Caught this Red-tailed doing a dive at the hawk watch today.

Some mouse is going to die of fright … if nothing else.

 

For more cool photos, see Steve Gosser’s website at gosserphotos.com

(photo by Steve Gosser)

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Nov 03 2016

Golden Day

Golden eagle flies past the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle flies past the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

If you want to see golden eagles, now’s the time to visit the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch in Cairnbrook, PA.  Five of us made the trip last Tuesday, November 1, and we weren’t disappointed.  It was a 20-golden day.

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) migrate through Pennsylvania from late October through the end of November leaving their breeding grounds in northern Canada for wintering sites in the Appalachians from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Goldens fly almost daily during that period but you won’t see them at the Allegheny Front unless the wind has an eastward component that pushes them toward the Watch site.  Tuesday’s forecast called for a south-southeast wind.  Excellent!

Thanks to Donna Foyle and Anthony (Tony) Bruno I can show you what we saw.

Upon arrival the golden eagle statue greeted us at the parking lot.

Statue of the Golden Eagle at Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

Statue of the Golden Eagle at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

Walking from the parking area to the mountain edge we could see it was hazy. Though everyone wasn’t present at the same time, the Hawk Watch had 11 observers and 55 visitors that day.

Approaching the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

Approaching the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

We all faced north, watching for raptors.  Many red-tailed and sharp shinned hawks flew by since this is the height of their migration, too.

Watching for the next golden eagle, Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Watching for the next golden eagle at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Sharp shins, small as they are, love to attack red-tailed hawks when they get the chance.  Donna Foyle captured the action as this “sharpie” forced a juvenile red-tail to dive out of his way.

Sharp-shinned hawk attacks a red-tailed hawk on migration, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Sharp-shinned hawk attacks a red-tailed hawk on migration, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

 

And there were golden eagles.

This gorgeous bird flew past low enough for us to see his golden head and nape.  (Great shot, Tony!)

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

The white crescent under the wing is a sign that this golden eagle is immature.

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

 

And yes, it’s odd for so many humans to sit on the edge of a mountain. This eagle checked us out as he flew by.  “What are all those humans doing?”

Golden eagle looks at the all the people at the Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle looks at the all the people at the Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

 

We had a great day at the Allegheny Front … and we happened to leave before the last 10 eagles flew by.  (Golden eagles are famous for migrating in the last hour before sunset.)

Karyn, Donna, me, Geralyn and Kathy, Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Happy Hawk Watchers: Karyn Delaney, Donna Foyle, Kate St. John, Geralyn Pundzak, Kathy Miller, Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Visit the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch soon to see the golden eagles.

Directions and information: Allegheny Front Hawk Watch profile at hawkcount.org.

Before you go!  Check the wind forecast at Weather Underground, Central City, PA forecast, scroll down to the 10-day forecast and choose the “Table” tab, then click on the day you’re planning to visit for the hourly wind forecast.  Remember that a southeast wind is good.  A northeast or east wind will bring fog.

 

(photos by Anthony Bruno and Donna Foyle. See the photo captions for credits)

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Oct 28 2016

Three Owls Triple The Fun

Kate St. John holding a banded northern saw-whet owl, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

Kate St. John holding a just-banded northern saw-whet owl, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

If you’ve never seen a northern saw-whet owl, now’s the time to visit Pittsburgh’s Project Owlnet!

Bob Mulvihill of the National Aviary has been banding them at Sewickley Heights Park since 2013.  Three years of statistics indicate that the best nights for northern saw-whets are dark evenings with a north wind in late October so I went out there last Wednesday, October 26.

Bob sets up the mist nets and “toot” speakers at dusk. Placed near the nets, the speakers play the owls’ own tooting sound to attract them. Helpers and spectators wait at the picnic tables for the periodic net checks.

I arrived late — at 10:00pm — and heard that I’d just missed an owl.  Oh no!  Would there be more?

At 10:15 the banding helpers came back with TWO owls.  There’s one in the white bag in Bob’s hand.

Bob Mulvihill at the owlbanding picnic table. There's a northern saw-whet in the white bag (photo by Donna Foyle)

Bob Mulvihill at the owl banding picnic table. There’s a northern saw-whet in the white bag (photo by Donna Foyle)

The owls are very calm in the hand. Notice the feathers on her eyelids.  (All the owls are female.)

Bob examines a northern saw-whet owl prior to banding (photo by Kate St. John)

Bob examines a northern saw-whet owl prior to banding (photo by Kate St. John)

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Northern saw-whet owl being examined before banding (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl being examined before banding (photo by Donna Foyle)

These talons are needle sharp for catching mice.

Northern saw-whet leg and talons. Those talons are needle sharp! (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet leg and talons. (photo by Donna Foyle)

Receiving her band…

Bob Mulvihill applies a band to a northern saw-whet owl's leg (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob Mulvihill applies a band to a northern saw-whet owl’s leg (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob spreads the bird’s wing to examine the color of her feathers.  The combination of newer and older feathers indicates her age.

Bob spreads the owl's wing to examine the color of the wing feathers and determine its age (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob examines the owl’s wing (photo by Kathy Miller)

Northern saw-whets like to be scratched on the head. They close their eyes when you do it.

Northern saw-whet owl in the hand (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl in the hand (photo by Donna Foyle)

After the birds are banded, we get to see them up close.  So soft!

Kate St. John pets a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Barb Griffith)

Kate St. John pets a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Barb Griffith)

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Donna Foyle pets the owl (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Donna Foyle pets the owl (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Two owls at once!

Two! northern saw-whet owls (photo by Donna Foyle)

Two! northern saw-whet owls (photo by Donna Foyle)

A close look …

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Donna Foyle)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Donna Foyle)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Kate St. John)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Kate St. John)

Happy owl with closed eyes (photo by Kate St.John)

Happy owl, closed eyes (photo by Kate St.John)

Three owls are triple the fun!

Northern saw-whet owl at banding, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl at banding, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

 

Want to see these owls up close?

Project Owlnet continues on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, sunset to midnight, through December 3.  Be sure to check the details here before you go.  Weather is a factor!

 

(photos by Doug Cunzolo, Donna Foyle, Kathy Miller, Barb Griffith and Kate St. John)

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