Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

Feb 03 2016

Pitt Peregrine Highlights, 2015

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy feeds the chick, 24 May 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy feeds the chick, 24 May 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

Looking back, 2015 was an emotional roller coaster for Cathedral of Learning peregrine fans.  It began at a low ebb with Dorothy showing her age and ended with Hope for the future.

As promised, here’s the long awaited slideshow of Pitt Peregrine Highlights, 2015 with a summary below:

To see a slideshow of Pitt peregrine highlights in 2015, click here or on the photo above.

 

(photo from May 24, 2015 at the National Aviary falconcam, University of Pittsburgh)

*NOTE:  A healthy chick normally doesn’t fall on his back and if he does he’s able to right himself quickly.  In reviewing the snapshots for this slideshow I discovered that Dorothy had been flipping the chick for weeks. She was so quick we hadn’t noticed.

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Jan 18 2016

Love Is In The Air

Published by under Peregrines

Hope bows low and turns her head in courtship with E2 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at the Cathedral of Learning)

Hope bows low and turns her head as she courts with E2 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at the Cathedral of Learning)

Though January is gray and cold, peregrine falcon courtship has begun.  Watch the skies near any of Pittsburgh’s nesting sites and you’re likely to see peregrines in courtship flight.  It’s a breath-taking display that ends at the nest.

If you miss them in the sky you can see them on camera at the falconcam sites as they perform another part of their courtship: ledge displays.

Above, Hope and E2 “chirp,” bow low, and turn their heads side to side as they court at the Cathedral of Learning nest on Saturday, January 16.

Below, Louie entices Dori to visit the Gulf Tower nest on Thursday, January 14.  I hope she takes his hint and starts to make a scrape in the new gravel.

Dori and Louie court at the Gulf Tower nest, 14 Jan 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori and Louie at the Gulf Tower nest, 14 Jan 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Click on each image to see the streaming video at the nest.

Love is in the air right now.  Watch for eggs in mid/late March.

 

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

5 responses so far

Jan 12 2016

Downtown’s Peregrine Highlights, 2015

Published by under Peregrines

Fledgling peregrine falcon, Downtown Pittsburgh, June 2015 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

Fledgling peregrine falcon, Downtown Pittsburgh, June 2015 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

Every year I make a slideshow of peregrine nesting highlights for each of Pittsburgh’s webcam sites — if there’s a nest and if there are photos of it.

Creating a slideshow for the Downtown peregrines can be problematic.  In 2010, 2011 and 2014 Dori and Louie nested on camera at the Gulf Tower but in 2012, 2013 and 2015 they used other sites and often went unobserved.

Last spring was shaping up to be another sneaky nesting season (the pair had left the Gulf Tower) when I learned that the nest was in plain sight of a single Downtown office window and so close to the ground that we had good views of the fledglings during Fledge Watch.

Thanks to Matt DiGiacomo’s beautiful nest photos and the many contributions from Fledge Watchers, the Downtown peregrines’ nest is well documented in 2015.  Thank you to all the photographers! (credits at end)

Click here or on the photo above to watch and enjoy.

 

(photo by Doug Cunzolo)

4 responses so far

Dec 22 2015

Talk About Fast!

Published by under Peregrines

How fast do peregrines dive?

Watch this National Geographic video of Ken Franklin — pilot, falconer, sky diver — as he clocks his peregrine falcon, Frightful, diving for the lure.

Talk about fast!

 

(YouTube video from the National Geographic Channel, December 2007)

2 responses so far

Dec 12 2015

Hopeful Signs

Published by under Peregrines

E2 and Hope courting at the peregrine nest at the Cathedral of Learning, 8 Dec 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

E2 and Hope courting at the peregrine nest at the Cathedral of Learning, 8 Dec 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

It’s been 12 days since the new female peregrine, Hope, appeared on camera at the Cathedral of Learning.  In that time she and E2 have courted at the nest every day, sometimes for extended periods.

Off camera I see them flying around the Cathedral of Learning or perching high to watch the world go by.  It’s rare that I see only one peregrine on campus now.

I’m also happy that Hope needs no encouragement to visit the nest.  Yesterday she arrived on camera and chirped for E2 to join her.  When he didn’t come, she perched at the front looking up.  “Hey! Where are you?”

Hope looks for E2. Hey, where are you? (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Hope scans the sky, 11 Dec 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

These are hopeful signs that she means to stay at the Cathedral of Learning.

 

Meanwhile Downtown at the Gulf Tower, the new gravel was too tempting for a peregrine to pass up.  Yesterday morning Louie stopped in to check it out.

Louie visits the new digs at the Gulf Tower (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh)

Louie visits the new digs at the Gulf Tower (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh)

I hope he convinces Dori to take a look, too.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams in Pittsburgh)

One response so far

Dec 11 2015

New Digs!

Gulf Tower peregrine nest with new digs! 10 Dec 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Gulf Tower peregrine nest with new gravel and ramp, 10 Dec 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

The Downtown peregrines have new digs at the Gulf Tower.

Last month the weeds in the Gulf Tower nest indicated to Art McMorris (PA Game Commission Peregrine Coordinator) that the nest needed a makeover.  Fortunately the wooden box and hood were fine so …

Yesterday Art came to town with 10 bags of pea gravel, a new wooden ramp and lots of tools to refurbish the nest. At 80 pounds per bag that’s a lot of lugging.
10 bags of pea gravel for the nest (photo by Kate St.John)

Here, he makes note of the site conditions before he begins.  The edge behind him is a sheer 37-floor drop to the street.  No way! I stayed inside.

Art McMorris records the stats before beginning, 10 Dec 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

First order of business: Shovel out the old gravel into many(!) garbage bags.  Art shoveled while Bob Mulvihill and Eric Fialkovich of the National Aviary hauled the bags over the transom and into the hall for later disposal.

Digging out the old gravel. No drainage! (photo by Kate St. John)

As soon as the old gravel was gone the problem was obvious. There were no drainage holes in the base so all the water stayed in the box. Peregrines don’t like wet gravel and neither do we. Art drilled 77 7/16″ holes.

Drilling holes so the gravel will drain (photo by Kate St. John)

Then he dumped in and smoothed the new gravel.

gulfnest_05_addinDumping in the new gravel, bag by bag (photo by Kate St. John)

He needed only six bags.

Art spreads the gravel (photo by Kate St. John)

Art added the new ramp and Ta Dah!  It’s as good as new (shown at top).

The new gravel is such a different color that I’m hoping the peregrines get curious and come to check it out.  When they do they’ll find clean, dry gravel to dig their toes into.

Fingers crossed that they like it well enough to nest here next spring.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

5 responses so far

Dec 03 2015

A Tribute To Dorothy

Published by under Peregrines

Today I’m honoring Dorothy with this video retrospective of her best photographic moments.

If you’ve only known her since last spring, you missed knowing the real Dorothy.  She was dynamic, energetic, fierce and powerful.  From the time I met her in 2001 until her egg bound spring of 2014, she had fire in her eyes.  After that, age-related health issues subdued her. I hope this video gives you a taste of what you missed.

Every year Dorothy raised three to five young peregrines — every year — and many of them went on to raise young peregrines of their own.  With 43 fledglings and a host of descendants she increased the peregrine populations of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Michigan and the Pittsburgh area … and those are the places we know about!

Dorothy was awesome.  She was the first wild bird I ever knew as an individual and the bird that changed my life.  I will miss her greatness but not her decline.

Yo, Dorothy!  You go, girl!

 

(YouTube video by Kate St. John with thanks to the photographers who made this possible: Peter Bell, Brian Cohen, Jessica Cernic Freeman, Sharon Leadbitter, Donna Memon, Mike Perzel, Jack Rowley, Pat Szczpanski, Steve Valasek and the National Aviary falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh)

p.s. Sorry about the ads. They are inserted with the music and I can’t turn them off.

p.p.s  If you cannot play the video above, click here to watch it on YouTube.

56 responses so far

Dec 02 2015

The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Queen!

Published by under Peregrines

This is not Dorothy (photo from the Cathedral of Learning snapshot camera) 1 Dec 2015

This female peregrine is not Dorothy (photo from the Cathedral of Learning snapshot camera), Dec 1, 2015

“The King is dead, Long live the King!” is a proclamation made in monarchies when the old king dies and a new one succeeds him.

It’s fitting at the Cathedral of Learning today, for the old peregrine Queen Dorothy is gone and a new Queen is in her place, at least for now.

Late yesterday morning Peter Bell told me the Pitt snapshot camera was dead. Instead I found it very much alive with nearly a hundred motion detection images in less than two days. They were triggered by very frequent peregrine courtship at the nest:  three times on November 30 and eight times on December 1.

Such intense “getting to know you” is highly unusual at this time of year and unheard of with an old mated pair.  Based on behavior I knew at least one of them was new to the site. Many photos and archives later, I confirmed that E2 is still here, the female is new, and Dorothy is gone.

The Queen is dead.”

Well actually, Dorothy simply disappeared but we know she won’t come back.   Art McMorris(*) affirmed that the presence of a new female at the nest means Dorothy is gone.

We never saw a fight, nor even a challenger.  Dorothy and E2 were both active in October and flew together on November 2 but the rest of November was quiet with only one peregrine on campus — or none — and no certainty that the one bird was Dorothy.

In any case, Dorothy’s disappearance is no surprise. Adult peregrines live about 12 years in the wild but Dorothy was 16.5 going on 17 — quite elderly.  Like an 85-90 year old grandmother, we loved her and will miss her but we’re not shocked that she’s gone.

Long live the Queen!”

The new Queen is a younger bird with a Black/Green coded band and a green USFWS band.  After I read her bands I enlisted Peter to examine them too(*).  Here are his two archive snapshots from Nov 30 with a blow-up of the bands.

New female at the Cathedral of Learning, Blk/Green 69/Z, nicnamed "Hope" (photo from the WildEarth archives)

Bands on new female at Pitt, Nov 30, 2015 (photo from the WildEarth archives)

Bands on new female at Pitt, Nov 30, 2015 (photo from the WildEarth archives)

Another shot of bands on new female at Pitt, Nov 30, 2015 (photo from the WildEarth archives)

Yes, these bands are 69/Z.  She’s Hope, the resident female at the Tarentum Bridge since 2010 who hatched at the Benjamin Harrison Bridge in Hopewell, Virginia in 2008.

Whoa!

Why did Hope leave Tarentum? We don’t know but here are a few ideas:

  • When male peregrines are alone on territory they fly an advertisement that says “I’m looking for a mate.”  The Cathedral of Learning is so tall that Hope could have seen E2’s message from the skies of Tarentum.
  • Hope has not had great success at the Tarentum Bridge.  For three of her six years there she’s been alone with no mate.  Last year a young male showed up, but they didn’t nest.
  • The Cathedral of Learning is one of the best peregrine nesting sites in Pittsburgh. We’ve seen another Pittsburgh “bridge bird” move to the other best site:  Dori left a bridge for the Gulf Tower.
  • I wonder if Hope got tired of bald eagles.  😉  Read Mary Ann Thomas’ TribLive article to see what I mean.

And yet, though Hope and E2 seem to be hitting it off she might not stay. Art McMorris says it’s too early to know if she’ll stick around for the nesting season.  Right now she’s getting to know E2 and the Cathedral of Learning but she has plenty of time to change her mind between now and next April.

So, Tarentum peregrine watchers, keep your eyes peeled.  Hope might come back.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning)


 

Footnotes and History:

Hope at Tarentum, 21 Nov 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Hope at Tarentum, 21 Nov 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

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Nov 23 2015

Weedless And Waiting

Weed-free at the Gulf Tower nest, 20 Nov 2015

Weed-free at the Gulf Tower nest, 20 Nov 2015

Remember how I said the Gulf Tower peregrine nest needs a makeover?  Well, the makeover has begun but this new look is only an interim step.

Because peregrines are still endangered in Pennsylvania, they and their nests are directly managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, often aided by local volunteer monitors (me + others) and local organizations that sponsor the nests (in urban Pittsburgh, the National Aviary).

The original plan was that Art McMorris (PGC) would arrive on Friday, November 20 with new gravel and supplies. Bob Mulvihill was going to help him dig out the old and put in the new, and I planned to provide indoor support.

Fortunately Art asked an important question early last week:  What is the condition of the nest box structure?

Uh Oh!  The structure is 24 years old!  The wood that holds the gravel will probably fall apart when the gravel is removed.

So Art changed the plan.  As soon as he can he’ll install a new nest box that will resemble this highly recommended model, favored by peregrines for many years.

Standard peregrine nest box (photo courtesy Art McMorris, PGC)

Standard peregrine nest box (photo courtesy Art McMorris, PA Game Commission)

In the meantime, Friday didn’t go to waste. The National Aviary’s Bob Mulvihill and Eric Fialkovich removed the weeds and used a garden claw to loosen the gravel so the peregrines don’t lose interest in the site.  (Peregrines like gravel or dust, not weeds and sticks!)

Here are before and after photos from Bob Mulvihill’s cell phone.  That’s Eric on the right.

Gulf Tower nest -- before and after weeding (photos by Bob Mulvihill)

Gulf Tower nest, before and after weeding (photos by Bob Mulvihill)

 

So now the old box is weedless and waiting.

Stay tuned for the next step.

 

(photo of the nest from the National Aviary’s falconcam at Gulf Tower. Photo of new nest box model courtesy of Art McMorris, PGC. Before and after photos of the Gulf nest weeding by Bob Mulvihill.)

p.s. I provide “indoor support” because I am too afraid of heights to go out on the ledge. (!)

One response so far

Nov 11 2015

We Need A Makeover

Published by under Peregrines

Two peregrines visit the Gulf Tower nest, confirmed to be Louie and Dori, Nov 9, 2015 (photo by Ann Hohn)

Louie and Dori visit the Gulf Tower nest, 9 Nov 2015 (photo by Ann Hohn)

On Monday afternoon Ann Hohn at Make-A-Wish heard a pair of peregrine falcons conversing at the unused Gulf Tower nest.

When she looked through the blinds she found Dori gazing at the nest and Louie watching her reaction.  Ann sent me this photo and wrote:

Louie is on the far left (it’s definitely him; I saw his tags). Dori is on the right (tags are green3/top and blackM/bottom).  Chirping like crazy. That’s how I knew they were here. And then they were gone.

Here’s what Dori was looking at:  Some very healthy weeds!

Weeds at the Gulf Tower nest as of Nov 10, 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Weeds at the Gulf Tower nest as of Nov 10, 2015 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Perhaps she was thinking, “This is OK, but it needs a makeover.”

Art McMorris, Peregrine Coordinator for the PA Game Commission, says the thriving weeds indicate the gravel isn’t draining any more and that’s bad for keeping peregrine eggs dry.  More than just weeding, the site needs new gravel.  He says the Game Commission will replace the gravel soon.

Makeover!

 

(photo by Ann Hohn)

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