May 02 2017

Pittsburgh Peregrine News, 2 May 2017

Dori feeds three chicks, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori feeds three chicks, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Here’s news of Pittsburgh’s two “on camera” peregrine families:

  • Dori and Louie + 3 chicks (G1, G2, G3) hatched 19 April at the Gulf Tower,
  • Hope and Terzo + 3 chicks (C6, C7, C8) hatched 25 April at the Cathedral of Learning.

At the Gulf Tower the chicks are old enough that they don’t need to be brooded. Their parents are nearby but you usually can’t see them on camera … except in this photo.

Adult perched on the ledge (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Adult perched on the ledge (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

When peregrine falcon chicks are two weeks old — May 3 at this nest — they walk off the scrape.  These chicks have already begun walking (see below) so we’ll try to zoom out the Gulf Tower camera soon.  If one chick “disappears” it’s only because he walked an inch out of view and we weren’t quick enough to zoom out.

The peregrine chicks are starting to explore at the Gulf Tower, 1 May 2017 (photo from the national Aviary falconcam)

The peregrine chicks are starting to explore at the Gulf Tower, 1 May 2017 (photo from the national Aviary falconcam)

 

After a disturbing start at the Cathedral of Learning, the adults are caring for three nestlings.  These chicks are smaller than those at the Gulf Tower because they’re six days younger.

Terzo brooding three chicks, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo brooding three chicks, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On Sunday April 30, Terzo was seen limping and favoring his left foot (shown below).

Terzo shows his left foot doesn't feel good, 30 April 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo shows his left foot doesn’t feel good, 30 April 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Those of us who’ve watched falconcams for many years know that injuries like this occur fairly often and the parents cope. Yesterday Terzo was limping less, so he’s getting better. If his foot heals nicely, that’s great. If it doesn’t, he’ll compensate. Meanwhile, the chicks will reach the no-more-brooding stage this week and their mother will resume hunting.  Hope will help provide for them, too.

 

During yesterday’s thunderstorm and Tornado Watch(!) all five family members huddled in the Cathedral of Learning nest.  Hope fed the chicks at the beginning of the storm, then everyone stood by and waited it out.

Terzo waits in the nest box while Hope feeds the chicks during the thunderstorm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo waits in the nest box while Hope feeds the chicks during the thunderstorm, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The Pitt peregrines wait out the storm, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The Pitt peregrines wait out the storm, 1 May 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

You can see that Terzo, on the left, is clearly smaller than Hope. This male-female size difference is typical of peregrine falcons.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning)

19 responses so far

May 01 2017

It’s Gonna Be A Great Week For Birds

Published by under Migration

Scarlet tanager, 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Scarlet tanager, May 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

The Big Push of migration is here!  I’ve already seen some gorgeous birds that are due this week and there’s more to come.  Here’s what we can look forward to.

Scarlet tanagers (Piranga olivacea) were already at Enlow Fork in Greene County, Pennsylvania on Friday. When they get here, listen for two sounds that tell you this bird is nearby: the Chip-burr call and the male’s “robin with a sore throat” song.

American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) were everywhere at Enlow.  Their song can be hard to identify so look for the flash of the male’s black, white and orange colors at mid height in the trees.

American redstart, May 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

American redstart, May 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

Schenley Park’s Panther Hollow Lake has a concrete border so I was surprised to find a solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) feeding there on Saturday morning, 29 April.  Look for these dark-backed sandpipers with white eye rings along the water’s edge. They travel alone.

Solitary sandpiper, May 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Solitary sandpiper, May 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

And here are two species that I haven’t seen yet.  According to Birdcast, they’ll arrive this week.

The magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia) is a tiny bird with a yellow throat and belly that’s accented by a black necklace.  He has white splashes on his head, wings and tail that distinguish him from the Canada warbler. Here’s his song.

Magnolia warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

Magnolia warbler (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

Swainson’s thrushes (Catharus ustulatus) are probably the most numerous thrush in North America but we only see them on migration in Pittsburgh.  Look for the buffy lores and eye ring and listen for their wiry upward spiraling song.

Swainson's thrush (photo by Steve Gosser)

Swainson’s thrush (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

Bird migration is in full force in western Pennsylvania.  It’s going to be a great week for birds!

 

(All photos by Steve Gosser. Click here to see his photo blog.)

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Apr 30 2017

This Morning in Schenley Park

Schenley Park bird walk group, 30 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park outing, 30 April 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

This morning there were 36 of us ready to go birding in Schenley Park at 8am.  We searched for birds in the Bartlett area and part of Lower and Falloon Trails, then walked the golf course edge for a view of the treetops along Serpentine Road.

The birds were quiet at first but became more active when the sun broke through the clouds.  Best Birds of the day were rose-breasted grosbeaks, the first-of-year ovenbird and a green heron at the lake.  I wish we’d seen the blue-winged warbler (heard singing) but we did see a peregrine falcon flying around the Cathedral of Learning.

I promised we’d end at 10am but a dozen people wanted to continue so we split up at 9:45a.  (Thank you, Marcus, for guiding folks back to Bartlett Street.)  So I have two lists of the birds we saw.  Let me know if I missed something.

Before 9:45m. Birds Seen and Heard, 8am-9:45am, 0.8 miles (until turn around). Click here for eBird checklist.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Ovenbird (first of year)
Blue-winged Warbler (heard by several of us, seen by Michelle)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch

After 945am: Additional Species Seen and Heard, 9:45am-11:30am, 2.17 miles, via Panther Hollow Lake (Click here for the eBird list of additional birds)

Green Heron (first of year)
Osprey (2 flew over at Bartlett at the end of the walk)
Red-tailed Hawk (adult at Occupied Nest)
Chimney Swift
Hairy Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon (flying and perched at Cathedral of Learning)
Eastern Phoebe
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Wood Thrush
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler (first of year)
Black-throated Green Warbler

Thanks, everyone, for coming out.  It was a great birding day!

When I got home I heard a white-eyed vireo singing in my neighborhood.  🙂

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

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Apr 30 2017

The Theories Are Worse Than The Furies

Hope sheltering three nestlings, 29 April 2017, 11:55a (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope sheltering three nestlings, 29 April 2017, 11:56a (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

So far so good.  The three nestlings at the Cathedral of Learning are all well fed and growing. Every day we gain more confidence that they’ll thrive.

Meanwhile we’re still puzzled why their mother, Hope, killed and ate the first-hatching chick as well as two of her four chicks last year.  We don’t know the answer but we have many theories.  It reminds me of a famous quote from Flannery O’Connor in Habit of Being (p. 502):

“The Theories are worse than the Furies.”

So who are the Furies?

According to Wikipedia, the Erinyes [also called the Furies] are ancient Greek goddesses from the underworld. They hear complaints brought by mortals against the insolence of the young to the aged, of children to parents, of hosts to guests, and of householders or city councils to suppliants.  They punish those crimes by hounding the culprits relentlessly and hitting them with brass-studded scourges.  Their victims die in torment.

Their most famous gig was to torment Orestes for killing his mother Clytemnestra who had an affair and killed his father Agamemnon. Orestes avenged his father’s murder but created a really big mess (read more here).  John Singer Sargent’s painting of Orestes Pursued by the Furies shows how awful the Furies can be.

Orestes Pursued by the Furies by John Singer Sargent (reproduction from Wikimedia Commons)

Orestes Pursued by the Furies by John Singer Sargent (reproduction from Wikimedia Commons)

The Theories can be relentless, too.

We have lots of theories about Hope but no data to confirm or disprove them. (Hope eats the evidence.) The only thing we know is that she has repeated the behavior two years in a row and it’s so abnormal that we can find only a handful of similar incidents in all the history of peregrine nest monitoring.

We don’t have an answer but we can make ourselves crazy.

The Theories are worse than the Furies!

 

(photo of Hope and chicks from the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh. Reproduction of John Singer Sargent’s “Orestes Pursued by the Furies” from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

18 responses so far

Apr 29 2017

The Catbirds Are Back In Town!

Published by under Migration,Songbirds

Gray catbird (photo by Chuck Tague)

Gray catbird (photo by Chuck Tague)

Years ago Chuck Tague taught me that gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) are a special signal during spring migration.

Catbirds spend the winter in Florida, Cuba and Central America, then return in the spring after the first tantalizing migrants (the blue-gray gnatcatchers and Louisiana waterthrushes) but before the big push of warblers, thrushes and tanagers.

Because they’re the leading edge of the best part of migration, Chuck always announced his first gray catbird of the year.  I’ll carry on his tradition.

Yesterday was the day!  On 28 April I saw my first gray catbirds of 2017 at Enlow Fork in Greene County and at home in the City of Pittsburgh.

This year the catbirds did not arrive alone. At Enlow Fork we also saw rose-breasted grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, wood thrushes, northern parulas, American redstarts, common yellowthroats and more.

I’m still waiting for an indigo bunting.  Maybe today … 🙂

 

p.s.  Many of us learned a lot from Chuck Tague who passed away last June.  This coming Thursday, May 4 at 7:30pm the Wissahickon Nature Club will hold an All Members Night A Tribute to Chuck Tague.  Bring up to 12 slides or digital photos to share.  Click here and scroll down for location and meeting information.

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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Apr 28 2017

Hidden in Plain Sight

Woodcock mother and chicks at Magee Marsh, Ohio, May 2013 (photo by Charlie Hickey)

Woodcock mother and chicks at Magee Marsh, Ohio, 6 May 2013 (photo by Charlie Hickey)

We had so much peregrine news this week that Throw Back Thursday is a day late.  Today, at last, I can talk about a different bird.

Male American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) returned to Pennsylvania in late February or March and immediately set up their courtship “stomping” grounds.  At dusk they’d strut and peent, then launch into the air with whistling wings to claim territory and attract a mate.

By the end of April dancing time is nearly over because the females are nesting and their eggs will hatch soon. When they hatch, the chicks will be as well hidden as the eggs.

At Magee Marsh, Ohio in May 2013 this woodcock family was hidden in plain sight.  I couldn’t see them no matter how hard I tried!  Click the link below to read more.

Woodcock Family

 

(photo by Charlie Hickey)

p.s. I’ll be hiking out of cell range for most of today (28 April 2017) so I won’t be able to respond to your comments for at least six hours.  The peregrines had better behave while I’m gone!

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Apr 27 2017

Three Nestlings At Pitt

Hope prepares to feed 3 nestlings at the Cathedral of Learning, 27 Apr 2017, 8:06a (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope prepares to feed 3 nestlings at the Cathedral of Learning, 27 Apr 2017, 8:06a (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Yesterday at sunset there were two chicks and one egg at the Cathedral of Learning nest.  This morning there are three chicks.

Last night Deane posted a comment, “I missed the action prior, but Hope is eating the final eggshell. 21:10.”

The motion detection snapshots show Hope manipulating and eating an eggshell at 9:04pm but the photos are too dark to see if she ate the chick as well.  We had to wait for daylight to find out.

Hope manipulates the 4th egg, 26 April 2017, 9:04p (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope manipulates the 4th egg, 26 April 2017, 9:04p (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Hope manipulates empty eggshell of 4th egg, 26 April 2017, 9:07p (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope holds the empty shell egg #4, 26 April 2017, 9:07p (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

This morning at 8am Terzo delivered a woodpecker for breakfast.  As Hope prepared to feed the chicks, we could see three tiny heads.

Hope prepares to feed 3 nestlings at the Cathedral of Learning, 27 Apr 2017, 7:56a (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope prepares to feed 3 nestlings at the Cathedral of Learning, 27 Apr 2017, 7:56a (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

Last year Hope’s infanticide activity was confined to the hatching process.  Perhaps we can watch the Cathedral of Learning falconcam now without dread.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

54 responses so far

Apr 26 2017

On The Matter Of Names

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine family at the Gulf Tower, 25 April 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Peregrine family at the Gulf Tower, 25 April 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

>–> This morning’s status at the Cathedral of Learning nest is in the text below.

Wondering about names for Pittsburgh’s peregrine nestlings?  They already have them.

At Pittsburgh’s on-camera sites we use a naming scheme similar to that used at bald eagle nests: a letter for the location plus the hatch number.  The Cathedral of Learning is “C,” the Gulf Tower/Downtown is “G.”

Nestling names at the Cathedral of Learning were C1 through C4 last year.  Only C1 survived.  This year the numbers are C5 through C8.  Their status this morning is:

  • C5 is gone. Hope killed and ate it on 24 April.
  • C6 hatched in the early hours of 25 April.
  • C7 hatched late on 25 April.
  • The last egg, C8, is still unhatched as of now (26 April 2017, 7am).

The two chicks at the Cathedral of Learning, C6 and C7, were fed this morning at 6:25am shortly after this snapshot.

Two nestlings at Pitt, (C6, C7),26 April, 6:15am (photo from the Naritonal Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Two nestlings at Cathedral of Learning, 26 April, 6:15am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

At the Gulf Tower we’ve just begun naming this year so the three chicks are G1 through G3.

Good luck figuring out who is who!

Peregrine chicks look alike for several weeks because the entire clutch hatched within 24-48 hours. Only as the chicks approach fledging do the females become noticeably larger that the males. (Adult males are 1/3 smaller than females.  That’s why males are called tiercels.)

For more information on naming, see this Peregrine FAQ:  How do peregrines get their names?

Reminder!  A Caution to Viewers of the Cathedral of Learning falconcam:

Do not watch the Cathedral of Learning falconcam if it upsets you to see a mother kill her young.  The Gulf Tower in downtown Pittsburgh has a beautiful peregrine family on camera.  Please watch the Gulf Tower falconcam to learn about normal peregrine behavior!

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning)

23 responses so far

Apr 25 2017

One Killed, One Spared

Hope picks up her first-hatching egg. Latr she kills and eats it (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope picks up her first-hatching egg, 24 Apr 2017, 6:15pm. Later she kills and eats it (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

I recently cautioned viewers about watching the Cathedral of Learning falconcam because the female peregrine killed and ate some of her young last year as they hatched.  I didn’t know if she would repeat this behavior. Last evening she did.

The first sign that Hope would kill the hatchling was around 6:15pm when she picked up and carried the hatching egg (above).  Carrying is not normal.  Half an hour later she killed and ate the chick and its eggshell.

Hope and her behavior were new to us last year.  We didn’t know if she killed and ate some of her young because she was under many stresses:  a new home at the Cathedral of Learning + loss of her mate + finding a new mate + other females challenging her while she was incubating the eggs.

This year none of those stresses apply.  None of them.  And yet Hope killed and ate her first hatchling last evening.

Last year one chick survived.  This morning it appears that Hope has spared the second chick.

Hope with her second chick, 25 April 2017, 6:14am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope with her second chick, 25 April 2017, 6:14am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Here’s a snapshot showing there are no longer four eggs/chicks.  Now there are only three.

Only 3: 1 chick, 2 eggs, 25 Apr 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Only 3: 1 chick, 2 eggs, 25 Apr 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

But the chicks and eggs aren’t safe yet.  The remaining two eggs might succumb and last year when a second chick hatched successfully, it died within a week.  It failed to thrive.  Some speculated that Hope starved it.

We don’t know why Hope does this but we now know it’s not a one-time event.  She may have done this all her adult life but there was no camera at her former nest site, the Tarentum Bridge, where she fledged 0-to-2 young per year.

What’s next?

A Caution to Viewers:

Again, do not watch the Cathedral of Learning falconcam if it upsets you to see a mother kill her young.  The Gulf Tower in downtown Pittsburgh has a beautiful peregrine family with three chicks.  Please watch the Gulf Tower falconcam to learn about normal peregrine behavior!

A Caution to Commenters:

Though this situation resembles reality TV in which viewers can vote someone on or off the island, it is not a “voting” situation.  If commenters become worked up and demand/request action in emails or phone calls to “those in charge” it will end the show.  Literally.  It will shut down the camera.  That’s what happened when commenters went over the top at the Woods Hole Osprey-cam.

Normally I do not edit readers’ comments but this situation is not normal.  If you post a comment that could inflame others, I will edit it or delete it.

Though I am not watching Hope closely (I don’t want see her kill her young), I do want the camera to stay up.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

P.S. on the subject of names:  At the Cathedral of Learning we use “C + Hatch Number” as the naming scheme for chicks.  Last year had 4 chicks (C1 through C4) but only C1 survived.  This year C5 was eaten, C6 is the now live chick.  I will write more about names in the days ahead.

 

 

80 responses so far

Apr 24 2017

Reminder: Schenley Park Outing, April 30, 8am

Baltimore oriole (photo by Steve Gosser)

Just a reminder that I’m leading a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, April 30, 8a – 10a.  (Note the early start! 8:00am)

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road for this joint outing with the Three Rivers Birding Club.

New birds come to town every day at the end of April so there will be plenty to see.  Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes.  Don’t forget your binoculars!

Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.

 

p.s. I’ve already seen a Baltimore oriole in the park.  🙂

(Baltimore oriole photo by Steve Gosser)

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