Monthly Archives: May 2013

Meanwhile at Pitt

Baby on the nestrail, 30 May 2013 (photo by Peter Bell)

The Downtown peregrines kept the PA Game Commission busy all day Thursday.  Meanwhile at Pitt…

During Fledge Watch yesterday Baby made it up to the big nest rail (bulwark) for the first time.  This is the launch zone, the place where the chicks run and exercise their wings, the last stopping point before first flight.

Typically the peregrine chicks practice on the nestrail for a day or two before they fly for the first time, but who knows with Baby.  He still has downy white feathers on his legs and he looks clumsy in this photo, but he’s also very curious and ready for new adventures.  I’m sure he’ll fly early.  I don’t think he’ll wait until June 3!

Come on down to Fledge Watch and see.  Click here and scroll down for the schedule.  If bad weather forces a cancellation — which it might this weekend –I’ll post it at that link.


photo by Peter Bell)

Fledged For A Ride

Fledgling Peregrine from Downtown on car roof  (photo by Ericka Houck))

This morning was way too exciting!

When the owner of this pickup arrived at his truck near Third and Wood, there was a large raptor on his roof.  He thought it would fly away, but it didn’t.  Young peregrines grounded like this just stand there.

So Paul drove over to the Aviary with the bird on his roof!  (1.8 miles including crossing the Allegheny River)  The peregrine hung on.  Aviary staff Chris Gaus and Teri Grendzinski called the PA Game Commission emergency number 724-238-9523 and captured the bird for safe keeping until a Wildlife Conservation Officer could arrive to return the bird to a high launch near its nest.  In the meantime the Aviary nicknamed the bird “Paul” for the driver who rescued him.

Here’s hoping “Paul” will learn from this mistake and not go car surfing again any time soon.

Thanks to Teri and Chris and the Aviary staff for the rescue and to Ericka Houck for the Twitter photo!

(photo by Ericka Houck of the National Aviary See Ericka’s tweet here.)



NOON UPDATE on “Paul’s” return:  Here’s a photo from Amanda McGuire showing “Paul” returned to a high perch across the street from the nest.  (The nest itself is inaccessible.)

Rescued peregrine waits for Mom & Dad to feed him Downtown, 30 May 2013 (photo by Amanda McGuire)



UPDATE AT 5:00pm:  At 3:30pm I received news that a second fledgling was standing on the sidewalk near Point Park University.  Point Park police sheltered her and the PA Game Commission took her up to the same high spot where “Paul” was perched.  When they dropped off his sister (yes, she’s female), “Paul” flew away (yes, he’s male; the size difference was obvious).  “”Sis” is getting re-oriented and will eventually leave on her own.   …Three of the four Downtown chicks flew today.  I wonder where the third bird is…!

Revised! Pitt Fledge Watch Schedule

Baby in the keyhole during his off-the-nest adventure (photo by Peter Bell)

In my Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch announcement I said, “If the chick is off camera, come on down! The best view is from the tent.”

Well, our peregrine chick has been on and off camera for two days!  On May 28 he ledge-walked up to the webcam and yesterday he jumped into the gully below the nest.  His prior-year brothers who explored the gully took more than 24 hours to return to the nest.  Baby made it back in only 7 hours.  A record!

On his way back topside he spent at least half an hour perched in the keyhole — see Peter Bell’s photo above.  Several of us at Schenley Plaza saw his parents put on a fancy airshow but didn’t make the connection that it was for Baby’s benefit.  Peter’s photo proved it.

So, yes, the chick is off camera and, yes, the best viewing is from the tent.  Come on down today through June 5!   Click here and scroll down for the REVISED SCHEDULE.

(photo by Peter Bell)

A Day In The Life of Six Peregrines

Downtown peregrines, parents trade places, chicks watch (photo by Christopher Rolinson, StartPoint Media)

A week ago on May 23 Chris Rolinson set up his time-lapse camera at Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall to capture snapshots of the Downtown peregrines.  My favorite is this one of Dori leaving the nest and Louie coming in.  Awesome wing action!  Look at the chicks watch and call.

Chris also created a video from the time-lapse snapshots.  Here’s a quick day in the life of six peregrines.

Today the youngsters are all brown with a full set of flight feathers and they’re ready to fly.  Visit Third Ave Downtown to watch.

(photos and video by Christopher Rolinson of Point Park University and StartPoint Media)

Fledge Watch: I-79 Neville Island Bridge

View Peregrine Viewing at Neville Island I-79 Bridge in a larger map

When Dan Brauning banded three peregrine chicks at the I-79 Neville Island Bridge on May 21, he estimated they would fledge in 18 days.

This puts their big adventure on June 6 to 13 with the best weekend viewing on June 8 and 9.

These birds need watchers!   The only reason we know about this nest is because a fledgling landed in the Ohio River last year.  He was able to swim but if he hadn’t been rescued by a boater he would have tired and drowned.

  • Where to look:  The nest is over water, under the bridge deck, on the downriver side, closest to Glenfield (north end of the bridge).  Look for peregrine activity in the vicinity of the blue pin on the bridge above.  When you first arrive, scan the water for a swimming bird … just in case.
  • Where to stand:  Peregrine monitors Laura Marshall and Anne Marie Bosnyak watch from the Fairfield Inn parking lot on Neville Island (south end of the bridge).  Park at the Port Authority Park-n-Ride right next to the Fairfield Inn.   NOTE:  There is no public access on the Glenfield side though viewing would be best from there.  If you have contacts in Glenfield or at the marina please leave a comment on this blog so we can begin to coordinate a better viewing location.  UPDATE:  See Laura’s comment below about the best viewing locations.
  • When to go:  Daytime hours June 6 to 13 — especially the weekend of June 8 and 9.
  • Coordinating with other watchers:  Laura and Anne Marie really need your help June 8 and 9 because both of them will be out of town.  If  you’d like to watch with others, leave a comment so I can start an email list — or join the Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group where you can coordinate with other Pittsburgh area peregrine fans.
  • Emergency number:  If a fledgling needs to be rescued, call the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523.

Right now there are three Fledge Watch opportunities in the Pittsburgh area:

  1. May 25 through June 7:  Downtown on Third Ave between Smithfield and Wood.
  2. June 1 through 5 (or so):  Pitt peregrines at Schenley Plaza
  3. June 6 through 13:  I-79 Neville Island Bridge from Fairfield Inn parking lot.


Stay tuned for more details on Fledge Watch dates, times and locations.  These events are weather dependent!

(map embedded from Google)

This Is The Week!

dori on the balcony (photo by Matthew Richardson)

This is the week that the Downtown peregrine chicks will fly for the first time.  Right now their parents are protective while the “kids” exercise their wings.

Above, Dori paid a visit to Matthew Richardson’s balcony at Point Park’s Lawrence Hall last Thursday.

Matthew carefully checked that no peregrines were in view when he went out on the balcony with a friend, but soon Dori flew in from below, circled, and landed on the railing.

Fortunately she was silent.  Though she wasn’t angry and kakking, she got her point across that she wants folks to stay back from above while her kids are at this vulnerable stage.  Matthew wrote that she “did have pretty loud non-verbals!”

At the nest her four youngsters have lost their down and are flapping up a storm.  On Sunday they were clearly visible at the nest opening.  Mary DeVaughn saw two perched at the edge while Dori watched from above.

Dori watches over two nestlings ready to fledge (photo by Mary DeVaughn)


Stop by Third Ave Downtown to watch them fledge. Make sure they don’t become stranded on the street. Click here for directions.

This is the week! By June 7 the excitement near Point Park University will disperse as the young peregrines explore other parts of Downtown.

(Dori’s balcony photo by Matthew Richardson. Nest area photo by Mary DeVaughn)

The Family Of The Pizza Hawk

Red-tailed hawk family, Schenley Park, 2013 (photo by Gregg Diskin)

Just because the red-tailed hawks didn’t nest this year on the Panther Hollow Bridge doesn’t mean they didn’t nest at all.  This year they’re over by the golf course, a short flight from the bridge but conceptually far for us land mammals who must walk or drive around the Phipps Run valley.

Gregg Diskin photographed the family at their nest this weekend.  One of the two babies is already stretching his wings.  Click on the image above to see more baby pictures.

A few weeks ago Gregg also photographed one of the adults gathering food … really weird food … pizza.

I remember seeing that pizza at the Westinghouse picnic shelter as I walked to work one morning.  The picnickers had carefully put the pizza in the garbage but the raccoons had pulled it out and scattered it.  Lots of it!  I put it in the garbage again.

The hawk found the pizza long before I did.  I’m amazed he picked up a slice and carried it to a light pole.

Red-tailed hawk with pizza in Schenley Park (photo by Gregg Diskin)

Gregg has more photos of the pizza episode here.

I wonder if the hawk offered pizza to his family…?

(photos by Gregory Diskin)

Orange Juice

Greater celandine in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Last weekend at the Wissahickon-Botanical Society outing I learned something new about celandine.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) is a perennial in the poppy family native to Europe and western Asia.  It’s quite common in Schenley Park in May where I misidentified it years ago as the native Celandine-poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) when I was new to wildflower identification.  The leaves are similar and the flowers are the same color, but that’s where the similarity ends … or so I thought.

It turns out that both plants have orange-yellow sap.  Dick Nugent broke off a leaf of greater celandine to show us.  (Chelidonium is non-native and sometimes invasive so it’s OK to do this.)

Here’s a broken leaf of greater celandine from Schenley Park yesterday.

Greater Celandine leaf showing orange sap (photo by Kate St. John)

Very orange juice!

(photos by Kate St. John)

Nesting Ended At Green Tree?


The news is mixed from the Green Tree water tower peregrines.

On the one hand, their nest seems to have failed.

On May 17 and 18, Mary Jo Peden and Shannon Thompson reported that both peregrines were visible again.   If their nest had been successful the female would still be incubating eggs or brooding chicks while the male brought them food.  Instead the pair was seen mating and hanging out together.  Not a good sign for their first attempt.

On the other hand, Shannon digi-scoped photos of both birds and discovered the female is banded and the male is not.

The male, above right, demonstrated his bare legs by preening extensively.

The female, above left, posed with her right leg showing off a blue band.  This is the USFWS band that’s colored in some states or may be covered in colored tape to distinguish nest mates after they’ve fledged.

Ohio uses purple USFWS bands but I’ve seen those bands look blue in some lights.  Does this female have tape on her band?  Or is she from Ohio?

The mystery continues.

Click here for close-ups of Shannon’s photos.

(photos by Shannon Thompson)