After Morela returned from battling a challenger for four days, we wondered why she wasn’t spending much time at the nest. Before the challenge she stayed at the nest all day and looked as if she was about to lay an egg, but since her return on Saturday 25 March she hasn’t spent much time at the nest.
The reason is probably that Morela’s hormones tamped down so she wouldn’t need to lay an egg during the battle. She has to get back in the mood. Ecco is working on it.
Yesterday, 27 March, Morela and Ecco held three bowing sessions, each one longer than the last. At the second session Ecco warmed up for 20 minutes and made elaborate bows and pauses. All of his moves are part of his courtship “dance.”
Watch two of their bowing sessions in the video below. Alas, the microphone misbehaved so there is no sound.
The worst part of Lyme disease season has just begun so let’s learn how to avoid it.
From spring through early summer the tiny nymphs of black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) quest for blood meals from animals and humans. Only the size of poppy seeds, the nymphs are really hard to see. If an infected tick bites you, it will give you Lyme disease bacteria.
To prevent the debilitating disease, don’t let ticks get on your skin.
Choose outdoor clothing that prevents ticks from reaching your skin:
Light colored clothes: So you can see ticks easily.
Long sleeved shirt with collar + tuck in your shirt: Collar traps ticks before they walk up your neck.
Socks: When you bushwhack or garden, tuck pant bottoms into socks.
Once a year (i.e. now!) Spray your outdoor clothing with Permethrin. I know from personal experience and the experts agree that Permethrin works much better than DEET. Spray protection lasts 4-6 washings. Pre-treated clothes can last 70 washings.
Black-legged ticks are active year round when the temperature is above freezing. If you wear protective clothing — yes, even in hot summer — you’ll save yourself a world of trouble. See more tips here.
p.s. There are lots of ways to outsmart ticks. Did you know zip pants trap ticks under the zip placket?
Though none of us have seen any female peregrine for two days Ecco sometimes sees one in the sky — or maybe more than one. Yesterday afternoon he called to her from the nest. Whoever she was, she didn’t come in. Only Ecco knows whether she was Morela or the challenger.
Eventually a female will join Ecco at the nest so watch carefully at that point. Is she Morela? Or someone new?
Will there be eggs and chicks this year? No one can tell. Like Ecco, all we can do is watch and wait.
Male prairie chickens hold a lek to attract females and according to this diagram so do “grackles.” It was exciting to think that the puff and “skrinnk” of male common grackles in Pittsburgh was a lek. But it’s not! The three species of grackles in North America lead very different lives.
Bill Up is a male-to-male threat display. The puff and skrinnk is Song during courtship.
Boat-tailed grackles (Quiscalus major), found in Florida and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, nest in harems. The males gather in leks to attract the females.
Female boat-tailed grackles are dull brown and laid back compared their male counterparts.
Great-tailed grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus), found west of the Mississippi and in Central America, gather in noisy winter flocks.
In the breeding season they don’t use leks and they aren’t monogamous.
Birds of the World explains:
[Their] mating system can be described as non-faithful female frank polygyny, in which a territorial male has one or more social mates, each female has one social mate, and both sexes employ extra-pair copulation as a conditional mating tactic. Territorial males defend a small territory including from 1 to several trees, where one or more females nest. The male protects nestlings hatched on his territory, but not nestlings from other territories. He copulates with his social mates and may attempt to copulate with other females.
As I mentioned yesterday morning Morela was looking as if she’d lay an egg any minute, but yesterday everything changed. After days of lounging at the nest and crouching over the scrape Morela was barely on camera at all. When she returned in the afternoon she looked vigilant. Meanwhile Ecco spent 2.5 hours waiting at the nest, sometimes watching the sky.
What’s up with Morela? Why isn’t she trying to lay an egg? I think she may have a challenger who’s keeping her busy.
From just after midnight on 21 March through 7:00am 22 March (today) this timelapse video shows how both peregrines are absent from the nest. I’ve provided a description of the action below the video, some illustrated with snapshots.
Activities on the video:
Morela is at the nest nearly continuously on Tuesday 21 March from midnight to 4:50am when she jumped to the roof, still present at the nest though not visible.
Morela looks relaxed for an hour at the nest 9:50-10:57am. Then she disappears.
Ecco takes her place for more than an hour 10:59am-12:02pm. Ecco has a bright orange beak and legs compared to Morela’s pale yellow.
Ecco stops in briefly and watches the sky.
Morela’s back at the nest 2:03pm-3:32pm, for about 90 minutes, but she looks sleek and vigilant, not egg-y at all.
Ecco returns for 90 minutes, 5:29p-6:56pm.
Neither bird is at the nest after that.
The photos are numbered to match what they illustrate.
#1. Morela is on the roof during the early morning hours of 21 March.
#3. Ecco has bright orange beak and legs.
#3 and #5 Morela’s beak and legs are yellow, not orange. At 2:00pm she looks sleek and vigilant, not egg-y at all.
#4 Ecco stops in briefly and watches the sky.
Neither bird is at the nest today which indicates again that there’s probably a challenger.
Fingers crossed that the intruder is driven off soon. Go, Morela!
UPDATE on Morela and Ecco as of Friday 24 March 2023, 5:50 am:
Morela’s most recent appearance at the nest: Tues 21 March at 3:32pm.
Morela last seen: Vigilant on Heinz Chapel scaffolding Wed 22 March at 4:14pm.
Ecco last seen: Watchful at the nest, Thurs 23 March at 5:13pm.
The Challenger: Has not been seen yet (which is good news).
My conclusion from these sightings: The challenger is female. Morela is keeping her away the Cathedral of Learning but has not vanquished her yet. The challenger has not won either.
For almost a week Morela has looked as if she’ll lay an egg any minute at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. Yesterday morning we thought she was ready. She lumbered off the green perch and stood in the scrape. We watched and waited.
But minutes later Ecco showed up with a snack. Morela didn’t tell him “Go away I’m busy.” Instead she got up to grab it and eventually left to eat. As Ecco steps up to watch her leave, he realizes he has fluff stuck to his toes.
This morning at 6:54am there is still no egg. So we’re still waiting.
Morela, of course, is waiting more than any of us.
Black-legged tick season is here again and with it comes the threat of Lyme disease. We now find ticks in neighborhoods where they never used to be and white-tailed deer are the reason why. More abundant deer mean more ticks. More abundant ticks mean more Lyme disease. Though deer themselves don’t spread Lyme disease they have an effect on its abundance. Let’s examine the Deer, Ticks, Lyme connection.
Black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus) have a two year life cycle as egg, larva, nymph and adult. At each stage the tick must drink a blood meal to transition to the next one — from larva to nymph, from nymph to adult, and from adult female to produce eggs. (Note: Ticks eggs do not carry the Lyme bacteria.)
When a tick bites a host and sucks its blood it takes up the host’s blood and transfers some of its own body fluids into the host. If the host is infected with the bacteria, it infects the tick. If the tick is infected, it infects the host.
Deer are the adult ticks’ preferred host and their long distance transport system. Deer bodies are the place where adult ticks meet and mate in the fall. After mating the male dies but the female lives on. She sips a last blood meal, then drops off to the ground and hides in leaf litter while her body develops eggs over the winter.
Adult ticks meet in the fall during the rut while deer are moving around a lot. Bucks average 3-6 miles per day but may travel as much as 10-20 miles in search of does. Does may travel to meet or evade them.
Meanwhile ticks are along for the ride. When a pregnant female tick drops off after her last blood meal she may be 3 to 20 miles from where she started and she’s carrying 1,000 to 3,000 eggs that she’ll lay in the spring.