Though female peregrines don’t lay eggs until March, peregrine couples maintain their pair bond throughout the year. In winter they perch together, fly together, and occasionally meet at the nest for a ritual called the ledge display.
Early Monday morning December 2, Terzo and Morela bowed at the Cathedral of Learning nest for a long time — six minutes. Their photo above is in black-and-white because the falconcam was still in “night” mode. The sky was that overcast!
Streaming video is not available yet but the snapshot camera captured color photos every 15 seconds. I’ve made them into a video below, condensing six minutes into only 37 seconds.
The video shows that Terzo and Morela follow the expected ritual. After the first bow Terzo moves to the back of the box. The couple bows and sways and you can see their beaks open as they say “ee-chup.” (Halfway through, Terzo moves to the back right corner and is temporarily out of view.) Terzo leaves first, then Morela. The male always leaves the nest first so the female can make herself at home … and lay eggs some day.
Each of them returned later: Morela alone at 10am. Terzo alone at 11:08am to dig the nest scrape at its usual place under the roof.
Will Morela choose Terzo’s scrape for her eggs in March? Or will she use the scrape she’s been making at the front of the nestbox?
I suspect she’ll go with Terzo’s suggestion. She’ll appreciate having a roof when it rains.
Audubon’s 120th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is about to begin. Every year from December 14 through January 5 volunteers count the birds they see in a single 24-hour period within 15-mile diameter “count” circles.
It’s easy to participate. No experience is necessary. Count at your feeders or in the field. Count on your own or in a group.
Choose a location and date that suits you from the map at audubon.org. Click on the bird icon inside the circle for a description and contact information, then contact the Count Coordinator to let them know you’re counting. The Coordinator makes sure you don’t double-count someone else’s territory and helps you join a group if you wish.
17 counts are planned in southwestern Pennsylvania, listed in the table at the end.
Since 1957 when the Space Age began, our unused equipment has created a garbage patch in outer space. Over the years we’ve launched 5,000+ satellites though only 1,300 are operational today. There’s a lot of junk up there that’s out of control (can’t be navigated anymore) and potentially explosive.
Meanwhile we’re launching more satellites every year at a faster pace than before. At the end of 2018 it had taken a decade to launch 1,000 CubeSat nano-satellites, only four-inches across, but there are plans to add 1,000 more by 2021. Outer space is so crowded that NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) work every day to steer satellites away from dangerous space debris.
The 2016 video above describes space junk and how we’ve coped with it so far. Note that it doesn’t talk about CubeSats because the video predates those plans.
ESA’s 2017 video below describes the problem in technical terms with dramatic background music. I’ve cued the video to start at Low Earth Orbit. Watch for two minutes (beyond the first fade-to-black) and you’ll see lots of collisions.
Our planet isn’t the only one that has these clouds. This photo of Saturn’s north polar vortex shows Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds on the spinning edge. Photographed by the Cassini spacecraft in April 2013 and colorized by NASA, this image is called The Rose but is actually a violent, relentless storm. And it’s big!
According to the Cassini Mission at NASA, “Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).”
Our own polar vortex is mild by comparison.
(photo from NASA via Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)
Every morning the ducks at Sanctuary@SHO in Huntington, Vermont burst out of the barn and run down to the orchard to feed. Their enthusiasm is infectious. It must be one of the favorite parts of their day (see video here).
On a recent November morning they ran out of the barn as usual and into the first snowfall.
Here’s their reaction.
This is HILARIOUS. ??
These rescued ducks rush outside on the first day of snow only to turn back around just as quickly!
We usually see American robins (Turdus migratorius) with their wings closed. They perch in a tree, sit on a nest, or walk with their classic 3-steps-and-stop gait. Even in flight robins close their wings, flapping and gliding in a pattern similar to their walk.
This view of a robin with open wings reveals a surprise. The robin’s armpits, called axillaries, match its belly.
When European starlings are frightened by an aerial predator they fly in tight formation in a giant shimmering blob called a murmuration. If you’ve never seen it, check out these two examples: Murmurations in Lorain by Chad+Chris Saladin and Murmuration a 2011 film on Vimeo.
Starlings aren’t the only ones who fly like this. Shorebirds are masters at staying in formation, flying high and low and sweeping between the waves when threatened from above.
In the video below, a shorebird flock flashes black and white at Ocean Shores, Washington in November 2018. Their backs are dark, their bellies are white, so they change color as they turn in the air.
The flock is doing this for a reason.
Watch a predator dive in at the 0:13 time mark. It looks like a peregrine falcon to me. 🙂
The path of the Harrisburg female peregrine (Red, 46/BS, ID#24660) looks quite promising. She flew first to Nockamixon (19 Sept), then west and south to Lamb’s Knoll (2 Oct) and Newtowne Neck near Compton, Maryland (4 Oct). The enhanced map below includes her banding location in Harrisburg. Click here for her path on the Motus website which does not include her banding location.
Harrisburg male, White, 22/BZ (ID# 24662)
Initial data on the Harrisburg male (White, 22/BZ, ID#24662) were clouded by inaccuracies that placed him in both Reading, PA (Drasher) and Saskatchewan, Canada — 1,600 miles away — on the same day.
After removing the Saskachewan error there was still one more puzzle. The data table indicates that Harrisburg White flew 766 miles four times — from western Ontario (Harrington) to the Bay of Fundy (Gardner Creek) and back again. Would a bird have done this? And could he have made one of those trips in a single day, 24-25 August, in a head wind? Hmmm! Doubtful.
With those questions in mind I created the enhanced map below, adding his banding location and removing Gardner Creek (which may still be on his MOTUS map here). While his data is under review Harrisburg White is still on the move. He showed up near Aurora, Ontario on 16 November.
Nazareth, female, Red, 20/CA (ID# 24665)
Hatched on a clinker silo at Lehigh Cement in Nazareth, Pennsylvania this female (Red, 20/CA, ID#24665) logged three data points on Amherst Island in Lake Ontario: 51 seconds on 17 and 19 July and three hours on 6 August. Without other locational data MOTUS cannot generate a map so I created one below with two points while her data is under review. Click here for her data table on the MOTUS website.
Data uncertain: Pittsburgh, female, Blue, 19/CA (ID# 24664)