Love is in the air at the Harmar bald eagle nest. Gina Gilmore saw lots of activity last weekend.
Sometimes the female calls for her mate (above). He flies in to see her and they mate (on 8 Feb).
… and mate again (on 10 Feb).
They’re getting ready to nest, though their first egg is at least a week away, maybe more.
The Harmar pair historically lays 10-18 days later than the Hays bald eagles whose first egg arrived this week on 12 Feb 2019 at 6:45pm. In 2015-2018, Harmar’s first egg was between February 20 and March 9.
This year there’s no camera on the new Harmar nest so we’ll have to watch the female’s behavior to know when her first egg arrives.
In the meantime love is in the air. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Nesting season began last month for this pair of Bermuda cahows when the female laid her single egg on 10 January 2019. The parents are now taking turns at incubation duty. They expect the egg to hatch in early March.
Claiming territory is a blatant activity but the peregrine’s first egg date is nearly impossible to determine without a falconcam. Unlike bald eagles, peregrines nest on inaccessible ledges and don’t begin incubation until the next to last egg has been laid. The only sign that they’re incubating is that you see only one peregrine for more than a month; the other one’s on the nest.
Bald eagle nesting season has come to western Pennsylvania. Our favorite pair at Hays Woods finished their new nest in early winter and are spending lots of time together. The Hays eaglecam is up and running. Everyone’s ready for eggs.
Yesterday Dan Dasynich spent time on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail taking photos of the eagles. He captured this one just after they had a mating session. Then the male flew off downriver.
Because the Hays pair has been on camera for five years we have details of their nesting history. From 2014 through 2018 the female laid her first egg between February 10 and February 19.
Her earliest date was in an unusual year. In 2017 she laid her first egg on February 10 but the nest tree blew down on February 12 so the pair built another nest very quickly. She laid her first egg in the replacement nest on 20 Feb 2017.
If history is any guide, the first egg is one to two weeks away. Meanwhile the Hays eagles are putting finishing touches on the nest, the male is bringing food for his lady, and they mate many times.
Every spring we wonder where the Downtown peregrines will choose to nest. In the past seven years Dori has chosen Third Avenue four times, Gulf Tower twice, and once an alcove at the former Macy’s. She prefers Third Avenue even though the season ended badly there last year.
This year we know Dori won’t be using the Gulf Tower nestbox. The building’s pyramid roof and exterior walls need critical maintenance and work is already underway. Rather than risk a failed peregrine nest attempt, the nestbox was removed yesterday in hopes that Dori will choose another site, which she’s likely to do anyway.
To give you an idea of the building’s dilemma, here’s what’s up. During a routine exterior inspection last summer significant problems were found on all sides of the building and on nearly every elevation. Worse yet, the top six stories — the pyramid tower — were found to be missing more than 85% of their mortar joints. The conditions are so severe that they require immediate remediation.
The photo below shows the Gulf Tower in 2017 with a yellow circle for the nestbox location. Peregrines don’t like to nest where humans are above the nesting zone.
Because the work affects the peregrines, Gulf Tower management conferred with the Pennsylvania Game Commission who provided recommendations: initially (a) Don’t work during the nesting season blackout dates, Feb 15th to July31st, then (b) a variety of strategies to try to exclude and deter the birds prior to the onset of nesting season, such as removing the nest box.
Given the masonry crisis there really wasn’t a choice. Remember when a 1,500 pound cornice fell from the Frick Building 18 months ago? Fortunately no one was hurt but the streets were closed for three weeks while crews constructed protective walls and encapsulated the damaged granite. Then repairs began. (Click here for WTAE video, here for P-G article.) Rugby Realty owns both the Frick Building and the Gulf Tower so they know exactly what can happen. They can’t afford to delay Gulf Tower repairs.
So this year there’s no Gulf Tower nestbox and no falconcam. However building management plans to complete masonry repairs by the end of 2019 and reinstall the nestbox for the 2020 season. The falconcam will be back next year.
For now we know where the Downtown peregrines won’t nest but not where they will nest. Dori is very creative. If she doesn’t choose Third Avenue I’ll be asking you to search for her just as we did in 2015.
(photo of nestbox from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower; photo of the Gulf Tower by John English)
The nesting season began for this Bermuda cahow when she returned to her nest burrow on Wednesday 9 January 2019 at 11:55pm (almost midnight). By 1am she had laid her single egg. Click here for a video.
Cahows or Bermuda petrels (Pterodroma cahow) live on the open ocean and only come to land on dark nights during the nesting season, placing their nests in underground burrows on small inaccessible islands to protect them from predators. Humans used to be one of those predators. We ate them. By 1620 cahows were presumed extinct.
When cahows were rediscovered in 1951 there were only 18 nesting pairs on Earth, but thanks to the conservation efforts of David B. Wingate and the Cahow Recovery Project there are now more than 135. Most of them are on Nonsuch Island where many burrows are man-made to provide additional nesting sites. This burrow has a camera.
The pair that “owns” this burrow came back in November to refurbish the site, court and mate. In December they returned to the sea. Then on Wednesday the female returned to lay her egg and begin incubation. Her mate will arrive and take over incubation so she can go back to the ocean to eat.
Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are found on every continent except Antarctica, breeding in the northern hemisphere and wintering in the southern hemisphere with one notable exception: a small population breeds in Argentina.
This behavior was unknown until 1980 when scientists confirmed that northern-born barn swallows had decided to nest during South America’s spring. They’ve even shortened their return migration, traveling only as far as the equator during South America’s winter.
Scientists speculate that the birds are breeding in Argentina because we changed the landscape to their liking. 99% of barn swallows prefer to nest on man-made structures including farm buildings, bridges and boathouses. They found what they like near Buenos Aires.
Because these swallows have flipped their north-south patterns a Cornell University study reports that this could be the first step toward a new species, similar to terns and skuas that have distinct northern and southern species (example: great skua and south polar skua). For now, though, the Argentinian barn swallows still recruit northern-born swallows to join them.
While we’re cold up here in North America, some barn swallows are starting families in November.
What’s that noise in the backyard tonight? Who’s out there?
In autumn in Pennsylvania, great horned owls (Bubo viginianus) call to establish territory and court their mates. Their family time is coming soon. She’ll lay eggs before any other raptor species, sometimes as early as December.
Listen for their 5-note syncopated call: “hu-hu-Hoo HOO HOO“
If you’re lucky you’ll hear them “sing” a duet. (Turn up your speakers to hear both birds in this recording. The male’s voice is the lower one.)
Anywhere you live in North America, if there are woods or fields nearby great horned owls are there year round.