This morning it was raining when I woke up at 4am and saw this snapshot of Morela wide awake and hunched over the scrape. What was she doing?
I pulled the 4am video and found out she was listening intently and sometimes ee-chupping to a peregrine wailing in the dark.
Ee-chupping is a greeting to a potential or current mate. Wailing means “I want [unknown something] to change.” Morela was speaking to a male peregrine and a male peregrine was wailing. We don’t know who was wailing and we don’t know why.
At this point I doubt there will be a peregrine egg at the Cathedral of Learning this year though Morela has been trying. This short video from Sunday 5 April 2020 at 6am shows her pulsing her vent. It looks as if her plumbing is stopped up.
We are left with more questions than answers.
Who was wailing and why?
Is Morela egg bound? Is she feeling ill?
Is Terzo still at the Cathedral of Learning or did the other male peregrine take over?
What will happen next with Terzo, Morela and whoever else might be at the Cathedral of Learning?
Peregrine news is sparse this year because we are (and should be!) staying close to home to stop the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately Dana Nesiti is monitoring the Westinghouse Bridge where he photographs the peregrines despite very poor lighting.
On 1 April Dana confirmed there’s a new pair at Westinghouse — an unbanded male and a banded female — when he captured clear images of the female’s bands.
The last day of March was another confusing day at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. Morela courted with two mates — Terzo and the unbanded male — yet she still has not laid an egg, though she looked as if she was ready to do it the day before.
Yesterday’s Day In A Minute video shows 12 hours of the revolving door, 7a-7p, in only a minute. It sure looks busy!
Thanks to all of you who’ve reported nest activity, we have a partial picture of what’s going on. I’m sure we’ve missed something.
6:43a Terzo before dawn (Kate St. John)
8:25a Unbanded male (Pa Gal)
10:46a Terzo (Kate St. John)
11:47a Unbanded male (J)
12:30p seen from Schenley Park: male peregrine on lightning rod of CL while Morela at nest (Kate St. John)
2:10p Terzo (Pa Gal & Mary Ann Pike)
2:23p – 2:53p Terzo alone (Mary Ann Pike, Pa Gal, Luann Walz, John English)
3:56p Terzo (Pa Gal)
At this point the males have reached a stalemate. They chase each other but neither one wins.
Yesterday the revolving door of male peregrine falcons moved faster at the Cathedral of Learning. Terzo and the unbanded male appeared over and over again on camera, usually with Morela. As Morela got closer to laying her first egg — not yet — she brought prey with her and clutched it while crouching over the scrape. Maybe it’s comfort food.
This Day In A Minute video for 30 March 2020, 7a-7p, shows the revolving door spinning faster and faster.
Thanks to your watchful eyes on the National Aviary falconcam and your comments telling me when a male peregrine is at the nest, I was able to piece together this play-by-play for 30 March 2020:
11:26a New unbanded male
11:36a New unbanded male
11:52a New unbanded male
12:23p New unbanded male
12:49p New unbanded male
1:15p New unbanded male
3:32p New unbanded male
The rest of the day was just Morela often with comfort food
Here are just a few of the many snapshots from those visits:
At this point it’s obvious that Morela wants to lay her first egg. She often crouches over the scrape and, oddly, holds prey as she concentrates. In the photo below she has her third eyelids closed (nictitating membranes) and is clutching the same bedraggled food.
For three days — 26 to 28 March 2020 — the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest was eerily quiet. Morela hasn’t laid an egg and she was rarely on camera. Thanks to “Pa Gal’s” faithful nest watch we found out why.
Yesterday afternoon at 3:45pm Pa Gal saw the new unbanded male courting Morela for several minutes. Two hours later, John English reported Terzo back at the nest. The revolving door has turned again.
Yesterday’s Day In A Minute video (29 March 2020, 7a-7p) shows a nest that’s mostly empty until two peregrines show up at 3:45p.
The unbanded male peregrine bowed closely with Morela, then looked around and left. I believe he’s the same male from earlier this month with the bright orange cere and legs.
The situation at this point seems to be:
Morela is the only female at the nest; no female challengers.
Terzo was on camera twice on Wednesday morning, 25 March, then absent until 5:45pm on Sunday 29 March.
I assume from Terzo’s absence that he was chasing away the other male for 3-4 days.
The dispute between the males probably explains why Morela hasn’t laid an egg yet.
It was really hard to figure this out because my usual detective method failed. (The @pittpefaALERT Twitter feed died on 20 March and won’t be back until the COVID-19 shutdown is over.)
Please keep watching the National Aviary falconcam and tell me what you see and when! We’ll get to the bottom of this eventually.
The first eaglet appeared on Sat 21 March 21 at 7:40am, above. The second one hatched on Monday 23 March at 6:40am, below.
In the day between hatchlings, Audubon Society of Western PA captured this video of the mother rolling her second egg. Notice how carefully she holds her talons inward as she steps near her chick. What a good mom!
p.s. Stay safe, folks. Online viewing is best! Allegheny and seven other Pennsylvania counties are now under a Stay At Home order through 6 April. (Click for details) We are allowed to go outdoors but must stay six feet apart.
Are you wondering when Morela will lay her first egg at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest?
Morela’s posture yesterday and her position at the scrape suggests she’s getting close to laying. She’s also staying quite close to the nest even when you don’t see her on camera. Yesterday at noon I saw her perched on the bulwark above the camera looking at the nest.
Meanwhile if you can, please help the organization that hosts the falconcam …
As with all pubic venues, the National Aviary is closed for the COVID-19 emergency. Rest assured the birds are safe and receiving dedicated care from essential staff. However, the cost of care is no longer offset by visitor admissions, gift shop sales, animal encounters, etc. If you are able, please donate to the National Aviary during this time of crisis. Go to www.aviary.org/make-a-donation to make a gift online, or mail a check to the National Aviary, 700 Arch Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Dave saw only one peregrine and it was outside the nestbox. This means incubation hasn’t started yet, and perhaps there are no eggs either. Last year the Tarentum female laid her first egg around 29 March (a rough estimate).
Each female peregrine has her own laying schedule. Tarentum’s is late March. There are no eggs yet in Rochester, NY either, which is normal. Be patient. Morela is not an early bird like the ones in Harrisburg and Baltimore.
Meanwhile, on Thursday 19 March Karen Lang saw both peregrines at the Ambridge Bridge.
And early last week Lori Maggio walked to the Mt. Washington Overlook for a view of the Downtown nest site from a great distance. On Sunday 15 March there were no peregrines in the nest area but on Tuesday 17 March she saw one waiting at the Third Avenue site. It was probably Dori. The peregrine is at the bottom of the left hand two-cubby slot.