Spring nesting season is continuing apace. The first batch of baby robins is learning to fly and some are old enough to forage on their own. Raptor fledglings are not far behind.
On Sunday 28 May we watched three red-tailed hawk chicks in a nest under the Panther Hollow Bridge in Schenley Park. This species hatches in the order the eggs are laid, each one two days younger than the last. The chicks clearly show their age difference in Charity Kheshgi’s video. One chick is getting ready to fly, one is still fluffy, and the middle one is halfway between.
At the Tarentum Bridge on Sunday afternoon, John English and I watched three peregrine chicks lounging on top of the nestbox while an adult “babysat” nearby.
At first we saw only three chicks but after we moved to a better viewing location the fourth was on the top of the box as well, exercising his wings.
And suddenly I saw him fly the length of the pier to the other end and back again to the top of the box! I have no photos of this feat but you get the idea. By today he may have fledged from the bridge.
Last Wednesday, 24 May, Mark Vass drove down the Monongahela River valley looking for birds and checking bridges. In West Brownsville he found a peregrine perched under the US Route 40 Lane Bane Bridge. Mark’s checklist and photo set off a quest to find the nest (https://ebird.org/checklist/S139102470)
Jeff Cieslak made the trip on Friday 26 May and found the nest hole and a pair of peregrines carrying food to it. The female is peachy with heavy dots, the male is whiter. Neither bird is banded. (My male-female assessment is based on the tendency of mid-latitude males to be paler than females. Notice that both have the adult plumage trait of horizontal stripes on their flanks.)
Alyssa Nees and Fred Kachmarik visited on Memorial Day, 29 May, and counted a family of five — two adults, three chicks. Alyssa’s photos show an adult in the nest hole …
… and a chick clearly visible (red circle) with fluffy white top of head, feathered face and brown back. The arrow points to the tail of an adult watching from above.
Fred’s photos of the chicks include an older chick and a fluffy young one:
A truss structure spans the river and ends at a pillar on each side. As far as I can tell from the photos, the nest appears to be close to the pillar. So these birds are nesting in Washington County, PA.
Interestingly, when Google Street View cameras drove by on the West Brownsville side this month, the cameras “saw” a bird perched on the superstructure near the pillar. I’ll bet this dot is a peregrine.
Thanks and congratulations to Mark Vass, Jeff Cieslak, Alyssa Nees and Fred Kachmarik for finding and documenting this peregrine family.
If you’d like to see the birds yourself, Jeff provides a map.
Just one week ago the new female peregrine, Carla, appeared on camera at the Cathedral of Learning. Since then she and the resident male, Ecco, have been courting every day, sometimes as often as 10 times a day, and Carla has shown an interest in the scrape.
Now that these two are a permanent couple how do we tell them apart? Here are some tips for comparing and identifying each bird.
Banded: The easiest clue is that Carla is banded and Ecco is not.
Coloration: Carla’s chest has tiny dark flecks. Ecco’s chest is pure white.
Carla’s back is nearly uniform charcoal brown while Ecco’s back shows light-dark contrast between his paler gray back and black wingtips and tail.
Size: Male peregrines are 1/3 smaller than females. Carla is always the bigger bird as shown in photo at top. Compared to Ecco, Carla’s body is longer and she is bulkier. If only one bird is on camera, compare it to the size of the nestbox or camera view.
And now we’re ready for a quiz. See if you can identify who is who.
The more we watch Carla and Ecco the better we’ll get at identifying them.
The new female peregrine, Carla(*), has been at the Cathedral of Learning for only a few days but is quickly becoming acquainted with the territory and her new mate Ecco. Yesterday they made courtship flights around the building and bowed at the nest several times.
Though it seems late in the season to start nesting, the snapshot camera shows Carla exploring the nest and the pair’s interest in each other. (The slides repeat automatically.)
#1. Ecco calls to Carla, “Come down from the nestbox roof.” When she doesn’t, he leaves and she asks him to come bow.
Carla poses while sunbathing in front of the snapshot camera, 17 May at noon.
In Sunday’s update I explained that Morela was very ill when she disappeared last Friday and said: “If Morela is gone a new female will come to the Cathedral of Learning to be Ecco’s mate.” Well, that didn’t take long! A new female peregrine showed up at 2:00pm and displayed her bands. I already know where she came from.
Yesterday was so warm and sunny that Ecco sunbathed for 90 minutes at midday. Then at 2:00pm a new female peregrine showed up and sunbathed for half an hour. (See slideshow at end.)
She periodically looked at the sky as she stretched her legs and wings. Amazingly she aimed her color band at the camera!
Female peregrine Black/Blue S/07 was banded on 5/18/2020 at nest on a building at One Summit Square, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
From her photos she looks paler than Morela to me and her face is different.
Will she stick around? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile here’s a slideshow of her from a different angle.
(*) HISTORY AT THIS NEST SITE: In 2014 Dorothy was egg bound, looked very sick (photo at the link) and then passed the egg and was well enough to lay eggs the next year. As of this writing on 1 May, Morela does not look sick like Dorothy did.
Yesterday morning I was sure Morela was going to lay an egg but when Ecco brought her breakfast she left the nest for two hours. At 9:40am she tried laying again for 90 minutes but no egg. All afternoon it was Ecco on the green perch, not Morela, as you can see in the timelapse video below, 7am-7pm.
She returned to the nest at 8:22pm but did not lay last night.
This morning at 5:00am Ecco was back at his vigil on the green perch (photo at top). As of this moment (7:45am) he’s been back and forth to the perch but Morela still hasn’t come.
I don’t know what’s going on but it’s now so late in April that I think a challenger is unlikely.
Meanwhile most of the region’s peregrine pairs are on eggs. This update will be brief.
Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh:
Ecco has been doing everything he can to prompt Morela to lay eggs, including bringing her tasty morsels for every meal. On 13 April he stored a woodcock on Dr. Alan Juffs’ air conditioning unit and returned to pick it up.
The pair bows frequently. In this photo he seems to be saying, “Please, Morela.”
This 24-hour timelapse video from 21-22 April shows how often they bow and that Morela is spending the night at the scrape. We are all … all … waiting.
On 14 April Jeff Cieslak photographed a nest exchange Downtown on Third Avenue. Yes, one is still the brown bird I saw earlier in April. Jeff photographed the other one, too, and found out it’s banded. No reading on the bands yet.
Eckert Street near McKees Rocks Bridge, Ohio River:
At Eckert Street Jeff photographed a nest exchange on 13 April and the male attacking a red-tailed hawk on 10 April keeping the area safe. Yup. On eggs.
West End Bridge, Ohio River:
New peregrine site! Jeff staked out the West End Bridge until he confirmed a pair is lurking there.
One of the birds is banded! Again no read on the bands yet.
Jeff made a map of where to watch.
Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek:
John English photographed a peregrine snoozing on 16 April. We think this pair is still on eggs.
Clairton Coke Works, Monongahela River:
NO PEREGRINES HERE. Last week Dana Nesiti found out that despite many checks on the quench tower no peregrines are nesting at USS Clairton Coke Works.
For all the news and sightings, check out this summary.