Morela has made brief visits to the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest every day this week. Snapshots from the National Aviary’s falconcam show her bowing and calling to her mate Terzo. He hasn’t joined her yet but don’t worry, he’s around. I saw him kiting in the wind yesterday.
On Sunday 12 January 2020 Morela spent five minutes bowing and calling.
When Terzo didn’t join her she stepped forward to look around, “Where is he?”
On Monday 13 January she had just finished eating when she stopped by for a visit. Notice the bulge in her crop as she bows and calls.
And yesterday, 14 January, she stopped by for only a minute.
The top photo is a once-a-minute snapshot from the (soon to be) streaming camera. It shows what’s happening there right now. You have to refresh your browser to see if it changes.
When there’s a peregrine on camera I save the photo to my hard drive or cellphone. Then I refresh the browser.
In January the nest is usually empty but I know when a peregrine is there because I follow @pittpefaALERT on Twitter. Every tweet from @pittpefaALERT is a 15-second “change” image showing what’s different at the nest. Changed pixels are shown in red. Here’s what they look like and what they mean.
Tweets that don’t matter: At dawn and dusk and on partly cloudy days the change is just sun and shadow. Here are two sun and shadow changes — red images with straight edges.
When a peregrine shows up: The change image may look like a bird (left image below) and it certainly has curved lines (right). Here are two peregrine tweets.
When I see a tweet that looks like a peregrine I go to the FALCONCAM – CL Snapshots link. The snapshots refresh every 60 seconds. If I’m nimble I can capture the first one.
On Friday afternoon January 3 Bob Mulvihill, his son Anthony, and I visited the Cathedral of Learning to make sure the falconcams are ready for the 2020 nesting season. Bob checked the cameras, wiped the weather-proof domes, and removed those reddish circles from the nest.
We saw Morela on our way into the building, perched on a gargoyle spout on the 32nd floor. She stayed where she was. The day was too foggy to be flying high.
Yesterday, January 4, was still foggy and rainy but Morela was intent on courting with Terzo. At 10am she called from the nest, “Come court with me.”
At noon she and Terzo bowed for two minutes. Terzo is in the back corner below (notice his bands). Morela has her back to us.
The peregrines, too, are getting ready for the nesting season. I can hardly wait for the falconcam to start streaming next month.
At mid-morning on New Years Day, the sun came out, the temperature rose above freezing and the winds gusted to 29 mph — perfect weather for Pitt’s peregrine falcons to stretch their wings.
In the early afternoon Morela visited the nest for twenty minutes. At first she bowed as if to her mate, Terzo, but he didn’t appear on camera. She scraped at the gravel, watched and waited, then preened on the front perch. This is Morela’s longest visit to the nest since she arrived at the Cathedral of Learning last September.
Streaming video isn’t available yet but the snapshot camera captures photos every 15 seconds. I’ve put the best ones in the slideshow below.
The best place to see Morela and Terzo this month is in the air above the Cathedral of Learning. Watch for their breath-taking courtship flights as they prepare to nest in March.
p.s. Morela visited the nest for only a minute yesterday, 2 Jan 2020.
Duck Hollow, where Nine Mile Run meets the Monongahela River, is a good place to find unusual birds in Pittsburgh. Just after Thanksgiving Robert Warnock saw a young peregrine falcon harassing the gulls and posted these photos in the Duck Hollow Facebook group.
When I saw the photos a few weeks later I was so excited. This peregrine is banded Black/Green with blue tape on the USFW band. Can we find out who it is? Unfortunately, additional zooming couldn’t make the bands readable.
In the next photo I briefly hoped the mark above the bird’s back was a MOTUS harness but Not! It’s a ripple on the water. Oh well.
As expected, the peregrine didn’t stick around but you never know when we might see it again. Watch for those distinctive white stripes on the head and the dark belly. By the time we see this bird again it may have grown back the missing tail feather(s).
p.s. Here’s the back story: When I first saw Warnock’s photos all the clues pointed to the 2019 MOTUS peregrine from Downtown Pittsburgh. I checked with Art McMorris, Patti Barber, and Dan Brauning at the PA Game Commission, but without band numbers none of us could be certain of the bird’s identity. To tantalize you, here’s a photo of Pittsburgh’s MOTUS peregrine in June 2019. What do you think?
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.
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)