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.
Seen This Week: While out birding on Tuesday I noticed blooming flowers and unusual leaves at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve. Mitrewort (Mitella diphylla), at top, is one of my favorites because of its delicate, intricate flowers.
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.
For the eighth consecutive year, falcon father Jamie and mother Moxie squawked loudly and angrily Monday as their baby chicks that hatched atop Indiana Michigan Power Center (IMPC) were briefly removed from their nest to receive identification bands.
The three male chicks were named Bolt, Unity and Artemis, and the one female was named Carla.
… We used the opportunity to invite I&M employees to select the names – and they submitted more than 650 names for consideration.
… [The name] Carla is in recognition of one of I&M’s respected leaders, who is retiring this summer after more than 30 years with the company.
Who is Carla’s namesake? I contacted Tracy Warner in Media Relations at Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of AEP, and he confirmed that Carla the Falcon was named for Carla E. Simpson who retired in the summer of 2020.
Carla Simpson started as a clerk/cashier in 1988 and by the time she retired was a director of the company and listed in the Annual Report. Interviewed in 2017 for the AEP Retirees newsletter, Carla Simpson said something that really resonates with me.
Q (asked of Carla E. Simpson): What is the biggest challenge you have faced and overcome in your career at AEP?
A: The biggest challenge I have faced as a woman is not being heard at times. Sometimes I can make a suggestion or statement and it is overlooked, but another person may make the same suggestion and be heard. This is a challenge that I have not yet overcome but I am working on it. It sometimes requires me to restate what I said or ask for clarity as to how the other person’s suggestion or statement is different from mine.
The female was banded and by 4 May Jeff finally got a shot of her bands pictured below. Jeff wrote, “This kinda looks like S/01 Black/Blue? Could be green. …. [The bird] flew off and dropped a feather into the river, P5 left, I think, and that pretty much confirms that it’s the female.”
I can understand why Carla left the West End Bridge for the Cathedral of Learning. In 2020 she hatched on a 27-story building, the Indiana Michigan Power Center.
She is now preparing for a long stay on a 40-story building, the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, as seen from Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park below.
You can watch Carla and her future mate, Ecco, on the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning. It is probably too late in the season to start nesting so they won’t be on camera frequently. However Carla and Ecco are getting to know each other and that may involve bowing at the nest. Wait and see.
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.
Two weeks ago I wrote that there would be no peregrine eggs this year at the Cathedral of Learning because Morela was unable to lay any. She crouched and strained but appeared to be egg bound.
Since then Morela has had days when she looks very ill, then seems to recover a little, then looks ill again. Though she stopped standing over the scrape as shown above, she has not returned to her formerly energetic self. Her bleary eyes indicate she feels unwell.
Ecco knows that she is ill.
He does what he can by bringing her food which he prepares more carefully than usual, as if he’s making it easy to eat. Unfortunately it is not enough.
On the morning of 7 May Morela felt bad enough that she left the nest for 36 hours. That day I found her facing the wall in the 38th floor southeast cache area.
She returned to the nest at 5:34pm on 8 May and seemed slightly better but in the next few days her health declined. In this snapshot she is leaning to the side, something she never did when healthy.
During a difficult night on May 11-12 Morela leaned a lot and may have lost her balance a couple of times. On Friday 12 May at 5:51am she left the nest and has not been seen since.
Her long absence and ill health indicate we probably won’t see her again.
Life goes on in the peregrine world. If Morela is gone a new female will come to the Cathedral of Learning to be Ecco’s mate. This year it’s too late to raise a family but if all goes well there will be peregrine chicks next year.
Hoping for happier times ahead.
UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long! A new, banded FEMALE peregrine came to the nestboxon 14 May at 2:27 PM.
Here she is at the nest this afternoon. I thought this was Morela but when I looked at the image I can see that SHE’S BANDED! (Morela was unbanded.)