There are First Flight updates at the end of this article.
Yesterday the young Pitt peregrines practiced their flight skills by making short flying leaps to nearby ledges. The snapshot camera captured their antics, sometimes quite close!
Today they won’t be so active because it’s raining all day. Wet feathers are heavy so young birds who’ve never flown don’t make their first attempt in the rain. Today’s Fledge Watch is canceled because …
UPDATES between bouts of rain:
FLEDGLING UPDATE: 9:30am and noon from rooftop in North Oakland: It appears one of the chicks fledged this morning to the high side of the Cathedral of Learning, facing Heinz Chapel. (My guess is Red Boy.) Why I think this: Morela is babysitting in unusual places on 40th and 38E patio ledge. Morela’s behavior is a Fledge Watch Tip, described here.
FLEDGLING UPDATE: 12:30 to 1:00pm on a quick walk to Schenley Plaza: Two juvenile females were on the nestrail flapping, leaping, skimming the nestrail. At 1:00pm the darker one (I think Silver Girl) launched from the nestrail and flew a lot! Morela & Ecco both zoomed in & herded her back to the CL. (Ecco dropped his talons to herd her.) She landed on the netting at SE 26 & is cooling off, probably getting her heartbeat back to normal.
Yesterday at the Westinghouse Bridge Dana Nesiti captured a photo series that shows us a young peregrine in first flight. He almost didn’t capture it at all, as he describes below.
6-5-2022 Westinghouse Bridge. We have a fledge!! When I got there early the female was sitting in front of the scrape. The juvie came out and hopped down the arch turned around and went back to the scrape. … I put my teleconverter on and the juvie flew, completely catching me off guard. It flew and disappeared under the bridge. The female came back and landed on the handrail to the left of the scrape. She looked around and when she took off she had prey … flew to a cache site and went back on the handrail. The juvie flew out and up over the bridge and I lost it. I had to pack up but did one more walk scanning the bridge and I found the juvie fleeping up the very center arch.
It’s easy to tell which bird is which in the slideshow. The mother bird is charcoal gray and white and is banded, Black/Blue 48/N from Indiana. The youngster is brown and cream colored, unbanded. He’s also quite awkward compared to his mother. (The slideshow repeats.)
Mother peregrine watches youngster, Westinghouse Bridge, 5 June 2022 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Young peregrine contemplates his next move, Westinghouse Bridge, 5 June 2022 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Mom sees that youngster landed safely, Westinghouse Bridge, 5 June 2022 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
And what is “fleeping?” Looks like “fly-leaping” to me.
Yesterday the young peregrines at the Cathedral of Learning were up on the nestrail exercising their wings. We think one may have fledged in mid-afternoon.
Charity Kheshgi arrived at 11:00am and saw an adult bald eagle fly over, too high to inspire Morela to attack so there were no fireworks like these in 2012.
Red Boy was particularly active, running, flapping and levitating from the nestrail. At the end of each run he would pause, then walk back to his starting point and run again. The top photo shows him at the starting point with his sister.
Since the peregrines match the building, I’ve circled them in yellow in these photos by John English.
Two juveniles on the nestrail, 4 June 2022 (photo by John English)
(photo by John English, annotated)
Their parents watched from nearby. The photo below shows four members of the family, Morela and Ecco at left and right with two juveniles in the middle.
Four peregrines perched at Cathedral of Learning, 4 June 2022 (photo by John English)
(photo by John English, annotated)
But the fifth may have been in the picture too. Notice that as Morela is looking in the gully, one of the juvies is perched in the keyhole.
Morela watches a juvie in the gully, 4 June 2022 (photo by John English)
Morela, plus a juvie in the keyhole, 4 June 2022 (photo by John English)
After we left Michelle Kienholz watched for a couple of hours. Around 2:50pm she saw a flutter of brown wings off the nestrail and then an adult flew. This is just the sort of quick confusing activity that heralds a fledging taking off for the first time. Was it Red Boy making his first flight, followed by a babysitting adult?
We’ll have to count heads at Fledge Watch today from 11:00am to 12:30pm. The weather will be perfect. We might even stay longer if we’re inspired. Join us (info here)!
Activity is frantic at Pittsburgh area peregrine nests as the 2022 nesting season races to a close in the next few weeks. Here’s the news from all the nests.
Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh
Talk about frantic! Here’s yesterday in-a-minute at the Cathedral of Learning.
Two chicks in Downtown Pittsburgh, Third Avenue
On 29 May I viewed the Third Avenue nest from Mt Washington near the Mon Incline. My lousy digi-scoped photo does not capture the two chicks and one adult I saw roaming the nest. The chicks are younger here than those at other nests.
Four at Eckert Street
Jeff Cieslak counted four chicks yesterday at the Eckert Street nest. They’re just a little bit younger than the Pitt peregrines.
One at Westinghouse
Every time Dana Nesiti visits the Westinghouse Bridge he sees only one chick, as shown on 28 May.
Three at Clairton Coke Works
Aerial view of Clairton Coke Works (photo from gasp-pgh.org)
Quench towers at Clairton Coke Works (photo by Mark Dixon) [arrow added]
Peregrines at Clairton Coke Works (photos by Dana Nesiti)
On 25 May, Dana Nesiti accompanied Game Warden Doug Bergman to Clairton Coke Works to view the newest and most industrialized peregrine nest in western Pennsylvania (slideshow above). I’ve added two views of the coke plant to show the quench towers where the birds are nesting (red arrow). Learn more about this nest in Mary Ann Thomas’s article at Trib-Live.
Three Fledging at Tarentum
On 30 May Steve Gosser found that one of the three youngsters had flown at the Tarentum Bridge. The next day Dave Brooke confirmed there was still only one, but by now there are probably more. Stop by the Tarentum Bridge to see three young peregrines learn to fly.
And just in case you prefer text to pictures, here’s the summary for southwestern Pennsylvania.
Yesterday was an eventful day at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest where, like a couple of yo-yos, two of the three chicks hopped into and out of the gully. As usual, food was the great motivator that brought them back to the nest.
Yellow Girl fell into the gully last Saturday so by yesterday she’d been down there three days eating scraps that fell from the nest. How was she doing? Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary panned the falconcam so we could see her. At 12:12pm she was in the keyhole with her tail showing.
At 12:26pm Red Boy decided to try the gully for himself and disappeared below where he hung out with Yellow Girl in the shade (see slideshow below).
The youngest, Silver Girl (whose blue tape came off of her silver band), stayed topside. She’s quite well fed so when Morela fussed with food at 3:39pm, Silver Girl didn’t go for it. Red Boy did! When he saw Morela toying with food he jumped back to the green perch and into the nest.
Two in the nest, 12:06p
Yellow Girl is in the keyhole, 12:12
Red Boy begins to make his move, 12:26p
He leans down...
Gets ready to jump
And he goes, 12:28pm
Red Boy and Yellow Girl snooze in the gully, 1:04pm
Silver Girl looks silly
She calls to Morela, 3:38pm
Morela shows food to entice Red Boy, 3:39pm
Silver Girl isn't hungry ...
... but Red Boy is. He arrives, shouting, 3:45pm
Red Boy flaps into the nest
And he's back! 3:45pm
Mission accomplished, Morela departs, 3:46pm
The enticement of food worked so well that Morela made sure to take her time at the 5:37pm feeding. She knew Yellow Girl was watching and it didn’t take long before the wanderer jumped to the green perch, flapped to the nest, snatched the food from Morela and Red Boy, and mantled while she ate. Yellow Girl was hungry!
That happened fast, didn’t it! Here it is in a stop-motion slideshow. (If the slideshow doesn’t advance swipe it right to left.)
Morela feeds Rey Boy, 5:36pm
Yellow Girl jumps on the green perch, shouting, 5:37pm (at right)
Yellow Girl leaps toward the food
She dives at the food in Morela's talons
Yanks the food away
and mantles over the prey
This morning all three chicks are in the nest but two have already ledge walked and now have the confidence to explore.
UPDATE! JUNE 7 FLEDGE WATCH IS CANCELED DUE TO RAIN
The first week of June is jam-packed with outdoor opportunities. Join me at Schenley Plaza or Schenley Park for these fun activities:
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 4, 5 and 7
Phipps Bio-Blitz, Schenley Park, June 5
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, Schenley Plaza, June 4, 5
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is a drop-in event to swap peregrine stories and watch the young birds learn to fly from the Cathedral of Learning. I’ll have my scope on hand for a zoomed in view of the youngsters exercising their wings. Bring binoculars or camera. Check the Events page before you come in case of weather cancellation.
Where:Schenley Plaza near the tent, shown above. When: Fledge Watch is weather dependent and will be canceled for rain or thunder. Check here before you come.
Saturday June 4, 11:30 to 1:00pm
Sunday June 5, 11:00 – 12:30pm, starts earlier after my BioBlitz walk (see below)
CANCELED DUE TO RAINTuesday June 7, 11:30 – 1:00pm
Who: I’ll be there with John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group and lots of peregrine fans. (On June 7 John English will start the watch at 11:30a; I’ll arrive at noon.) Parking: On-street parking is free on Sundays. Otherwise you must use the pay stations on the sidewalks. Garage parking is available at Soldiers and Sailors Hall, just over a block away on Bigelow Boulevard.
Phipps BioBlitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, Sun June 5, 8:30a – 10:30a
On Sunday June 5, Phipps BioBlitz will bring together families, students, local scientists, naturalists, and teachers for a biological survey of the plants and animals in Schenley Park. See and learn about birds, plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks and more. As part of the BioBlitz I will lead a bird walk 8:30am-10:30am. The event is free. No registration required. Read all about Phipps BioBlitz Day here.
Where: Starting from Phipps front lawn. You’ll see a sign for my walk. When: Sunday June 5, 8:30a-10:30a Parking: Free on Sundays! Note: As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza for Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch.
(photo credits: Schenley Plaza tent by Kate St. John, Phipps Conservatory from Wikimedia Commons)
It happens every few years. At 28-35 days old, one of the Pitt peregrine chicks stumbles off the nest into the gully below and disappears from camera view. People are worried. The chick is fine.
Yesterday at 12:55pm Yellow Girl was so excited to hop on the green perch that she flapped and ran from the back of the box. She made it! But she was wobbly. (yellow tape on band at right)
Rather than pause to get her bearings she flapped some more. It didn’t help. Her right foot slipped and then her left. She grabbed with her talons … and slid off to the gully.
The video clip below shows the entire episode. One of the adults — probably Morela — was babysitting at the time and saw the problem unfolding. She whined and flew over the nest (shadow passes over). Adult peregrine whining means “I want [something] to be different.” Maybe that [something] was “Don’t do that! Be careful!”
Yellow Girl was still excited, though. She hissy-whined (begging for food), flapped and … Whoops!
The other two chicks ran to the back wall. Off camera we can hear Yellow Girl hissy-whining from below and Morela answering from above.
As in prior years the chick down under will resurface eventually. Sometimes the parents use food to entice the youngster to climb up. Sometimes they feed the chick down below. In any case, Yellow Girl will come topside before she flies.
For a diagram of the area below the nest and a video of a chick returning, check out this vintage article. It’s worth seeing the look on his siblings’ faces when the down-under chick reappears!
p.s. The blue tape on the second female’s band came off in the first day so her band is plain silver. So their nicknames are: Red Boy, Yellow Girl, Silver Girl
Two hours after the Pitt peregrine chicks were banded on 26 May, the young male made his first step off the gravel. Of the three chicks (2 females, 1 male) the male has the most advanced feather development so I’m not surprised he made his big move so soon.
Peregrine chicks are hard wired not to leave the nest until they have flight feathers — a step off the cliff at that stage would mean certain death. But by the time they look mostly brown, their flight feathers are nearly ready and they need space to exercise their wings so they embark on the next step: Ledge walking. The first ledge walk at the Cathedral of Leaning is always on the green perch.
In the slideshow below the brown-ist chick contemplates a jump to the green perch at 12:12pm. When he makes it topside we can see he has red tape on his silver band, so this is the male (thus nicknamed “Red Boy”). He lingered on the perch for more than 45 minutes until his mother brought lunch at 12:59.
Will you feed me?
Lunch is over
In the video below he looks a bit unsteady because it’s the first time he has ever perched. He works on his balance and grip, preens and exercises his wings.
Red Boy is ahead of his sisters and may walk off camera later this weekend. Watch for his progress on the National Aviary falconcam.
Stay tuned for Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza, an opportunity to see the chicks as they prepare to fly. This weekend I’ll announce dates between June 3-8.
Morela and Ecco are unbanded, so this was a first time experience for them. Morela shouted from above the nest as Patti Barber collected her chicks.
Indoors, the chicks were given health checks (they are very healthy!), weighed to determine their sex (one male, two females) and given two leg bands: a black/green color band that can be read through binoculars and a silver USFW band.
Patti placed a bit of colored tape on each USFW silver band which will be visible on the falconcam and in photos: Red for the male chick, Yellow and Blue for the female chicks.
In less than 40 minutes the chicks were back at the nest and soon their lives returned to normal.
Next Tuesday 31 May the PA Game Commission, the National Aviary and Pitt will issue press releases about the banding. Stay tuned for my followup article that will be loaded with photos, media links, and perhaps a video.