Peregrines Seen This Week

Banded peregrine at West End Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

8 June 2024

Peregrine falcons have been busy this week and so have been their observers. Here’s a quick roundup of peregrine news in Pittsburgh.

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh: Everyone is flying; the family is doing well.

  • This week I learned that both Pitt peregrine chicks fledged on Sunday 2 June. At Fledge Watch at 4:30pm there was only one chick on the nestrail so the first one must have flown between 3:30pm & 4:30pm. Then at 7:00pm Jenna Burdette and her husband were at Schenley Plaza when the second one make its first flight. They saw Carla and Ecco accompany the fledgling around the building to its first landing.
  • On Tuesday 4 June I watched Carla and Ecco demonstrate an aerial prey exchange while a youngster chased them. Carla then tried to entice the juvie to do the prey exchange with her but the youngster was tired of the game. Carla caved in and brought food to the fledgling.
  • Also on Tuesday 4 June, Carla and Ecco took a “time out” from the kids by perching in inaccessible locations and bowing at the nest.
  • On Wednesday 5 June Stephanie Hoogendorn on 19th floor saw and heard a juvie begging on the 16th floor patio. The juvie flew off toward Carnegie Museum.
Pitt peregrine fledgling 4 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Pitt peregrine fledgling at an unusual spot, 4 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Ecco & Carla bow at the nest, 4 June 2024 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera t Univ of Pittsburgh)
Ecco perches at a place where the kids can’t nag him, 4 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Downtown Pittsburgh:

  • John English and I visited the Third Avenue peregrine site on Monday 3 June and saw four chicks at the opening and an adult on the gargoyle. The chicks hadn’t flown yet.
  • On Friday 7 June Debbie Kalbfleisch stopped by Third Avenue and saw 2 young birds. One at the nest and another on the nearby roof. “While I watched, the one on the roof lifted off & down 3rd & over the building where I lost it. Also saw an adult on the bar above the nest earlier.” By now two or three have fledged.
Downtown peregrine chicks at Third Avenue, 3 June 2024 (photo by John English)

East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh: There’s a chick at the East Liberty Presbyterian nest! Adam Knoerzer photographed it at the nest opening on 5 June.

Peregrine chick in nest opening at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, 5 June 2024 (photo by Adam Knoerzer)

West End Bridge, Ohio River: On 4 June Jeff Cieslak photographed a peregrine at the West End Bridge (photos at top and below). When he processed the in-flight photo he noticed that the bird is banded. I wonder who it is.

Peregrine at West End Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eckert / McKees Rocks, Ohio River: No photos available but on 4 June Marcie at Don’s Diner saw peregrines at the Ohio River Boulevard Eckert Street Bridge. They were gone by the time Jeff Cieslak could get there. 🙁

Spruce Run Bridge, Ohio River: Also on 4 June Jeff Cieslak saw both peregrines at the Spruce Run Bridge. They are still getting acquainted … loudly!

Female peregrine at Spruce Run Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)
Male peregrine at Spruce Run Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Crowded Nest But A Mother Can Dream

Sitting Room Nuthatches have a full house, 30 May 2024 (screenshot from WildlifeKate (@katemacrae)

7 June 2024

We last caught up with WildlifeKate’s (@katemacrae) Sitting Room Nuthatches just after their eggs hatched on 13 May. You may remember them as the tenants who yanked out the decorations, added mud to the walls, and filled the room with dried leaves at Gwyllt Hollow, Wales.

By 30 May the youngsters had grown so large that the apartment was very, very crowded.

The crowding didn’t last long. They all left the nest.

screenshot from Live Feed of Sitting Room Nuthatches on 7 June 2024 (from WildlifeKate (@katemacrae)

From harried mother to empty nest, the kids grow up so fast!

p.s. these are Eurasian nuthatches (Sitta europaea).

Tiny Spotted Lanternflies Are Hatching

First stage nymphs of spotted lanternfly on grapevine, Pittsburgh, 29 May 2023 (photo by Christopher Bailey via Wikimedia Commons)

6 June 2024

When we think of spotted lanternflies we remember the flying adults that plague us from July through early autumn. But these annoying insects don’t start out in flying form.

In May-June their eggs hatch into tiny black nymphs, 1/4″ long, with white spots. If the nymph manages to pass through four instars it becomes a winged adult.

Black nymph spotted lanternfly at Phipps on 4 June 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Monday 3 June, Bob Donnan saw a couple of the black-spotted early nymphs in Washington County, PA. Oh no! They’re already here. The tiny nymphs are hatching.

Smashing them doesn’t work. As Bob remarked, “They jump fast!”

Check out last year’s article on alternatives for trapping spotted lanternflies.

If fewer nymphs make it to the next stage we’ll have fewer annoying winged adults.

Pitt Peregrines Have Flown, Fledge Watch Cancelled

First Pitt fledgling (probably Yellow) perches on stone peak at 40th floor, 3 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

3 June 2024, 7:00pm

By 3 June at 11:00am both Pitt peregrine chicks had made their first flight. Here’s how I know …

On Monday morning I walked around the Cathedral of Learning looking for any peregrine anywhere on the building. Youngsters tend to perch in locations the adults don’t use and an adult perched in an unusual place is watching a youngster.

When I saw a peregrine on a favorite perch at 40th floor Northwest, I assumed it was an adult because the location, pictured above, is too challenging for an amateur to land on. Through my scope I confirmed it was a juvenile, probably the male nicknamed Yellow who fledged a day or two ago.

I could not find the second chick, Blue, but I found an adult intently watching the 38 East “patio” roof so it’s a good bet that youngster was over there. My hunch was supported by two “kakking” episodes in which an adult circled the building and shouted at a potential threat at that level. The adults are highly aggressive at this stage.

Around that time Ecco visited the nest for a while, apparently taking a break from babysitting.

Ecco visits the nest, 3 June 2024, 11:06am (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The parents chill at the nest because the “kids” won’t return to it unless there’s food. At this point the parents are delivering food to the fledgling wherever he is. Soon the youngsters will gain flight confidence and chase their parents to get the prey. Eventually they will learn to hunt.

The last Fledge Watch is cancelled (would have been 6/4) because the youngsters have left the nestrail. The only way to see them now is to walk around the building looking for them. I know from experience that it’s hard to catch up to a peregrine who can fly.

Pitt Peregrine Status: One Chick Flew Yesterday

Two adults and one chick visible from Schenley Plaza, 2 June 2024, 4:45pm (photo by John English)

3 June 2024

Yesterday, 2 June, at 3:30pm I saw two Pitt peregrine chicks on the streaming cam so it appeared that neither one had flown. By the time I got to Fledge Watch at 4:30pm there was only one youngster on the nestrail and only one chick present when Ecco brought food.

If the other chick had been anywhere nearby he would have been front and center at the Sunday afternoon feeding. This was a very strong hint that he had flown.

Ecco feeds one chick on the nestrail while Carla looks on, 2 June 2024, 4:45pm (annotated photo by John English)

A second hint came when Ecco took away the prey about halfway through the feeding and flew it to the Fifth Avenue side of the Cathedral of Learning. The fledged chick was probably over there, but by the time I could walk to that side there was nothing to see. The fledged chick was probably sleeping off his feast on a high patio.

Fledge Watch is scheduled today for 11:30am-12:30pm at Schenley Plaza. If both chicks have flown I’ll cancel Tuesday’s Fledge Watch because they’ll be impossible to see without chasing them around the Cathedral of Learning.

UPDATE, 3 JUNE 2024 at 11:00am Both chicks have flown. The remainder of Fledge Watch is cancelled. Thanks to Jenna Burdette, who witnessed the flight of the second chick, we know it fledged at 7:00pm on Sunday 2 June.

Downtown Peregrines: 4 Chicks About to Fly

Peregrine chick peeks out from nest ledge at Third Avenue, 1 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

3 June 2024

The Pitt peregrines have absorbed so much attention that I’ve hardly thought about the Downtown peregrine family only 3 miles away. During a free moment on Saturday I stopped by Third Avenue to see them.

Standing near 353 Third Avenue I saw both adults watching the nest from above. The female was on one of Lawrence Hall’s gargoyles, the male was on the green crossbar above the nest and one chick was visible at the nest opening (photo at top).

The nest itself is not visible from the street so I drove to Mt Washington overlook near the Monongahela Incline on Grandview Ave to look into the nest with my scope. I saw four chicks at the nest! This digiscope photo is terrible but the yellow notes explain what I saw.

Four chicks plus 1 adult at Downtown peregrine nest as seen from Mt Washington overlook, 1 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

There are two good reasons to go see this site soon.

1. Because the nest ledge is only 12 stories high it is easy to see and photograph the youngsters when they flap or perch at the nest edge. I took this digiscoped photo using my cellphone one year ago today on 3 JUNE 2023.

Downtown juvies at Third Avenue nest, 3 June 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

2. The nest ledge is so low that half the fledglings land on the ground each year and need human help to get up high again on the “Rescue Porch.” Here’s the story of a fledgling rescued last year: Take Me To the Rescue Porch.

Visit Third Avenue SOON to see the Downtown peregrines about to fledge. Here’s where to see them 40.43855, -80.00055. They’ll be gone by the end of the week.

Look at the ledge indicated by the yellow arrow below.

Third Avenue nest ledge, Downtown Pittsburgh (photo by Kate St. John)

Pitt Peregrines Getting Ready For Take Off

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

2 June 2024

Yesterday, while I was away at the PA Society of Ornithology annual conference, Charity Kheshgi stopped by Schenley Plaza to check on the Pitt peregrines. Both youngsters were still on the nestrail so they probably hadn’t flown yet. But you can see from Charity’s photos and videos that these two were getting ready.

I think one of them will fly today … if it hasn’t already.

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

(You’ll hear some background noise in the videos: a robin singing and the beeps and announcements from a nearby walk sign.)

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (video by Charity Kheshgi)
Young Pitt peregrine practicing flight, 1 June 2024 (video by Charity Kheshgi)
Young Pitt peregrine uses the runway, 1 June 2024 (video by Charity Kheshgi)

Ta dah! She reached the far side.

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Come on down to Fledge Watch today at 4:30pm. Click here for more information.

Seen This Week

Kentucky warbler, Harrison Hills Park, 27 May 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

1 June 2024

This week was “All Peregrines All The Time” with a notable exception.

On Memorial Day Charity Kheshgi and I wanted to see a Kentucky warbler (Geothlypis formosa) so we went to Harrison Hills Park where they breed. It didn’t take long to hear one singing in an extensive thicket along the Pond Trail but we could not see him. We waited patiently for him to appear.

What an elusive bird! We never saw him fly from one end of the thicket to the other though he did it many times. He even flew, unseen, over the trail we were standing on. We must have waited half an hour before we got a glimpse of him in the shadows.

Kentucky warbler, Harrison Hills Park, 27 May 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

And then he perched and sang (photo at top). Ta dah! A Life Bird Photo for Charity.

We also saw an eastern wood-pewee (Contopus virens) building a nest.

Eastern wood-pewee with nesting material, Harrison Hills Park, 27 May 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

She had already decorated the exterior with lichen …

Eastern wood-pewee nest in progress, Harrison Hills Park, 27 May 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

… and was now working on the nest lining. She placed material inside the cup and used her belly to form the interior.

Eastern wood-pewee building nest, Harrison Hills Park, 27 May 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Her mate sang “Pee Wee” in the woods nearby.

Birds of the World says the “female often gives a plaintive, two-noted wee-ooo when nest building” but we didn’t hear that sound. She was busy.

Sometimes Seen On The Falconcam

Young peregrine flapping on the nestrail at Cathedral of Learning, 31 May 2024 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

31 May 2024

If you can’t come to Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza you might catch a glimpse of the juvenile Pitt peregrines on the National Aviary’s falconcam. Yesterday Bob Mulvihill positioned the camera so we can view as much of the nestrail as possible. When the youngsters are at its furthest end we can see them. (That’s the left side of the nestrail as viewed from Schenley Plaza and top center in the camera image above).

This morning at dawn they waited for a food delivery which must have been dropped off where we couldn’t see it on the near end.

Stay tuned to the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh in case they reappear.

Come on down to Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza to see more. Today’s watch (Fri 31 May) is 11:30am – 12:30pm. Click here for the full schedule.

50 Years Ago: How Museums Saved The Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine “Stammy” in Youngstown Ohio, 2008 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

30 May 2024

Fifteen days from now we will celebrate 52 years since the first big step was taken to save peregrine falcons from extinction in the U.S. Scientists had published studies showing that DDT was thinning raptor eggshells and causing all nests to fail. At that point there were no juvenile peregrines east of the Rockies to carry on the species. Thankfully, on 14 June 1972 DDT was banned in the U.S.

Morela’s shadow and her 4 eggs in 2021 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Where was the evidence that peregrine eggshells had thinned? In museum collections.

Read a bit of history and see …