Thursday, July 24, 2014

Confirmation on Dart!

Last Wednesday, there was an unexpected visit to the ledge by Dart!   He was very cooperative and sat on the ledgecam platform so that his identity could be confirmed via leg band codes:

We were definitely glad to know he is alive and well.  Hoshi also has been seen on the ledge several times since fledging.  As recently as Monday there was yet another sighting of a juvenile on the ledge, although there was no confirmation of which young falcon it was.
Durand and Spark have been fairly active at the nest ledge also--checking in, scraping in the nest box and generally just being present.  These behaviors serve to continue their bond to each other and the territory.  Here they were recently:
Blaze remains in rehab.  She is doing quite well and has recovered from the keel issue and is now fully capable of flight.  At least on paper, she is ready to be released.  But timing is everything in these cases and unfortunately, timing is not good for Blaze.  The quandary is, when she was grounded and taken in for evaluation, she had not yet learned to hunt on her own.   She has been gone from the territory for an extended length of time during a key period in the nesting cycle (when the juveniles become independent of the adults) that there is a definite concern with releasing her back in the downtown area.  As mentioned above, Durand and Spark have shifted gears from raising youngsters to bonding with each other and the site so they probably would no longer provide food for Blaze.  In fact, there is the possibility that they might even consider her an intruder into the territory and could be aggressive towards her, were she to be released back in Columbus, especially at or near the nest site. 
So, for now she remains in limbo while we evaluate all the options for release.  We'll continue to post here as the outcome is determined.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Status Report on Blaze

Nothing much new to report on Blaze other than we were hoping she would have started getting active and doing her own exercising by now.  Since she hasn't, rehab staff will begin working with her several times a day to get her flying and working those muscles.  For the most part, it is pretty much a wait and see situation.

On another note, we are still (occasionally) seeing a juvenile return to the ledge, presumably Hoshi.  It's actually not really that common for the fledglings (now old enough to technically not be considered fledglings any longer) to keep coming back to the nest ledge as we have seen this year...but nonetheless it is appreciated by all watching!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

More On Blaze

We have received an update on Blaze. It appears that Blaze has an issue with her keel.  For those that don't know, the keel is an extension of the breastbone (highlighted in blue below). The keel provides an anchor where bird's wing muscles attach, this provides the leverage needed for flight. Not all birds have keels, flightless birds lack a keel structure.
Through a detailed examination including x-rays, it was discovered that Blaze's keel is knobby and thickened at the top on both sides. This could be a developmental issue, but most likely traumatic. She may have hit the ground or a building on one of her first flights.  This early undetectable injury is the reason she hasn't had the strength to stay up.  There is no other sign of trauma.  She flaps both wings well and perches with no problems.

The vet who examined the bird did say that since she is young, it is possible the keel will reform or she will build up enough strength to overcome her injuries. But nothing is for certain.

Right now she is at a wildlife rehabilitation facility where she has an 80 foot flight cage.  She can fly the length of the cage, but it's difficult for her.  She needs time and that's what we are going to give her.  She is eating well and able to maneuver to high perches without any assistance.  We will update the blog as new information becomes available but for now she will stay put and hopefully recover for a release later this summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blaze Grounded Again

It has been an exciting day! Just when we were hoping that all of the young falcons had earned their pilots licenses we learn that one may need to take some remedial training...  Here's the scoop:

We received a call this morning that one of the fledglings was located in a parking lot behind the Rhodes Tower. Upon arrival we learned it was Blaze that needed assistance...again.  Here is the story as reported in The Columbus Dispatch
KUDOS!! to Betty for recognizing this as a falcon situation that needed to be reported, AND taking the time to call us AND remaining on the scene to keep the falcon safe from harm until we were able to get there.
As was was alluded to in other posts, the first thing we do when we get a peregrine in hand is to check it for injury.  Signs we look for include drooping wing(s), bleeding, feathers missing or out of place, bruising or scrapes on elbows and/or the cere (where the beak meets the head, akin to our nose).  These injury indicators are obvious.  But some times an injury can be internal and subtle and requires the use of x-rays to properly diagnose.  Again today, Blaze did not appear to be injured but since this was her third rescue, it was decided that she needed to be transported to a wildlife rehabilitator for further evaluation.  We will provide updates of her condition/prognosis as information becomes available.

Meanwhile, an update on the other nest mates...
Hoshi seems to be doing very well and has returned to the nest ledge on several occasions.  Most recently, she was confirmed visiting the ledge late Sunday afternoon, June 22.
There have been no sightings or reports of Dart, so we assume all is well.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blaze Gets High With a Little Help From Her Friends

Well, it seems we are not finished with the rescue calls just yet.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was working an event downtown with fellow Division of Wildlife staff when the Franklin County Wildlife Officer, Brad Kiger received a call. The report came in that a banded bird was on the ground in a parking garage near Front and State Streets.  From the band description it was definitely one of the juvenile falcons.  Upon arrival, Blaze was perched under a railing inside the garage.  She didn't appear to have any injuries. At this age, young falcons don't know the "equipment" (talons, beak, wings, etc.) they have and aren't skilled in getting away quickly.  So most times they aren't difficult to capture--and today was no exception.  Once we had her in hand and checked her out (no apparent injuries, scrapes or bruises) we decided to put her back out on the nest ledge.

Parking garages can be tricky for wildlife to navigate.  If you think about it, they are like a dark maze with no cheese at the end.  It is possible Blaze was chasing prey and mistakenly followed it into the garage or perhaps she just took a wrong turn in general.  At any rate, this "Trouble" bird got a second trip back to "Start."

A Big Thanks to the garage attendants who knew enough to contact us when they first noticed Blaze in the garage.  And thanks to our wildlife officers who make it a priority to assist wildlife management in peregrine falcon rescue situations.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Dreaded Empty Ledge Syndrome

As was reported last time, this fledge season has been an exciting one.  Viewers on the ground and the web have been able to witness fledglings come back to the nest on their own which doesn't always happen.  It isn't a guarantee that a fledgling will come back to the nest ledge because the building is so tall, but it is always exciting when they do and we believe it indicates a good, strong falcon that has command of their flight ability.  In particular, it seems Hoshi has mastered the trip back multiple times already! 

Besides fledglings making it back to the ledge on their own, the ledge has also remained busy with our relocations of Dart on Monday and Blaze on Wednesday.  But now the ledge is empty once again, as this morning just after 8 a.m. Blaze flew.   One of the reasons for the cams is to provide the opportunity for the world to watch these birds grow up...and that is exactly what they do--grow up.  And part of that development is they mature to the point that they fly away.  Great news for the peregrines but with that goes the opportunity to watch them on a daily basis and I know from the many emails that I get some viewers have a harder time than others with that bittersweet "empty ledge syndrome."

So...what's next?  Away from the ledge, the juvenile falcons will spend the coming days and weeks perfecting their flying and hunting skills.  Hopefully, we'll see them check back in at the nest ledge and if so, we can confirm individuals by reading the leg bands.   As time goes by and they gain their independence, they will venture farther and farther away from the Rhodes Tower.  They will likely stay in the downtown region until later this summer when they will leave the area to hopefully, survive and establish a nesting territory of their own elsewhere.  

Now that all of the juveniles are flying, it will be impossible to track each bird on a daily basis.  Unless we hear otherwise, we will assume the falcons are doing well.  We will scale back on updates here except for especially notable reports. 

We sincerely thank all of the viewers for making the Columbus FalconCam one of the most popular peregrine sites out there! And we thank each and every one of the over 31,000 people from over 50 countries who have read this blog so far this season! We truly appreciate every one's interest in and support of the ODNR, Division of Wildlife's Columbus Peregrine Falcon Project.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Boost Up for Blaze

Got a call this afternoon from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  They observed a falcon on a bench on the Statehouse grounds.  By the time we got there, the falcon (Blaze) had made its way to the Statehouse steps (west side).  Other than a little stress, it appeared ok so we observed it for a bit.  While she might have been ok to get back airborne from this location, being that it was late in the day we decided to attempt capture after she hopped up into a windowsill.  Once we had her in hand and checked her out (no apparent injuries, scrapes or bruises) we decided to put her back out on the nest ledge.

When we got to the nest ledge, we were surprised to see another juvie (Hoshi) already on the ledge eating.  Since that falcon was preoccupied with its prey, we put Blaze out quickly.  As of this writing they both remain on the ledge.

Shortly after midday, a couple of folks working on the 36th floor of the Huntington Center called and sent photos of a juvenile falcon resting on their window ledge.  We believe this bird was Hoshi and we greatly appreciate that report. 

There have been several reports of Dart in various places today, all in the vicinity of Broad and High.  It has certainly been an exciting week for falcon watching in Columbus!

Fledgling Update-Hoshi Returned to the Ledge

We've been fortunate this year that so far after fledging we have had several sightings of the young falcons mainly due to the fact they've been in conspicuous places and certainly thanks to many folks watching downtown.  I've had a number of emails and calls reporting the locations of the fledglings and I appreciate those helping to keep tabs on these youngsters.  Yesterday's rainy weather kept all of the fledglings in the same place most of the day:
Dart (38/D) stayed on the nest ledge
Blaze (48/Z) remained on the Statehouse
Hoshi (31/Z) was spotted on the roof of the Huntington Center (Thanks to Mike Horn for the photo!  While we can't definitively confirm the identification of this individual since the leg bands are not readable, the confirmation of the other 2 fledglings at the same time elsewhere and the flapping behavior of this bird indicate it is likely a young bird and therefore Hoshi):
Then, last evening just prior to 8 pm, viewers were excited to see that Hoshi returned to the nest ledge!!!  Her leg bands were confirmed via the ledgecam.  After a brief visit to the ledge she again flew off.   Here's a video--her "dismount" is at about 1:18 in.

As of this morning the nest ledge appears to be empty therefore, Dart must have flown but so far we have no reports of when or where he might be now.  As I was writing this I watched one of the adults bring in food but no takers so it is safe to assume the nest ledge is vacant again as of this morning.

Every year I get asked about how hard is it for these young birds to take their first flights.  In reality, flying is not the difficult part for a young bird.  As we've all watched these birds grow and develop via the cameras, it isn't hard to notice how flapping came naturally for them, and in the video of Dart's first flight off the ledge the instinct to fly is obvious.  What is difficult about the process of fledging comes after the initial launch into the air - these falcons have the tools to fly (feathers, wings, tail and instinct to flap,) so the act of flying isn't hard.  The tricky part is for them to learn to use those tools, refining their skills of steering, gaining and losing altitude and also landing.  And not just learning how to land, but learning what is easy to land on and what isn't easy to land on.  Further, reflective windows and antennas are some of the hazards these birds encounter in an urban environment.  So the next several days will be the real test for the fledglings as they work on their basic flying skills.  During this process we expect there may be window strikes, rough landings and a falcon may end up in an odd place and/or even be injured.  That is just a normal part of this stage in their lives.  Hopefully, they will all master flight well and quickly and then they can work on learning to hunt for themselves.  The adults will continue to watch over them and  provide food at least for several days as needed.

We still encourage observations to be reported, especially when leg bands can be read, to help us confirm how they are doing.