Monday, October 24, 2016

New Male Identified!

Thanks to fans in POLAND and MARYLAND (yes, many people outside of Ohio and outside the USA enjoy the Columbus FalconCam!) we have an ID on the new male that has been lurking:
The color band is black/red 30/Z.  What has been a mystery up until now, is this male does not have the USFWS (USGS) band!  Only the color band.  Typically, peregrines are banded with both types of bands and even if they would only be banded with one band, it would be the USFWS (USGS) band. So we have been wondering why it doesn't have the other band and now that we have positive ID, we know.

This peregrine was banded in 2014 in Bowling Green, Ohio.  It is a male but was banded as a female! Female peregrines are much larger than the males and thus are fitted with larger size leg bands.  When the chicks are banded at about 3 weeks of age, gender is determined by the size of the nestling.  More times than not, an accurate determination of the sex can be made but evidently, at least in this case this individual falcon was thought to be a female and thus was fitted with the larger size band.  At some point in time, the USFWS (USGS) band must have slipped off over the foot, leaving only the color band to identify this individual.  This is very rare and luckily, the band was lost without injury to the falcon.

As an adult, 30/Z does appear to be larger than the average male.  Here is a photo of 30/Z and Durand bonding in the nest box (male on the left) and he really isn't that much smaller than the female, at least from this view.
So with this exciting news, unfortunately, there is still no sign of Spark.  But we won't know for sure which male will maintain this territory until nesting season gets underway early next year.  For now I will reiterate that this male could just be here as a migrant just as Spark could have migrated elsewhere as well. Only time will tell...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Spark MIA? New Male?

Fans have reported the possibility of a new male in the downtown Columbus territory and concern over the lack of sightings of the resident male, Spark.  The lack of observations of Spark are not necessarily cause for concern at this time of the year.  Courtship and nesting occur in late winter into spring and outside of this time frame some peregrines do migrate (remember that the Latin name for peregrine means “wanderer”).

So it is possible that Spark has migrated out of the area and in his absence another male is investigating the territory.  There are any number of falcons out there (called “floaters”) that do investigate territories as they can, especially during migration.  These floaters can be unmated falcons or falcons with a territory that just happen to be migrating (perhaps Spark is investigating another territory wherever he may be?).

It is also possible that the other male came into the territory and battled Spark for it.  In that case, the lack of sightings of Spark would indicate that the new male was the victor.  However, most territorial battles occur between females and the lack of this other male’s assertiveness in accessing the ledge (and lack of witnesses downtown of such an altercation) would imply that a territorial battle did not occur.

Peregrines maintain the same mate from year to year but quickly find a replacement when/if something happens to one of the pair.  Therefore, the current situation may just be a case of when the cat’s away (Spark), the mice (Durand and the new male) will play-so to speak!!  The birds have no loyalty to a mate if the mate is not present.  Having the cameras running even in the “off season” definitely helps us see more of what goes on. But don’t forget, the downtown territory is large and the cameras only show about 25 feet of ledge space.  Therefore, a lot of the daily action and interactions of the peregrines can and does go on outside of our view.

Our role is to watch and learn and note what players we have when nesting season comes around again early 2017.  Any photos confirming leg bands on a peregrine that is not Durand (or a peregrine lacking leg bands) will be helpful in tracking which male(s) are confirmed in the territory.
To review, Durand's leg bands are:  right:  silver USGS band; left:  black/black 32/X
Spark's leg bands are:  right:  purple USGS band; left:  black/red 32/B
Only time will tell if Spark or the mysterious visitor--or another male altogether--will be the resident male next year.  As information becomes available, it will be shared here.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Dog Days of Summer

It has been a pretty quiet summer with occasional sightings of falcons at the nest ledge.  Just in recent days, Durand and Spark have been checking in to reinforce their bond to the site and to each other by scraping in the gravel and vocalizing inside of the nest box.
Spark working on the nest scrape
The last observation of one of the juveniles at the ledge was late July.  They are now independent of the adults, fully capable of hunting on their own and likely have departed the Columbus area for locations unknown.  It is the hope they will survive and eventually establish a territory of their own. 

Now that we are into late summer we'll be making arrangements to maintain the nest box (new gravel and paint) before winter sets in.  We may also look into new cameras but are most hopeful for a new computer to run the streaming software.  More news at that time unless something notable happens in the meantime!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Spotted: Juvenile Falcon Enjoying a Tasty Treat

Special guest blog update from intern Madyson Epperson:
Since our last update, it has been fairly calm at the nest ledge. All is presumed to be well! The FalconCams have been relatively quiet, as have been the reports and sightings of the falcons. However a sighting was reported earlier this week and along with it a few photos. A juvenile falcon is seen here on the LeVeque Tower having a pigeon for an early morning breakfast! You can tell it is a juvenile due to the vertical streaking on its chest and overall brown coloration of the head and body. A big thank you to Mike Horn for sharing these photos with us!

While preparing this blog post yesterday morning, we received a report that one of the juveniles was possibly grounded near State & High Streets and might not have been able to get back up in the air. Donna and I loaded the rescue equipment into the van and made a trip downtown to check everything out! Upon investigation, the falcon was nowhere to be found, although several people working in the area had seen it on the sidewalk. 
After we got back to the office, Donna received an email from a concerned citizen who was generous enough to send some photos from earlier in the morning when the falcon was first seen, confirming it was in fact, one of the juvenile falcons.  In the photos the falcon looked healthy and did not seem to be injured.   It is our hope that it had been only temporarily grounded while possibly chasing its prey and that it was then able to get back up in the air! 
If you are downtown hoping to see the peregrines, it is often easier to locate them by listening for the screeching of the juveniles while watching the sky for mock chases and fights between the young and adults! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Back on the Ledge-Then Gone Again!

As we hoped in last week's update, the falcon that was grounded and in rehab for observation checked out okay and was returned to the ledge earlier today.  Due to the yellow feet and small overall size, we believe it to be the youngest falcon of the clutch--the one that hatched last.
Here's Karen with the falcon, (who was quite feisty!):
And preparing to set it outside the access door onto the ledge:
Even though it was well fed, after its release it promptly found some leftover prey on the ledge and ate.  It spent about 2 hours on the ledge flapping, looking around, and screeching.  An adult landed on the ledge briefly twice.  Then, a little before 1 pm, off it flew!  Let's hope this bird does well from here on out and thanks to the Glen Helen Raptor Center for taking care of this peregrine during its brief down time. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Fledgling Report

Each year prior to fledge, I notify many organizations/agencies of what to expect and who to call if they receive a report about a fledgling peregrine in distress.  One of those organizations is the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, which utilizes ambassadors on the streets downtown to help keep the heart of Columbus safe and clean.  Many thanks to one of these ambassadors who, because of my advance notice, knew what to do when he became aware of a peregrine on the ground and in a dangerous place given traffic and pedestrians.  The peregrine was captured and reported to me.  It is believed to be the same falcon that was seen in the alley near the Rhodes Tower last Saturday.  The bird was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator earlier this week for an evaluation and is currently remaining under observation although we are hopeful to release it back at the nest ledge soon.

Sometimes when the fledglings find themselves on the ground, even when they are okay, it can be difficult (but not impossible) for them to get back high to the roof tops.  This is mainly because they lack the experience to know to fly from a low perch to a less low perch then on to a higher perch and so on and so on in order to "stair step" back up to the building tops.  Other fledglings have done great at that.  It just depends on the individual falcon and the individual situation/location it finds itself in.

In addition, when they are on the ground they tend to be a bit bewildered, because they are in a whole different world then they were accustomed to the first 6 weeks of their life.  During these encounters they may show little fear of people--again, because of their age and inexperience they just don't react to that kind of situation the same way a seasoned adult might.  This is all part of their learning game. Placing them back at the nest ledge puts them back in familiar territory to give them a second chance.

Durand spent a good part of the day both Tuesday and Wednesday perched on the nest box camera housing.  She was also picking at gravel and prey remains in the nest box, scraping in the gravel and spreading out in the sun at the front of the nest box.  I would interpret these behaviors as the young are doing well whereas the adults do not have to watch over them as much as immediately after fledge.  Just like the nestlings transitioned to fledglings, now the adults are transitioning from constant care mode back to doing their own thing--pretty much maintaining their territory and general survival.

We have not seen any of the juveniles return to the ledge but that is not unusual or anything to be concerned about.  I can recall most years of having the cams of never seeing any juveniles return to the ledge but in the last couple of years it did happen with some frequency.  Again, it just depends on the individual birds. If viewers do see a falcon on the ledge, look closely at the plumage to determine if it is an adult or juvenile. As stated, Durand has been there often the last couple of days and I even received a couple of reports from concerned viewers assuming it was one of the young that couldn't find anything to eat so it was picking around in the gravel.  Nope!  This was Durand as explained above.  Here is a photo to help show how to tell an adult from a juvenile:
Plumage Differences Between Adult & Juvenile Peregrine Falcon

We can still expect the adults and juveniles to interact for the next several weeks as the young work to perfect their flying and hunting skills.  But by the end of summer they will leave the area to hopefully survive and establish a nesting territory of their own, elsewhere.  Durand and Spark generally stay in their downtown territory all year long.

Monday, June 06, 2016

All Presumed Well!!

Nothing earth shattering to report - I did get a call early Saturday evening of a young peregrine on the ground down the alley from the Rhodes Tower that was hopping around and thought unable to fly.  The person I spoke with was very cooperative and willing to attempt to capture it for me (since I was well over an hour away).  However, he called me back shortly after that with the good news that the falcon was seen flying away down the alley before he could get to it.  So, we'll just assume the bird's lack of experience had it grounded for a short time and we'll hope that it made its way out and up to a higher perch after that.

Meanwhile, other reports are coming in of young falcons perched on certain buildings, especially the LeVeque Tower and the Huntington Building.  And, they are being seen in flight including chasing after the adults.  This is all normal behavior that indicates all is progressing as it should be with the fledglings.

At this point, regular updates will end but if anything especially notable occurs, it will be posted here!  We certainly appreciate all of the extra eyes downtown and continue to welcome the reports and photos!!

edit to add a pic of Durand and Spark checking out the empty ledge about 1:30 pm: