Friday, December 05, 2014

A New Direction For Blaze

Not many people realize the fact that upwards of 70% of birds (yes, 7 out of 10!) do not survive to their first birthday. This is true for common backyard birds like mourning doves and robins, as well as peregrine falcons. Urban peregrines have a slight edge because many humans are watching out for them, especially at publicized nest sites like in Columbus. Fans will recall this past fledging season was extra busy in that each of the 3 fledglings was grounded and returned to the nest ledge or other high perch.

Blaze (48/Z), in particular, was retrieved from the ground 3 times. We now know she suffered some type of subtle and undetectable trauma on her first attempt at flight, which prohibited her from getting proper lift on attempts after.  She has been in the care of wildlife rehabilitators since late June. Unfortunately, after months of care and evaluations, there hasn't been the improvement with Blaze that we were hoping for. Despite efforts to get her back to where she needs to be in order to be a wild peregrine, this falcon lacks the ability to fly as well as an aerial hunter needs to and it is doubtful she could ever overcome this deficiency. For that reason, we have deemed her unsuitable for release back to the wild.

This kind of decision is not made lightly--for release into the wild, a peregrine must be as close to tip top shape as possible or it would be irresponsible to set it free, knowing it probably wouldn't survive. So, while not our first choice, nonetheless, it was the best choice for 48/Z.  And remember, were it not for the interested individuals reporting her on the ground, she probably would not have survived at all.

Being unfit to survive in the wild left two other options.  Some raptors do not adapt well to captivity, and in that type of case, euthanasia is the most humane solution.  But Blaze exhibited an acceptable disposition to be considered a permanent captive. Therefore Blaze will become the newest avian staff member of the education program at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. Through outreach programs, Blaze will serve as an ambassador for the species helping OBS to educate and increase awareness about peregrine falcons, wildlife conservation and the role that birds of prey play in the ecosystem. Quite an important job and what a great candidate to fill the role... We wish the best for Blaze and know she is in very, very good hands.

On another note, the young peregrine from Pennsylvania that was found back in early September, remains in rehab. This bird had several feathers that were damaged.  New feathers were imped to replace the damaged ones, but unfortunately, the process was unsuccessful. This falcon will have to remain in the care of a wildlife rehabilitator until new feathers grow in.

Meanwhile, the problem with the nestbox video feed is a dead computer.  We are looking into replacement hardware and software options.   In terms of falcon activity, both the adult peregrines continue in the area and are being seen via the ledgecam at least a few times a week. They will likely stay the winter in Columbus.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Good Day For a Falcon Release

We're happy to report that the juvenile peregrine recovered from the London Correctional Facility earlier in October was released today!  Here is Kristi Krumlauf of the Ohio Wildlife Center giving the falcon its freedom.  It flew strong and climbed high in the sky and soared on a warm, thermal air current.  Last we saw it was a mere spec against a blue sky background drifting towards the south.
While the falcon was unbanded so we don't know where it came from, it does however, begin the next chapter in its life with leg bands so if/when it is located again researchers will at least know it detoured through Madison County, Ohio, in its first fall on the wing. Thanks much to Kristi and the other staff at OWC for treating this bird.
 The other "mystery" peregrine recovered from downtown Columbus in early September is no longer a mystery.  This falcon, a female, was banded at the Westinghouse Bridge in East Pittsburgh, PA, on July 1 and fledged approximately July 18.  "As the peregrine flies" its hatch location is about 169 miles from Columbus: 
The plan for this peregrine patient is still to imp feathers with the intention of a release yet this fall.
Finally, Blaze continues to have issues with flight so there isn't much to update at this time.  The next step is to take another look at the keel via x-ray.  Hopefully, next post we'll have more information.   

Friday, October 10, 2014

Peregrines on the Move

Fall migration is a busy time for birds and peregrines are no exception!  We have had numerous reports of peregrines illustrating the point that birds of all sizes and shapes are moving through the state.

Recently, an unbanded juvenile was recovered at the London Correctional Institution, about 30 miles west of Columbus.  It is believed the falcon was stunned from hitting a window at the prison.  Medical exams showed no major injury.  It's flight capability will be evaluated and if all checks out OK, the bird will be released as soon as feasible.  Earlier this week, we banded this peregrine in anticipation of a release.
The origin of the  "mystery" falcon that was recovered in downtown Columbus in early September remains a mystery for the most part.  We are waiting for confirmation on the location before specific information is released.  It is about ready to go but a couple of the primary flight feathers have weak areas so it will need a few feathers imped before release since it won't replace those feathers until next summer's molt.  (Imping is replacing a bird's broken flight feather with the same part of a molted feather.)

Finally, Blaze is doing so-so.  She doesn't have much drive to fly withing the enclosure but she is killing live prey!  Her hunting abilities and flight capabilities are under evaluation and again, we are hopeful that all checks out OK and she will be able to be released soon. 

All in all, not much new information in this report other than another "stay tuned" --we hope to have great news on all of the birds soon.  Once the patients are given the thumbs up for release we still will need to factor in weather, choosing only to release them when conditions are favorable so as to give them the best chance possible. 

Camera update:  the computer that streams the nestbox camera image has developed a hardware issue.  Therefore, the nestbox view will be unavailable during the time needed for evaluation and repair.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Injury Updates

Both peregrine "patients" are fairing OK--time for an update!

First, the "mystery" falcon (picked up from downtown on 9/2/14) checked out for the  most part OK, except it had eye damage, presumably from hitting a building.  It is very possible that either Durand and/or Spark may have had some influence in this bird being downed, especially since it was found only about a block from the Rhodes Tower.  Peregrines are extremely territorial and will defend their nest site, even in the "off season." Even though we didn't receive any reports from witnesses in this case, that is the likely scenario.  While the cause of the injury remains a mystery, so does the origin of the bird.  We are hoping to find out information on where this falcon was banded in the near future.  The impact to the vision will be evaluated as treatment continues.

Secondly, Blaze has adjusted well to the new facility, but progress has been limited.   She recently completed a lengthy flight of 750 feet with good lift--that achievement certainly was welcome!  Staff is continuing to work with her and we hope she continues strong flights.  Additional updates as information becomes available!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

FalconCams Back Live!

The live streaming video has now been restored on the Ohio Division of Wildlife's website.   Thanks for every one's patience!

At this point in the season juveniles are on the move.  "Our" young falcons are likely long gone, having left the Columbus area to hopefully survive their first year and then seek out a territory of their own.  This is a normal process that happens throughout the range of peregrines worldwide.  Interestingly, to further illustrate this point, late yesterday we received a call regarding an injured peregrine downtown near the LeVeque Tower.  Sure enough, the bird turned out to actually be a peregrine and an immature bird at that.  But--NOT one that had hatched in Columbus!  The leg bands on this youngster indicated it was not from Ohio!  The falcon was taken to a local wildlife rehab center to be checked out.  As soon as we have more information on its origin and its condition, we'll pass it along.

Durand and Spark continue to maintain their territory.  While the cams were off we took the opportunity to do annual maintenance on the nestbox.  Gravel was replaced (doing so helps keep parasite loads down) and the box got a fresh coat of paint.  Durand and Spark didn't waste any time establishing new scrapes in the fresh gravel.  Beginning about mid-summer after the nesting season is complete is when the adults typically undergo a molt, whereby old feathers are replaced with new.  The feather in the box is from one of the adults.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blaze Flying to a New Facility

Well, not literally...but today we transferred Blaze (via automobile!) to another wildlife rehabilitation facility in Ohio.  The first order of business will be a week or two of observation and then if all checks out OK, she will be flight conditioned and offered live prey to learn her hunting skills.

Many, many thanks to Betty Ross and the staff at Glen Helen Raptor Center for caring for her up to now.  And thanks in advance to the staff at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary who will handle the next chapter in her care.  We truly appreciate the partnerships and teamwork amongst these dedicated wildlife rehabilitation professionals!
Meanwhile, downtown, Durand and Spark continue to maintain their territory.  There have been no sightings of the juveniles that I am aware of and it is possible that they may have left the Columbus area by now.   We are hoping for an update on the status of the building work soon.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Updates! Blaze and Building Maintenance

Just as we were finalizing plans to place Blaze at another wildlife rehabilitation facility for conditioning and training, it was discovered her left wing was drooping.  This was a surprise since she had more or less just been resting in an enclosure.  So, off to the veterinarian again she went.  Unfortunately, it is still somewhat a mystery as everything with her checks out fine-there is no swelling or fracture of any bone.  The veterinarian suspects nerve damage from the initial impact that has interfered with her flight development all along.  So, for now, continued rest and anti-inflammatory medication is on the agenda for at least the next week.

On another note, work will begin this Saturday (August 2) on the exterior of the Rhodes State Office Tower.  Crews will be conducting a detailed inspection of the fa├žade of the building using a "swing stage" to suspend workers much the same way as the windows are routinely washed on the building.  The work is expected to continue through mid-to-late August, depending on weather conditions.  Wind, heavy rain and lightning could cause delays.

Therefore, beginning today, Friday, August 1st, the cameras will be turned off to accommodate the inspection process.  The Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) has been working with us to ensure that the peregrines are not affected by the project.  Since the young peregrines have fledged, are flying successfully and by now are independent of the adults and the nest ledge we don't expect there to be any issues.  The DAS and Division of Wildlife will be monitoring the falcons during the duration of the project.  We'll post updates here as information becomes available and certainly get the cameras back in operation as soon as the project is complete.  We apologize in advance for any inconvenience to viewers and appreciate every one's patience!