Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Time to Fly


It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement from state service, on Sept 1.  While I have done many interesting and fulfilling things throughout my career, the peregrine project remains at the top of my list for the most impact.  I'm definitely honored to have had a role in the conservation of such a powerful and magnificent species…but equally powerful and magnificent has been the impact this project has had on so many people over the years, all over the world.  I am humbled to have increased the awareness of, informed, and educated people of all ages not only in Ohio, but also from many, many locations all over the world.

My beginnings were simple – in 1990, the Ohio Division of Wildlife was hacking peregrines in downtown Columbus as the first step in the Midwest population restoration efforts, and I was a wildlife management student at The Ohio State University.   I volunteered to be part of the “Peregrine Patrol” – the ground crew that kept an eye on the released falcons as they were taking their first flights.  Later, after I was hired full-time with the Division, I became the site manager for the Columbus nest.  From there, the cams were developed and even though I was the main person up front from the public’s perspective, there was always a team of folks making it happen.

As I look forward to the next chapter in my personal life, I admit that I do have reservation about no longer being part of the project, especially with the new and exciting challenges that face the team as the work at the Rhodes Tower commences.  But I have made my contributions and am confident that as I pass the baton, the team has a solid foundation to continue to have a positive impact on the species and all who follow them.

The Division of Wildlife team is quite varied beyond me, and includes my supervisors, project leaders and administrators, graphics, IT, webmasters, videographers, and photographers.  It includes wildlife area staff that construct nest boxes and do the heavy lifting of hauling the boxes and bags of pea gravel out onto rooftops and ledges.  It includes our telephone operators and communications staff and of course our wildlife officers and investigators.

As important as the Division of Wildlife’s team is in this project, I want to point out that the team of which I speak goes beyond us agency folks.  In my view, the team also includes the fans who watch via the Internet and/or out the window of their office in the Rhodes Tower or other downtown skyscrapers. Over the years, there has been a great geographical diversity of fans, most notably from Georgia, Buffalo NY, and Heidelberg, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, many locations in Canada, and even Australia-131 countries total! The team includes the people who watch from the sidewalk in downtown Columbus as they are waiting for their bus, or take the time to go downtown during fledge just to keep an eye out.  The team includes all of the building managers and maintenance workers who have allowed us to install nest boxes and cameras, who have run cables down elevator shafts so that our video could reach the world.  And the adjacent building managers and maintenance workers and downtown workers in general who may not have hosted a nest but still interact with the falcons from time to time. The team includes the media who have provided coverage of the peregrines and our project in newspapers, on TV, and beyond.  The team includes schools—both public and home—who have used the Columbus falcons to teach children about wildlife conservation and the blog as a tool to practice grammar and writing; the school administrators and teachers who were involved with our naming contests, each child who ever submitted a name and their parents, relatives, and neighbors who also learned about the falcons through the involvement of their children.  The team includes many wildlife rehabilitators in Ohio and Minnesota who have cared for injured falcons.  It includes falconers, Ohio Wildlife Council members, local business owners, the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, many law enforcement agencies, and the Capitol Crossroads SID safety ambassadors.  It would be impossible to list all of the individuals I have had contact with over the years but I hope by reading this list you all know who you are and realize your importance.  Without each and every one of you, the Columbus Peregrine Project wouldn’t be what it is.  I have just had the fortunate distinction to be the figurehead in all of this.

With that I wish to thank each and every fan over the years no matter how far and wide or near you watched from and each and every other member of the entire team I described.  You all have made this project just as much of a rush for me as was crawling out on the ledge of the 41st floor of the Rhodes Tower with a screaming peregrine diving at my head.  But yeah, that was always pretty cool, too. 😎

Friday, August 04, 2017

Cam Withdrawal

Who else is suffering from "cam withdrawal?!"  Here is a picture of my workstation today (sorry for the clutter):
For the first time in 20 years I don't have the cams running on my desktop.  I know there are a ton of ardent fans out there who watch the cams religiously.  Me too - every single working day I'm in the office--all months of the year--the first thing I do in the morning when I fire up my computer is pull up the cams on an alternate screen so I can monitor the ledge out of the corner of my eye while I work on all of the other duties I'm tasked with.  I know doing without right now is difficult for fans but it is for me, too.  It is very strange for me to not have them running.

Just because we don't have a live streaming eye on the nest ledge does not mean that the peregrines change up what they are doing.  Cams or no cams - it is all the same to them.  No camera view of the nest also does not mean that we won't continue to get reports of the peregrines.  Thanks to David Sites who sent me this photo of one of the juvenile peregrines that chose to perch on the 28th floor of the William Green Building.  This location is a couple of blocks north of the Rhodes Tower. The falcon was seen on July 19.
For those that might have missed it, here is a link to a post about the Rhodes Tower Modernization and its impacts the Columbus peregrines.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Live Streaming to End Aug 3

The live streaming has unexpectedly continued past July 31.  It is, however, currently scheduled to be discontinued on Thursday, August 3rd.  We'll have more information on recent sightings of juveniles in another post soon, in the meantime, for anyone who missed it, please check out the previous post on the Rhodes Tower Modernization.  There is a lot of important information in that post!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rhodes Tower Modernization

As indicated in a previous post, live streaming of the peregrine falcon nest at the Rhodes State Office Tower via The Ohio Channel will end this month.  However, the Division of Wildlife remains committed to providing a view to the Columbus peregrines and is actively working to not only investigate a new streaming service, but also plans to incorporate camera upgrades prior to the 2018 nesting season.  But there is twist!  The Rhodes Tower is about to undergo an upgrade of its own!  
Plans are underway for a construction project that will help modernize the Rhodes Tower. The project will include increasing energy efficiency by adding insulation and new window systems as well as façade improvements.  A project like this is no small undertaking—building managers and planners have an enormous list of considerations to address.  One factor unique to this project is that building management is also considering the impacts to the peregrine falcons that have nested on the building since the early 1990s.  They enjoy hosting the peregrines but do recognize the work will impact the peregrines and so have involved the Division of Wildlife early on in planning for advice and direction on management of the falcons and the nest during the construction project.
Because of the nature and duration of the work to be done, the Division of Wildlife believes the most prudent thing to do is to provide for the peregrines at another site.  To accommodate construction and to encourage the peregrines to relocate, the current nestbox at the Rhodes Tower will be removed later this summer and other exclusion efforts on the building will be incorporated.  The Riffe Tower is another state-owned building and one that the peregrines already readily use.  Fans will recall this past fledging period, one of the young peregrines spent 2 days on a window ledge at the Riffe.  An alternate nestbox already exists on that building and Division of Wildlife biologists will be working with building management to refine the nesting accommodations to make the Riffe as attractive to the peregrines as possible.  If all goes well, the peregrines will relocate to the Riffe and have a safe and secure nesting site to use while the Rhodes State Office Tower Modernization Project progresses.  The possibility does exist of course, that the peregrines will choose to nest elsewhere downtown so we will be monitoring their whereabouts and behaviors between this fall and next nesting season. 
While we work on nestbox accommodations, we are also working with building management at the Riffe to develop a camera system with the goal of live streaming on our website as we have done in the past with the nest at the Rhodes Tower.  This combined approach addressing the nestbox and cameras is a reasonable plan with cooperation between multiple agencies and organizations.  Our hope is that the peregrines also are cooperative in this endeavor and there is minimal interruption in Columbus peregrine falcon viewing opportunities. 
We will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.  For the immediate future, expect some downtime after the live streaming is discontinued later this month.  Even without video, we’ll be working behind the scenes to ensure a responsible approach to all aspects of this project in relation to the peregrines and the viewing public.  Stay tuned as this project evolves.  Columbus peregrine fans are the best and the ODNR, Division of Wildlife appreciates their dedication!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

News! News! News!

Great news - there have been 2 recent visits to the nest ledge by juveniles!  The first juvie was observed on July 5th about 6:20 pm:
The second visit was yesterday about 3 p.m.  Durand was near the nestbox and the juvenile landed on the ledge.  Although you can't see the falcon very clearly, the plumage of the bird closest to the camera is brown, indicating it is a young bird.  The falcon furthest away has a light underside which makes it an adult:
From his office window, Mike Horn also saw and photographed this juvenile on the LeVeque Tower on 7/9/17:
Such great news to finally start seeing the young and to know that they are doing well!
On another very positive note, long time viewers may recall that one of the chicks in the 2000 Columbus nest was named Hunter.  Hunter was identified via his leg band in 2002 in Toronto, Ontario:
He paired with a female there and for over 10 years they attempted to nest at several locations but were unsuccessful each year.  That long-time resident female was lost from the territory in 2013, and in 2014 a new female claimed the territory and paired with Hunter.  We recently received confirmation that finally this season, at 17 years old, Hunter has raised his first successful brood!!!  He and his mate fledged 3 young this year at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada!!  How exciting to learn of this success story!
As with most birds, there is a high mortality in their first year, however, if a peregrine survives beyond year 1, they can live 12-18 years in the wild.  Here is a photo of Hunter this year (thanks to the Canadian Peregrine Foundation for this update and pic):

Monday, July 03, 2017

Happy 4th of July!

As is the norm, now that nesting season is over the adult peregrines will undergo their molt.  I was reminded of this when I noticed this feather in the nestbox today:
We are accustomed to seeing feathers from prey species in the nest but this feather is definitely an adult peregrine feather, likely one of the wing, i.e., flight feathers.  The adults lose individual feathers in a specific pattern as the new feathers grow in.  This slow and specific process ensures the bird does not lose its ability to fly.  In comparison, adult Canada geese are also molting at this time of the year, however, they shed all of their flight feathers at about the same time which renders them flightless for about 2 weeks until the new feathers grow in. In this case the geese usually choose to undergo their molt near a body of water so they have a way to escape predators.

There have been some questions about how long the live streaming video will continue into July.  At this point we'll continue at least until mid-July.   Additional updates will be given as information becomes available.

Columbus' annual Red, White & Boom celebration is tonight.  I'm often asked how a fireworks display will affect the peregrines.  From their standpoint, it won't be much different than a thunderstorm.  They will no doubt watch the display from a safe perch.  I'm sure there are a lot of folks attending the celebration who would love to have a peregrine's eye view of the show.  Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Live Streaming Video Announcement

Everything seems to be going quite well this season with the fledglings.  This is the first year in recent memory that we didn't have to go on at least one rescue.  No news is good news and we assume all the fledglings are well on their way to perfecting their skills of flying, steering, landing, and hunting on their own.

The juvenile falcons will remain in and around the downtown area over the next several weeks but by the end of summer they will migrate out of the area to hopefully survive and establish a breeding territory of their own elsewhere.  Rarely do they return to the area where they fledged from.  Falcons hatched in Columbus over the years have been seen and/or successfully nested in Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, New York, elsewhere in Ohio, Texas, and Canada.

Although there have been no sightings of the juveniles at the nest ledge this year, the adults have been checking in fairly frequently:
Their visits back to the ledge and the nest box are reinforcement of their bond to the site.  We can even expect them to work on the scrape in the gravel. Though the nest is now empty, the adults will continue to interact with the young elsewhere in the downtown area.

Cam Update:  For the past several years our live streaming video has been provided by The Ohio Channel.  Unfortunately, that partnership will be ending in July.  We greatly appreciate The Ohio Channel graciously hosting the video window to the Columbus peregrine falcon nest for so long.  As they say, when one door closes, another opens so we plan to use this opportunity to explore new camera options for future nesting seasons.

More updates on the fledglings and cameras as information becomes available!