Monday, June 30, 2008

Fledglings assumed to all be doing well

Justice and Boomer stayed put on the ledge until Sunday morning. Later in the day an unidentified juvenile falcon was observed landing on the ledge and then it left again before its leg band could be read. No incidents or situations were reported over the weekend. There have been no specific reports from any of the fledglings so at this point we assume that all are doing well.

The young may check back in at the ledge (as I write this one is lounging in front of the ledgecam now, but no legband ID as of yet). More likely we'll see Orville and Scout via the cams from time to time, even inside the nestbox. Sometimes the adults will work on the scrape even though the young are flying. This behavior is mainly a continual bonding with the site and claiming the territory as their own. One question posed was whether the adults would lay more eggs again this year. The amount of daylength is what triggers the hormones that initiate nesting behaviors. Since the days are getting shorter another nest this year is not probable.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Boomer back at the nest

Two juvenile falcons have been on the nest ledge most of the day. One was reported to be Mistic early, but I was not able to confirm that with a photo of a leg band. About midday we were able to confirm (via leg band codes) Justice (as suspected) and Boomer! So, he did recover from the window strike yesterday and is well enough to make it up 41 floors high back to the nest. This is excellent news. Boomer and Justice have been fairly active, running along the ledge, flapping, vocalizing and fighting over prey delivered by one of the adults.

I've received several reports directly and many indirectly through the WildInfo email. Thanks to everyone for helping to watch! Even though I don't always repond to each one, I do read every one of the emails. I truly appreciate hearing what folks are seeing but saving stills of leg band codes like this helps me even more. Thanks to Melissa from Columbus for sending this shot:

Update on Boomer

No information or confirmed sightings have been received on Mistic and Columbus. I observed a juvenile falcon on the ledge this morning. I assume it was Justice but I was not able to confirm it with the leg band code. Again, we assume no news is good news!

Boomer has left the Riffe Building. Based on past experience I would bet he recovered from his encounter with the window and was able to leave on his own accord. Hopefully he is wiser from the experience and has a better perspective of glass being an obstacle.

While the young are out and about the downtown area over the next few weeks honing their flight skills and learning to hunt on their own, the adults will continue to watch over them. The young call from their perch which lets the adults know where they are. Orville and Scout will continue to provide food for the fledglings in this early stage of flying wherever the young end up--whether they are on the nest ledge or atop another building. Eventually, the juvenile falcons will learn to hunt for themselves and by the end of summer will leave the downtown area to hopefully survive and establish a territory of their own elsewhere.

Be sure to check out the Falcon Facts and FAQs pages of the Ohio Division of Wildlife's website for more information on peregrine falcon life history. Information on where young hatched in Columbus have been observed and have nested is also available on the Tracking Columbus Falcons page.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Busy day for Boomer & update on Justice

Since her return this morning, Justice seems content to stay on the nest ledge. I'm happy to see her take time to regroup before she tries flight again. There are observation windows on the 40th floor of the Rhodes Tower that allow a great view of north, east and south so after putting Justice back out our intern, Matt, and I scanned the downtown building roofs and saw 2 fledglings and both adults. Here's Matt with Justice right before she was put back "home." (Pretty exciting for a summer job, huh?!)

Around lunchtime I got a report of a falcon that had crashed into a window of the Riffe Tower (southwest of the Rhodes Tower) and was on a narrow ledge on the 26th floor. Thanks to Dena Harris who saw him and let Joe Vaughn know. Joe took some pictures and notified us. He was able to provide me with the band number which confirmed the bird was Boomer. There was some concern because the bird was lying in the sun, but if you recall, I've mentioned in previous updates that it is not uncommon for them to lay down. (Ironically, after talking to Joe about Boomer, I checked the ledgecam and Justice was lying down on the nest ledge at that same moment!) Not to minimize Boomer's traumatic landing, he does look somewhat stressed in the photo and likely was dazed and in need of a rest. The most recent information from the Ohio Department of Development is that Boomer is up and moving around from corner to corner of the ledge. Hopefully, he can rebound and leave on his own accord, as I'm not sure there would be any way to get to the ledge to get to him if this was to work out differently. We'll hope for the best!

Falcons are flying!

A lot has happened the past couple of days. Here's a rundown of reports I've received:
6/23 Mistic (S/73) observed via the ledgecam 7:19 p.m.
6/24 Justice (S/47) reported to have fledged about 6 a.m. Columbus (C/65) and Boomer (C/66) believed to still be on the ledge at the time of Justice's flight, but Columbus believed to have fledged sometime later in the day on 6/24.
6/25 Boomer reported to have fledged about 6 a.m.

While in the field on 6/25 I got a call from the highway patrol at the Statehouse reporting that Justice was in a window well on the 1st floor. Although she appeared uninjured, it can be difficult for an inexperienced falcon to get from the ground back up to the building tops, so Division of Wildlife personnel retrieved her. I checked her out and she appears to be fine so I will be returning her to the nest ledge this morning. Hopefully, many falcon fans are still watching and can help monitor her activity after she is released. The best case scenario would be that she would rest on the ledge for awhile before attempting flight again. This is a photo of her at my office this morning.

Other than the minor mishap with Justice, it seems that all is well. While downtown I'll take a look around the building tops to see if I can see any other fledglings.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fledging Update

Some reports indicate that Mistic may have flown yesterday, however, this has not been confirmed. The report started with an observation of a falcon going off the ledge, and then a lack of seeing her leg band via the ledgecam for the rest of the day. This could mean she's flown or it could just mean she's on the ledge, just no one has seen her in front of the camera. From my observations so far this morning I have only seen 3 young. Keeping track of fledging can be challenging...

There are several ways we confirm the status of fledging. One way is by eye witness accounts-observers that are able to see either from the street or the falconcam. The view from the falconcam does give us a window to what is going on, but it also has its limitations--areas of the ledge that are not in view and other ledges on the building we cannot see. Another way we track is by leg band reports via the falconcam. These reports are extremely important at this time to confirm which falcons are still on the ledge. Finally, we can also ascertain the status of a fledgling if/when a bird ends up on another building or somewhere downtown where witnesses can confirm ID by reading the leg band. Basically, unless we hear otherwise (crash landing, injury) we assume all is well. Rest assured, the fledglings are in good hands: they have Scout and Orville keeping track of them where ever they end up downtown during this flight/landing training process.

Even after their first flight it is possible that the fledglings will come back to the nest ledge. That often is the true test of success--when they fly and are gone from the ledge a day or two and then come back and we are able to confirm their return with a band ID. So, for those of you who watch and post to the CMNH forum, please continue to record bands whenever possible. I appreciate the extra eyes out there!

I will be in the field on other projects Tuesday and Wednesday so I regret I won't be able to post any updates until Thursday. Many of us at the Division are on-call in case of a situation where we need to intervene. Otherwise, hope for the best--these are wild animals and at this point it is up to their instincts to make it!

Friday, June 20, 2008

First flight & bird's eye view of the Rhodes Tower

We received a couple of emails last evening reporting around 8:30 p.m., while lunging for food, one of the nestlings got pushed or otherwise fell off the ledge. In checking this morning, all four are on the nest ledge so if it did happen as reported, the bird was able to make it back to the ledge!

Check out this link to see a bird's-eye view of the Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus! This link shows the south side of the building where the nestbox is located. Look closely at the 4 black recessed areas towards the top of the building (between the top row of windows but below the roof). These are air intake vents. The peregrine nestbox is located in the lower left corner of the second black vent area from the right. It almost looks like a peregrine might even be sitting on the ledge in front of the nestbox but without zooming in further, it's hard to tell for sure. Quite a very interesting perspective!

If you missed the banding or want to revisit it, a video clip of the event is now available on the Ohio Division of Wildlife's website.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

5 week update

The nestlings will soon become fledglings! Here are 2 of the chicks in the nestbox at 5 weeks of age. You can see that most of their juvenile, brown feathers have grown in and the amount of fuzzy, white down is less and less. I've been in the field quite a bit this week on other projects and haven't had much time to watch but I imagine everyone has been seeing more and more flight "practice" on the ledge. Expect them to do a lot of wing flapping on the ledge to strengthen their muscles and get a feel for what they'll need to do before we actually see a first flight. Fledging could occur as early as this weekend--Sunday will mark 40 days for oldest chick--but the majority of fledging probably won't occur until sometime next week.

What determines when they actually fly off the ledge for the first time? Sometimes it happens by accident if they are too close to the edge and a wind gust knocks them off or they might lunge for incoming food from one of the adults and suddenly find themselves airborne. Othertimes they fly just because they are ready. The males tend to fledge sooner than the females.

Folks often worry about their first flights and I like to say that flying is not the hard part--flapping comes naturally. What is tricky is LANDING-figuring out how to maneauver and what can be landed on and what cannot. Mirrored windows present quite the challenge to young birds as well as they figure out what is sky vs. a reflection of sky and what is a building vs. a reflection of a building. Some interested individuals volunteer their time on the streets downtown watching the birds but for the most part it is up to Scout and Orville to keep track of their young. We'll intervene if/when there is an actual injury involved and/or if a fledgling falcon finds itself in a place it won't be able to get out of (for example, the middle of the street or a recessed areas high on a building).

On another note, the ledgecam audio is not working right now. We hope to troubleshoot tomorrow and get it operational again. For now, you can still hear the birds via the nestbox microphone but if they are on the other end of the ledge the sound will be quite faint.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Can we move the cameras...? a word, "No!" I've gotten a few emails from folks requesting that we move the cameras to capture more areas of the ledge. We can't do that for a couple of reasons. The cameras would have to be moved manually so the main reason is we absolutely cannot access the ledge at this point without risking the young birds bailing off of the ledge prematurely. Unless there would be an extreme emergency we generally do not go out on the ledge at any time after banding in order to prevent a "forced fledge."

Secondly, the nestbox camera lens is for short focus lengths anyway, so turning the nestbox cam wouldn't really show anything more. So, we're sticking with the current system. There are obvious limitations as the birds have a few places they can be out of view of the cams, but overall we think we're providing a pretty good opportunity for viewers to see and hear part of these birds' lives they otherwise wouldn't.

Fledging generally occurs around the age of 40 days. I'll post more later this week-detail on what to expect during fledging and hopefully, a photo of them at 5 weeks of age.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Week 4 report

My intentions have been to share a picture of the chicks each week of their development. Now that they are out of the nestbox so much, it has gotten tricky to capture a photo of them all together. But, nonetheless, here they are at four weeks old:

Unless we get lucky and catch them back in the nestbox this will probably be the last picture in this format-next week at 5 weeks of age we'll probably have to settle for a photo of them on the ledge.

It really is amazing how fast they grow. Last evening one was finally able to get to the upper part of the ledge: Seeing a chick up here can really make viewers nervous! As each day goes by their feathers grow in more and more. Chances are, by the time they spend any measureable amount of time near the edge of the ledge they will likely have most of their feathers and even if they can't yet fly, will have the "equipment" to glide to the ground should one fall or be knocked off the ledge. Keep in mind peregrines have been nesting on this ledge at the Rhodes Tower since 1993 and we've not had one chick fall prematurely. So, odds are with them. Hope this helps to calm the fears of some of you out there watching!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Photos of Banding now online!

We have assembled photos of the banding and have posted them on the Division of Wildlife website.

We are currently putting together a video clip and hope to have that available soon as well.

The nestbox cam showed a pink screen this morning due to extreme heat that causes a glitch in the cam. What works so far to correct the problem is the very technical act of unplugging the camera for a moment and allowing things to reset. Let's hope the problem does not become more complicated than that(!).

The chicks are spending a lot of time out of the nestbox. There are several places along the lower ledge that they are out of view of the ledgecam but rest assured, they are there!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

2 males, 2 females

Banding went very well and so far the feedback has been excellent. We are really glad to have been able to share the experience with the world via the Internet. I hope to post some pictures later in the week.

It was determined that there are 2 male and 2 female nestlings this year. The bands/names are:

black over green band (b/g) S47 Justice (female)
b/g S73 Mistic (female)
b/g C65 Columbus (male)
b/g C66 Boomer (male)

Again, everything went well. Scout and Orville were very protective as we expected. Both took to the wing and swooped at us but the umbrella worked well to keep them at bay. Handling the chicks I could really tell 2 males and 2 females just from their physical size (the females were quite "hefty!"). Overall, at this age the chicks have sharp talons but don't really know how to use them. The exception was with the last female that was put back in the nestbox-when I reached into the box to pick her up, she went flat on her back and started grabbing air with her feet--she definitely had an idea of how to use her "equipment!" I had to watch where I put my hands so she wouldn't latch on. Hope everyone enjoyed the show.

Banding Day!

Today the chicks will get their ID bands and everyone will be able to watch on our live streaming video! We'll be showing the banding on the NESTBOX view beginning at 1 PM. The LEDGECAM view will remain as is, so folks will also be able to see the actions of Scout and Orville as we are getting the chicks out of the nestbox.

Even though the banding will begin at 1:00, we may need to access the ledge ahead of time to prep for the event. So, don't be surprised if you tune in earlier and the birds are agitated or you see us on the ledge. But, the actual banding won't begin until 1 p.m.

During the banding Division of Wildlife personnel will remain out on the ledge to perform various maintenance tasks, including cleaning the nestbox camera lens. Enjoy the show!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Where are the chicks and what will their names be?

Don't panic if you look at the nestbox and it is empty...the chicks are quickly gaining their mobility and may have just walked outside of the nestbox, out of view of the camera. In this picture you can see their fuzzy heads on the "porch" out in front of the nestbox. (Thanks to a great falcon fan, Jim Woods in Oregon, for supplying me with this picture!)

If you look closely at the ledge view you will notice that the nestbox actually sets down in a recessed area of the ledge. The upper part of the ledge is a good 10 inches higher than where the nestbox is and at this young age the chicks cannot make it up that "step" so there is no danger of them getting anywhere close to the actual edge of the ledge where they might fall off.

We received 1833 votes and the winning names are:

Thanks to all who voted!
I've gotten a couple of emails about "Mistic" being spelled "wrong." Keep in mind that the names are submitted by elementary school kids and the spelling might not always be what we'd expect. Sometimes there is an actual error and sometimes the kids have their own take on the spelling. In most cases we leave the names "as submitted."

Tomorrow I will be meeting with our video crew to finalize plans to broadcast the banding over the streaming video on our website. I will post any updates that web viewers will need to know either tomorrow or Wednesday morning.