Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Incubation progressing normally

Looks like the 2009 clutch is going to remain at 4 eggs. This is the point in the nesting season (incubation) I affectionally like to refer to as "watching a bird sit on rocks." It is often uneventful and if they are in usual incubation posture (covering the eggs) one usually sees the same thing every time you tune in: a bird sitting on rocks! This is a good time to practice your skills of telling Scout from Orville since you know whichever bird is setting at the moment is going to be in view for a bit. Tips on the differences between the two can be found in a post dated April 18, 2007. Click the hyperlink or check back through the blog archives (remember to scroll down through all of the April posts to see the one you want).

Another point of excitement during incubation is seeing what Orville brings Scout to eat. Here's Orville in a picture I saved yesterday with a type of woodpecker called a Northern flicker. Note the bright yellow underside of the tail feathers.

So, when to expect hatch? Normal incubation lasts about 33 days. It can be difficult to determine exactly when incubation begins, but it generally starts with the next-to-the-last egg, in this case egg #3. My prediction for hatch is on or about April 30th. Until then, we watch and wait. And watch and wait. And watch, and wait...Anyone have any popcorn?!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Full Clutch!

First light this morning (3/27/2009) revealed four eggs:
There is always the possibility of a 5th egg but 4 is more likely. The next step will be to estimate when incubation actually began and count forward on the calendar to predict hatch!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And then there were 3!

So far everything is progressing normally for this year's nest. Scout laid a 3rd egg today, 3/24/09, about 5:47 p.m. The usual clutch for peregrines is 4 eggs. If there is to be another egg we can expect it Thursday or Friday. But with the clutch having most of the eggs in it at this point, Scout and Orville will likely begin incubation. With an adult keeping the eggs warm it will be harder to detect just when that egg is laid. We'll have to try and catch a glimpse when the birds trade off incubation duty.

Details on incubation: usually, the female does most of the incubation duty and the male's primary job is to provide food and take her place while she eats and/or otherwise takes a break. But, if I remember correctly from last year, Orville was on the eggs quite a bit. We'll see how things work out this time!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2nd egg in the nest!

A second egg was laid by Scout on Sunday, March 22 about 2 p.m.:
Looks like things are progressing well in Columbus!

Friday, March 20, 2009

1st Egg for Scout in 2009!

It's official - we have an egg at the Rhodes Tower in Columbus! Scout laid her first egg of the season this morning. The camera started flashing about 9 a.m. so I wasn't watching it too closely. Then, a little past 9:30 I saw the egg. Shortly after that the emails started coming in from many others who had seen it, too! I've been trying to save a still picture off the video but Scout seems determined to keep it from view at least for now. Finally got this peak:
The typical clutch for peregrines is four eggs. Eggs are laid every two to three days so there probably won't be another egg until this weekend. Scout's setting on the egg now since it's a cool morning, but true incubation won't start until the last or the next-to-the last egg is laid.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good news/Bad news on cameras & when can we expect eggs?

The good news is that the cameras don't seem to have been flashing much this week. More good news is that we finally got a recommendation of a different setting to try on the cameras to alleviate the strobing effect. The bad news is the recommendation wasn't a for-sure fix. It was only a suggestion. There was no guarantee that changing the setting would fix the flashing or make the problem worse or have no affect at all. Further bad news is that the recommendation wasn't received until earlier this week - beyond the "last day out on the ledge date of 3/13" that we had established.

Taking everything into consideration we made the decision to keep the camera settings as they are. Technically, in an emergency yes, we could still access the ledge. However doing so does present a risk. As we get closer to egg laying and the birds become more protective of their nest, there is always the risk that one of the birds could become injured in the process of defending their territory against us. Given all the circumstances we determined that trying to change the settings on the cameras this late in the game was NOT worth the risk, especially if the different settings made the problem worse which would require additional trip(s) out on the ledge to re-adjust.

So where does this leave us? The live streaming views of the ledge and nestbox are-for the most part-operational. If you are watching and the flashing starts and it is bothersome to watch, please check back at a later time. Also remember that the refreshed stills are always another option. In fact, up until a couple of years ago, the refreshed still images was all that we offered and viewers were perfectly content with being able to watch the goings-on at the nest that way. Right now only the ledgecam stills are working but we are optimistic that next week the nestbox stills will be back. Looking further down the road we may consider switching back to the old cameras when we access the ledge to get the nestlings at banding. We will explore the possibilities and determine a course of action later this spring.

OK, enough about the technical camera "drama" and now for the fun part-the birds! So, when can we expect eggs? Peregrines elsewhere in Ohio have already started laying. Typically, Cleveland and Cleves are the first and Columbus starts later in the month. Scout and Orville have been observed mating on the ledge (I tried to save a video clip the other day but I wasn't fast enough). And I've seen Orville bring food to Scout several times as well. What does all of this mean? Basically, it means things are on track and progressing normally. When can we expect an egg? Your guess is as good as mine at this point! Last year, the first egg was laid on 3/29. In 2007, Scout laid her first (but also infertile) egg on 3/24. Generally, once a female is mature she will lay her eggs about the same time each year. This year will only be Scout's 3rd year to produce eggs so she really doesn't have the history yet to predict with any certainty when we might see an egg. Bottom line, we're all in the same boat to stay tuned in to see what happens!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Latest on focus and out of control flashes!

This afternoon I adjusted the zoom and tweaked the focus on the ledgecam. Hopefully, it will make leg bands on the platform a bit clearer and easier to read and provide a little better view of the nestbox end of the ledge. I did notice on my handheld monitor at the site that the quality of the video is really good initally, but some quality is lost by the time it makes it to the web. This was true with the previous cameras as well and I believe it to be the nature of the system. Once we switch over to the new system where the video transfers directly to the web perhaps it might be better(?). So far this afternoon neither of the peregrines has perched on the platform as a test. (Guess they didn't get the memo...!) Newest ledgecam view: We are still experiencing a couple of problems. First, early morning views are blurry: I believe this to be due simply from low light conditions in the early morning since the problem corrects itself as the morning progresses and the sun gets higher in the sky. I have not viewed the site later in the evening to tell if the same thing happens at sunset, nor has anyone reported to me whether it gets blurry in the low light of evening...(?).

The second problem is more disturbing - at times the video starts flashing, much like a strobe light. It has happened with both cameras and I've seen it happen enough times now that I believe it likely has to be a factor of a quick change in light/color of the subject. It usually begins when a bird (a subject with both dark and light colors on it) goes by the camera quickly. Then, it is like the camera is trying to compensate for the change in light and fluctuates between very bright and very dark continuously, sometimes for as long as 20+ minutes. We are in the process of contacting the manufacturer of the cameras for technical assistance on these issues and will make adjustments if possible.
Caution: view this video example of the flashing at your own risk!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ledgecam Stills Back Up & What's That Brown Thing?

Good news - the ledgecam still pictures are back up! We continue to work on the nestbox refreshed images and other tweaks to the system. I definitely plan an adjustment to the ledgecam focus that will allow us to read leg bands when the birds are sitting on the platform in front of the ledgecam.

The new picture provided by the ledgecam currently is zoomed out wider than before. With the wider image there have been several questions about the "dark object" that viewers are seeing now that they didn't before. Some are worried that it is a dead/injured falcon, some think it might be prey remains, others just don't know. The answer: it is a domed-shaped metal grate that covers a drain in the ledge. For those of you who have watched our site over the years, the grate has been in view in the past. In fact, the nestlings usually will perch on top of it once they start making their way up and down the ledge. Mystery solved!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Nestboxcam Up and Running!

The bottom line for this update is that we have the nestboxcam up and running and the new ledgecam was installed yesterday. Currently, the live streaming option for BOTH cams is working but the refreshed image option for both cams is still down. We continue to attempt to restore the still image options. With the new cameras, viewers may notice that the images provided by the new cameras are slightly different from what we are used to--that is mainly due to each camera having a different kind of lens than what was on the old cameras. There is also different sized gravel in the nestbox this year than last which could cause a different appearance as well. One further issue with the ledgecam is a few times today it has glitched and gone into a flashing mode which we do not know the cause. We appreciate everyone's patience while we continue to tweak the new cameras to provide the best views.

Now for those that are interested beyond just looking at the birds, some further information on what we've been dealing with:

When the new nestbox camera was installed earlier this month we also ran new cabling that was to transfer the video directly to the internet. At the same time we ran the new cable, we removed the "old" cable that we used with the "old" system that transferred the video to a computer and then to the internet. (The intention with the new system is ultimately to bypass the PCs.) However, since unanticipated software issues were preventing us from going completely with the new system we decided to reinstall the "old" cable to utilize the "old" computer system. This would at least allow us to see the nest and ledge using the same system as last year. So, yesterday we ran the "old" cable back out to the nestbox camera housing and hooked it up to the "new" camera. This, combined with a new computer restored the view of inside the nestbox, albeit using the "old" computer system. Hopefully soon we will be able to switch over to the new system. Ultimately, it doesn't make any difference to you, the web user, which way the video ends up on our site. The main reason for the change is that we were told that transferring the video directly to the internet will be more reliable than going through the PC.

After we were finished with the nestbox camera we ran the new cable for the ledgecam but also kept the "old" cable in place. As with the nestbox camera, the new ledge camera was installed and hooked up with both the new and the "old" cables. Currently, we are also using the "old" computer system to transfer the image to the web for the ledge view.

VIEW: Again, both cameras have different lenses than we've used in the past. We are currently evaluating the new view. From what I've seen so far today, the ledgecam view looks a bit wider and might be an improvement. I'm not as happy with the nestbox view--it seems as if there isn't the level of detail inside of the box. We'll continue to evaluate in different lights and looking at things when the birds are present. If it is possible and we deem it necessary, we may tweak the view if we have time before there are eggs.

SOUND: On the ledgecam, we are still using a separate microphone on the ledge. Once we switch to the new system that mic will be inactive. There is a built-in microphone on the camera but being sealed inside of a protective camera housing we aren't sure how well it will perform. We'll have to wait and see on that. For the nestbox camera, the old microphone was removed so any sound you hear is being picked up by the built-in microphone on the camera that is sealed inside the camera housing. Again, we'll have to wait and see how well it performs.

This is a lot of detail for one update but I wanted to give some background so everyone would have an idea of what all is involved in this process behind the scenes.