Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Live Streaming to be shut down

Unfortunately, the State of Ohio will not have an approved budget as of July 1, therefore, the Ohio Division of Wildlife will be suspending the live streaming of the Columbus FalconCam until further notice. Please check out the notation on the live streaming pages of our website (to be posted soon) for more information. We are extremely sorry for this abrupt action and hope that an approved budget will be in place soon so that we can resume the service.

Columbus' big fireworks event, Red, White & Boom is Friday, July 3rd. Every year I get asked what do the falcons do during the show--will it scare them, etc. By the time the fireworks are going off the falcons will be at their chosen roost for the night and the fireworks will be much the same to them as a big thunderstorm-just a lot of lightning and thunder. All of the people downtown for the event won't bother the birds - they see people and cars in the streets everyday.

Busy ledge this morning

Over the past several days there have been a few general reports from observers seeing multiple falcons flying well downtown. Last Friday afternoon we received a call that a falcon hit a window of the Huntington Building but the observer couldn't see from their vantage point to tell if the hit was a grounding hit or not. We didn't get any further reports of a falcon down, so we assume it was a life lesson in "glass clouds vs. real sky" and all was well afterward.

Fast forward to this morning and there has been quite a bit of activity on the ledge between adults and juvies both. A little after 9 a.m. I was pleased to be able to confirm Jet (66/H) on the ledge (thanks to Terry for providing photo documentation!). Then, about 11 a.m. I saw Eclipse (67/H)! This is the first confirmed sighting of Eclipse since June 17, according to my notes. It's exciting to continue to get these leg band confirmations over time that indicate that all 3 female fledglings are doing well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jet checks in

I was out in the field on another project this morning and so didn't see it myself, but several folks wrote in to report 66/H (Jet) was on the ledge about 10 a.m. (confirmed by the leg band). Sorry, I didn't receive any photos of the observation to share.

Thanks for everyone's vigilance in continuing to watch the cams (even though there isn't much to see any more) and for sending the info in! This kind of documentation is really useful to help confirm which ones are doing well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Aerial sighting

Over the weekend two unidentified fledglings were spotted on the One Columbus Building, which seems to be a popular spot for the young birds this year. So much so, that the adults have been dive-bombing workers on the roof! I took a call from someone from the building last week and advised him that in another few days to a week that the young would be dispersing and that the aggressiveness should subside. In the meantime I cautioned him to make sure workers that had to be up there had appropriate safety gear (a hardhat) and/or had another person to help protect them from aggressive peregrines!

Today I received a positive ID that confirms 65/H is accounted for and doing well. Thanks to Shane Mathey for sending these photos of Aerial taking a rest on the 26th floor of the Vern Riffe building today just before noon. What a gorgeous day and beautiful view of the river!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Empty ledge again? Not quite

Yesterday, Jet (66/H) and Eclipse (67/H) spent most of the day on the ledge until Jet took flight again about 3 p.m.

As of this morning, Eclipse continues to spend time on the ledge. So far into the fledging phase the adults have been very active, continuing to provide food for the young falcons but as time goes on, that will lessen. So, if Eclipse doesn't take flight soon just for the sake of flying, she'll have no choice when it gets to the point that she's not being fed as much as she wants to be.

From this point on we are likely to see less and less activity on the ledge as the young continue to hone their flight skills and eventually become independent. We'll continue to watch and note what leg bands we see via the ledgecam and I know many of you out there will as well. I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANKS to all of you who have sent in reports and updates both directly to me and through other means throughout this nesting season. I may not have been able to respond to each and every email but know that your interest and the information you have provided has been helpful and very much appreciated!! As I always say, THANKS FOR WATCHING! :-)

Updates in the next few weeks will be posted on the blog when there is something to report, but if you login and there hasn't been any news posted for awhile it is simply because there hasn't been any activity to note. Always assume no reports mean the young are doing well!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All 3 juvies accounted for

After Jet's (66/H) assisted return to the ledge yesterday afternoon, things got really busy on the 41st floor of the Rhodes Tower. Within the next few hours both adults and the two other female fledglings were reported on the ledge. Viewers via the cams were treated to quite the show as the adults brought in food and the young fought for it. The best part was being able to confirm all 3 fledglings via leg bands. From what I saw it looked like Aerial (65/H) and Eclipse (67/H) had extremely good control over their flight.

As of this morning it appears that at least one juvie is still on the ledge - likely Jet. Only time will tell when she'll take her next flight.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jet back on ledge

An exciting first day on the job for our summer intern, Jesse McCarter, who assisted me with Jet's return to the wilds of downtown Columbus. Since all of the other fledglings were gone we were able to put her back out at the nest ledge. Were there any nestlings remaining on the ledge this release location wouldn't have been possible without potentially bumping one of the other birds off the ledge prematurely. In that case we would have put her out up on the roof of the building. But, ideally the nest ledge was the best place as being in familiar territory we were hoping she'd stay put for awhile before venturing back out into the skies over downtown.

Looking out the peephole from inside I could see an adult on the ledge. It turned out to be Scout. Hearing me explaining the process to Jesse, she started squawking. With her out there the plan mostly stayed the same, except Jesse would have to wait until another time to take in the view.

After a quick photo I took the bird from Jesse and he opened the door. I didn't check the time but it was likely about 3:45 in the afternoon. I put her down on her belly facing towards the building and then we quickly closed the door and hoped she'd stay put. Now that I'm back to the office I see she's still on the platform so it looks like things worked out the way we intended. Let's hope she can get the hang of landing the next time she flies!

Jet grounded Saturday

Jet (66/H) was found on the ground early Saturday morning. The county wildlife officer was called. She appeared OK but to be on the safe side she was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center where she spent the remainder of the weekend resting. There was no sign of trauma or bruising so we think she probably just had a couple of missed landings and got flustered and/or tired and ended up on the ground. We plan on putting her back out in familiar surroundings (the nest ledge) later this afternoon to give her another chance.

A juvie was on the ledge last evening and this morning but no band number was able to be confirmed. So far assuming all is well with all of the others.

Friday, June 12, 2009

So far so good for the female fledglings

Various reports through the grapevine indicate that all 3 female fledglings are out and about and doing OK. Some of the buildings they have been observed on include the roof of the Rhodes Tower, the LeVeque Tower and the One Columbus building. All birds are perched high on these buildings and as I indicated in a previous post, when the birds are able to maintain altitude their success rate tends to be better. We should still expect rough flights and landings once they transition from mostly perching on these other buildings to starting to move from place to place.

Here's a video clip of Jet's exit yesterday afternoon. Again, you can see that it was a very calculated move which is a lot better than being forced to fly because of falling off the ledge by accident. Thanks to Mary Anne in Georgia for catching the video and inserting the "countdown."

The nestbox live streaming video is currently down. Unfortunately, the folks that can fix it are in training today and so won't be able to reboot the software until later this afternoon. At least it isn't a critical view as is the ledge at this stage. We'll have it back up as soon as possible.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Empty ledge

As I predicted this morning it has been a pretty quiet day. For the most part the only birds visible were down at the other end of the ledge--one perched on the nestboxcam and one on the nestbox. Because of the gloomy conditions it has been difficult to determine the ages of the birds and of course nothing on leg bands. I believe that for the most part it was one of the adults on the nestbox and a juvie (juvenile) on the camera. Throughout the morning and early afternoon I never observed a second nestling. Around 2 p.m. one of the birds did come up to in front of the ledgecam and then I was finally able to confirm that the bird was Jet.

Not seeing a second juvie all day leads me to believe that Eclipse had fledged either late yesterday or this morning prior to 8 a.m. Jet finally took off around 4 p.m. this afternoon. If I am able to get any photos or video from other watchers I'll post them tomorrow.

So, we are left with an empty ledge which, while sad for many viewers, is actually good news. No reports of crashed birds is even better news! Hopefully, in the coming days the young will hone their flying skills and come back to the nest ledge so continue to watch. If/when we see any falcons on the ledge it will be especially important to note the plumage and get leg band codes when possible to help ascertain which birds are doing well.

No change from yesterday

Things are progressing pretty slowly on the fledging front, but then again, that's not necessarily bad. The last report on Aerial is she is still on the LeVeque Tower where she landed yesterday morning. Jet and Eclipse seem very content to stay on the ledge. With rain forecasted for today, the weather may put a damper on activity and all birds will just continue to sit tight.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fledging Update

Some activity yesterday but since nothing was confirmed I wasn't able to post anything until this a.m. Now that some folks have had time to watch from the ground and we've gotten some confirmations on band numbers from the webcams we have a pretty good idea of what has occurred.

Yesterday shortly after noon, one of the females took off from the ledge on her own accord. Mary Anne happened to be recording the activity and sent me the video. Two of the females were on the ledge and the 3rd hopped down from the top of the nestbox, to the ledge, flapped hard, then back to the top of the nestbox again. The bird repeated this routine several times and then simply flew off the ledge. I shortened the video to the final moment and apologize for the low quality that has resulted from copying a copy but I think it still shows clearly how well the flight went and that it was completely voluntary.

After that, the two remaining birds stayed out of view most of the afternoon which frustrated everyone since we didn't know for sure if we saw what we thought we did and if so, which birds were left. It wasn't until last evening watchers were able to confirm via the webcams that the two on the ledge were 66/H (Jet) and 67/H (Eclipse). From that we know that it was Aerial (65/H) that fledged yesterday.

There were no other reports from downtown yesterday but reviewing my various sources this morning it was reported that Aerial spent the night on the Rhodes Tower--on the next ledge over to the right from the nest ledge. [I'll interject here and state that when a falcon flies for the first time and is able to maintain and/or regain the altitude and perch high (vs. fluttering to the ground or a low perch) it is much better. Equate it to the first time a kid drives and either stays on the road or winds up in a ditch - the first experience staying on the road is a much better one and helps the confidence!)]

The latest report I received from folks downtown watching is they saw Aerial fly about 6:39 a.m. this morning from the Rhodes Tower but missed a landing on the Huntington Building. However, she was able to regroup and with one of the adults as an escort** perched on another building in a "good spot."

**the report I received included the terminology "escort." This is fairly descriptive but I wanted to clarify. The adults don't "take" the young here or there or show them where to go. But rather when a young bird is flying they are often vocalizing. This squawking combined with an awkward flying style will encourage the adults to fly along with the fledglings. The adults are not able to hold or lift the young up or "save" them in any way if they go low towards the ground or towards a hazard like a window but they will fly along with them.

Finally - I've gotten a few inquiries as to whether Scout and Orville will mourn the loss of Apollo or miss him. It may not be dramatic or exciting, but in reality, they've probably already forgotten about him. They really only focus on the activity and the vocalizations of the moment and so now it's the remaining three that will occupy their time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bad news on Apollo

Ironically, just a few moments after I finished up the last post saying there wasn't any news on Apollo I got a call from the Hyatt on Capitol Square (just across the block from the Rhodes Tower). They found a bird that had drowned in their fountain and because it had leg bands they thought it might be a falcon. I confirmed the band codes over the phone and unfortunately, it did turn out to be Apollo.
I noted an abrasion on his left wing and suspect that he likely hit one of the windows of the Hyatt and fluttered down to the ground-which is what typically happens to an inexperienced fledgling. Unfortunately for him he must have landed in the fountain, was unable to get out and subsequently drowned. As I've explained in past posts we always expect a certain amount of trauma and even fatalities from window/building strikes but I think this is the first drowning fatality in Columbus that I am aware of.
You can see in the photo that the fountain overall isn't very big - quite the freak accident for the bird to land right there. Let's hope his female nestmates have better luck. At least they seem to be taking their time to fledge. Perhaps the additional "ledge-time" will help them be in better shape for when they do go.

3 females still on the ledge

This isn't the best shot but it does document that there are still three nestlings on the ledge. Since I tuned in this morning the three birds have been lounging on the platform right in front of the camera. A couple of times two of the birds were sparring with their beaks, grabbing the other's wing, etc. pretty close to the edge. Wouldn't have surprised me for one to fledge accidentally in that scenario but they're all still there. Over the course of a couple of hours I have been able to confirm the 3 birds in the photo are the females (as suspected) including Aerial (65/H) right up front. (Thanks to veteran watchers Donna in IL and Fred for helping with the leg band confirmation!)
No news (good or bad) on Apollo so we assume all is good and well unless we hear otherwise.

Monday, June 08, 2009

One bird on the wing

One of the nestlings reportedly went off the ledge backwards Sunday morning. From the account it appears it was one of those "unplanned" first flights that just "happen" when a bird is too close to the edge.

As of this morning 3 of the nestlings are still on the ledge. So far we've only been able to confirm 67H (Eclipse) and 66H (Jet). It is suspected that the first fledgling may likely be Apollo.

Watchers on the ground over the weekend were able to confirm a juvenile falcon on the Key Bank building Sunday evening about 5 p.m. (thanks Irina and Mary!). They observed it "flapping its wings and catwalking along the roof edge," then "it took off in pretty steady flight and dissapeared behind the State house." So, whichever bird it is, it appears to be doing OK.
It's likely to be a busy week, so stay tuned. I'll post updates as information becomes available.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

From Nestlings to Fledglings

[Please note - I updated my last entry with a photo of one of the nestlings holding its foot up as I described.]

At some point in the very near future the 4 nestlings will transform into fledglings--that is, they will take their first flights. Peregrines generally fledge at about 40 days of age. For this bunch that will be on or about June 7-this weekend. While it could be sooner than later, I predict that we'll see the majority of the fledging activity occur the week of June 8.

We did have a call that someone thought that one of the birds flew yesterday. Given that we are still several days away from that 40 day "birthday" I seriously doubt that if one were to go off the ledge at this early stage it would be able to make it back. All 4 nestlings were accounted for last evening around 7 p.m. so in my professional opinion, I don't believe that any have flown yet.

It is often the males that fly first because they are smaller. The females at this stage are quite plump and likely are actually heavier than the adults. After all, they've been doing nothing but eating for the past 5+ weeks! Sure, they run up and down the ledge and flap for a little exercise but they do have a certain amount of "baby fat" (more than the smaller males) that will weigh them down and delay their takeoff.

As the birds get closer to flying you'll notice them doing a bit more practice flapping. They might even flap hard enough that they'll hover a couple of feet up over the ledge. The first flight might result from a bird simply taking off from the ledge on its own accord. Or, a first flight might occur if a nestling is too close to the edge and a strong wind gust blows it off. Another scenario altogether is a group of nestlings all scrambling for food and one is too close to the edge...

In all actuality, flying is not the hard part. It is completely natural for the birds to flap their wings and with the proper equipment (flight feathers) they can fly instinctively with little problem. The hard part is landing. The young birds will have to hone their skills of maneuvering: using their tail to steer, slowing down and most of all, learning what they can and cannot land on. Reflective windows pose one of the biggest problems because the birds will not be able to differentiate between what is a reflection of sky in a window and what is really sky. Consequently, we can expect the birds to hit windows during the first couple of days on the wing as they learn some important life lessons. The adults will still provide food for a time but it won't take long after the young master flying that they start learning to hunt for themselves.

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 else downtown where witnesses can confirm its ID by reading the leg band.

For the most part Scout and Orville will be keeping track of the young where ever they land. The Division of Wildlife will only intervene if a falcon is seriously injured or winds up in a location that it cannot get out of. Most people downtown are familiar with the falcon project and so if/when a mishap occurs we are notified. There are also interested individuals on the ground watching the birds, and Rhodes Tower Security has all the appropriate contact information for the Division of Wildlife. Hopefully, things will go well and it will not be too exciting of a week for me!

On another note, here's a short clip I captured of Scout feeding two of the female nestlings. Even though they are capable of self-feeding her instincts still dictated that she provide food to them:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Some things they do...

The nestbox cam was hit with feces sometime over the weekend so that view is somewhat hazy again. (I was hoping we'd make it the rest of the season with no direct hits but it didn't work out that way.) This is week five and you can see that the fluffy down is mostly replaced by brown juvenile feathers:

Now that the young are up on the ledge and in front of the camera it gives me a good opportunity to talk about some various behaviors to expect. Firstly, peregrines are notorious for lying down. You might not think that a bird of prey would sprawl flat out on its belly but peregrines do! Sometimes it might look like the bird is ill or even dead, but it is completely normal for them to lay down. Some examples:Another thing they like to do is to sit/rest holding one foot up. It doesn't mean their leg band is too tight and it doesn't mean they have a hurt foot. Basically it just means they are at rest. It might look odd to us (much like a flamingo standing on one leg looks odd) but it is just something they normally do.

Later this week I'll talk about when to expect the first flights!