Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nest Box Maintenance

Today was the annual cleaning day for the nest box which includes removing the pea gravel and replacing with new, plus a fresh coat of paint on the inside of the box. Maintenance was pretty uneventful except that it was extremely hot out on the ledge on a typical steamy, sunny August morning in Ohio. Lucky for me, I had Jesse, our summer intern to do the bulk of the dirty work - thanks, Jesse!!! ;-)

As usual, the nest box was a total mess of dusty, dried and smelly falcon feces and bits and pieces/bones and feathers of many of the birds that were fed to a growing family of peregrines. Cleaning out the nest box might not sound like that big of a job, but Jesse can now attest to the stench, filth, dirt and dust that is involved. A job not recommended to be done without protective coveralls and dust mask. Jesse has new found respect for the species as he commented, "Nothing makes you feel closer to an animal than when you have to clean up after it!"

Viewers may notice the new pea gravel is a somewhat darker in appearance than what we had last season. It's simply a different brand than we have used in the past. We also cleaned the lens of the nestbox camera.

Towards the end of the duty, Scout made an appearance and swooped at Jesse several times. He had his back turned as he was focusing on the job at hand, so I made sure she didn't come closer than a foot or so from striking him. Overall, it is not the time of year for her to be extremely territorial but she still gave a good showing before retiring to a nearby ledge to let us finish. I wasn't able to get any photos but I will report that she was looking a bit scruffy due to her molt.

So far no new male in the territory yet but as I've said already, it is only a matter of time. Folks have been wondering what, if anything, Scout will have to "do" to attract a mate. She'll actually not have to do anything: basically, sooner or later a male will cruise into town via migration/normal wanderings that would be expected from an unmated falcon without a territory. This can happen at any time of the year but birds will be on the move more in fall and winter just because of the nature of migration.

The city as a falcon territory will be attractive to him (cliff fronts, nest box, food source). In the absence of Orville, the newbie won’t be chased out of town and will be free to look around. In the course of checking things out he’ll also find that there’s a female on site as well. Then, when the time is right (courtship season--January/February--as determined by the length of day that gets the hormones flowing) he’ll step up and start courting and a bond will form. If there would happen to be more than one male they would compete with each other and Scout would accept the victor just because the loser would be run out by the dominant male. Pretty simple and basic!

Sightings of Scout have been few and far between this time of year, but that is normal--male or no male. The young have moved on and now that it is the "off season" (not nesting season) there is little for her to do other than eat, sleep and molt her feathers. She's obviously still in the territory and still protective of the nest site as we experienced today, but for the most part she's staying out of site of the cameras. Again, normal behavior for this time of year.