Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Female Identity Known!

Thanks to several volunteers out there keeping close watch on the ledgecam, the new female's leg bands were read today! Her color band on the left leg is all black with the code: 32/X. This bird is "Durand" from the 2009 nest in Hamilton, Ontario Canada!
The nest in Hamilton, Ontario is located on a Sheraton Hotel. There is a webcam on that nest (although discontinued for this season) and detailed information from each nesting year is provided by the Hamilton Community Peregrine Project. To find information on the 2009 nest, follow this link, click on "History" then click on 2009 at the top of the page.
Despite being only a second year bird, believe it or not, this is not the first time Durand has been seen in Ohio. Before showing up in Columbus, this female was observed in April, 2010, at the I-80 Turnpike Bridge nest in northeastern Ohio where the resident male chased her out of the territory. Here is a photo of the aerial fight:
Thanks to all of the volunteer efforts that helped to document her back in April and now at the Rhodes Tower.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nestbox Camera Problems - Season Wrap Up

The nestbox camera is malfunctioning so we have temporarily discontinued the live streaming video for that view. The refreshed still images will continue for now although at times no image will be available.

Fortunately, the ledge camera is fine, as that is the most important view at this time. The ledge view is most useful to monitor what falcons are on the ledge and to hopefully get leg band information from the new female.

As we wrap up another nesting season and reflect on all that has happened 2010 has to be, by far, the most memorable season since peregrines began nesting at the Rhodes Tower in 1994. But at the end of the day, despite all of the ups and downs, the happy ending is that at this point we consider Spirit to be successfully fledged and well on her way to independence.

We are hoping that the rest of the summer will be uneventful. Given that expectation this is the last regular report for the season. Additional updates will be posted of any notable information pertaining to Spirit, Scout, the new female or any other occurrences in the Columbus area as information becomes available. Camera and nestbox maintenance is also on the agenda for later this summer and I will post updates on those issues as I have details.
Thanks to everyone for your support of the
ODNR, Division of Wildlife's
Columbus Peregrine FalconCam!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spirit Makes a Brief Appearance

Last evening at about 9 p.m. Spirit followed Trooper up to the ledge begging for food. Thanks to Mary Anne for sharing this video. Trooper made a hasty exit after which Spirit followed. She appears to be doing very, very well.

The new female was seen again on the ledge today, but no idea of leg band codes yet.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another New Female!

Interesting news - another adult female showed up yesterday and was observed in the nestbox! This falcon is banded but the color combination of the leg bands and codes have not been obtained yet. We'll continue to keep watch and hopefully this peregrine will stand in front of the ledge camera where we'll be able to get details on her markers.

This makes the 2nd new falcon to come into the Columbus territory in a week. As I have stated in the past, there are any number of "floaters" out there - unmated peregrines that are traveling about looking for the chance to establish a territory. Sometimes it takes many months to get a new mate in a territory (like Trooper), other times it takes much, much less. Of course, there's no guarantee that this female will stay...even though she has already been observed interacting with Trooper only time will tell if she remains here in Columbus to become our next nesting female. What might make her leave? She could have a territory of her own already somewhere else and is simply passing through. Or there could be yet another female that comes in and challenges her. Regardless, web viewers will no doubt have a lot to watch for in the coming months making the Columbus FalconCam one of the best "reality shows" around.

Spirit is assumed to be doing well. There have been no actual sightings of her but vocalizations heard via the audio on the live streaming over the weekend indicate she was buzzing the nest ledge. She no doubt is well on her way to mastering flight and likely is even pursuing prey on her own by now. Even with an adult female around, Trooper will still keep watch and provide food if needed.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Update on Spirit

Continuing good news on Spirit – I received a report that two falcons were soaring above the Rhodes Tower yesterday at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Spirit is really getting the hang of flying and gaining a lot of altitude in the process.

Update on Scout – many may have seen the recent reports in the media that the ODNR, Division of Wildlife and the US Fish & Wildlife Service are investigating the circumstances of Scout’s death. As this is an on-going investigation I cannot comment at this time. However I can say that progress is being made in the investigation and we hope to have the matter resolved quickly.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Good News, Bad News, Best News

Good News: Last evening the new adult female spent time in front of the ledgecam. Lighting conditions weren't the best for reading the leg band, but we believe the code is *S/*X (the "*" indicates that the letter is horizontal on the band).
*S/*X is the adult female that has frequented the stadium area of The Ohio State University for the past 2 seasons, named Clementine. (Note: Even though falcons have claimed OSU as a territory, there has not been a successful nest at that location.)

Now the Bad News: the opportunity to confirm the band seen via the ledgecam last night, but in a way we do not prefer...I was contacted today by Petersen Thomas who was downtown last evening about 7:30 p.m. He witnessed a large bird of prey dive head first into the street at 3rd and Gay Streets. He retrieved the bird from the road (it was DOA) and reported to me that it was banded: a purple band on the right leg and a black and green band on the left leg. The black and green band code was *S/*X - Clementine. So, Columbus is again without an adult female falcon. It is unknown what exactly happened--it may be that she was stooping after prey and just misjudged the ground. Another example of how when these birds end up in trouble the Division of Wildlife is notified. [A quick "Thanks!" to everyone who has taken the time to call in to report a falcon, including Petersen in this case.]

Now the BEST NEWS: Two falcons were observed landing on the next ledge over from the nest ledge this morning at about 8:15 a.m. Since we are once again down to only two falcons in town that we know of (Trooper and Spirit) we can assume that the birds seen were indeed Trooper and Spirit. So, the best news is that, as presumed, Spirit is doing well and has been able to make it up to the 41st floor of the Rhodes Tower. I hope that she will come back to the nest ledge and even show her leg bands to the ledge camera so we can confirm it for sure.

Commentary: The number of peregrines lost in Columbus in recent days is truly unusual and out of the ordinary. Some concerns I have received via email include comments on how dangerous an urban area is to these birds and "why would we entice them to nest in an unnatural area?" It is a fact that peregrine falcons as a species have adapted to urban environments on their own. While ~30 years ago it was unheard of, cities are now considered a natural habitat for these birds to nest in. The falcons benefit from man made structures: tall buildings mimic a cliff, the historical nesting place for a peregrine. Further, many other types of avian species also utilize urban areas; therefore, peregrines have a very varied menu of other birds to prey on. Each peregrine nest in Ohio is considered a natural nest because the falcons have chosen the territory on their own accord. Bottom line, cities provide an excellent and natural habitat for peregrine falcons as is proven by their overwhelming success in nesting in these areas throughout the Midwest.

Despite the many benefits of a city environment, urban areas do present some hazards for the peregrines (reflective glass, guy wires, antennas, etc.). However, hazards also exist for peregrines nesting in rural cliff sites as well: great-horned owls, snakes, deep caverns, etc. So while both urban and rural nesting peregrines face many dangers, the main difference between the two types of nest sites is that with urban nests humans are able to view a nest via webcams (where available) and when a falcon is injured in the city, people are there to help it. In a rural habitat, when a falcon chick falls from a ledge, fails when flying or otherwise becomes injured it surely succumbs to starvation, the injury and/or predation. No people are there to see it or to intervene.

Despite the unusually high number of losses this year, the Peregrine Falcon Program in Columbus has been especially successful. Since 1994, over 40 young peregrines have been produced at this site, with many surviving to raise young of their own elsewhere in the Midwest (see a list at Tracking Columbus Falcons). While it is easy to dwell on what birds we have lost recently I ask folks to not forget the successes. Many young hatched in Columbus have survived to establish territories of their own elsewhere and raise young - thus a true measure of how resilient peregrine falcons are.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Update on Spirit and a New Female!

There's been no word on Spirit and in terms of peregrine fledge we take NO NEWS to be GOOD NEWS. Experience over the years has shown again and again when the birds end up in trouble usually someone is aware and makes me aware. So, no reports indicate to me that the bird is doing well. She may or may not come back to the nest ledge--in past years some fledglings have left never to return, others like some of the young from last year's nest came back to the ledge frequently which extended the opportunity to watch the action via the cams last summer. But there's no guarantee we will see Spirit again and if she doesn't come back to the ledge it should not be taken as there is something wrong. There is no reason to expect anything other than the best for this bird. When she left the ledge it was a strong and deliberate flight so I have complete confidence that she is doing well.

Another development is the observation of a new adult female in the territory! The new bird is banded (purple band on the right leg, black over green band on the left leg) and was observed last evening in the nestbox with Trooper. Both Trooper and the new bird were seen on the ledge this morning as well. Here is a video of their interaction last night. One thing I noted is she was not shy about entering the nestbox. When Trooper first showed up it was some time before he would even come to the nest ledge let alone enter the nestbox--it took him awhile to get used to the layout of the Rhodes Tower nest ledge. The female's lack of intimidation with the nestbox could indicate she hatched out of a similar structure. Hopefully we will get a leg band code soon and be able to track her origin (another benefit of banding these birds).

As I indicated there are many unmated falcons out there and a mate change can occur rather rapidly. This is a excellent example of that, however, there is no guarantee that this bird will stay...but without a resident female to defend the territory she won't be chased out of town. What we don't know is if she already has her own territory somewhere else and is just passing through. Only time will tell if she stays or not.

The next logical question is, how will the presence of this new female affect Spirit? At this point I don't believe it to affect her one way or another. Spirit is likely working on perfecting her flight and hunting skills and Trooper will still keep watch and provide food as needed.

Prior to the female showing up Trooper was observed scraping in the nestbox--a common behavior that occurs at the end of nesting season to reinforce the bond to the site. The timing of his scraping and the new female showing up is completely coincidental, although since she is here that has instigated other bonding behaviors as shown in the video.

So, the drama in Columbus continues! How fascinating to have a window into the lives of these magnificent wild creatures who have chosen Columbus as their home. Just think - the same types of dramas play out at other nests around the world but without cameras it is easy to forget that similar life and death situations occur whether these birds are nesting in an urban or rural location and whether people are watching or not. Such is the life of a peregrine falcon.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Spirit Update + Red, White & Boom Info

Spirit is still on the LeVeque Tower as of this morning. Yesterday witnesses reported that Trooper did bring food to her. Thanks to Irina we have this photo of Spirit on the top of the Tower. Trooper was also observed perched atop the antenna above her.Columbus' big fireworks event, Red, White & Boom is tonight. Every year I get asked what 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 show will be much the same to them as would be 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.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

An Unexpected Loss - Scout

What a tough week for falcon watching in Columbus....first the loss of Swoop and now I'm sorry to report that Scout, our adult female, was found dead this morning. I received a call shortly before lunch from a downtown worker who saw her on the edge of Broad Street. The cause of death is believed to be head trauma likely from hitting the LeVeque Tower.

I mention frequently about how the fledglings need to learn to avoid obstacles like windows. It is easy to forget that these same obstacles still present a danger to even the most experienced adult falcon.

I believe that Scout was likely flying near where Spirit may have been perched. Perhaps she misjudged and hit the building. Or maybe she was in pursuit of prey. We probably will never know.

Looking back on Scout's history: she first was observed in Columbus in November of 2006 having hatched in 2005 from the New Center/Fisher Building in Detroit, Michigan. Ironically the adult female that reared Scout was "Alpha" fledged from the 2001 Columbus nest!

In Scout's first nesting attempt in 2007 4 eggs were laid but were infertile. Along with Orville she produced 4 young in both 2008 and 2009. This year two young were reared with Trooper.

Now that Scout is gone, it opens the territory for a new female. While you may have heard that falcons "mate for life" this means something very different to people than it does to peregrines. Basically, peregrines (as well as other birds of prey and even Canada geese) keep the same mate for as long as the two are alive. However, when/if something happens to one of the pair, the remaining bird will readily accept a new mate. In the case of peregrines, sometimes a new mate is had in a matter of hours! There's no room for being picky or mournful when your "job" is to reproduce and carry on the species! So while watching Spirit's progress, we will also need to be alert to the possibility of a new female coming into the Columbus territory. There are so many unmated falcons ("floaters") out there it could happen at any time but likely won't be until fall or winter. Here is one of the most "famous" photographs of Scout taken by Tim Daniel, Division of Wildlife photographer.On a much more positive note, Spirit was sighted on the LeVeque Tower around 1:30 this afternoon and all appeared well. Trooper will continue to provide food until Spirit masters her own hunting skills.

Spirit Takes Flight

This morning Spirit flew of her own accord at 6:04 a.m. - it was a deliberate liftoff from the ledge. Several folks were watching and saving video. This clip includes a slow motion replay at the end (thanks to Pascal for the clip). If you watch closely you can see one of the adults follow her from the next ledge over. We really like to see a falcon leave the ledge "on purpose" like this vs. an accidental fall as happened Monday to both nestlings.

More on Swoop...additional details are known now after video and witnesses on the ground have come forward. It appeared from the video that Swoop was simply making her way down the ledge when she lost her balance and went over the edge. Again, this is not an uncommon way for a peregrine to make its first flight. Eyewitness reports from the ground indicated there was no flapping when the bird was falling. When I retrieved her from the sidewalk I noted that she had an abrasion on the top of her head. I first believed the injury to have occurred when she landed. However, later reports from witnesses indicated she landed flat on her back on the sidewalk. Therefore we can figure that she must have hit the building on the way down. It is likely that the building strike may have stunned her or even knocked her out, thus the explanation to why she was not flapping as she fell. A very unfortunate incident but nothing anyone could have done would have saved this bird.

We wish Spirit much success and hope that she conquers the skies with enough expertise to make it back to the nest ledge. I will post any sightings that I hear of.