Friday, April 22, 2011

(Mostly) Uneventful Week

Durand is doing really great at incubating now! She has learned and become quite proficient at covering the eggs and is sticking with it on a constant basis. Unfortunately, she is still shouldering the entire load of incubation duty but as long as the male is providing her food, that may work out OK as her breaks off of the eggs are few and far between. He has popped into the nestbox a couple of times to briefly investigate the eggs. Perhaps he will figure out how to incubate before we have a hatch?!

Looking back through my notes I would estimate that she finally began incubating the eggs in a consistent and proper manner around the 15th of April. Incubation generally takes about 33 days. Counting forward that would mean we could see a hatch the 3rd week of May.

So, this week has for the most part been uneventful except that yesterday, there was another sighting of a juvenile peregrine on the ledge. This time the bird was chased off by both the male and Durand. There was no further interactions observed via the cameras, nor did I receive any eyewitness accounts from anyone downtown. If that juvenile bird is going to continue to be around, it sure would be nice if it would land in front of the ledgecam so we could have a chance to read its leg bands and identify it!

The other exciting occurrence this week is that Time.Com has a short article on the Columbus Falcons including links to the FalconCam and this blog! Click on "View the full list for "The Baby Hawks Are Here!" for the link to our Columbus peregrines!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eclipse In Wisconsin!

We received word from Greg Septon of Wisconsin that "Eclipse," one of the 4 fledglings from 2009 has taken over a nesting territory in Oak Creek, WI!! Here is what was reported:

FYI, we have an OH peregrine here in WI this year. She is "Eclipse" (b/r) 67/H, a 2009 falcon produced at the Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus. She's nesting at We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant in Oak Creek, Milwaukee, Co., WI. Eclipse replaces 15-yr. old "Atlanta" (b/r) L/*C who nested at Oak Creek for the previous 12 years.

first got a glimpse of Eclipse's band on a March 25 web cam image. I visited the site today and ID'd Eclipse as well as her mate "Scott" (b/g) M/Y. This is Scott's 6th year at Oak Creek. The first egg at this site was laid on April 15 and today I found 3 eggs.

Click here for the We Energies web site with access to the web cam.

As Greg mentioned, Eclipse hatched in 2009 and was last observed at the Rhodes Tower on June 30, 2009. Here is the blog entry from that sighting. In March, 2010, she was observed in downtown Cleveland! Now she is over 400 miles away in WI! Thanks to leg band codes that allow us to confirm individuals and track their movements.

Eclipse is the same age as Durand. It will be interesting to compare her progress with nesting this year to that of Durand's. Back here in Columbus, Durand continues to shoulder the load of incubating on her own. She is leaving the eggs a few times a day, presumably to feed. The male is making several appearances and perching close by. We should assume that he is providing food for her, albeit off camera.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Incubation Update

Good news! Durand seems to be figuring out the proper incubation technique! Friday and today (Saturday) more times than not, she was down tight on the eggs as she should be. However, it wasn't unusual for one egg to be uncovered, but then again--5 eggs is a lot to set on! The male, however, has not yet figured out his role as far as incubation duty is concerned. Things looked promising on Friday, as he spent some time in the nestbox. Here is a video of his halfhearted attempt at covering the eggs. It is apparent that his instincts are influencing his behavior but exactly what to do just hasn't kicked in for him yet.

We've always enjoyed how the Columbus FalconCam gives us a unique window into the lives of these birds. But over time, it has been easy to have somewhat taken the opportunity for granted by witnessing more typical nesting behaviors. In a way, this year it is even more exceptional as we have the chance to see how these young birds are learning as they go. What will the coming days bring? Who knows?! But what a show it is bound to be!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are They On Track Now?!

Well...Surprise!!! By last night Durand had managed to gather all of the eggs together herself! Here is a photo of the last egg a little closer to the main scrape last evening:From what I have seen so far today she seems to be a little more focused on incubating! But 5 eggs would be a challenge for even an experienced female. Unfortunately, her technique is still lacking. She is not staying down tight on the eggs and when she is setting often one or more eggs is not covered. As I write this at about 11:20 she is in more of a brooding posture:This intermittent incubation likely will not be enough for the eggs to develop--if they are even fertile to begin with. Because of her young age and the presumed young age of the male, it is possible that the eggs are infertile. I know I am sounding like a broken record here, but it will come down to watching and waiting to see how this situation develops! We should all be prepared for anything!

If it weren't enough dealing with eggs in different scrapes and irregular incubation techniques, yesterday there was another situation to deal with: A juvenile falcon was in the area and at least twice landed on the nest ledge only to be run off by Durand! These birds certainly don't "need" another distraction, but again-this is "real life" for a peregrine falcon!

Check out this video of the intruder. (Fast forward to about 55 seconds. Durand lands on the ledge first; the second bird to land is the juvenile.) Note the vertical streaking on the breast that indicates a young falcon. This bird also appears to be banded. Some have wondered if this could be Spirit from last year's nest returning. Anything is possible! It would have been nice to have gotten a look at the leg band code to help figure out the ID of this bird. Hopefully, it is now gone from the territory so that Durand and the male can move forward with learning/figuring out how to properly incubate!

P.S. Thanks for the many calls and emails of support everyone has been sending to me regarding the updates! It's great to know the fans out there appreciate my efforts. You are welcome, everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To Move/Remove the Eggs or Not To Move/Remove the Eggs?

There are many viewers anxiously watching and waiting for this nest to progress and with that comes suggestions and questions about intervening. Two popular thoughts are emerging: either move all of the eggs together into one scrape; or remove the 2 eggs from the right scrape from the nestbox completely. The third option is to do nothing. Before that decision can be made there are a lot of different factors to consider:

I will stress again that the behaviors and circumstances we are witnessing in the Rhodes Tower nest this year are completely normal for a first time nesting pair of peregrine falcons. I have watched Durand’s actions with the now 3 eggs in the left scrape and can say that even if the other 2 eggs were removed from the nest (or were included with the others so they were all in one scrape) her incubation behavior at this point is sporadic at best – she is off the eggs, on the eggs, and covering some of the eggs, but not all of them at all times. She is leaving the nestbox frequently and perching nearby. These fidgety actions are definitely not typical incubation behavior. We do not know if she will get the “hang of it” or not. Her ability to get the proper incubation technique perfected is dependent on her hormone levels and that is a factor completely separate of how many eggs are underneath her or elsewhere in the nestbox. The “abnormal” events of eggs in different scrapes and intermittent incubation that we are witnessing is a direct reflection of her lack of maturity and inexperience and again, that is normal, given her age.

Besides Durand incubating in proper form, another factor for this nest to be successful is the participation of the male. The male is likely a first time nesting bird as well and thus he also lacks experience and maturity. It will take time for his instincts to kick in properly as well. Even though he has been providing food for Durand, for the eggs to hatch successfully he will have to assume some of the incubation duty. Unfortunately so far he has not shown any indication to do so.

What about moving all the eggs together? Consider that if all 5 eggs were in the same scrape it could result in less efficient incubation for this young, inexperienced bird (provided she starts to incubate as she should). So perhaps it is better that she has fewer eggs to cover then more? Keeping 5 eggs properly incubated for 32 days would be a challenge for even the most experienced female.

Other thoughts to consider with moving (or removing) the 2 eggs: Intervening with good intentions could have unanticipated bad results. What if after moving/removing eggs the nest was abandoned (a very real possibility with a first-time nesting pair)? Or some or all of the eggs did not hatch? Or one or more eggs were damaged in the process? Or an adult was injured trying to defend the nest? No action is without a reaction and even though humans have in mind what we think is best, other unanticipated and potentially very negative results could occur.

Given all of these “what ifs” we must also consider the current status of the population being what it is. The return of the peregrine falcon has been a Wildlife Management success story! There are now way MORE falcons nesting throughout the Midwest then ever before. That is not even to count how many “surplus” falcons are out there ready to take over a territory when there is a vacancy. Perhaps 10, but certainly 20 years ago we would likely have intervened because the population was so low at that time that the extra help was needed to continue the recovery efforts and possible negatives would have been worth the risks. But now we are beyond recovery of the peregrine population and so the need for each and every egg to have the best chance does not apply.

Biologists manage wildlife populations as a whole. Except in the case of an endangered species, individuals actually play a very small role in the big picture of the health and sustainability of overall populations. That can be a hard concept for some to realize and accept—especially when webcams allow us to focus so much on specific individuals. Albeit difficult we must all keep in mind that nowhere in nature does any bird species have 100% success with a nest. As many as 8 out of 10 birds do not make it through their first year.

This is an issue with many different opinions. Given all of the facts, the Division of Wildlife’s standpoint is to not intervene in this situation. Ultimately, it will be up to Durand and the male to sort this one out. We can only stand to learn as we witness how this plays out.

5 Eggs!

A 5th egg was laid this morning, April 13, just before 8 a.m. It was laid on the left side of the box, in the scrape that she seems to be most interested in incubating. Four eggs is the average clutch but more can be laid (obviously!) especially when we are dealing with a first time nesting situation. More proof that Durand's hormones are fluctuating! Let's just hope that some of the 3 eggs in that scrape are fertile and that she concentrates only on those eggs from here on out and is not distracted by the others.

The primary job of the male during the incubation phase is to provide food for Durand. He should also take over incubation duty when she leaves the nest to eat. Keep in mind this is likely his first time nesting as well, so it may take some time for him to realize what he is supposed to be doing. He has been in the nestbox with the eggs, but as far as I know he has not attempted any incubation duty yet.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


As of this morning it appears that Durand's instincts to incubate may be starting to kick in. She is covering 2 of the eggs, however, her body is not tight to the eggs. In this photo she actually appears to be more in a brooding posture than incubation (note how her wings are propping her up). It doesn't appear as though she will move all of the eggs together-at least not now.

If she does get around to incubating "properly" and then moves the eggs together at a later date their viability will be compromised. A successful hatch requires 32-34 days of consistent warmth. As I write this at 8:28 a.m. I see she is now off the eggs(!). I'll stress again that this abnormal behavior is normal for a first time nesting female. It is possible that she may lay another egg even! No one knows how this will play out--all we can do is watch and wait and wonder what will happen--the saga continues!

Mid-morning Update: Now she is concentrating on the other set of eggs! Having two sets of eggs will no doubt be confusing to her. There are no plans at the current time to move the eggs for her--this cycle of events is a natural process for a first-time nesting falcon and what happens will be an interesting learning opportuntity for us all-peregrines included!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

4th Egg!

The 4th egg was laid approximately 6:50 p.m. Sunday, April 10th. Click here to see a video. This egg was laid near egg #1 towards the left side of the box (as we are looking at the box). So now there are 2 eggs in each of 2 scrapes! As I write this at about 7:30 Sunday evening, it does not appear that Durand has started incubating yet - hopefully by morning she will gather all the eggs together and begin incubation. Or, we could be in for more waiting and wondering. Also, even though 4 eggs is the average clutch it is entirely possible that she could produce another egg! Anything could happen with this nest this year!

Friday, April 08, 2011

And Then There Were 3!

Durand laid the 3rd egg! It was in the nestbox first thing this morning, Friday, April 8th. As you can see in the photo, there is still a separation between the eggs and as far as I can tell so far this morning she has not started incubating yet.

Her behaviors over the past week during the egg laying phase should have reinforced for viewers that she is a young bird and not yet fully mature. For example, after the first egg is laid, scraping usually ceases and the female stays in or very near to the nestbox. But in Durand's case, after the first egg she has continued to scrape in the gravel (which has inadvertently moved the first egg to the middle of the box).

Additionally, so far it "seems" she has been less attentive to the eggs than other female falcons we have watched at this site, namely being gone from view of the cameras for extended periods of time. However, even I have to remind myself at times that the cameras only show about 75 square feet of the downtown area. There are places on the nest ledge that she can perch and still be close to the eggs but out of our view; likewise, the other ledges on the Rhodes Tower would keep her close to the eggs but out of sight of the cameras. The bottom line is "out of sight does not necessarily mean she is not there." This also applies to the male.

What does it all mean? It is important to remember that what might appear to be awkward behaviors outside of what we consider "normal" do actually reflect that her hormones are fluctuating and that is completely "normal" for an inexperienced falcon nesting for the first time. In other words, given her age it is normal for things to not seem normal!

How will this play out? Chances are good that things will "click" and she will transition into the next phase of the nesting cycle and we'll see her start incubating soon (with or without additional eggs). But with her inexperience and lack of maturity we should expect that events throughout the nesting cycle may not occur as smoothly as we've seen with other fully mature, experienced nesting falcons. Which will no doubt result in some drama causing some to bite their nails as they watch! As I say often, "stay tuned!"

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

More on Egg #2 Including Video Links

Here is a YouTube video of Durand laying the 2nd egg yesterday. Fast forward to 2:40 for what appears to be the actual moment. And, here is another version of the event saved by Pascal watching from The Netherlands.

Thanks to all of the fans out there watching and capturing these moments and sharing so everyone can review if they were not able to catch it live.
OK, so some may be wondering why did she lay the second egg in a different location? Actually, she did not lay #2 in a different spot. Both eggs were laid in the same scrape, on the right side of the box as we see it via the camera but the first egg has been moved to the left since it was first laid on Sunday. It is likely before the clutch is complete that she will gather the eggs together into the scrape of choice in which she will incubate. This is a first time nesting attempt for Durand thus she has no actual experience going through this process. However, instinct is very strong and dictates what they do. More times than not things work out the way they should.

I think it will be interesting to see in which part of the nestbox she decides to incubate. Right now she seems to favor that back right corner. If I recall correctly, each year since the late 1990s when we 1st had the camera showing the nestbox no peregrines have ever used that back corner of the box to incubate. One reason may be that in previous years when there has been more than one scrape, prior to the nesting season (usually in late February) I have smoothed out the gravel and made one prominent scrape in the best viewing spot in front of the camera. In the past the nesting falcons have always taken to the scrape I made. This year I did not smooth the gravel as I described. Is this the explanation of why the falcons are using a different spot in the nestbox? Who knows! Regardless it is something interesting to ponder while we wait.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Egg #2!

Thanks to Lori for capturing this image of Egg #2! Laid just prior to 5:30 p.m., April 5, 2011.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Why Is The Egg Alone?

Many, many viewers were so happy to see the first egg for the 2011 Columbus nesting season. But now that the egg sits alone in the box I have received a few inquiries of concern so that helps me remember that now is a good time to review a bit of peregrine life history:

The normal clutch for peregrines is 4 eggs. Eggs are laid 2-3 days apart. Incubation does not begin until the last (or next to the last egg) is in the nest. In the meantime, egg(s) sit alone and remain in limbo. They can withstand a wide range of temperatures during this time.

The eggs do not begin to develop until they are consistently kept at the proper temperature.

Durand will usually be close by the nest during this egg-laying phase. The male is nearby also, but may not be seen as much as his main duty will be to provide food. He will hunt and either bring food to Durand at the nest ledge or they make the transfer of food away from the ledge either in mid air or at another perch on the Rhodes Tower or even at another building altogether. Hopefully, we will see egg #2 tomorrow or Wednesday!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

1st Egg for Durand!

The answer to my last post, "Will They or Won't They?" is they WILL! The first egg for Durand was in the nestbox this morning (Sunday, April 3rd):

Friday, April 01, 2011

Will They Or Won't They??!

As spring continues to roll in a popular question is if we will see eggs in Columbus this year.

Durand's actions over the past several days of spending a lot of time in and near the nestbox and scraping are all normal behaviors to indicate her body is gearing up for nesting. But will her hormones be at the level needed to actually produce an egg? And if so, will her eggs be fertile?

No one knows the answers to these questions and all we can do is wait and wonder.

Keep in mind there is plenty of time for egg laying. Last year the first egg in Columbus was not laid until April 8. While most falcon eggs in Ohio are produced in March and April, egg laying can stretch into May especially for second nesting attempts.

One final note, it is unlikely Durand would lay eggs elsewhere in the city. First, the nestbox at the Rhodes Tower provides the best conditions for a peregrine in downtown (gravel to scrape in, southern exposure). There are few-if any-other places downtown that would offer the same amenities to a peregrine considering nesting. And, since they stick tight to where their eggs are we can assume that as long as we are continuing to see her coming to the nest ledge it would indicate she doesn't have something going on anywhere else. So for now we all continue to wait and watch!