Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bonding Behavior

The past several days have seen frequent ledge and nestbox visits by both the male and female.  Many times Spark and Durand have been observed making a scrape in the gravel (Spark in the photo above).  This behavior is one way the falcons bond to the site to claim it as their territory as well as bond with each other.  It doesn't necessarily mean that they may attempt to nest yet this year, it simply is a way for them to reinforce their intent that this is their chosen site.  Of course it is always possible we could see another clutch of eggs this season but not probable.   

The Ohio Division of Wildlife does not have a permit from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to remove the eggs from the nest in order to determine why they did not hatch.  Therefore, the eggs will remain in the nestbox.  If they are still present later this summer when annual maintenance is scheduled they will be removed at that time.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

New Male Identified!

The new male in town was more cooperative today in terms of being able to read his legband.  It appears his left legband is 32/B which would make him "Spark" from last year's Terminal Tower nest in Cleveland!  Ironically, the adult male at that nest was "Boomer" hatched in 2008 in Columbus!  How exciting to have offspring of a Columbus-produced bird come back to the Capital City!

Here is a video of Spark shortly after one of his first flights last year in Cleveland.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Male ID, Status of the Eggs

We still have not gotten a good look at the leg bands of the new male.  Keep in mind Durand's color band on her left leg is all black with the code 32 X.  She also has a silver band on the right leg.  The new male has a purple band on the right leg and the color band on the left leg is black on top, red on the bottom.  This is the band we hope to read.

The two continue to interact...this morning Durand was in the nestbox vocalizing while the male sat on the ledge, moved to the nestbox camera housing then the roof of the nestbox.  Hopefully, he will continue to come to the ledge and eventually get close enough to one of the cameras that we can read the code on his leg band.

Even though at this point it is safe to say the eggs probably won't hatch, nonetheless, Durand continues to sometimes incubate, sometimes shade and at times the eggs are left completely alone.  This is a normal process as her body reacts to the change in the nesting cycle:  from incubation to unhatched eggs.  She might appear confused until her body catches up with the current status of the nest.  But as the days go on she will adjust and go into the summer maintenance mode of just being a falcon:  eat, sleep, fly, molt, interact with the male, etc.

I have also been asked if she might lay more eggs with the new male.  Well, anything is possible but I would have to say that isn't probable this late in the nesting season.  Time will tell for sure!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Lots of Changes!

What a week and it is only Tuesday!  There sure have been a lot of changes in a short amount of time.  Many people were tuning in yesterday expecting to see chicks but instead we have a new male in the territory!
Here's Durand on the ledge earlier this morning as she took time to preen.  It appears as she is losing interest in the eggs as most of yesterday afternoon and so far today she has not been incubating.  It is still possible for there to be a hatch, but as the hours tick away it becomes less likely.  For now it is too early to make that determination.

One of the frustrations of dealing with peregrines is when there is no closure on an individual.  It's too bad that we may never know exactly what became of the previous male.  Perhaps he did succumb to an injury from hitting a window as was suspected.  If he did, he must have unfortunately done so in an area where the remains were not noticed or found, otherwise it's likely I would have gotten notified.  Without physical proof we can only speculate but I would add it is unlikely he would just leave the area on his own when he had been so active in the nesting process.  I wouldn't think it would be easy for a young male to have run him out of town or run him into the window but it's always possible.  The presence of the new male definitely indicates the previous male is no longer in the territory.

I have gotten many questions about whether Durand could raise chicks on her own if the eggs do hatch.  It has been documented in other cities of a single falcon successfully raising a brood, albeit difficult to do.  These birds do cache prey, so every meal is not necessarily freshly caught.  In some situations supplemental food is provided, in other situations the chicks are fostered into other nests.  Still other situations a new mate in the territory will step up and provide immediately.  I don't want to get into more detail on these scenarios as there's a good chance we won't be dealing with that here but I did want to mention them briefly as several folks have raised the question to me.

So again--for now--we watch and wait to see what becomes of the eggs and for a chance to read leg bands on the new male.  If Durand does abandon the eggs we will retrieve them and check to see if they were fertile.

Monday, May 07, 2012

New Falcon in Town?! - Yes!!!

Here's an interesting video posted to YouTube that shows what appears to be a falcon flying past earlier today while Durand watches from the ledge.  (Note the fly-by takes place at 1:43; below is a saved photo from the video.)
Who would this mystery bird be?  There's a good chance it is not the resident male as it just doesn't make sense that it wouldn't land on the ledge and/or assist with incubation as he had been doing.  Durand's acceptance of this bird tells us it isn't a female as were that the case she would likely be airborne trying to chase the intruder out of town. 
Breaking News!  As I was typing this update the "new" bird made an appearance in the nestbox!!!  Here he is:
This falcon is in subadult plumage (brownish back, some streaking on the breast and legs still evident) which would mean he hatched last year.  I also noted a purple leg band on the right leg and what looks like a black over red band on the left leg.  Hopefully we will get a closer look at the codes and be able to confirm where he came from!

Waiting, Waiting and More Waiting

Evidently, storms Friday night somehow caused the LedgeCam computer to turn off so unfortunately all weekend we were without that view.  Thanks to all involved in helping to restore that image!  As you can see from the above photo, we still have eggs this morning.  Unfortunately, we also have not seen any sign of the male.

Durand continues to incubate in between frequent breaks from the eggs.  It is very hard to predict at this point what may happen.  Hatch could still occur--or it may not--but all we can do is watch and wait to see how this plays out.  So, for the patient folks out there watching, grab another cup of coffee.  If you are impatient, you might want to take a break from watching and check back in later!  More updates as information becomes available!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Male MIA??

Well, these birds have a way of always keeping us guessing!  As I mentioned in the last post, Durand has been the only one of the pair incubating recently.  As the week wore on there have been no sightings of the male, which is pretty unusual since he had been dutifully sharing in incubation up until last weekend.

We try and keep an open mind and realize that there is a whole lot of the downtown area that we can't see via the cameras and in many cases just because we don't see a falcon via the cams doesn't mean it isn't around.  However, late today I received a report of a peregrine hitting a window of a nearby building downtown.  The observer thought the strike occurred on this past Monday and reported that, after hitting the window, the falcon glided away.  There have been no sightings of the male via the camera since late last weekend.  So, the plot thickens.

The best case scenarios are either that the bird that hit the window was not one of the resident falcons and the male is just choosing to stay out of view of the cameras.  Or it was the resident male and he recovered from the strike and is just choosing to stay out of view of the cameras.

The worse case scenario is that the bird that hit the window was the resident male and even though he was observed gliding away, he later succumbed to the injury.  Unfortunately, without proof of his demise by having any physical remains this is just speculation.

I certainly don't want to jump to conclusions but as the days go by without seeing him suspicion definitely rises.  We continue to monitor the situation and updates will be posted as information is available.  One thing for sure, as I mentioned in this recent interview with NPR, whatever is happening at the nest--whether good, bad or indifferent--it's always interesting and gives us the opportunity to observe and learn what and how things happen in nature.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What to Expect With Hatch

Incubation in total takes around 33 days. We are in the final days before hatch, however, it is difficult to predict when the birds actually began setting full time so my best estimate is that hatch will occur on or around May 6. Keep in mind this is only a prediction and so could be off. Don't be surprised if hatch begins earlier and don't panic if hatch is late!

The eggs usually hatch over a couple of days' time. Here is what to watch for to help tell when hatch is close: A day or so prior to hatching the chicks will begin vocalizing from inside the egg and pecking to work their way out. The adult birds can hear the chirping and feel the vibration and so their behavior will change. While throughout the majority of incubation they have set tight on the eggs we can expect the incubating adult to become very restless. It will get up and look down at the eggs more often, settle back down, and be up looking again within a short time. 

For the past few days, incubation duty has only been done by Durand.  There have even been several times when the eggs were not covered for some time.  This could be a factor of the eggs being close to hatching and isn't necessarily abnormal as once the eggs develop to a certain point it is less critical for them to be covered tightly.  Also keep in mind that temperatures the past few days have been unseasonably warm in Columbus and we have had a lot of sun which creates a very warm environment on the ledge and in the nestbox.  Temps over the next several days are forecasted to continue to be much higher than usual for this time of the year so more than not, it will be important for the eggs to not overheat.

Hatching can happen any time of the day or night but we usually see the most hatching during daylight hours. The process will start with a pip--a small hole pecked through the shell from the inside by the chick using it's "egg tooth." It will take some time from pipping for the chick to actually come completely out of the shell.

Don't be surprised if you see Durand eating the egg shells. This is one way for her to replenish calcium in her body that was lost from her system when she produced the eggs initially. After hatching the chicks will need to be kept warm so Durand will brood the hatchlings. This may look similar to incubation but she will actually be sitting up higher and may hold her wings out from her body more than we see during incubation.

Even though Durand (and presumably the male) have not dealt with feeding chicks ever before, the feeding and brooding behaviors are instinctual and should kick in once the adults see that the eggs are now fuzzy white chicks with gaping mouths.  How to get food  into the chick might be an awkward process for the adults initially but as we've seen via the FalconCam with other first time nesters, things usually turn out just fine.

Exciting times are ahead assuming all is well and the eggs will hatch.  On the flip side, it is always possible that the eggs won't hatch.  We'll all wait and see together!