Tuesday, April 30, 2013

2 Days Old!!

Things are progressing very well for the 2-day old chick.  As with human newborns, new hatchlings really don't have much to do other than eat, sleep and poop.  While it is possible another egg may still hatch, as more and more time goes by it looks like this chick might end up as an only nestling.  But, only time will tell and I'm not ready yet to say another hatch won't happen.

Durand is figuring out the feeding process as shown in this video from midday today.  It can be frustrating to watch...but the chick does get food finally!  Spark is doing a great job of providing food and earlier this morning I witnessed him stash a prey item right next to the ledge camera.  Caching is a habit of these birds so that when they aren't successful at a kill, they still have food available as a backup.

Now that different activities are going on in the nest it has a lot of people thinking and wondering--and worrying about some things.  I will attempt to touch on some of the issues folks have been mentioning:

Chick seems lethargic:  as stated above, there is not much for a new hatchling to do.  Sitting up and begging for food can be exhausting for this little critter so when it isn't feeding time chances are for the first week or so the only thing the nestling will be doing is lying around.
Chick and/or eggs falling out of the nestbox:    The nestbox actually sets down in a recessed area of the ledge--the lower part of the ledge is several inches below the actual ledge that connects to the edge of just air and space.  Although viewers can't see it very well, there is a platform immediately in front of the nestbox at the same level as the nestbox itself, so it is virtually impossible for eggs to roll--or the chick to fall--out of the box into danger.
Durand panting/sun:  it's a warm week in Columbus and with the nestbox facing south, the temperature in the box can get several degrees warmer than the ambient temperature especially on sunny days.  Therefore, the chick doesn't always need to be brooded tightly.  And, just like a dog, a falcon cools itself by panting.  When Durand is panting, she is actually keeping cool and all is well--she is not overheating.

Keep in mind this nestbox in this location has raised many fledglings over the past 2 decades.  The combination of southern exposure of the ledge, nestbox and gravel is the right combination to attract peregrines year after year resulting in many successful nesting attempts and fledgings.  I hope this information helps put viewers with questions and concerns at ease and we all can just sit back and enjoy the show!

Monday, April 29, 2013

One Down, Three to Go?

To quote an excited DNR co-worker this morning, "It's a boy!  It's a girl!  Who cares it's a falcon!"  That's the sentiment of many, having watched Durand incubate clutches the last two years with no hatch.  So, perhaps the 3rd time is a charm for Durand?!

As of this writing we are still at only one chick and that chick appears to be doing well.  Anxious fans have watched three attempts at feeding today (here's a video of the 2nd), with each time the chick getting nothing.  While this can be quite stressful for us to watch, keep in mind that the chick actually doesn't need to eat for the first day or so as it is still receiving nourishment from the yolk sac.  Instinct tells it to beg for food but it really doesn't need to eat at first.  As for why the adults aren't feeding - that is the learning curve for first time nesters.  This is both Durand and Spark's first time tending young so they need to learn how to get the food to the chick.  Sometimes it takes a few (or more) attempts for them to get the process down. 

Another question is what happens to the eggshells?  Usually, the female will consume the eggshells after the chick hatches.  This helps her to replenish calcium her body used to produce the shell initially.  And, it helps to keep the nest area tidy.  Stay tuned...we hope to see another chick soon!

A Chick!!!!

It's official!!!  As of this morning one egg has hatched!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

At the End of the Day, Still 4 Eggs

There have been a lot of vocalizations from inside the egg(s) today but by sundown there was no hatch.  However, if you look closely there appears to be a prominent hole in the egg closest to the front!  There's a good chance this egg will hatch sometime during the night (day or night is all the same when you're inside of an egg...!).  

The gravel is dark with wetness throughout the box in this photo except immediately around the eggs because of a heavy rainstorm that rolled through the downtown area about 7 p.m.  Heavy rain pelted the ledge including inside the nestbox--which is usually pretty protected from precipitation.  Spark was on the eggs at the time doing a great job at keeping them dry.

Signs of Hatching...?!

Things are looking promising...yesterday, Durand was very restless on the eggs and this morning we are hearing chirping coming from the egg(s)!  Check out this video of Spark on the eggs and along with the city noises and him rustling in the gravel you can hear faint chirping!  A rainy morning in Columbus has soaked the birds and they are keeping the eggs covered so it might be difficult to see an actual hatch. 

Thanks to all of the fans out there closely watching and posting videos like this that can be shared with all.

Friday, April 26, 2013

No Sign of Hatching...yet

According to the calendar we should be getting close to hatching.  So far though, no signs.  I will continue to monitor the site closely today and through the weekend and will provide updates over the weekend if/when something occurs.

What we would expect is the incubating adult to become more restless on the eggs.  As the chicks inside begin to peck their way out they sometimes will also chirp.  The adults can feel the movement and hear the vocalizations.  So, while for the past several weeks the incubating adult has stayed relatively still and tight on the eggs, as hatching becomes imminent we should see the adult more restless including getting up and standing over the eggs and looking down at the eggs more.  At this late stage in development, the eggs can also be completely uncovered for longer periods of time without detrimental effects.

After infertile eggs the past 2 seasons we are all hoping for a hatch this year!  But as anything can (or not) happen, as the old saying implies, we definitely shouldn't count our falcons before they're hatched!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just Keep Waiting, Just Keep Waiting, Waiting, Waiting.....

This is as bad a waiting on Christmas....waiting, watching, waiting, watching.
Hopefully within the next week and half, we will start to see a change in Durand and Spark's behavior to indicate that a hatch will occur soon. 
A day or so prior to hatching the chicks will begin vocalizing and pecking from inside the eggs.  The adults can hear the chirping and feel the vibrations, this causes their behavior to change.  The adults may appear restless, getting up and looking down at the eggs, settling back down, then getting up again a short time later. 

Based on when the last egg was laid we estimate hatching could start around Saturday April 27th.  Just like with gestation in humans, incubation in birds is not an exact science.  Don't be surprised if  hatching begins a day or so early and please don't panic if the hatch starts a little later.

On an unrelated note, a viewer asked a question about the white covering that comes over the falcon's eyes when it goes to sleep.  This is most likely just the birds eyelid.  But most animals have a nicitiating membrane that protects their eyes (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have this feature, it's rare in primates).  The nictitating membrane is a transparent or translucent third eyelid that is drawn across the eye for protection and to moisten the eye while maintaining visibility.  In birds of prey this membrane helps to protect the parents' eyes from hungry chicks while feeding them.  The nicitiating membrane is particularly useful for peregrine falcons when they are in a 200 mile/hour dive.  Blinking their third eyelid repeatedly clears away debris and moistens their eyes in flight.
Thanks for the great question.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Incubation Going Well!

Incubation of the 4 eggs in the nest is going very well and we expect hatching to begin on or about April 27th.  It is typical for the female to handle most of the incubation duty while the main job of the male during this phase is to provide food for Durand and to incubate while she takes a rest from the eggs to eat.  However, there have been several times (mornings especially) where he is the one on the eggs for a few hours in a row.  Even in this, his first nesting attempt, he seems to have excellent instincts and is doing a rather good job of incubating AND providing food!

Who's Who?  Because of their similar appearance it can be quite challenging to tell which falcon is on the eggs.  I've worked up a diagram to help take some of the mystery out of distinguishing the male from the female.  I saved two photos in similar light with the birds in a similar position and pointed out differences.  Some of the differences are pretty subtle but the more you watch, the more you should get to know one from the other.