Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Fantastic Season Coming to a Close

We are coming to the close of the 2013 nesting season and what a great season it has been!  After a long drought in Columbus without a successful nest it was fun and exciting to finally get a glimpse into the entire reproductive cycle of peregrine falcons. 
As the season is coming to a close there will be less and less sightings of Zoom.  All reports that we have received indicate she is doing well and behaving normally.  Even a report of her hitting a window earlier this week was of only slight concern since she was observed flying up and away after the impact.   Late last week some falcon fans were downtown at street level and both reported hearing the screeching of a young peregrine at two different times of the day.  In both cases, when the person looked up, they saw 2 falcons flying.  We assume this would be Zoom with either Durand or Spark.  The screeching is Zoom expressing normal raptor adolescent behavior.  As she is getting older Durand and Spark are not feeding her as much and the vocalizing is her "complaining" about it (begging).  In general there will be many vocalizations as the three continue to interact.
On Monday (6/24) the below image was saved from the ledgecam.  The bird in the picture appears to be Zoom because an adult would show more definition in the lighter chest area.  Without that contrast on the front of the bird then we assume this bird is overall darker and so it is probably Zoom.
As the summer goes on Zoom will continue to develop her independence and perfect her hunting skills.  She will probably remain in the downtown area at least for several weeks but by the end of summer she will migrate out of the area, hopefully to survive and establish a nesting territory of her own.
As the nestbox activities come to an end so do our regular updates to the blog.  We will continue to monitor things for the rest of the summer and update when/if  something extraordinary occurs and certainly later this year when the nestbox is cleaned out.  As in previous years, the cameras will remain on even in the "off season."  A BIG THANKS to everyone for watching this season and supporting the ODNR Division of Wildlife's peregrine program!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zooming In For A Visit

It sounds like Zoom stopped by the ledge for a brief visit yesterday afternoon (June 18th).  Thanks to a fan for providing a picture of Zoom showing us her leg bands.
Thanks to another fan who posted a different confirmed visit on You Tube yesterday.
While Zoom is not visible in this video, the vocalizations that you hear are unmistakably that of a juvenile peregrine.
The visits have been few and far between for this young falcon, but they definitely indicate that she is doing great.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Falcon ID 101

Firstly, I apologize for not posting before now but there were problems with the blogspot website that would not allow me to log in all day today and Friday just got too busy to get this all down.
There still have been no reports of Zoom, and, while fans might be disappointed with that we do consider it a good sign and continue to assume all is well. It is very possible we may never see her again at the ledge. In some cases fledglings may show back up briefly or hang out at the ledge for awhile; in many other cases they do not return.
Some have sent in photos of Durand in the box thinking it was Zoom so I thought I would take this opportunity to cover some of the finer points of peregrine identification so if/when Zoom does show back at the ledge she will be identified quickly and easily by all.
When a peregrine leaves the nest it is pretty much full adult size, so plumage is the best way to determine a juvenile from an adult. In general, adults have a blue/gray head and back with a very light, creamy colored chest with horizontal barring on the belly and on the feathers on their legs. Juveniles have a brown head and back and have vertical streaking on their front and legs.  Also note the streaking is from the throat down.  And, check out the “cere.” This is the upper part of the beak closest to the eyes where the nostril (or more technically “nares” are located). The cere on an adult is yellow and on a juvenile falcon it is blue. Here is a spliced photo of Durand on the left and Zoom on the right to compare:
Also, if you happen to see one or both leg bands that should help you tell one from another. Here are the codes and color combinations of the three birds:
Durand: silver band on the right leg, left leg: black over black band 32/X
Spark: purple band on the right leg, left leg:  black over red band 32/B
Zoom: silver band on the right leg, left leg: black over red band 51/Z
If you still have trouble with ID, don't worry about it so much.  It can take awhile to train one's eye to the details I've described.  The easiest thing for me has been to focus on the blue/gray vs. brown back and the horizontal barring vs. vertical streaking on the front.  Unfortunately going into the "off season" there won't be that much activity on the cams to give us much practice but there is always next year!!  Another way to practice would be to search the web for peregrine images and try your hand (er, eye!!!) at identifying adults from juveniles.  Have fun! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Zoom Update

THANK YOU to the dozens and dozens of notes sent in about Zoom's fledge last Friday.  I regret because of the volume I won't be able to respond to each one individually, but I will take this opportunity to express my appreciation for every one's enthusiasm and assistance!  We truly support your interest and support in the Division of Wildlife's peregrine falcon project, specifically in watching the Columbus nest!!! 

Here's a recap of fledging events:
Friday, 6/7 about 6:25 a.m. Zoom fledged. 
Friday, 6/7 mid-afternoon she was spied sitting on the Rhodes Tower on the ledge directly to the east of the nest ledge.
Friday, 6/7 by 4:30 Zoom flew back to the nest ledge and remained there the rest of the evening (Note:  I did receive several reports of her being in the nestbox mid afternoon however, that was actually Durand in the nestbox, not Zoom.)
Saturday, 6/8 about 6:25 a.m. Zoom took flight again
Sunday, 6/9 about 3 p.m. Zoom was spotted on the roof of the Rhodes Tower:
Thanks to Mary for sharing the photos!!!
As of this morning, Zoom's whereabouts are unknown.  I'm surprised that she has shown herself as much as she has.  Usually when the young fledge, finding them downtown is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Zoom has shown tremendous flight ability already so I won't be surprised if we see her again.  In the coming days she will be honing her flight skills and learning to hunt for herself.  Durand and Spark will still provide her food to a point but I have a feeling she will be totally independent of them sooner than later.  She will likely remain in the downtown area for several weeks but by later in the summer, will migrate out of the area to hopefully survive and establish a nesting territory of her own.

Meanwhile, Durand and Spark will likely stay in the downtown area all year.  We can expect to see them checking in at the nestbox and even scraping in the gravel.  This behavior is normal and is part of the way they continue their bond with each other and with the nesting site.  The nestbox will be cleaned out in the off season.

Zoom seems to be doing great and we hope this trend continues.  Further updates as information becomes available.  And if we get no further information, remember that no news is good news!!!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

On The Wing....Again!!

As reported yesterday, Zoom took her first flight 6/7/13.  Whether the first flight resulted in her landing on the next ledge over on the Rhodes Tower or she made her way back there at some point during the day, we don't know.  But by the end of the day she was back at the nest ledge!  For those who have been watching this site over the years you know that the nature of the Rhodes Tower being so tall and without many other places to perch and all the nearby buildings being so much lower, it rarely (if ever??) happens that when a falcon fledges it comes back to the nest ledge so quickly.  For whatever reason, it happened this time either by luck or circumstance but we (and I know a bunch of fans) were glad to get another look at her and see her doing well.  Here she is with Durand in the nestbox last evening:
Then, as they do, she took flight again this morning about 6:25!  This time we have documentation of a calculated liftoff!  This is what we like to see!  This is a good, strong departure and shows determination in this bird.  Now, this doesn't guarantee she won't get into trouble--remember what I've written about how a fledgling has to learn how to properly use the tools they have to steer and maneuver and especially land.  And then hone their skills and learn to hunt successfully.  But I will say so far so good!!  Good Luck Zoom!!!!!

Friday, June 07, 2013

More Info on Fledging

Thanks to everyone sending in comments and the folks downtown checking from the ground and nearby buildings.  In terms of when, Zoom may have gone off the ledge accidentally while flapping/hopping about this morning about 6:25.  In terms of where, she may be still on the Rhodes Tower on the next ledge over to the east from the nest ledge.  I've gotten a couple of reports of a brownish falcon sitting there for at least the past couple of hours.  If she is one ledge over that is great news that 1) she is still high up and 2) she's in familiar territory as each of the ledges on the Rhodes Tower are laid out in a similar fashion.  [If her surroundings are familiar perhaps she will be content to stay put for another day or two.]  The nest is on the south side of the building as shown here:
Many times when they fall off the ledge they actually lose altitude before they are able to right themselves and start flapping.  Usually a young bird in this situation will flutter to the ground or to a lower spot on a nearby building.  If she did happen to go off the ledge accidentally this morning and is still that high on the building, that is certainly encouraging news regarding her ability to flap/fly!

Information flow will slow down dramatically over the weekend, therefore, I don't anticipate another update until Monday unless something extraordinary occurs.  Thanks for every ones help in monitoring, whether you are watching online or on the street!   I certainly appreciate all of the extra eyes out there!

Edit at 4:49 p.m., Zoom is on the nestledge!  And as I write this, in the nestbox picking around in the gravel, now back on the ledge, vocalizing.  She is keeping us guessing!!!


So far today, no sign of Zoom on the ledge...she likely has fledged!  There was a confirmed feeding on the ledge last evening, but nothing so far today, that I am aware of.  In fact, there have been few sightings of the adults on the ledge at all today, another good indicator she has flown.  One of the adults did bring in a prey item about 11 a.m. but no sign of Zoom and they left pretty quickly with it. 

Assuming she did fly, unfortunately it seems no one witnessed it so we don't know if it was last evening or this morning or even how it came about (calculated liftoff or a slip!).  If anyone has any saved video or still images or eyewitness accounts, feel free to email them to or via the ODNR contact page and they will be forwarded to me.  Perhaps someone out there saw something that will help us fill in the blanks.

Weather in Columbus today, like yesterday, is cool, damp and very overcast - not good flying conditions, especially for a newbie.  I'd assume where ever Zoom ended up she will probably stay put for a bit not only from the shock of now being somewhere different from what she's known up until this point, but also due to inexperience and the poor conditions for flight.  As is typical in any fledge situation, she'll get hungry and beg for food.  Spark and Durand will be able to find her this way (if they don't already know where she is) and will continue to feed her.  Anyone downtown interested in watching should listen for the begging calls and watch for where the adults are flying to.

Fledge is always bittersweet.  On one hand it's a wonderful success and amazing that an egg can produce a chick that grows into a nestling that's ready to fly in 6 weeks!  On the other hand, lots and lots of people have enjoyed watching her grow (some watching daily) and now the nest is empty and the ledge quiet.  Besides the emptiness of the ledge there is also the concern that she is doing OK.  I would urge everyone to embrace this moment and assume the best!!  This is what falcons do--and have been doing successfully for eons!  It's a part of the natural progression of life as they know it.

From my perspective:   I have been monitoring this site and interacting with fans from all over the world for longer than I will admit at the moment.  For some reason, this year's nest seems to have reached and affected more people than I recall in past seasons.  I'm going to guess it's because of there being only one chick - folks tuning in really focused on the one individual (vs. keeping track of 2 or 3 or 4 chicks).  Over the past several weeks I have gotten a ton of thank you emails for the opportunity to watch the nest and for the information on the blog and will say again to those that wrote in (and to everyone who hasn't but was thinking the same) you are very welcome!  It's a pleasure to share this experience with you and to help you understand it better.

Unless we hear otherwise, we will assume Zoom is fine.  I know folks downtown will let me know if they see her.  And I really hope that within a few days she masters her skills and makes it back to the nest ledge so we all can see that she is doing well.  In the meantime, here's a video of one of her practice runs from yesterday.

Monday, June 03, 2013

5 Weeks, Fledging Soon...

Zoom continues to look more and more officially like a peregrine falcon - juvenile brown plumage continues to come in and the white, fluffy down characteristic of a nestling is becoming less and less.  She has been exploring the ledge including many places out of view of the camera causing several viewers to think something is wrong.  If you can't see her, please don't panic!  Nothing is necessarily wrong, she has a lot of places she can be that we can't see via the cameras!

Another milestone this weekend is that she has started to feed herself, grabbing prey from the adults when they bring it to the ledge.  Even the unhatched eggs have recently come in handy--she's been using them to practice her foot grab-technique!  Also top on her daily "to-do" list is lots of flapping and running up and down the ledge.  All of these activities are helping her to strengthen her muscles and hone the skills she will need when she is on the wing.

Speaking of on the wing and off the ledge, fledging usually occurs around day 40, however, females generally fledge later than males.  Will Zoom being an only chick mean she'll go sooner vs. later?  Hard to tell.  We'll find out by watching!

Fledging is expected to occur between June 5-12th.  I generally get a lot of questions at this stage in the nesting cycle about whether or not it is hard for a young falcon to fly for the first time.  Actually, flying is not the difficult part!  Flapping--as we see by the practice flaps--comes very natural to these birds.  The tricky part for a young falcon is learning how to use the tools it has - how to steer, how to turn, how to gain altitude or lose it, and how to land.  They have to figure out what is good to land on, how to land and what to avoid.  What can be particularly confusing is reflective windows in the downtown area.  What looks like sky sometimes can turn out to be a solid surface and more than one fledgling falcon in history has learned that lesson the hard way!  Given the obstacles and the inexperience it is normal to expect rough flights and rough landings initially.  This is how they learn.  Luckily, many in the downtown area are familiar with the peregrines nesting there so if she does happen to wind up on the ground or other predicament, we should find out fairly soon where she is and what's going on and can make a judgement on whether she needs help or not.  And best of all, with no other nest mates, Zoom has both Durand and Spark's undivided attention to continue to feed her after she leaves the ledge.

Hopefully...her first flight will be a calculated liftoff of the ledge by her choice and NOT from being blown by wind, lunging for food or otherwise losing her balance.  And, hopefully, when she does fly she will learn how to make it back to the nest ledge so we can continue to monitor her progress in the days and weeks after her first flight.  More updates on fledging as soon as we know anything!