Friday, May 30, 2014

Nestling Report - 5th Week

Everything at the nest continues to progress well.  All three chicks have now made it to the upper ledge.  They've gotten quite coordinated in their walking and jumping abilities and their juvenile brown feathers are coming in more and more each day.
This morning, two took advantage of the sun to bask on the ledge:
It catches some folks off guard to see a bird of prey lying down.  But actually, peregrines are quite known for it!  As time goes by we'll likely see a better example of the chicks relaxing on the ledge but for now I've indicated in the photo above 2 of the 3 chicks lying flat (red arrows).  The yellow circled "blob" closer to the camera is actually part of a bird - leftover prey.
Fledging--the first flight--usually occurs around day 40 so we have almost another week before the oldest bird may fly.  We'll post next week on what to expect at fledging.  Between now and then expect more of the fluffy white down feathers to be replaced with the sleek brown feathers and a lot of flapping and exercising of the wings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chicks MIA??!! Not Really, Just Out of View

The buzz about the nest today is wondering where the chicks went.  Well, they actually haven't gone anywhere!  But rather they have spent most of this morning so far lounging on the lower ledge, out of view of the cameras.  The red arrow below points in the direction of about 20 feet of lower ledge that exists but is out of our view.  The chicks are simply exploring the length of the lower ledge and are fine.
When you do get a glimpse again though, be prepared to be surprised at the changes especially if you haven't tuned in for a couple of days.  The brown juvenile feathers are rapidly coming in, changing the appearance of the chicks quickly!  Here's a photo from Sunday of all three:
And another just for fun:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Great Day for Bling!

Yesterday's banding event went well. HUGE THANKS to our video team for filming and to Susie Vance, who gave the "Play by Play" of the banding process. Another BIG THANKS goes out to the students, parents, teachers and faculty of Griffith Thomas Elementary School for participating in the Falcon Naming Contest.
All three chicks (1 male and 2 females) looked great and very healthy!  Each received a USGS band on their right leg and a color band on their left leg.  Here are the details on the "bling:"
Dart (male) black/red:  38/D (USGS band is purple, yellow legs)
Blaze (female) black/red:  48/Z (USGS band is silver, yellow legs)
Hoshi (female) black/red:  31/Z (USGS band is silver, blue legs)

Besides the leg bands (which aren't always visible), included above is a note about the color of the legs of each chick to help tell them apart while they are still in the nest.  The leg color of the chicks can vary some by individual but when they mature, they will all have yellow legs.  Here they are, all lined up showing their bling:
New this year, we used a camera strapped to Donna to provide a different perspective of the banding.   Here is a link to a video of highlights.

After the event the chicks were returned safely to the nest and rested most of the rest of the afternoon.  The nestcam lens was cleaned and hopefully it will stay that way!

The unhatched egg was left in the nest as the Division of Wildlife does not have authorization from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to remove it.  If it is still present at the end of the summer when we do annual maintenance on the box, it will be removed at that time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Banding TUESDAY, 10 a.m.

Age and warm weather have the chicks--now 3 weeks old--spending more time out of the nestbox!  They have been exploring the lower ledge right around the nestbox.

Tuesday (May 20) is the "big day" when the chicks will be equipped with metal leg bands. We will live stream the event via the nestbox feed beginning about 10 a.m.  To try and offset the freezing up/jerkiness of the video that viewers have been seeing, we likely will disable the ledgecam video feed during the banding in order to only have one video streaming at a time. 

When we remove the chicks from the nest they will be given a brief examination for overall health. At that time it will be determined (based on size) if the chicks are male or female. As is true with most birds of prey, the females are larger than the males. So much so, that females actually require a larger size leg band than the males.

The chicks will receive a band on each leg. Even though the chicks still have some growing to do yet, at 3 weeks of age their legs are about the size they will be as an adult so bands can be safely put on the legs. Bands are lightweight and fit loosely much like a human would wear a bracelet. The right leg will be fitted with a USGS band which has a multi digit number (think of it like a social security number) unique to that falcon. This band is usually not able to be read unless the bird is in hand. That's why peregrines often also get a second leg band, called a "color band." This band will be put on the left leg and will be black on the top, red on the bottom. Color bands have only a few number/letter digits and allow for identifying the bird at a distance.

Banding is done for research purposes - because these bands will stay on the bird for life, they will help to identify this bird wherever it may be seen again. Leg band reports reveal information about bird migrations, survival and behaviors, and are a very important research tool. It is stressful to all involved (falcons and humans both!) when we remove the chicks from the nest but we take precautions to keep disturbance to a minimum and the event brief. In the big picture, a few minutes out of the chicks' day will contribute substantially to what we know about peregrines, as well as help to educate and increase awareness of all who are able to share the event with us either in person or online.  Hope you all can watch!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Names are In and More Milestones

Thanks again to ALL of the students at Griffith Thomas Elementary School in Dublin, who participated in the naming contest.  And thanks to our panel of wildlife enthusiasts who chose the finalists for the web poll.  And finally, THANKS to the 3,700+ votes that decided on three great names for this year's falcon chicks:  (drum roll, please...)
Hoshi (Japanese for star)

Seasoned viewers know this is about the point in the nesting cycle for two things to happen.  Firstly, the chicks defecate on the front of the camera lens!  That is why the nestbox view is so blurry today - it has been drenched with falcon feces!  Next week during the banding when we are out on the ledge we will clean it off but until then, expect a clouded view.  Hopefully, it won't get any worse between now and then.  Last year with only one chick in the nest we were fortunate that this didn't happen, however, with multiple chicks it was only a matter of time until one of them squirted in that direction. 
The second milestone is the chicks are walking about and venturing out of view of the cameras.  There are a few places in the nestbox they can waddle to that we cannot see their location via the camera.  They also have started to walk out onto the "porch" of the nestbox!  In the photo below you can see the white fluffy chick outside in front of the nestbox.  There is no danger of any of the chicks falling off of the ledge at this point though, because there is a several inch step up from the level of the nestbox to the actual ledge where the adults fly into and the chicks are unable to get up to that higher level.  For a review of the layout of the nestbox and ledge, please check back to this post from last year.
Banding is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 20 and will be live streamed on our website.  More information to come as details are finalized.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Remember To Vote!!!!

Haven't cast your vote yet?????     There is still time!  
The webpoll to name the Columbus Falcon Chick closes tomorrow at 8am.  
Please vote!!!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Web Poll Up- Vote to Name The Falcon Chicks!

Thanks again to the students at Griffith Thomas Elementary School in Dublin for hosting this year's naming contest for the Columbus chicks! Students from grades 1 through 5 submitted close to 600 names! A panel of wildlife partners and local media narrowed the names down to these 6 finalists:
HOSHI (Japanese for "star")
Voting will continue through 8 am on Tuesday, May 13th.
*Note:  Long time fans may remember Sonic was used in 2005 for a male chick.  Since that time we've had no sightings of Sonic and it has been over 5 years since the name was used.  According to our contest guidelines that name is eligible to be used again.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

We Have Mobility!

While its nestmates were chillin' out, one of the chicks decided to wander a bit!  It didn't stay away from the huddle for very long, but nonetheless this afternoon, the chick made its way to the west wall of the nest box and then back over with the others!   A combination of warmer temps in Columbus and that the chicks are growing and better able to regulate their own temperature means they won't need to be brooded as much by an adult. 

Meanwhile, we've gotten a few questions about the yellow feathers in the nest.  These feathers are from a prey item, likely a northern flicker, a type of woodpecker.  To look at a photo of a flicker at rest, one might not realize how much yellow they have on the wing and tail feathers.  But see one in flight and the yellow will definitely catch your eye!  A flicker could certainly be found in downtown especially where there are trees and grass (like at the statehouse), but more likely it probably encountered one of the peregrines as it was making its way across the Scioto River.  The riparian area so close to their nest provides a variety of bird life for the peregrines to choose from.

Monday, May 05, 2014

One Week Old

What a difference a week makes!  The chicks have really grown!  It is truly amazing how quickly they develop!  Now during feeding all the chicks are sitting up and actively reaching for food vs. opening their mouths and waiting for the adult to put food in.  At this point in time it is unlikely that the 4th egg will hatch.  Overall, Ohio has about a ~70% hatch rate so 3 out of 4 falls right in line with that statistic.  The last egg is still being kept within the group for now--at least as long as the chicks are staying together to be brooded.  As they continue to grow and will be brooded less that remaining egg will be cast aside and pretty much ignored.

Banding has been tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning, May 20.  As in past years we hope to live stream the event on our website - more information on that when the date is closer.

Besides the Columbus FalconCam being just plain interesting, it is also an important and effective teaching tool.  Each year since 1996 we have held a contest with a local school to name the Columbus falcon nestlings.  This year Griffith Thomas Elementary School in Dublin has the honor to host the contest.  One of the reasons for the contest is to encourage students to learn about wildlife conservation and biology. As they discover specific characteristics about peregrines, they use that knowledge to help them select a name that reflects the power, agility and majesty of this raptor. Other guidelines we require of the entries is that the name not be a human name, is not gender specific and has not been used in Columbus in the past 5 years. 

All of the submissions from the students will be reviewed by a panel of wildlife partners and representatives from the local media later this week.  That group will narrow the names down to six finalists and those selections will be put on a web poll on the Division of Wildlife's website so that every falcon fan out there has the chance to vote for the name they like.   We will post a link to the web poll when it goes up.

Finally, if you think the video stream has been jerky or freezing up, it isn't your imagination!  We have noticed that also and are troubleshooting!  Hopefully, we'll be into smoother operation soon!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Progressing Nicely

Both adults are doing an excellent job of caring for the clutch--Spark is providing food while Durand is doing most of the feeding and brooding.  There are currently still only 3 chicks hatched. While it is possible the 4th egg may still hatch, as more time passes the chances of having 4 chicks does decrease. But, only time will tell and we're certainly not ready to say another hatch won't happen. Stay tuned...

IF the final number of nestlings stays at 3, that's a good number and they will keep the adults busy. Some viewers have expressed concerns about whether or not all of the chicks are getting enough food. When a chick first hatches, while it can eat, it doesn't have to for a minimum of 24 hours because it continues to receive nourishment from the yolk sac. When the adult bird comes in to feed, very small pieces of food are given and not every chick is going to be fed "to capacity" at each feeding. This is one of the reasons they are fed several times a day.

Remember that all 3 of these chicks are different ages.  With different ages come different levels of abilities and development. To us 1 or 2 days doesn't seem like that much time but to a newly hatched chick it's a lot, especially when these birds develop at such the fast rate they do. A chick a few days younger won't be as coordinated and certainly won't have as much stamina to beg for food as its older nest mates.  But it also doesn't need as much food as the ones that are older. As they grow over the next few weeks this difference will become less noticeable.

Typically the hungriest chick will get most of the food. When that chick is satisfied and is resting (or passes out in a "food coma") another chick(s) will get the majority of the food for the remainder of the feeding or be first at the next feeding.  The chicks aren't always all hungry at the same time.
As long as all the chicks have their mouths open, the adult will fill it with food sooner or later!!