Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blaze Grounded Again

It has been an exciting day! Just when we were hoping that all of the young falcons had earned their pilots licenses we learn that one may need to take some remedial training...  Here's the scoop:

We received a call this morning that one of the fledglings was located in a parking lot behind the Rhodes Tower. Upon arrival we learned it was Blaze that needed assistance...again.  Here is the story as reported in The Columbus Dispatch
KUDOS!! to Betty for recognizing this as a falcon situation that needed to be reported, AND taking the time to call us AND remaining on the scene to keep the falcon safe from harm until we were able to get there.
As was was alluded to in other posts, the first thing we do when we get a peregrine in hand is to check it for injury.  Signs we look for include drooping wing(s), bleeding, feathers missing or out of place, bruising or scrapes on elbows and/or the cere (where the beak meets the head, akin to our nose).  These injury indicators are obvious.  But some times an injury can be internal and subtle and requires the use of x-rays to properly diagnose.  Again today, Blaze did not appear to be injured but since this was her third rescue, it was decided that she needed to be transported to a wildlife rehabilitator for further evaluation.  We will provide updates of her condition/prognosis as information becomes available.

Meanwhile, an update on the other nest mates...
Hoshi seems to be doing very well and has returned to the nest ledge on several occasions.  Most recently, she was confirmed visiting the ledge late Sunday afternoon, June 22.
There have been no sightings or reports of Dart, so we assume all is well.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blaze Gets High With a Little Help From Her Friends

Well, it seems we are not finished with the rescue calls just yet.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was working an event downtown with fellow Division of Wildlife staff when the Franklin County Wildlife Officer, Brad Kiger received a call. The report came in that a banded bird was on the ground in a parking garage near Front and State Streets.  From the band description it was definitely one of the juvenile falcons.  Upon arrival, Blaze was perched under a railing inside the garage.  She didn't appear to have any injuries. At this age, young falcons don't know the "equipment" (talons, beak, wings, etc.) they have and aren't skilled in getting away quickly.  So most times they aren't difficult to capture--and today was no exception.  Once we had her in hand and checked her out (no apparent injuries, scrapes or bruises) we decided to put her back out on the nest ledge.

Parking garages can be tricky for wildlife to navigate.  If you think about it, they are like a dark maze with no cheese at the end.  It is possible Blaze was chasing prey and mistakenly followed it into the garage or perhaps she just took a wrong turn in general.  At any rate, this "Trouble" bird got a second trip back to "Start."

A Big Thanks to the garage attendants who knew enough to contact us when they first noticed Blaze in the garage.  And thanks to our wildlife officers who make it a priority to assist wildlife management in peregrine falcon rescue situations.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Dreaded Empty Ledge Syndrome

As was reported last time, this fledge season has been an exciting one.  Viewers on the ground and the web have been able to witness fledglings come back to the nest on their own which doesn't always happen.  It isn't a guarantee that a fledgling will come back to the nest ledge because the building is so tall, but it is always exciting when they do and we believe it indicates a good, strong falcon that has command of their flight ability.  In particular, it seems Hoshi has mastered the trip back multiple times already! 

Besides fledglings making it back to the ledge on their own, the ledge has also remained busy with our relocations of Dart on Monday and Blaze on Wednesday.  But now the ledge is empty once again, as this morning just after 8 a.m. Blaze flew.   One of the reasons for the cams is to provide the opportunity for the world to watch these birds grow up...and that is exactly what they do--grow up.  And part of that development is they mature to the point that they fly away.  Great news for the peregrines but with that goes the opportunity to watch them on a daily basis and I know from the many emails that I get some viewers have a harder time than others with that bittersweet "empty ledge syndrome."

So...what's next?  Away from the ledge, the juvenile falcons will spend the coming days and weeks perfecting their flying and hunting skills.  Hopefully, we'll see them check back in at the nest ledge and if so, we can confirm individuals by reading the leg bands.   As time goes by and they gain their independence, they will venture farther and farther away from the Rhodes Tower.  They will likely stay in the downtown region until later this summer when they will leave the area to hopefully, survive and establish a nesting territory of their own elsewhere.  

Now that all of the juveniles are flying, it will be impossible to track each bird on a daily basis.  Unless we hear otherwise, we will assume the falcons are doing well.  We will scale back on updates here except for especially notable reports. 

We sincerely thank all of the viewers for making the Columbus FalconCam one of the most popular peregrine sites out there! And we thank each and every one of the over 31,000 people from over 50 countries who have read this blog so far this season! We truly appreciate every one's interest in and support of the ODNR, Division of Wildlife's Columbus Peregrine Falcon Project.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Boost Up for Blaze

Got a call this afternoon from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  They observed a falcon on a bench on the Statehouse grounds.  By the time we got there, the falcon (Blaze) had made its way to the Statehouse steps (west side).  Other than a little stress, it appeared ok so we observed it for a bit.  While she might have been ok to get back airborne from this location, being that it was late in the day we decided to attempt capture after she hopped up into a windowsill.  Once we had her in hand and checked her out (no apparent injuries, scrapes or bruises) we decided to put her back out on the nest ledge.

When we got to the nest ledge, we were surprised to see another juvie (Hoshi) already on the ledge eating.  Since that falcon was preoccupied with its prey, we put Blaze out quickly.  As of this writing they both remain on the ledge.

Shortly after midday, a couple of folks working on the 36th floor of the Huntington Center called and sent photos of a juvenile falcon resting on their window ledge.  We believe this bird was Hoshi and we greatly appreciate that report. 

There have been several reports of Dart in various places today, all in the vicinity of Broad and High.  It has certainly been an exciting week for falcon watching in Columbus!

Fledgling Update-Hoshi Returned to the Ledge

We've been fortunate this year that so far after fledging we have had several sightings of the young falcons mainly due to the fact they've been in conspicuous places and certainly thanks to many folks watching downtown.  I've had a number of emails and calls reporting the locations of the fledglings and I appreciate those helping to keep tabs on these youngsters.  Yesterday's rainy weather kept all of the fledglings in the same place most of the day:
Dart (38/D) stayed on the nest ledge
Blaze (48/Z) remained on the Statehouse
Hoshi (31/Z) was spotted on the roof of the Huntington Center (Thanks to Mike Horn for the photo!  While we can't definitively confirm the identification of this individual since the leg bands are not readable, the confirmation of the other 2 fledglings at the same time elsewhere and the flapping behavior of this bird indicate it is likely a young bird and therefore Hoshi):
Then, last evening just prior to 8 pm, viewers were excited to see that Hoshi returned to the nest ledge!!!  Her leg bands were confirmed via the ledgecam.  After a brief visit to the ledge she again flew off.   Here's a video--her "dismount" is at about 1:18 in.

As of this morning the nest ledge appears to be empty therefore, Dart must have flown but so far we have no reports of when or where he might be now.  As I was writing this I watched one of the adults bring in food but no takers so it is safe to assume the nest ledge is vacant again as of this morning.

Every year I get asked about how hard is it for these young birds to take their first flights.  In reality, flying is not the difficult part for a young bird.  As we've all watched these birds grow and develop via the cameras, it isn't hard to notice how flapping came naturally for them, and in the video of Dart's first flight off the ledge the instinct to fly is obvious.  What is difficult about the process of fledging comes after the initial launch into the air - these falcons have the tools to fly (feathers, wings, tail and instinct to flap,) so the act of flying isn't hard.  The tricky part is for them to learn to use those tools, refining their skills of steering, gaining and losing altitude and also landing.  And not just learning how to land, but learning what is easy to land on and what isn't easy to land on.  Further, reflective windows and antennas are some of the hazards these birds encounter in an urban environment.  So the next several days will be the real test for the fledglings as they work on their basic flying skills.  During this process we expect there may be window strikes, rough landings and a falcon may end up in an odd place and/or even be injured.  That is just a normal part of this stage in their lives.  Hopefully, they will all master flight well and quickly and then they can work on learning to hunt for themselves.  The adults will continue to watch over them and  provide food at least for several days as needed.

We still encourage observations to be reported, especially when leg bands can be read, to help us confirm how they are doing. 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Fledgling Update-Busy Monday So Far

Got a call this morning from some folks at the Huntington Center.  Reportedly, one of the fledglings was sighted on a building near there yesterday.  This morning's call was of a peregrine down in their parking garage unable to fly.  The folks down there were great and contained the bird exactly as I requested until I could get on the scene (Thanks, you guys!).   Turns out it was Dart (38/D) and he checked out fine so back up to the nest ledge we took him! Hoping he hangs out there for a bit to rest before venturing out again. Thanks also to Ray Cuellar, Wildlife Area Technician from Deer Creek Wildlife Area, who just happened to here at my office and was able to assist! 
After I returned to my office I found out that Blaze (48/Z) was observed on that Statehouse this morning.  Thanks to Mike Horn for great photos!  I chose this one to post because it shows the bird preening - a great sign that she is probably ok - relaxed enough to do what peregrines do.  Thanks for all the extra eyes downtown!
No further reports on Hoshi...whether she is still on the Rhodes Tower where we released her Friday or not.  The ledge is so high there really isn't a good vantage point to check.  Until we hear otherwise we always assume no news is good news!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Blaze Fledges

The final chick, Blaze, reportedly left the nest ledge this morning about 6 a.m.  The observation indicated it was a purposeful departure and not a slip off the ledge, which is great.  So far no reports of any of the fledglings but that will probably change tomorrow when the work week begins and there are more people downtown watching.  Today in Columbus it is a bit cool and rainy so hopefully, all of the chicks are sitting high somewhere and stay put until the weather improves. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Dart Fledges!

Dart (leg bands are:  black/red-38/D, USGS band is purple) fledged this morning at 7:04 a.m.  Here is a great video of his takeoff!  This type of calculated departure is what we like to see.  Good luck to Dart!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Hoshi Update (again!)

Hoshi (31/2) attempted flight sometime yesterday and was recovered from the ground last evening.  This morning she checked out ok so the decision was made to put her back up on the Rhodes Tower.  We decided to not take the chance of putting her out on the nest ledge because that disturbance could potentially startle the remaining nestlings off of the ledge and we didn't want to cause a premature fledge.  Luckily, there is access to the farthest ledge to the west and we chose to put her there:
The adults were nearby and quickly caught on that something was up from the minute I first peeked out the access door to see if the location would be suitable for release.  Since that ledge is so close to the nest ledge, they were very interested in our actions, even though they could barely see us through the vents in the building.  (Interestingly, by the time I got back to my office I had several emails from folks downtown who had noticed the adult falcons were in a frenzy!)  Here are a couple of photos:

During the entire ordeal, Hoshi was quite calm and once outside on the ledge she started begging from the adults right away.  Durand and Spark made several fly-by's and landings on the ledge but since they were more concerned with us than Hoshi we retreated so they would calm down.  Here's an amazing photo that our intern, Angie, was able to take through the building louvers with her phone:
Hopefully, since Hoshi is now in surroundings very similar to her nest ledge she will stay put for a few days and gain more strength before attempting flight.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Count Remains Fledgling-1, Nestlings-2

Nothing much new to report today (so far).  At least as of this writing, Dart and Blaze continue to seem content to remain nestlings (vs. officially becoming fledglings when they finally fly).
I'm hearing that Hoshi is attracting a lot of attention at her current location on the 4th floor of the Rhodes Tower.  It's great that folks are keeping tabs on her (feel free to email reports) but I would also like to caution folks from getting too close.  As I mentioned yesterday, both adults are keeping an eye on her but we need to be careful to not get too close and/or do anything out of the ordinary that might distract them away from their primary job of concentrating on their 3 chicks.  Even though Hoshi is 4 floors up, activity on the ground or on adjacent buildings has the potential to affect the adults (and Hoshi, too).

Granted there are many, many people coming and going through the alleys and sidewalks downtown every day.   And, the falcons are used to this.  But when a person/persons shows up on a nearby roof where people usually are not and/or is not just simply passing by below and instead stops and watches with binocs and/or camera, the falcons (especially the adults) know the difference and can get suspicious.  This kind of disturbance has the potential to distract Durand and Spark from just keeping watch on Hoshi or dropping food and instead preoccupy them with watching the people who are watching them.  So, for those venturing downtown to catch a glimpse, please be aware of how your actions or location might be affecting the falcons.  If the birds seem to be reacting to your presence, back off a little or try a different location. 

I witnessed this first hand yesterday.  During the time I was downtown checking on Hoshi, I saw Durand's behavior being suspicious towards me.  I was even inside the building like any other worker but the difference was I stopped in one spot looking at them vs. just walking down the hallway past the window.  I was focused on them and she was well aware of that - she kept her eye on me as well as Hoshi. 

We certainly appreciate all the extra eyes and everyone who is interested but we also don't want to cause a disturbance to either the birds or the businesses downtown.  Thanks for your cooperation!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Hoshi Report!

We have confirmed Hoshi's location and she is OK!  Many thanks to Patrick, a worker in the Rhodes Tower, who called me with the report.

This morning he noticed a falcon on a gravel ledge area on the 4th floor of the Rhodes Tower (northeast corner of the building).  I was able to get on-site and confirm it was Hoshi.  Here is a view of the Rhodes Tower from the alley on the north side of the building showing the area where she was spotted.
When I arrived, she was chowing down on a pigeon.  Durand (and later Spark) kept a close eye on her, flying by and even perching on the ledge and nearby buildings. 

The good news:  all appears well with her.  She showed no signs of any injury due to a rough landing (so we'll assume she got where she did without a major mishap).  She was eating well and appeared alert and healthy.  The gravel ledge is surrounded by a granite wall, about 3 feet high.  I was hoping that she couldn't make it up to top of the wall on the perimeter of the ledge so we might expect her to stay there for a few days but while I was there, she did indeed fly to the top of the wall, albeit it took her a few tries due to her lack of muscle power.

The only less than great news here is she does need a bit longer to develop her strength so if she does decide to attempt to fly from this location, it probably won't be a strong flight.  She is relatively low to the ground though (4th floor) and probably would make a controlled glide to the ground.  In that scenario we'll just have to wait for her to turn up in the next place and evaluate from there.  The best case scenario she stays where she is for a few days, has food delivered by the adults and continues to tune up those flight muscles!  There are several low and medium-height buildings near that she can easily fly to when she is ready to help her learn navigation and regain altitude.
No change with Dart and Blaze--they are still on the nest ledge, working on their flight muscles!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Nestling Update

No word on Hoshi today so we will assume "no news is good news."  It is very likely wherever she is, she is content to stay and the adults are feeding her at that location.  Actually, since she fledged several days sooner than she probably should have, it's the best thing if she does stay put for a few days and continues to develop more strength before attempting true flight.   The details of her departure from the ledge yesterday morning was reported as a "scuffle" between the 3 nestlings on the ledge-then one was gone which indicates an accidental fledge.  Luckily though, of the 3 chicks she was the most developed and feathered.  She certainly could fly some and/or glide to another building nearby so until we hear otherwise we will presume the best.

Meanwhile back at the ledge, Dart and Blaze continue to exercise, then rest.  Then work their wings again, then rest.  Such is the life of a soon-to-be fledgling!  More information as we know it.

Monday, June 02, 2014


So far today there has has been no sign of the 3rd has likely fledged!
We did receive a call this morning from a falcon cam viewer stating that she thought she saw one of the birds leave that ledge about 7:03 am. Thank you very much for the update.
There have been a couple of feedings on the ledge with only 2 birds being present.  Usually all the birds flock together when food arrives.

The weather in Columbus today is damp and overcast- not good flying conditions, especially for a newbie. It would be safe to assume that wherever the bird ended up it will probably stay put for a while not only from the shock of now being somewhere different but also due to the inexperience and the poor conditions for flight. As is typical in any fledge situation, the bird will get hungry and beg for food. The adults will be able to find her and continue to provide her with food. Anyone downtown interested in watching should listen for the begging calls and watch for where the adults are flying to.

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 us.  Perhaps someone out there saw something that will help us fill in the blanks.