Friday, April 29, 2016

Weekend Power Outage + The Scoop on Poop

Note for weekend viewers:  there are scheduled power outages at the Rhodes Tower this weekend that may affect the live streaming.  Outages may turn off the computers that provide the video to the website.  If that happens, the computers need to be physically rebooted in order to resume the streaming.  We do have a person on-call in the building to handle the reboot, but if something more should be required it is possible the streaming will be off until Monday morning.  We certainly hope that won't be the case but just wanted to make sure viewers were aware of the possibility.  If that does happen we will be working first thing Monday to get the videos back up and running.

On another note, cooler weather since mid-week has put Durand back into full brooding mode, except with the chicks growing fast, she is not able to cover them as completely as when they were smaller.  But as they get older they aren't as vulnerable to being chilled and by all huddling together they help to keep each other warm also.

Now the scoop on poop:  (Caution:  some content beyond this point may not be suitable for all audiences!)
Most people are used to watching a common songbird nest such as an American robin in a backyard tree or shrub.  Well, did you know that for those types of birds when they defecate, it is in the form of a fecal "sac" - that is, the fecal material is contained within a membrane that makes it easy for the adult bird to pick up the poop and carry it away for disposal elsewhere, so it does not contaminate the nest.
This is done when the nestlings are very young.  As the nestlings grow they develop the strength and motor skills to position themselves so they can defecate up and over the rim and thus, outside of the nest.  This system helps to keep a songbird nest relatively clean of feces while the young birds grow.

In the case of peregrine chicks, they position themselves to defecate away from the scrape.  When they are very small they are generally facing in towards each other so their waste naturally is away from the scrape.  As they grow and gain more strength, they will specifically turn away from the scrape.  As they get older still, the propulsion of the feces increases (as does the amount and frequency!) and it is then we can begin to see evidence of it inside the nest box.
Here is a photo I just saved this morning and already there is a noticeable splattering of feces on the back wall of the nest box.  As the nesting season progresses, the inside walls of the nest box will literally become caked with fecal material.  Veteran viewers will remember that we can expect the chicks to hit the front of the nest box camera housing at some point, which usually obscures the view from that camera. So, there is probably more than you thought you were going to learn in one day about "avian feces management"!

One final note, there is a Civil War Encampment on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse today that will include regular cannon firings.  Viewers may hear the cannon blasts via the live streaming but shouldn't be alarmed.  The loud noise to the falcons is no different than a clap of thunder during a storm.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

One Week Mark

The oldest chick is one week old today!  It never ceases to amaze me how fast they grow!  All is going well and warmer temps in Columbus has meant the chicks haven't had to be brooded as closely as last week.  The result is a pile of nestlings with an adult close by.  These pics are from yesterday.
This morning with some rain in the forecast, we see more typical brooding behavior, but with the adult sitting much higher:
The chicks also help keep each other warm by huddling together.  As the chicks continue to grow they will be able to regulate their own temperature and won't need to be brooded.  

One question that recently came up was how often/how many times are the chicks fed each day? With that question, I realized that I've never really counted the number of feedings in a day or even the frequency.  The more frequent question is when viewers are concerned that one or more of the chicks doesn't seem to be getting its fair share.  The way feeding time works is the adult will vocalize to stimulate the chicks to sit up and open their mouths wide (called gaping).  The adult presents food to the open mouths and often it is the hungriest chicks that "gape" the most.  When certain chicks seem to be hogging all of the food it is because they are hungrier than the ones that aren't getting fed as much.  The chick(s) that don't get fed much at one feeding are usually more hungry at the next feeding and so then they become the one(s) that "gape" the most (and thus get fed the most) the next time.  And so on...the result at the end of the day are healthy, well fed chicks.  Here is a very nice picture a viewer captured of both adults feeding the chicks at the same time!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Four Chicks!! Full Clutch!!

Congrats to Durand and Spark for their first full clutch!  The 4th egg hatched yesterday afternoon about 4:15 pm!!  If you missed it, here is a link to a video.  [Although, as I was drafting this post and checked the link, YouTube indicated the video was currently unavailable so if you get that message also, try again later.  Hopefully, it is just a temporary glitch.]

Here is a photo of a feeding this morning.  Didn't take long for the newest chick (in the back) to sit up and go into "feed me" mode like its nestmates!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Brooding - 4th Egg Hatch

All is looking good with the 3 chicks while we wait for the 4th egg to hatch.  Durand has switched from incubating posture (where she is tight down on the eggs) to brooding posture.  At this stage the chicks can't regulate their own temperature so it is necessary for an adult to keep them warm.  When brooding, Durand will sit higher up over the chicks and cup her wings around them as seen in the photo above.  This different posture is necessary to not smother the chicks but it also works out that the chicks are larger than the eggs and certainly more squirmy so Durand doesn't have much choice other than to sit higher!  In most birds of prey, the females are actually larger than the males.  It is during brooding that this size difference comes in handy!  Although Spark can and does brood the chicks while Durand is taking a break, it is certainly easier for her with her larger body size.

If viewers are watching and listening, then you have certainly heard the chicks chirping off and on. Interesting to have more activity in the nest in these last few days then we've seen during the past few weeks during incubation.

Unfortunately, we don't know the exact date the last egg was laid because the streaming video was down at that time.  But I have in my notes it was between 3/18-3/21.  Counting forward 33 days means that final egg could hatch at any time.  Or, Durand and Spark could repeat their last couple of years and only have 3 young in the nest.  Only time will tell.

EDIT at 4:10 pm:  The 4th egg IS hatching!  Durand is keeping it covered up but a brief glimpse did show a crack in the egg!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 Chicks!

Durand has kept the eggs/chicks pretty well covered up so far today but finally, confirmation that there are indeed now 3 chicks!

Here's hoping the 4th egg hatches and we have a full clutch of 4 nestlings this year.  In past years, Durand and Spark have produced 1, 3 and 3 chicks in the 3 years they have successfully nested here.

First Feeding

Here are the 2 chicks as of yesterday afternoon.  Because each chick continues to receive nourishment from its yolk sac, they technically don't need to eat for the first couple of days after hatching.  Regardless, instinct does kick in with the adults so they will attempt a feed and the chicks also begin gaining strength to sit up and respond to the food offerings.  
There is a good chance the 3rd egg will hatch/be hatched by Wednesday morning.   Unfortunately, I have field work scheduled first thing and will be unable to watch but I will post an update as soon as I am able!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

2nd Egg Hatched!

The 2nd egg hatched late morning! All is looking good!

First Hatch!

It's official!!!  The first egg in the Columbus nest hatched this morning!  There wasn't a perfect view, but here is a video in case you missed it.  The photo above is a still image I saved off of the video.

It's possible two chicks were heard chirping so there may be a second egg hatching soon.  Durand will eat the egg shells to help clean up the nest and to replenish calcium her body used to produce the eggs initially.  Nature's way of recycling!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Signs of Hatching?

Here are the eggs as of this morning - everything still looks intact, no visible pip from this angle.  However, some fans have reported hearing pecking and chirping from inside the egg late yesterday and overnight.  If that is the case then hatching shouldn't be too far off...!!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Possible Weekend Video Outage

Things continue to go well at the nest and it is SO nice to have both video streams back to watch! Thanks to the Rhodes Tower management and DAS OIT for their help with all of the trouble shooting!  I have noticed the last couple of days that the behavior of the incubating adult described in the last post hasn't really changed that much yet, so the April 17th prediction for hatch might be a little optimistic.  Most of our viewers watch during the work week so if we don't have a hatch until next Monday or beyond, that won't necessarily be a bad thing for schools and the Monday-Friday workforce to have a chance to view.

I did get word today of electrical work that is scheduled at the Rhodes Tower this evening that may affect the live streaming for the weekend.  Scheduled outages may turn off the computers that provide the video to the website.  If that happens, the computers need to be physically rebooted in order to resume the streaming.  We do have a person on-call in the building to handle the reboot, but if something more should be required it is possible the streaming will be off until Monday morning.  We certainly hope that won't be the case but just wanted to make sure viewers were aware of the possibility.  If that does happen we will be working first thing Monday to get the videos back up and running.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Getting Closer...

Incubation this season has been mostly uneventful--which is actually a good thing!  Other nest sites have seen territorial battles between resident peregrines and interlopers which can endanger the eggs. While drama can be exciting and entertaining, the best case scenario is when our resident falcons have few, if any, interruptions interfering with their job of keeping the eggs uniformly warmed. And that is what we have seen in Columbus for the past few weeks.

As a recap of the season, the first egg was laid on March 12, the second March 15, the third March 17.  Because the video streaming was up and down, we don't know exactly when the 4th egg was laid but our best guess is incubation began after the 2nd egg.  Incubation generally takes about 33 days, which would put the estimation of hatch to be around April 17.  Estimating is far from an exact science though, so don't be surprised if hatch begins earlier and don't panic if hatch is later!  I suspect there will be many eyes watching this nest over the coming days.

As I write this, the incubating adult is sitting tight on the eggs in classic incubation style.  The best clue to indicate hatching is near will be realized with a noticeable change in the behavior of the adults.  While throughout the majority of incubation they have set mostly still and tight on the eggs we can expect the incubating adult to become very restless as it reacts to changes underneath it.  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 of the pecking and so their behavior will change as they react to the new sensations.  It will get up and look down at the eggs more often, settle back down, and be up looking again within a short time.  The fidgety activity will be a response to the sounds and vibrations it is hearing/feeling from the eggs.

Eggs can hatch at any time of the day or night. The visual part of the process that we will look for is a pip--a small hole pecked through the shell from the inside by the chick using it's "egg tooth." (The egg tooth is a small, sharp projection at the end of the beak that disappears shortly after hatching.)  It will take some time from pipping for the chick to actually come completely out of the shell.

No doubt exciting times in the coming days!  Stay tuned for more updates as things progress and information becomes available!  In the meantime, here is a link from the Smithsonian Channel on how peregrines attack their prey.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Incubation Going Well

The "good" news is incubation is going very, very well.  The "bad" news is still no word on when the ledgecam view will be restored.  But, at least during incubation we do have the nestbox view and can confirm all is well.  Both Durand and Spark have been doing an EXCELLENT job of keeping the eggs covered.  I took advantage of a brief absence as they were switching duties this morning to capture a nice picture of the four eggs:
Getting back to the ledgecam troubles for inquiring minds - the camera is not the issue--the ledge camera is actually working properly.  The snag is that recent network security changes have resulted in the server not recognizing the computer that streams the ledge view.  Network security is a very serious and important issue and not one that can be bypassed.  There are several agencies that cooperate to bring the finished product of the live streaming video of the falcon nest to our website so much of the "fix" is out of our control. We continue to be hopeful that the issues can be resolved sooner than later.  In the meantime, we get used to seeing our view of the falcons at the nest but how many of us have thought about what downtown looks like to the peregrines?  Here's a view of the Statehouse from the ledge to give you an idea of what the falcons see from the edge of their ledge: