Friday, June 24, 2016

Spotted: Juvenile Falcon Enjoying a Tasty Treat

Special guest blog update from intern Madyson Epperson:
Since our last update, it has been fairly calm at the nest ledge. All is presumed to be well! The FalconCams have been relatively quiet, as have been the reports and sightings of the falcons. However a sighting was reported earlier this week and along with it a few photos. A juvenile falcon is seen here on the LeVeque Tower having a pigeon for an early morning breakfast! You can tell it is a juvenile due to the vertical streaking on its chest and overall brown coloration of the head and body. A big thank you to Mike Horn for sharing these photos with us!

While preparing this blog post yesterday morning, we received a report that one of the juveniles was possibly grounded near State & High Streets and might not have been able to get back up in the air. Donna and I loaded the rescue equipment into the van and made a trip downtown to check everything out! Upon investigation, the falcon was nowhere to be found, although several people working in the area had seen it on the sidewalk. 
After we got back to the office, Donna received an email from a concerned citizen who was generous enough to send some photos from earlier in the morning when the falcon was first seen, confirming it was in fact, one of the juvenile falcons.  In the photos the falcon looked healthy and did not seem to be injured.   It is our hope that it had been only temporarily grounded while possibly chasing its prey and that it was then able to get back up in the air! 
If you are downtown hoping to see the peregrines, it is often easier to locate them by listening for the screeching of the juveniles while watching the sky for mock chases and fights between the young and adults! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Back on the Ledge-Then Gone Again!

As we hoped in last week's update, the falcon that was grounded and in rehab for observation checked out okay and was returned to the ledge earlier today.  Due to the yellow feet and small overall size, we believe it to be the youngest falcon of the clutch--the one that hatched last.
Here's Karen with the falcon, (who was quite feisty!):
And preparing to set it outside the access door onto the ledge:
Even though it was well fed, after its release it promptly found some leftover prey on the ledge and ate.  It spent about 2 hours on the ledge flapping, looking around, and screeching.  An adult landed on the ledge briefly twice.  Then, a little before 1 pm, off it flew!  Let's hope this bird does well from here on out and thanks to the Glen Helen Raptor Center for taking care of this peregrine during its brief down time. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Fledgling Report

Each year prior to fledge, I notify many organizations/agencies of what to expect and who to call if they receive a report about a fledgling peregrine in distress.  One of those organizations is the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, which utilizes ambassadors on the streets downtown to help keep the heart of Columbus safe and clean.  Many thanks to one of these ambassadors who, because of my advance notice, knew what to do when he became aware of a peregrine on the ground and in a dangerous place given traffic and pedestrians.  The peregrine was captured and reported to me.  It is believed to be the same falcon that was seen in the alley near the Rhodes Tower last Saturday.  The bird was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator earlier this week for an evaluation and is currently remaining under observation although we are hopeful to release it back at the nest ledge soon.

Sometimes when the fledglings find themselves on the ground, even when they are okay, it can be difficult (but not impossible) for them to get back high to the roof tops.  This is mainly because they lack the experience to know to fly from a low perch to a less low perch then on to a higher perch and so on and so on in order to "stair step" back up to the building tops.  Other fledglings have done great at that.  It just depends on the individual falcon and the individual situation/location it finds itself in.

In addition, when they are on the ground they tend to be a bit bewildered, because they are in a whole different world then they were accustomed to the first 6 weeks of their life.  During these encounters they may show little fear of people--again, because of their age and inexperience they just don't react to that kind of situation the same way a seasoned adult might.  This is all part of their learning game. Placing them back at the nest ledge puts them back in familiar territory to give them a second chance.

Durand spent a good part of the day both Tuesday and Wednesday perched on the nest box camera housing.  She was also picking at gravel and prey remains in the nest box, scraping in the gravel and spreading out in the sun at the front of the nest box.  I would interpret these behaviors as the young are doing well whereas the adults do not have to watch over them as much as immediately after fledge.  Just like the nestlings transitioned to fledglings, now the adults are transitioning from constant care mode back to doing their own thing--pretty much maintaining their territory and general survival.

We have not seen any of the juveniles return to the ledge but that is not unusual or anything to be concerned about.  I can recall most years of having the cams of never seeing any juveniles return to the ledge but in the last couple of years it did happen with some frequency.  Again, it just depends on the individual birds. If viewers do see a falcon on the ledge, look closely at the plumage to determine if it is an adult or juvenile. As stated, Durand has been there often the last couple of days and I even received a couple of reports from concerned viewers assuming it was one of the young that couldn't find anything to eat so it was picking around in the gravel.  Nope!  This was Durand as explained above.  Here is a photo to help show how to tell an adult from a juvenile:
Plumage Differences Between Adult & Juvenile Peregrine Falcon

We can still expect the adults and juveniles to interact for the next several weeks as the young work to perfect their flying and hunting skills.  But by the end of summer they will leave the area to hopefully survive and establish a nesting territory of their own, elsewhere.  Durand and Spark generally stay in their downtown territory all year long.

Monday, June 06, 2016

All Presumed Well!!

Nothing earth shattering to report - I did get a call early Saturday evening of a young peregrine on the ground down the alley from the Rhodes Tower that was hopping around and thought unable to fly.  The person I spoke with was very cooperative and willing to attempt to capture it for me (since I was well over an hour away).  However, he called me back shortly after that with the good news that the falcon was seen flying away down the alley before he could get to it.  So, we'll just assume the bird's lack of experience had it grounded for a short time and we'll hope that it made its way out and up to a higher perch after that.

Meanwhile, other reports are coming in of young falcons perched on certain buildings, especially the LeVeque Tower and the Huntington Building.  And, they are being seen in flight including chasing after the adults.  This is all normal behavior that indicates all is progressing as it should be with the fledglings.

At this point, regular updates will end but if anything especially notable occurs, it will be posted here!  We certainly appreciate all of the extra eyes downtown and continue to welcome the reports and photos!!

edit to add a pic of Durand and Spark checking out the empty ledge about 1:30 pm:

Friday, June 03, 2016

Empty Nest - Again

The juvenile that was put back on the nest ledge yesterday after being grounded earlier this week took flight about 9:35 a.m.  It had been doing a lot of wing stretching, flapping and watching an adult fly by and then it took off from the ledge intentionally.  Let's hope it does well from here on out!

Ground spotters have been following the whereabouts of the other three fledglings - sightings include the Huntington Building, the LeVeque Tower and a building just west of the Rhodes Tower.  So far all seem to be doing well!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Juvie Returned to the Ledge

The fledgling that was grounded on Tuesday checked out OK so this morning we put it back out on the nest ledge.  Thanks very much to the staff at the Ohio Wildlife Center for the medical assessment. Since there were no other juveniles on the ledge I took the opportunity to first quickly clean off the nest box camera lens. Durand and Spark were not happy I was at the nest but it only took a moment.

Thanks to Madyson Epperson this year's intern who assisted with the return of the juvie to the ledge!
All went just as it should have - the juvie stayed on the ledge and both adults know it is there. Here's a video from shortly after the return.  It has already been seen picking at leftovers and the adults should bring additional food.  As a backup, we left a starling snack courtesy of OWC for extra measure. Hopefully, this bird will stay put and do some more exercising at least for most of today before attempting flight again.
We also took a look downtown and located a juvenile on the east side of the LeVeque Tower.  At that time, both adults were perched above it also on the LeVeque and the juvie was doing some short jump flights trying to get closer to where the adults were perched.  All looked well with that falcon.  No other fledglings were seen but Durand and Spark no doubt are keeping close watch on all.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Fledgling Update #2

Thanks to Mike Horn's photograph, we have confirmation of one of the juveniles on the LeVeque Tower earlier today:
Wing droop as this bird is doing is normal from heat and/or physical exertion from flying for the first time and/or stress from a rough flight--or all of the above.

So far no word on the other two today.  An adult has checked back in at the ledge a couple of times today, at least once bringing food in case any juveniles were there. Other than that, the ledge has been super quiet today.

The fourth bird is still being evaluated in rehab.  It appears okay but x-rays were taken to be sure.  Part of the film was unreadable, so the bird is to be given a test flight in an enclosure.  Hopefully, it will do well but if not, more x-rays.  It is my hope that it will do fine and can be returned to the nest ledge tomorrow.  More info as it becomes available...!

Fledging Update - Empty Nest

Yesterday 3 of the 4 definitely did fly.  Surprisingly, a quiet day with little information/few reports.  One juvenile was believed to be on the Riffe Tower, another on the Huntington Building. A third was picked up from the ground late in the day and is currently being evaluated in wildlife rehab.  If it checks out ok, we will return it to the ledge ASAP.

Meanwhile, the fourth stayed on the ledge all day yesterday and continued to be fed by the adults.  At least twice an adult brought a food item and the juvie snatched it away and took it to the lower ledge to feed itself.  Later in the day an adult actually was feeding it directly in front of the ledgecam - funny how as grown up as they get sometimes they still act like little chicks.
The fourth did fly this morning about 5:50 a.m.  A witness reported it to be a calculated take off so that is good news!  Now we wait for reports and photos from downtown workers and watchers but in the absence of information we always assume all is well:  "no news is good news!"  
It will take viewers some time to get used to seeing an empty ledge...hopefully soon we might see a juvenile check back in at the ledge once they get their flying skills honed.