Saturday, May 10, 2008

Peregrine Falcon Update: Mariah has a hatch! Plus Thoughts on Pale Male and Lola's Nest

Peregrine images courtesy of the Rochester Falconcam
Mariah watches her 41st eyass hatch!

Time for some Breakfast Pigeon.
--(At least I think it's pigeon. D.B.)

Many thanks to stalwart Peregrine Falcon watcher, Eileen of NY, who sent in this marvelous update with her thoughts, which I heartily second, on the situation with Pale Male and Lola as well--

Good evening Donna-

Before I get to my news I do have to say I'm sad that Pale Male & Lola had an unsuccessful nest this year. But the many Red Tails he and his mates have sent out to the world is still awe inspiring. We may never know for sure how many of the currently nesting pairs may be their blood offspring, but I can't imagine that none of them are. And if he hadn't chosen 5th Ave. for his nest how many of us would spend our days looking into the sky in wonder? That, I believe, is Pale Male's true legacy.

(Indeed Eileen. How many eyes are upturned to the sky because of Pale Male and his mates? Far more than many can possibly imagine, I'm sure. D.B.)

Now, my primary passion, the Peregrines. Hatching and maturing of the eyases is progressing along at most of the nests without incident. There is a nest in Nebraska whose falcon was involved in a territory battle on Monday and was taken into rehab. The first egg hatched this morning and the tiercel is doing his best to hunt and brood. The raptor center will be providing quail nearby to help the tiercel. They expect the falcon to recover and be returned to the nest in about a week. Time will tell, but nests have succeeded in the past in similar dire circumstances.

At my "home" scrape in Rochester NY, Mariah and Kaver had their first hatches in the wee small hours of this morning. A bit after 8am the third of the 5 eggs hatched...which is Mariah's 41st eyas! I'm attaching images from the webcam of the first sighting of the wet and pink 3rd eyas and their first feeding around 1pm.

Being the well experienced falcon that Mariah is, we haven't seen much of them today. She's keeping them well tucked under her while turning and brooding the remaining eggs, which should hatch over the next couple of days. You can watch them live at

One of Mariah & Kaver's daughters from 2006, Rhea Mae, has, in a bit of serendipity, chosen a scrape with a webcam in Toronto- She and her mate Tiago hatched 2 eyases yesterday. There are 2 more eggs which may not hatch since she's so young. Rhea Mae is one of the successes in dire circumstances I mentioned above. Mariah was injured just as the eggs were beginning to hatch and struggled to continue brooding them. Kaver did all the hunting, even feeding Mariah along with the eyases. 2 eyases didn't make it, but 3 survived and thrived. Mariah healed and here we are, celebrating another season! So, that's all for now!All the best

Eileen in NY

Bravo to all the amazing raptors!

Donegal Browne

P.S. The next post down was published in the wee hours of the morning today so if this is your first visit of the day, keep scrolling.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Urban Hawk Update with Mama and Papa, Plus Illinois Eaglets, Goldfinch Courting, Chipping Sparrow Hide and Seek

A Surprise! Here's Mama with THREE eyasses instead of two. These tree nests can be tricky. Particularly when they're in a thick evergreen.

Here's a recap from Jeff Kollbrunner, --


The nest is higher than I had originally estimated, it is closer to 90-100 feet up in a very mature White Pine that is about 120 feet in height. This image provides the only angle of view into the nest. There are some pine branches in the foreground that obscure a totally clear view of the nest. This past Wednesday was the first time we noticed a third eyass in the nest. They all appear to be strong and healthy and will be starting their fifth week. This will also be the first time Mama and Papa will be raising three youngsters. Last season I'm sure you remember they had three eggs, only two hatched and fledged the nest. Each of the last six nesting seasons Mama and Papa have successfully raised two youngsters.

All the best,

Photograph by John Steffen.
Remember the Illinois eaglets?
John went back and here's a view of what they look like now. Look at those beaks and with their dark coloring they look rather vulture-y.

Central Park Photographer captured these three Starlings bathing at the Drip in Riverside Park.
Interesting about Starlings, they are another species which has a big urge for at least a daily bath.

12:59PM I went looking for Red-tails or Turkeys. That was my mistake, looking too specifically can often make appreciate what you do see less. After scolding me roundly this Crow took off for the back forty.

1:34PM I'd been watching this Chipping Sparrow sit quite still, not eating, on the other side of the feeder. For some reason he's the only bird in sight. Suddenly he flips to this side and begins actively eating. So why was he just sitting on the reverse side doing nothing.?

1:37:41PM Suddenly he stops and is still again.

1:38:19PM Then he seems to be checking me out.
1:38:33PM Then he looks up. He sees something.

1:38:45PM Whatever it is, he turns his beak to the feeder and freezes. He reminds me of playing hide and seek when I hide behind a tree I always kept my head turned to the bark and was completely still. (Just look at those toenails. He didn't spend the winter walking on concrete that's for sure.) I creep over and peer under the curtain What's that? I think the Cooper's Hawk is back.

1:38:55PM Though I don't see when it happens his head is slightly more left for a slightly different view.

Now slightly right and up.

And back to the frozen hidee behind a tree in Hide and Seek.

1:39:39PM He checks the view, and zoom he's gone.

2:29:09PM Ms. Goldfinch has just arrived for a snack. Though I didn't see her come in the feeder is still swinging so her arrival is very recent.

2:29:27PM Now for anothe oil sunflower seed, a girl has to keep up her strength. Look at ther feet in the first photograph. Now look at her feet in the second. Do you see it? One toe on her right foot has stretched out to stabilize her during the swing of the feeder.

2:30:33PM It's only been a minute and already she's attracted company. Guess who? She looks down. It's male Goldfinch. He looks back.

She continues to stare and he flips around on the perch and looks away.

She goes back to eating but he doesn't. He continues to watch her.

When she looks down, he quickly looks away.

She's looked away so he goes for a fast peek.

She hops up to the top perch. He pretends not to notice.

He goes to the back and she grips the wire feeder and stretches to keep an eye on him

Still there.

Bip! He's directly opposite. Look at that. It's Muckhead.

She's holding a seed in ther mouth. He stretches round...

She hugs her side a pulls away as he gets closer.

ZIP! He's gone.

Males? She has another oil sunflower seed.

2:33:51PM In the meantime a White-crowned Sparrow has been taking a wash in the bird bath.

He gets out, looks around, and zing--off he goes.

2:34:30PM Now another White-crown lands on the right side of the bowl.

In she goes--

And starts out with a frenetic head wallow.

She checks west.

What's that?

Whatever it is? It must be okay. Now for the full body wallow.

She looks SW and her head feathers stand wetly on end.

And for good reason. A Grackle bombs in and flushes her from the bath.

Who takes a drink and leaves. Seems hardly worth the trouble but then again Grackles have a way of throwing their weight around. They have a firm belief in a rigid pecking order that has to be constantly reinforced.

2:38PM A female Goldfinch arrives. I haven't figured out if this is the same as the previous one or another all together.

Yes, it's that time of year again, folks. The control freaks out out to eradicate the dandelions by spraying poison all over the place. Hasn't worked yet, why should it start now. Okay, it's lasts some number of days but the dandelions always come back. Then more poison. What are these people thinking? Most of the honey bees are dead in the country already. Just what is going to pollinate the 73% of our food that needs that service. I've yet to see one honey bee this spring. Though I have seen two Bumble Bees.

The Bleeding Hearts are out. Now don't all those dandelions make a lovely back drop.

8:19:32PM And Goldfinch Two is on the feeder. He's the one who's black face patch looks more like a Zorro mask than a slipped toupe.

8:19:42PM Two has another seed.

Zoom! Goldfinch Two is flushed off the feeder by Muckhead, aka Goldfinch One.

Tonight Indigo Bunting has come out from under the picnic table but now he's making sure to keep his back to me. It's always something.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Photo courtesy of

Blog contributer, Karen Anne Kolling had some questions about what is happening with Operation Migration and wondered if John Blakeman might have some thoughts on the matter.

Hi, John,

I know this isn't up your alley, but...I have been watching the Operation Migration web site about trying to reintroduce migrating whooping cranes by training them to follow ultralights on their first migration.

As I understand it, whoopers have to be at least five years old to really have a chance of raising young. The program is about seven years old, and there was one successful fledging in the wild, two years ago.

This year last three remaining nests were just abandoned So, it is hard to tell if there just hasn't been enough time yet for the birds to get up to speed, or what...Any ideas?


Photo courtesy of


I, too, am intrigued by this entire project. I think it is absolutely brilliant, and hope that it succeeds.

But it will take time, perhaps decades, to get a replicating population going in non-traditional sites and migration paths. On paper, theoretically, it should work. But as with all wild avian reproduction projects, it will take time and repetition and adjustment. I'm sure the folks working on this will adapt things and make them work.

This is a parallel to the work done by Dr. Tom Cade and his cohorts at Cornell in the restoration of peregrine falcon breeding sites in all of North America. I recall following this closely, back in the early 70s. At the time, it was even questionable if hawks could be bred in captivity, let alone released to the wild in new, self-sustaining populations. All of us involved in raptor research were trying new things. I was conducting my small breeding project with Red-tails, while Dr. Cade began to perfect the captive breeding of peregrines.

After he was able to mass produce cage-reared peregrines, (as with the captive-reared whoopers), the next step was to somehow get these birds to exist in the wild and cause them to breed there, restoring populations that DDT had wiped out.

The story is too long to go into here, but obviously, the Peregrine Fund succeeded. I'm hoping the whooping crane people will, in time, be able to establish new, alternate populations of migrating whoopers. It may take a half century to do this, but in the end, it will be worthwhile.

John A. Blakeman

One of the reasons birds are so endlessly fascinating is their myriad differences but just those differences require the implementation of acute specificity when attempting to manipulate their behavior so that we may save them. The horrid irony, of course, is that it is almost always we that have put them in the position of needing to be saved.

Happily the male Indigo Bunting has returned but unhappily he refused to come out from underneath the picnic table.

The best of mates, Friend does sentinel duty while Doorstep eats.

Donegal Browne