Archive for March, 2008

Egg #2 is Here!

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Egg #2

Egg-citement reigns here at the Falconcam! At about 8:30 this morning, 106½ hours after laying her first egg, Mariah came through with number two. You can see the newest egg between her feet in the picture above, captured only a few minutes after it was laid.

2 Eggs

Here’s another look at the two eggs. Mariah’s normal egg-laying interval of about 54 hours stretched last year to an average of over 70 hours, thanks to a long 106 hour period between eggs 2 & 3. Today’s longer interval equals the longest one she had last year. This may be due to her age, or it may be influenced by other factors.

camera1_20080331-0834011.jpg

Here’s a close-up of the eggs courtesy of the Rochester Falconcam’s zooming Camera 1. Peregrines normally lay an egg every 2-3 days, with the time between eggs getting longer as the falcon ages. We think Mariah’s at least 12 years old, so her advancing years could certainly explain these longer times. They might also have something to do with the recent battle for control of the nest box territory in which she and Kaver drove off an invading falcon. It’s impossible to say for sure, so we’ll just have to keep watching to see when her next egg will arrive!

-Jess

Meanwhile in Toronto…

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Rhea Mae, Mariah and Kaver’s daughter from 2006, has laid her first egg too!
Rhea Mae and Tiago with Egg #1
Photo courtesy of Canadian Peregrine Foundation

In August of last year, Rhea Mae (on the left in the picture above) became the resident female at a nest site at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Toronto, Ontario Canada. She displaced the former female, named Wind, and established herself at the nest with Tiago, the resident male.

rm-t_linda-woods.jpg

Linda Woods at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation took this picture of Rhea Mae and Tiago shortly after their egg was laid.

This is the best kind of news for everyone working to re-establish the Peregrine population in North America. Like Mariah’s son Freedom, Rhea Mae’s offspring continue an extraordinar lineage. We at the Rochester Falconcam are looking forward to following both Mariah and Rhea Mae’s families this year. The Canadian Peregrine Foundation has a website dedicated to Rhea Mae and Tiago. It features two webcam views. Check it out!

-Jess

Mariah Lays Egg #1!

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Mariah
At about 9:55 PM Eastern Daylight Time on March 26, Mariah laid her first egg of 2008! We’re glad to see that the recent territory battle doesn’t appear to have placed undue stress on the falcons.

Mariah with Egg #1

Here’s a daylight picture of her with her first egg. Mariah generally lays her eggs at intervals of 50-55 hours, so egg #2 should come in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 29. Last year she surprised us with some longer egg laying times. Once, she went over 100 hours between eggs! So don’t be surprised if you don’t see a second egg when you wake up on Saturday, but keep watching! You never know when she’ll add another egg to the nest.

-Jess

Territory Battle at the Nest Box

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

On Easter Sunday, 23 March, some of our dedicated falcon watchers witnessed a territory battle at the nest box. When a non-resident female Peregrine flew into the area she was intercepted by Kaver. Long-time watcher and Rochester Falconcam team members Lisa McKeown and Carol Phillips observed several attacks by both Mariah and Kaver as they attempted to drive the intruder away.

Here is some of Carol’s reporting from the scene on Sunday:

…Kaver flew off of the tower, heading south. I watched him with my binoculars, until he met up with a bird past the communication tower. This bird was larger than Kaver and it was a PEREGRINE FALCON!

They both turned and started heading north towards the Kodak Tower! No matter how Kaver tried to push “The Intruder” away, she kept coming towards the tower. They were high above me. That’s when I spotted a 3rd Falcon, higher than the two battling above me! I quickly looked back at the tower and Mariah was up on the southeast corner of the launchpad, still sounding the alarm. I lost track of the 4th Falcon, but Kaver and the female (who has a large gap in her tail feathers) were coming closer and closer to the tower.

As you can read from Carol’s report, it appears there were a pair of intruding falcons, but the third one she mentioned never joined the territory fight and seems to have flown away. Mariah joined the attack and drove the female away from the tower toward downtown Rochester. She returned to the nest box and everything was quiet for a while, but the calm didn’t last. Again, Carol reports:

Alarm Kaking [sic] came from the tower. I quickly looked around, not spotting anything. Both Mariah and Kaver took off heading south. The Intruder was again heading in towards the tower. This time [they] were able to turn her around.

Unfortunately the intruding falcon came back for a third attempt. This time, the battle at the nest box lasted nearly an hour.

[Near 2:00 PM], all *#@%* broke loose. Again alarm Kaking [sic] from the tower. Again, [Mariah and Kaver] took off from the tower, speeding towards downtown! They were really far out before I was able to see their target. Both attacked in tandem, but the female was bound and determined to get to the tower. This time she would be successful!

Kaver and the intruder

In this picture you can see the intruder crouched in the south-east corner of the catwalk while Kaver watches alertly from the top of Camera 1. Shortly after this, Carol reported that Mariah actually climbed inside the iron bars of the catwalk and fought with the intruder. There was a lot of furious wing flapping and aggressive vocalizations before the intruding falcon finally decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and flew away. Here’s the final installment of Carol’s report:

I watched… as Mariah and Kaver followed behind the Intruder as she sped towards the tower. They passed over me, screaming. The Intruder landed on the east side playpen railing, I could just make her out. Kaver landed near the nest box and Mariah went inside the nest box. All was quiet for a moment.

Mariah came out of the nest box and flew around the tower. She was searching for the Intruder. It didn’t take her long to spot her. For a very long time (it seemed forever) both Mariah and Kaver took turns stooping on the playpen, where the Intruder had hunkered down… Finally Kaver settled on Camera #1 while Mariah continued the
attack.

Barb and Lisa had arrived during this attack and then Kathy O. We watched Mariah land on the south east corner of the playpen railing (base). At first it looked like she was resting. As we watched, Mariah spread her wings, like one of the fledglings mantling food.

We couldn’t see what had Mariah’s attention, but as we watched Mariah went through the bars and into the playpen. We
could hear horrible sounds of fighting inside the playpen. It seemed to last forever. Kaver watched from above on Camera #1. FINALLY, Mariah chased the Intruder out of the playpen and both she and Kaver chased her around the tower heading north this time. We all spread out in different directions, but none of us were able to see where they went. Thankfully it wasn’t long before first Mariah and then Kaver returned to the nest box area. Whew!

With Peregrine populations increasing thanks to successful reintroduction programs, territory battles are becoming more common. It’s an uncomfortable fact of life that there are more Peregrines than available nest sites, and as we’ve noted here before, the nest on the Kodak tower is an ideal site.

Mariah should begin laying her eggs any day now, according to her “normal” yearly schedule, but if she’s under stress or threat, she may delay laying them. If the threat is potent enough, she might not lay eggs at all. Since the intruding falcon hasn’t been seen since Sunday afternoon we’re hopeful that she has left the area for good, and that Mariah and Kaver will return to their normal routine. Everyone at the Rochester Falconcam will remain alert for further trouble and update you as soon as we know anything. Our sincere thanks go to Carol, Lisa, and all of the others who gave up their Easter Sunday afternoon to observe and report on the scuffle over the skies of Rochester.

-Jess

Update – A New Mate For Freedom!

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

UPDATE! 22 March 2008- Scroll to the bottom for a picture of Freedom’s new mate!

Rochester Falconcam team member Carol Phillips has received information from Doug, one of Freedom’s caretakers at his nest site in Port Colborne, Ontario Canada. Doug writes:

I just thought you should know that Freedom appears to have a new mate. The resident female here in Port Colborne “Purity” left in the fall. We think she may have migrated (for the 1st time). I’m sure I saw her back on Feb. 19th but have not seen her since. There is a new girl on the block here. She is a [juvenile] produced in Mississauga Ontario in 2007. Her name is Millie (same name as one of Freedom’s 1st offspring!). This bird has been here the entire winter. Freedom & Millie are exhibiting courtship behaviours. Since Millie is so young, we’re not sure if they will be able to have a clutch this year or not. We do have our fingers crossed though. If things change, I will let you guys know.

This is very surprising, unexpected news indeed! It would be unusual for an adult female to be driven away by a juvenile, unless the adult were very old or injured in some way. Since Purity is unbanded, her age is undetermined. Any guesses about why she was replaced by Millie would be pure speculation, so we’ll just wait to see what we can learn.

We’re working on getting more information about Millie (and hopefully a picture or two of her) from our friends at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. We’ll be sure to bring all the news to you as soon as we receive it.

UPDATE! 22 March 2008
We’ve recently received this picture of Millie from Doug, one of Freedom’s caretakers at his Port Colbourne nest site!
Freedom’s new mate Millie

Thanks Doug and Carol for the update!

-Jess

Scrape Excavation and a Linn Update

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Mariah and Kaver seem to be hard at work preparing the nest for the laying of eggs. If Mariah sticks to her traditional schedule her first egg should come in the next 7 to 10 days. In the meantime, both birds have been busy in the nest box, excavating a bowl-shaped depression called a “scrape” in the gravel substrate. They’re enlarging the scrape that was there last year. Here are a pair of pictures that show the recent work.
Camera 2 After Cleaning     Depression with scrape marks

If you look closely at these two pictures, you’ll see that the shape of the scrape has changed. The picture on the right shows new activity. The depression in the gravel from last year has been enlarged by Mariah and Kaver. They “scrape” out the material by settling into the depression and pushing the gravel out behind them with their feet.

Now you know why it’s called a scrape.

Kaver Digging In The Scrape

UPDATE! The Falconcam’s high-resolution Main Camera caught this humorous picture of Kaver in the act! You can see him laying in the depression and pushing the stones out behind him. He kind of looks like a baseball player sliding for home, doesn’t he?

Here’s another picture of Kaver pushing the stones out behind him with his feet…
Kaver excavating

The “Egg-stone”

Sometimes the falcons’ excavation uncovers something interesting. Observant viewers will note the round, reddish brown object near the back edge of the scrape. You could be forgiven for thinking that’s an egg. We thought so too on first glance, but Mariah hasn’t exhibited any egg-laying behavior yet, such as becoming lethargic or gravid, nor has she spent long periods crouched in the scrape. When she does begin her egg laying behavior we’ll be sure to let you know.


Linn, Mariah’s daughter from last year’s brood, has been spending her time in Scarborough, Ontario Canada, an eastern suburb of Toronto. She has found a nest box all her own there, and just needs to attract a mate. From our friends at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation comes this report yesterday, filed by one of their volunteer watchers, Big Frank:

…A quick note about Linn… Mark and Marion Nash,as well as Bruce Massey all have reported several recent sightings of Linn, on and around the Bell Building. We’ve had just terrible weather for February and one of the snowiest Marches in Toronto history,but your girl has weathered [it] well and is doing fine. Mid-March brings spring migration to a beginning, so hopefully some passing male will notice her.

BIGFRANK

Thanks Big Frank! It’s really gratifying to see Mariah and Kaver’s offspring thriving. It’s probably too soon for Linn to lay viable eggs– that doesn’t usually happen until their second year after hatching, but if she can attract a mate and continue to defend her nest box against competitors, she’ll be in a great position to begin a family of her own in 2009. We’ll keep watching and let you know when we receive more news!

-Jess

Welcome Back Friends!

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Kaver Says Hello
After the long cold winter, we were really looking forward to starting up the Falconcam for another year. Kaver was his usual punctual self, showing up right on time.

Camera 2 Before Cleaning     Camera 2 After Cleaning

Falconcam team member Jim Pisello took advantage of today’s above-freezing temperatures to give the camera lenses a quick cleaning. The result of his work can be seen in these two photos. The one on the left is the view before cleaning– not bad, but there are some smudges visible. The one on the right is nice and clear.

Cleaning the Cameras

Here he is reaching into the nest box to scrub the camera lenses. Jim reports that Mariah defended her territory with her customary fierceness, and even Kaver came in close this time. Jim kept his head down and spent only enough time outside to wipe the dirt from each of the five cameras. No sooner did he leave the nest box area than Mariah landed on top of Camera 1, where she spent much of the afternoon. While he was there though, he couldn’t resist taking a few pictures. Here’s one of Mariah on an aggressive approach.
Mariah Incoming

Now we’re all waiting for egg laying to begin. We probably have a few weeks yet. Look for Mariah to lay her first eggs at the end of March and in the first week of April.

How many eggs will she lay this year? It’s hard to say. She surprised us two years ago with six eggs, a record for her and for Peregrines in New York State. Last year Mariah laid five, but you may recall that one of them mysteriously disappeared, leaving only four to hatch.

So what happens in 2008 is anyone’s guess. Want to be a Peregrine Prognosticator? Leave a comment and let us know how many eggs you think she’ll lay!

-Jess

Courtship is Under Way

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

M & K bowing
Only a day after returning to Rochester, Kaver and Mariah are already exhibiting the behaviors of a courting couple. As we put the final touches on the Rochester Falconcam website in anticipation of this year’s launch, our cameras caught our favorite falcons in a typical bowing pose that is part of the Peregrine’s courtship ritual. If we could hear inside the nest box, the falcons would be ee-chupping at each other as they bowed back and forth.

maincamera_20080303-112602.jpg

Here’s a picture that illustrates another courtship behavior. Kaver has just caught some prey, and you can see that he has presented it to Mariah. This gift of food demonstrates his ability as a provider for his family. Those of you who can get downtown are likely to see the two of them flying together, with Kaver performing aerial manuevers to show off his flying prowess. Taken together these activities are meant to display his fitness as a mate for Mariah. For these two who are entering their seventh year together, the courtship activity also reinforces their pair bond after months of separation.

We here at the Rochester Falconcam are sure that all our dedicated local watchers will be on the lookout for mating behavior, which should begin pretty soon. In the meantime if you want to learn more about Peregrine courtship, check out this post from last year.

-Jess

Kaver Is In The House!

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Mariah and Kaver Courting

Great news from longtime watcher and Falconcam fan Larry O’Heron, who witnessed Kaver’s return to the nest box this morning following his winter migration! The picture above, captured this morning by the Falconcam cameras, shows Kaver and Mariah in a typical courtship “bowing pose”, and Larry reported hearing the characteristic ee-chupping sounds of courting Peregrines. It seems that Mariah and Kaver are busy re-establishing their pair bond.

We’re ecstatic to see our favorite falcons back together for another year, and the Rochester Falconcam team is very excited to see that 2008 is off to a great start! Now that Kaver has returned, you can look forward to the cameras coming back on very soon.

Last, but not least, a huge Thank-you to Larry and to all of our “snowbirds” who’ve kept an eye on the nest box throughout the cold months of winter.

-Jess