Archive for January, 2009

Quest Bucks Winter’s Bite

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009


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(Zoom in or out on the map by clicking the small “+” & “-” signs. Move it around by clicking your mouse button and dragging the map in the desired direction. Click the falcon icons for more information about each location.)

Thanks to Quest’s regularity, continuing gaps in the location data from her transmitter haven’t hindered our ability to follow her movements. As you’ll see from the latest map she continues her stay in the Tom Nevers neighborhood. In an unusual coincidence, Quest’s trip up the beach on 22 January found her in exactly the same location as she was on the 1st of January, right down to 1/1000th of a degree! The time stamps for the location data are different for each day, so this might indicate that she has a favored spot at that location.

Perhaps the most interesting data from the past week concerned the temperature. Quest’s satellite transmitter has a small temperature sensor built into it. This sensor measures the temperature of the transmitter unit, which is influenced by the temperature of Quest’s environment, and also her own body temperature. Provided that the signal strength is good, we usually receive a temperature reading along with each location. Often, the temperature readings aren’t much different than the ambient temperature at her location. This most likely means that Quest is in a relatively exposed location.

The interesting bit is that for the past week, while average daily temperatures in Nantucket have hovered between -1° and -4°C, Quest’s temperature sensor has been reading 20 to 25 degrees higher than that. In fact, the temperature reading on 26 January was 32.39°C, or 90.3°F. That’s a pretty high temperature for the middle of winter, and it may indicate that Quest is finding good shelter from the elements. It’s yet another positive sign that her survival instincts are developing well.

-Jess

Braving the Chill in Southeast Nantucket

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009


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(Zoom in or out on the map by clicking the small “+” & “-” signs. Move it around by clicking your mouse button and dragging the map in the desired direction. Click the falcon icons for more information about each location.)

It’s been a few days since our last update, but Quest didn’t give us any surprises. She has continued to spend her time in the Tom Nevers neighborhood, her home for the past few weeks. She ventured northeast east to Sankaty Head on the 9th but for the most part she seems content to stay within a relatively small area.

We can assume that the very frigid temperatures that descended on the United States last week kept her movements to a minimum. We’re happy to see that she weathered the arctic blast without undue difficulty. It’s yet another hopeful sign that Quest may go on to a long, fruitful life.

-Jess

Back to Tom Nevers and Beach Hunting for Quest

Saturday, January 10th, 2009


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(Zoom in or out on the map by clicking the small “+” & “-” signs. Move it around by clicking your mouse button and dragging the map in the desired direction. Click the falcon icons for more information about each location.)

True to form, Quest continues to make the Tom Nevers neighborhood her home. All of the satellite data for the past several days places her in a pretty small area of less than one mile. It seems that she has a taste for the upscale homes and wooded lots.

When she’s not in Tom Nevers, she’s at the beach, hunting. With the help of Rochester Falconcam member Carol Phillips we were very fortunate to have received a note from Vernon Laux, who described his encounter with Quest only a couple of days ago.

Jan. 6, 2009
Quest Successful Hunt

The wind died here on Nantucket on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2009, a most unusual occurrence. I headed out to Low Beach on the southeast corner of the island to witness the “gull show” -far and away the best on the eastern seaboard. While looking at some 120 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 85 Iceland Gulls, 3 thousand Bonaparte’s Gulls, a couple of adult Little Gulls as well as finding some 15 Dovekies sitting in the water and flying about all the small gulls flew off the water and gathered in a dense flock. This is a sure sign of a falcon on the hunt. It was 2:30 in the afternoon.

Scanning everywhere I finally picked out the falcon, ringing at a considerable height and already almost out of sight in binoculars heading due east. The falcon then stooped on something and missed. Switching to a spotting scope I lost the falcon out over the water, guessing she was a mile and a half away. I had barely seen the bird and could not tell if it was fitted with a transmitter.

Approximately 15 minutes later I spotted a falcon coming back to shore from way out east. It was heading right for me and I could tell by the labored flight that it was carrying prey. As the bird flew almost directly me over me I could tell that it was a Dovekie in her talons. She flew right in to where I was on the beach and came fairly close heading down the beach about a half mile further to sit on a piece of driftwood. I could see the antenna as she flew past.

I decided to give chase to attempt to get photos for the folks in Rochester as I was aware that Quest had been hanging out. While not delighted that she was hunting Dovekies, quite a rare bird here and no match at all for a falcon, it was a good use of the hapless Alcid. Dovekies are always a scarce bird in these parts but that is the way it is.

She proceeded to pluck the bird with feathers flying. Normally falcons decapitate their prey and when done leave the head, feet, bits of the sternum and intestines. Dovekies being basically neckless, Quest was not able to do this and went to work plucking and eating. She allowed me to approach within about 25 yards when she moved up the beach a little further. At any rate she seemed to be enjoying her meal so I left her in peace. She went to roost with a full crop as the weather was about to get much worse. She looks very healthy and the transmitter does not seem to be slowing her down at all. Walking back down the beach I found a freshly dead Thick-billed Murre. Best- E.Vernon Laux

Vern took some great pictures of Quest. Here they are!

quest1.jpg     quest2.jpg     quest3.jpg
 quest4.jpg     quest5.jpg

We agree – Quest looks terrific! Vern sent a few more pictures of some of the birds that Quest is sharing the beach with, including a Dovekie, Quest’s hapless lunch in the pictures above, and a variety of gulls.

dovekie1.jpg     hola.jpg     little.jpg

We can’t thank Vernon Laux enough for his very detailed description and the fantastic pictures of Quest that he’s provided. To see her looking so healthy is a real treat for all of her fans around the world!

-Jess

Quest Rings In 2009 at the Beach

Sunday, January 4th, 2009


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Quest spent the final days of 2008 in Tom Nevers, where she was a hit with a number of area birders. We received detailed descriptions of her movements from several people including noted Nantucket Birding experts Edith Andrews and Ken Blackshaw. Others have posted their sightings in the comments of the Quest update we posted on the 28th.

Here’s Edith’s account of seeing Quest on the 27th of December. She’s keeping up with Quest in her newspaper column that appears in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror:

In spite of rain and fog Nantucket had a good Christmas Bird Count on December 27. It was warm – temperature in the 50s and the wind was moderate SW. A relief from the gale we had during the week. One hundred and thirty-four species were seen by thirty-nine participants. Last year we had 130 species with over 50 participants. The grand total of individuals is three hundred and thirty-nine thousand and seven hundred and seventy.

One of the highlights was Quest, the Peregrine Falcon from Rochester, N.Y. She was seen and photographed at Tom Nevers in the morning and in the afternoon she was seen on the west side of Miacomet Pond, perched on the house with the name of “Full House” and then flew off, came back and perched on the ridgepole of the house next door named “Sandcastle”. She sat there quite a while, shifting her feet, turned around and looked at us. The antenna protruding from her back was very obvious, her feathers looked wet and bedraggled. It is exciting to think she is staying here on Nantucket. She was raised in a box on the Kodak Tower in Rochester, N.Y. When she fledged she flew down to the ground in the midst of traffic but she flew up and back to the Tower and was fed by her wild parents before taking off in an easterly direction.

We were fortunate to receive several pictures of Quest from the 27th as well, including this one from Rob Culbert:
Quest on Nantucket 27 December 2008 by Rob Culbert
Her appearance in this photograph fits very well with the accounts we’ve read. She looks like she’s in good shape considering the winter weather on Nantucket. We’re grateful to Falconcam team member Carol Phillps for connecting with Edith and Ken. We also extend our sincere thanks to everyone who has reported seeing Quest. Keep those sightings coming!

Quest took the opportunity of the new year to head up the coast, where it appears that she spent the day at the beach. A strong signal from the afternoon on New Year’s Day placed her on Atlantic Street/Baxter Road, a couple hundred meters from the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, and just east of the Sankaty Head Golf Club. The following day brought her back to the north end of the Tom Nevers neighborhood. It appears that she spent the night in the woodland near 27 Norwood Street.

She definitely seems to have found a home in Tom Nevers. Presumably there is sufficient shelter and food nearby to provide some level of comfort for her. We’re looking forward to seeing how she passes the rest of the winter, and hopeful that 2009 will be an exciting year for Quest!

-Jess