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Archive for March, 2009

Will Falcons Follow the Food?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


As we reported on the 19th, the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was considering “seeding” the nest boxes with food in order to entice Mariah to use one of them. Yesterday, Wildlife Technician Mike Allen supplied both of the Rochester boxes with dead quail, a standard food used for feeding raptors. Why quail? It’s readily available both frozen and fresh, and quail meat has a lot of nutritional value for raptors.

Only time will tell if Mariah “takes the bait” at one of the nest boxes, but we’re hopeful that the newly delivered morsels will entice her or the new male to visit the nest boxes.

Good News for Mariah’s Progeny

Monday, March 30th, 2009

From our friends at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation comes the happy news that Rhea Mae (2006) and her mate Tiago have begun their 2009 nesting season at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto, Ontario. From the CPF’s Linda Woods we received word that Rhea Mae has laid two eggs– the first on the 26th, and a second yesterday on the 29th. Here are some pictures that Linda sent along:

web cameras at the Sheraton on-line, so with a bit of luck you’ll be able to watch Rhea Mae and Tiago raise their second brood of peregrines soon!

Photo courtesy of Marcia Lyman
There’s plenty of excitement closer to home too! Over the past few weeks our volunteer falcon watchers have observed a second pair of Peregrines in Rochester. The two falcons have made their home at an abandoned building in the nearby suburb of Brighton. The building is a few miles away from the downtown area. The location is far enough removed from downtown Rochester to avoid any territorial disputes between Mariah and the newcomers. An unbanded female had definitely been using the building as a territorial base, along with a couple of males. The first appeared to be a banded falcon with adult plumage, but he hasn’t been seen for a few days. Recently a sub-adult male appeared in his place.

Last Saturday afternoon (28 March), falcon watcher Marcia Lyman observed this sub-adult male and the female perching on the building, flying around it, and calling to each other. Using a spotting scope, Marcia was able to read the black and green leg band on this tiercel. You can imagine her surprise when she saw the band number, 22/R, in her scope– it was our very own “Z-man”, Zephyr! Here are a couple of pictures that Marcia took:

2009-03-28_zephyr_1.jpg     2009-03-28_zephyr_3.jpg

As you recall from last year, Zephyr was the first of Mariah and Kaver’s 2008 brood to fledge, and he showed himself to be a masterful flier almost from his first day in the air. On Sunday a group of watchers found Zephyr and his lady friend on a nearby State Hospital building, so we have high hopes that Zephyr might be here to stay, and that the two of them will establish a nest. Like the Kodak tower, the building in Brighton it is tall, with few other structures nearby, and it offers a commanding view of the surrounding area. There is woodland and water in close proximity, both of which should provide ample food supplies for a new falcon family.

First year falcons like Zephyr don’t often don’t produce viable young, but it is possible that the Z-man and this female could end up with a nest of their own this year. There’s no power at the site and it is close to a medical facility where the privacy of the residents is a prime concern, so we’re not yet sure how much photography will be allowed at this site. But we’ll keep watching this new pair, Rochester’s second, and we’ll be sure to bring all the news to you!

Safe Harbors for Quest

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

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Quest stayed on the northern spit of Cape Cod for the past week. She started near Wellfleet harbor but moved south after a couple of days, apparently setting up her new operation around Nauset Harbor.

We were lucky to get three good consecutive readings on the morning of the 20th. Each data point, spaced at 2-hour intervals, show Quest at the beach and tidal flats surrounding the Main Channel, within a mile of Nauset Harbor. It seems like a good bet that she’s doing a lot of hunting there. Temperature sensor data show consistent readings in excess of 20°C (68°F) at most times of the day. The high temperature reading for the week was a balmy 28.4°C, or 83°F! That’s not bad for the day before Spring…

We were hoping to nail down where Quest is spending her evenings, but it doesn’t look like she’s found a particular spot yet. The evening and early morning position data are all over the place. It may be that she just finds a quiet spot out of the way wherever her travels have taken her that day, but we’ll keep watching to see if a pattern develops. If past is prologue, we expect she’ll settle into a routine pretty soon.

Mixed Fortune For Mariah

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Last week we reported some of the changes that have been occurring here in Rochester. It is a year of uncertainty for both Mariah and for her many fans around the world. Between relocating her nest box and the changes in her family situation we’re wandering uncharted territory. Of course we remain hopeful that Mariah will establish a nest and raise a twelfth family of Peregrines this year. Whatever happens, we will commit to bring you as much information as we have, as soon as we have it. But we’re going to avoid speculation as much as we can. We realize that may mean we don’t have all the answers that everyone may want, but we think it’s important to be as accurate as we can, and to avoid making pronouncements that may turn out to be incorrect at a later date. So at those times where it is necessary for us to infer behavior or to make assumptions about what is going on we’ll be sure to make that clear. Now on to the latest news.

Mariah continues to spend a lot of time at the Kodak tower. Last year after the nest box was removed, Kodak hired an environmental firm to erect netting around the top of the tower in an effort to discourage her from trying to return to her former nest site. Her affinity for the tower is very strong though, and while the netting has prevented her from physically accessing the ledge where her nest box had been installed, it hasn’t stopped her from perching on the tower and trying to get at the nest site. Her instincts and habits are very strong. They’ve been reinforced for eleven years, so it’s no surprise that she wants to return to the tower. Everyone involved in the relocation effort in 2008 was aware of this possibility. Eventually she should tire of trying and look for a nest somewhere else. This is what has happened at other artificial nest sites, and it occurs often in the wild when a Peregrine’s nest is destroyed by weather or otherwise rendered uninhabitable. We’re hopeful that Mariah too will move on as soon as she realizes she won’t be able to use the nest site she’s accustomed to.

We’ve recently heard from the DEC regarding this situation. They had previously discussed with us various measures that we might take to try to entice Mariah toward one of the relocated nest boxes. One suggestion is to “seed” the nest box with food that would be appealing to a falcon. Hopefully once she’s there she’ll consider it a good nesting site. The DEC intends to contact the managers at both the Powers Building and the Times Square building to get their assistance in seeding one or both of the relocated nest boxes. No firm plans have been made yet but we’ll bring you any news that we receive from these sites, including the results of any seeding that takes place.

Speaking of nest sites, we’ve got three cameras working at the Powers Building. We’ve also installed cameras at the Times Square nest box. We’re working with one of the tenants there to hook into their network and electrical power. Most of the installation is done, and we’re just taking care of some configuration and connectivity issues that are preventing us from transmitting images from this site. As soon as we get those wrinkles ironed out we’ll be able to provide images on our Main page and also the Mulit-view page.

A bit of good news came recently from Falconcam member Carol Phillips. She reported today that Mariah was spotted perched on the Times Square building, right above the nest box! Mariah stooped off the building and hunted pigeons over the river and into a nearby park. This may be an indication that she’s attracted to this site. It’s impossible to say whether she’s truly interested at this point, since no one has observed her going into the nest box there, but we remain hopeful that this is a good sign, and our dedicated volunteer falcon watchers will be keeping a close eye on as much of Mariah’s activity as possible.

Unfortunately, we also have some sad news to report. Tybropa-Cree, the tiercel that we reported about last week who was observed mating with Mariah, was found deceased by the side of a busy highway on Tuesday, the 17th. He has been positively identified via his black ID band number, 15/V. Everyone here at the Rochester Falconcam was hoping that this new male would prove to be an able mate to Mariah and a provider for a family. It’s distressing to learn that he has fallen victim to human activity, however unintentioned.

This is unquestionably another blow to Mariah’s fortunes, but she’s proven herself to be very adaptable over the years and she is, if anything, a survivor. It is still possible for her to find a mate and successfully nest this year. There was another tiercel in town before Tybropa-Cree, who had been keeping Mariah company. She seemed cool to him, and he appeared to leave the area when T-C asserted himself. But in the absence of competition from multiple suitors, Mariah will pair with any male that comes into the area. Northward raptor migrations will be occurring for the next several weeks, and Rochester lies along a major migratory route, so it is quite possible that at least one suitable male will fly through the territory this spring. In past years any such “passage” birds would have been driven off by Kaver, but in the absence of a territorial male a newcomer would be likely to be welcomed. While things look dim right now, there’s hope yet for Mariah.

Following the removal of the nest box from Kodak last summer, we at the Rochester Falconcam made a conscious decision to avoid publishing updates to the renovations occurring there. After all, it wasn’t really intended to be the locus of activity for the falcons, and we felt that we ought to use our limited resources to concentrate on Mariah’s new home. The work at Kodak was delayed though, and the repairs are only now getting under way. We’ve received many expressions of support, but also some comments questioning Kodak’s motives in relocating the nest box, as well as their commitment to the Peregrine restoration efforts in Rochester and New York. We dealt with many of those issues last year so we won’t revisit that conversation, but we believe it’s important to let everyone know that Kodak continues to be a valuable asset to the Rochester Falconcam, providing both financial and “moral” support. We’re grateful for their continued involvement with Mariah and her family.

Many of you will recognize the name Tom Hoehn. Tom was the driving force behind the original Kodak Birdcam. He’s an ardent supporter of Mariah and of the Rochester Falconcam’s continuing mission. Tom recently wrote to us with his perspective, and we’d like to share some of his note with you.

“During these last 11 years Kodak has scheduled all building maintenance around the [nesting] season of the Peregrines. This included a huge project to replace the four tower elevators a few years ago. I remember working with facilities people at that time discussing the helicopter that would lower the equipment into place from above and that it had to be planned for the Fall. Debris from the falcon’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner often clog the drains on the rooftops. This has caused water to flow into offices. I have personally had many, many conversations with office workers in the Tower that are tolerant of kacking falcons outside their windows as they try to get their work done. They understand what the falcon effort is about and have put up with damp walls and loud noises for the good of the program. They get it.

Any falcon watcher can tell you about the condition of the upper floors of our Tower. From their arsenal of binoculars, scopes, and cameras they can see that the façade has numerous cracks. It is now at a point where serious remediation is required for the safety of the people in the area as well as the long term viability of the building itself. Imagine having a leak in your 100-year old house that you can’t fix until August. Or, worse yet, having a section of stone that may be close to falling. The repairs we are doing are significant enough that they cannot be completed outside of the falcon nesting season. In undertaking this project the falcons were a top consideration in planning and representatives from the DEC have been involved every step of the way. We have a great partnership with those wonderful people and I don’t think I am speaking out of turn when I say that they genuinely are appreciative of Kodak’s long term support of Peregrine repopulation efforts.

[Kodak] helped fund the relocation of the nestbox and the installation of cameras. […There] is a very significant level of sophistication that goes into this setup. Most people do not have an understanding of what it takes to implement multiple cameras, automatically feeding webpages, hosted to accommodate significant traffic, all from the roof of a building in all kinds of weather. Finding funding for an effort like that in this economic climate is not something that should be taken for granted.

Each and every morning as I walk in from the Kodak Office parking lot my gaze is upward. I have seen the graceful flight of Mariah for years and I never cease to be amazed at the beauty and power of this resilient Peregrine. She is truly incredible. Watching her offspring take flight each year is always an adventure. If you have made it this far in this note I am glad you took the time to hear the perspective of a person who works at Kodak, has been part of the program for years, and is focusing on the realities of the current situation and working with many to make sure that the best things are done for all parties –- including our beloved falcons. Thanks for listening, Tom

We realize that these are uncertain times on many levels, for the falcons as well as their many fans. We’re gratified that you have stuck with us through all of the ups and downs we’ve experienced. We can’t promise there won’t be more challenges this year, but we hope that 2009 will ultimately be full of great accomplishments and success for Mariah, and great memories for all of us who care so passionately about her. We look forward to bringing you another year with Mariah, Rochester’s most prominent citizen and the most prolific Peregrine in New York, if not the country. We thank you for your continued interest, support and patience as we travel this new road together.


Has Quest Had Enough of Nantucket?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

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With the warmer weather we’ve had recently, Quest may be deciding to expand her orbit a bit. From the 5th through the 12th she repeated her familiar pattern in Nantucket, but on the 13th she headed north. She didn’t go far though, stopping at Cape Cod where she’s been recorded in Chatham, Eastham, and Wellfleet harbor.

Could this be the beginning of a spring move, perhaps to scout out a possible territory? It’s still way to early to tell what she’s going to do, but keep watching for more updates!

Freedom Update

Monday, March 16th, 2009

From our friends in Port Colborne, Ontario, we hear that another season is under way. Doug sent this note to Falconcam team member Carol Phillips.

Hi Carol,

I guess the falcon season has begun. Freedom & Millie have been witnessed doing the “boogie”, so we’re hoping for some success here this year. I’m watching your Imprints (falconcam) & Quest reports & hope everything goes OK on both fronts. It must be amazing to follow a young falcon the way you are lucky enough to. I also think you may not be so surprised as Mariah adapts to her new environment. She is a “falcon factory” & moving her box will not slow her down!

By the way, Freedom is a rocket in the sky!!!!!!!!!!Doug

Amid all the uncertainty here in Rochester it’s good to know that the lives of these falcons continue to impress and enlighten us. We’re looking forward to hearing more about Freedom and Millie in the coming months!

Winds Of Change

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

You might think this is Kaver. It certainly looks a lot like him. But it isn’t. The fact is, Kaver hasn’t been seen since last fall, when he presumably left the area for his regular winter migration.

The tiercel in this picture appears to be Tybropa-Cree, a falcon that was fostered, or hacked by our friends at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation back in 2007. In an interesting coincidence he came from the same hack box in Scarborough, Ontario that Linn, Mariah and Kaver’s daughter from 2007, had been staking out last year. Tybropa-Cree– our watchers have nicknamed him “TC”– has a black ID band on his leg, which is how we found out who he was. Watcher Jill Church first photographed him in the town of Greece, east of Rochester, in late February.

Why mention him, you might be asking? Well, the answer is that for the past several days TC has been here in Rochester, hanging around with Mariah and exhibiting all of the typical courtship behaviors we’ve come to expect from Peregrines. A couple of days ago, Falconcam team member Carol Phillips found him under the pedestrian bridge near the Kodak tower. Here’s an album of her pictures. And if you look at the fourth picture in Carol’s album, you’ll see that TC and Mariah have even been observed mating!

So, what of Kaver? That will have to remain a mystery, unless he should fly back into town. It’s not too late for him to do that– he’s arrived as late as the 15th in past years, but most recently he’s been returning early in the first week of March, so his absence this late in the month is atypical. If he does return, there would almost certainly be a battle between him and TC, with one of them being driven out of the territory, or perhaps even killed. If he doesn’t, then Mariah has fulfilled her biological imperative for reproduction by mating with this new tiercel.

Now that they have commenced mating, nest selection should begin soon. Both Mariah and TC have been spending lots of time on the Kodak Tower, despite the absence of a nest box. So far they haven’t taken much notice of either of the boxes installed on the Powers or Times Square Buildings. The next couple of weeks should see them choosing a nesting spot. You can keep tabs on the nest box at the Powers Building at the Rochester Falconcam’s Multicam page, and we hope to have the cameras at the Times Square box connected soon. Our watchers are keeping their eyes to the skies too, so we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

In the meantime, courtesy of Frank at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, we’re happy to bring you some pictures of Tybropa-Cree when he was a youngster growing up in the hack box in Scarborough, Ontario.

july3peregrinechicks4img_4358.jpg     july3peregrinechicksimg_4353.jpg

july5whiteimg_4363.jpg     july32chicksimg_4354.jpg

Quest Update Feb 23 – March 3

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

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Again, not much to report from Quest. Aside from a trip north to a curious, spidery clump of interconnected roads and expensive looking buildings in the Polpis area she continues her normal pattern of movements in south-east Nantucket.

We’re happy to report that the winter storm that struck the northeast earlier in the week does not appear to have impacted Quest to any great extent. Her transmitter’s temperature sensor continues to read well above ambient air temperatures, going as high as 25°C and generally hovering between 18 and 20 degrees.

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