Lawrence Peregines nest ledge and a fledgling!

June 12, 2022 in lawrence peregrines

Friday, June 10, 2022: Clear skies, wind W 8 MPH, temp at 71F; sunset time 8:22PM

_W7I6104-001After locating the nest ledge for the Peregrine Falcons last Sunday afternoon from the kayak, was hoping to see if fledglings were out and about in the local area. The view from the kayak strongly suggested they were about 34-35 days old, and days away from fledging, or making first flight from a flat ledge underneath the Casey Bridge.

 

 

IMG_7415-001Spotted the vigilant female on one of the old smokestacks, but was totally unable to find any fledglings. After moving to many different vantage points, finally settled in at the Mill240 Park with great elevated views up and down the Merrimack River. A group of loud Crows flushed a smaller raptor from a nearby tree in hot pursuit. The raptor headed upriver, swooped in flight from below me, pulled up, and landed on the black park railing just 15 feet away! The landing and balancing was very awkward. What an unexpected treat!

 

 

IMG_7435-001Turns out to be one of the 2022 fledglings!! While out scanning with just binoculars, had to quickly run back to the car and grab a camera. This was about 13 minutes after sunset with clouds on the western horizon dimming the light as dusk settled in. While trying to get the right camera settings, a group of 4 youngsters crept a bit closer from the park, and initially tried to startle the bird. After gently encouraging them to quiet down a bit, they were very curious to know what type of bird it was, how old it was, and where it had nested….a great teaching moment out in the field!

 

Click on images to enlarge!

Lawrence Peregrines new nest ledge found!

June 5, 2022 in lawrence peregrines

Sunday, June 5, 2022. During the 2021 breeding season, the Lawrence Peregrines did not lay eggs in the Ayer Mill Clock Tower nest box. Many individuals and small groups diligently and regularly scanned the skies and mill buildings in the local area, but with no success. During February and March, 2022, the Peregrines were seen many times, but provided absolutely no actionable clues on the whereabouts of their new nest ledge location. We could sense they were nearby, but just didn’t know where.

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In March, the male was regularly seen perched on the old smokestack just past the north end of the Casey Bridge and on the west side of the Pacific Mills complex, near the corner of Amesbury and Canal Streets. Most of the time, it was facing the Merrimack River. This image on the left, shows the male lifting off in flight, heading SW, late afternoon on March 16,2022.

 

 

_W7I1322-001Many mornings, the male was perched in the upper zone of the smokestack, facing south or southeast, and soaking in the morning sun. The departure flight patterns, altitudes, and directions were quite a mix and never really provided firm clues. This image was captured on March 23, 2022, and likely before the female had selected the exact nest ledge location for laying eggs.

 

 

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From time to time, the female was seen perched on the faded green weathervane atop the Ayer Mill Clock Tower. This was a fascinating scene to observe as her reaction made it clear that it was not the local male but rather a very unwelcome interloper passing through the neighborhood. She went into full territorial defense mode, rolling over on her back, and using her outstretched talons to send a very clear message! This image was captured on April 5, 2022. At this point the female may have not yet laid eggs. Our biggest challenge was where to look next to find the nest!

 

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Bridges have played a significant role in the national peregrine falcon recovery, consistently supporting more than 30% of the known population.

In Virginia, two researchers from the Center for Conservation Biology, conducted 166 surveys of bridges in coastal Virginia using a call-broadcast protocol. Broadcast calls were extremely effective in eliciting a response from falcons with nearly 60% and 100% of falcons responding within five and 30 seconds of call initiation respectively.

The ten-minute, call-back protocol includes a series of advertisement and courtship calls interspersed with silent listening periods. Response rates measured from detection trials were 83% during the breeding season overall with a peak of 100% during the courtship period.

Occupied bridges supported more potential nest sites, were longer and higher and were embedded within landscapes with more foraging habitat compared to unoccupied bridges. The current practice of installing nest boxes or trays has resulted in higher breeding success and reproductive output.

The flight image above shows the female responding to one of our call broadcast surveys performed along the east side of the Casey Bridge. After two successful surveys, we had almost full confirmation in regard to the highly probable nest ledge location.

Citation: Watts, B. D. and M. U. Watts. 2017. Investigation of breeding peregrine falcons on bridges. The Center for Conservation Biology. Technical Report Series, CCBTR-17-01. College of William and Mary & Virginia Commonwealth University, Williamsburg, VA. 38 pp.

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On Sunday afternoon, June 5, 2022, we launched a kayak into the Merrimack River on the upriver and south side of the Casey Bridge. The Joseph W. Casey Bridge runs north/south over the Merrimack River. From the south, access to the bridge is from Parker Street, and from the north, access to the bridge is from Amesbury Street. On kayak approach to one of the large bridge archways, the unseen female started defense cacking vocalizations, and flew off downriver. While scanning the ledges up and under the west side of the bridge, the two peregrine chicks came into view……HOOORAY! Best guess on age is around 34-35 days old, and likely days away from the first one being ready to fledge.

Looking back, and making a number of probability calculations, it looks  like the eggs were laid first week in April, hatched first week in May, and the first chick fledged late this past week. These estimates fall within all of the normal breeding season sequence and timing for Peregrine Falcons in Eastern Massachusetts!

Click on any image to enlarge!

Lawrence Peregrines: mock combat!

June 26, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

_W7I6865-001The young Peregrines were out in full force this afternoon in and around the Verizon Cell Tower on Hampshire St.  This has been a regular location for the young Peregrines over the past few years after they have fledged.  One of the two females, the one with leg band, BV/66 was seen on the rooftop on the Verizon Tower while taking a short break.  These young Peregrines spend a lot of time in playful mock combat and then time to res

 

 

Observed one of the peregrine fledglings in aerial flight with large loops and infrequent diving stoops. Quite an exciting show from the young fledgling. To my surprise, another fledgling joined the fun and the real show got underway! For over 20 minutes, they proceeded to engage in an amazing demonstration of playful mock combat. Here is
an explanation of mock combat from Cornell’s Birds of North America:

_W7I7049-001Play occurs mainly in young. Immatures will pursue adults, siblings, prey, and attack inanimate objects.  Playful pursuit of siblings begins 2–3 d after first flight, mock combat between siblings begins 4–5 d after. Mock combat progresses from flying parallel and occasionally rolling to extend feet toward siblings, to making short darting dives and grappling in the air, to using air currents to make vertical stoops. Latter develops within 3 wk of flying. Play in falcons may be an expression of joie de vivre or it may simply represent the maturation of neuro-muscular coordination and central control mechanisms involved in agonistic behavior and pursuit and 
capture of prey.

Lawrence Peregrines: loafing around Clock Tower!

June 19, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

_W7I6483-001Made a late afternoon visit to South Canal St. to observe the fledglings around the Clock Tower under overcast skies, light winds, and temp at 66F.  Had a chance to see all three peregrine chicks and both adult parents.  The cover photo shows two of chicks loafing on a ledge on a NW corner of the Clock Tower.  The adult female is on lookout on the ledge below and the adult male does a flyby to keep an eyes on the young ones. In this photo, the scene shows the young ones loafing, female below, and the male has just landed to the right.

 

 

_W7I6433-001One of the great joys of monitoring a peregrine falcon nest, eggs, hatchlings, nestlings, and then fledglings, is the exciting moments around first days of flight.  Although they rest quite a bit, as they adjust to their new life outside the nest box, their flight patterns are a joy to behold.  Most of the flight patterns are a bit awkward, their takeoffs and landings, a bit uneven.  They love to zoom around in playful flight with adults and each other. Flights grow stronger day by day over the first week.  Many times the youngsters will engage in mock combat drills with rolls and outstretched talons. The family usually remains close around the Clock Tower, roosting in many different locations. By now the nest box looks bare, with few remains left behind.

Lawrence Peregrines: on the wing!

June 18, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

The Peregrines started off this morning under mostly cloudy skies, wind from NE at 5MPH and temp at 62F.  The forecast calls for a chance of showers, mainly after 9am. Cloudy, with a high near 73. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph in the afternoon.  Tonight, isolated showers before 1am. Patchy fog after 5am. Otherwise, cloudy, with a low around 58. Light southeast wind. 

_W7I5920-001What a joy to watch these young Peregrines on the wing and in flight around the Clock Tower.  Made my way over to the Clock Tower last night just after 5:30PM.  While heading over the Duck Bridge, it was possible to see a number of Peregrines in flight while circling the Clock Tower.  From a big picture perspective, the young falcons will be seen in this general area for the next 6-8 weeks.  This has been the pattern every summer over the last number of years.  At times, it is a challenge to find them, but tend to they stay around and remain within a  3/4 mile radius. The cover photo shows 65/BV, the chick that had fledged first thing Monday morning. She is turning in flight around the west side of the Clock Tower!  This photo shows the ever vigilant mother keeping a close eye on her brood.

_W7I6305-001After searching a bit longer, was able to also locate and observe the young female, 66/BV.  She was wedged tightly into a granite ledge corner on the SW corner of the Clock Tower, well below the clock face.  The ledge, on the south side, was very narrow and made moving around very difficult.  She walked back and forth along the ledge a number of times with little room for error. She was kind enough to provide a clear view of her leg bands for positive identification!

Lawrence Peregrines: both females fledge!!

June 17, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

The Peregrines started off this morning under patchy fog before 8am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 80. West wind 3 to 5 mph. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy, with a low around 61. Light south wind.  The remaining Peregrines are both females. 

2019.0617.1Female chicks tend to make first flight a number of days later that the young males.  Both females were seen lounging in the nest box as late as 8:45PM on Sunday night.  It looks like the female chick with the 65/BV leg band departed first thing this morning!  The second female had a nice meal dropped off by the adult female around 6:45AM.  She continued to exercise her wing muscles.  She moved all around the nest box, and hopped out onto the perch pole.  At times she moved to the outer length of the pole and just barely in sight of the web cam.  She finally launched into flight late morning!

Lawrence Peregrines: Day 43

June 16, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

The remaining two Peregrines started off Father’s Day under overcast skies, light rain, and temp at 64F.  The day ahead calls for mostly cloudy skies with a few scattered showers around midday and into the afternoon. Still mild, but a bit cooler than Saturday with highs around 70!

2019.0616.1The two remaining chicks were seen in the nest box all day.  They are so ready to make first flight! One of the chicks hopped out onto the perch pole and was flapping vigorously, but not quite ready to launch into flight. The web cam will continue to operate, but little chance we will see any further action through the cam.  The chicks will be seen over the next many weeks in and around the area near the Clock Tower.  The chicks will be learning to fly while the parents continue to feed them. The young falcon, as it launches into the world, is a most handsome bird, and when the last vestiges of down are shed from the head, it has the regal appearance of the adult. The eyes have by now, taken on that extraordinary quality of lustrous vitality and intense watchfulness that even the best paintings cannot capture in its fullness.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

Lawrence Peregrines: Day 41/42

June 15, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

The remaining two Peregrines started off the day under fair skies, bright sun, Sw wind at 5MPH, and temp at 59F. The day ahead calls for mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Southwest wind 6 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Tonight, a chance of showers, mainly after 3am. Increasing clouds, with a low around 62. Southwest wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. 

2019.0614.2Many have asked, how do the chicks know when to fledge and make first flight?  What prompts the final push to launch out into the world forms he nest box? From what researchers have observed over the years, there is likely little particular action by the parent peregrines to induce their young to fly. The adults may reduce the food rations at this time, for the young are quite fat. Generally, the chicks fly when they are ready and moved by their own instinct. The first flight can be quite strong, but when it lands on a nearby perch, it may remain for many hours.  Food calls are exchanged, and the parent keeps close tabs from nearby. For a chick that has survived a fall from the nest, the adults will find, feed, and protect the chick until it is ready to fly away.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

Lawrence Peregrines: Day 40

June 13, 2019 in Near the Clock Tower

The two remaining Peregrines started off the day under overcast skies, light wind, and temp at 56F.  The forecast calls for rain, mainly after 9am. Patchy fog between 2pm and 3pm. High near 63. Light southeast wind becoming east 8 to 13 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Tonight, rain likely before 7pm, then a chance of showers, mainly between 7pm and 11pm. Patchy fog before midnight. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 54. Northeast wind 5 to 7 mph becoming southwest after midnight. 

2019.0613.2Now the first chick has fledged and the other two will follow shortly! Just after 6AM this morning, the female dropped off prey and the two chicks went into a scrum to attack the food.  The rumbled with each other over the food in a tug of war….quite a show. The remaining two continue vigorous wing flapping as they perch at the outer edge of nest box and look for their sibling nearby. First flight may happen at any time of day. The males will typically fledge first, and the females just a bit after, but not always the case.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

 

Fledgling in flight; adult female perched nearby!

August 7, 2018 in lawrence peregrines, Near the Clock Tower, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

_W7I8274-001Made a visit to the Clock Tower this afternoon under mostly cloudy skies, winds from SW at 10MPH, and temp at 94F.  Very little action around the area.  With binocs, made a scan and observed one young falcon atop the tall smokestack on opposite side of the Merrimack River by 250 Canal Street complex.  Then, made a closer look at the distant Verizon Cell Tower at the corner of Hampshire and Canal Streets.  The adult female was perched on the east side of the cell tower on a lower cross bar.  Her black/green leg band was barely visible.

_W7I8326-001One of the juveniles was perched up much higher on the north side of the Cell Tower.  Moved around to the west side of the Tower for a better look with just a bit more light.  The young falcon spread its wings and departed in a downward stoop in pursuit of something just out of sight and returned a few minutes later.  It then made many loops in flight around the tower and landed.