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 Peregrine: hatchlings first days!

May 4, 2020 in In the Nest Box, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

2020.0504.1-001What an amazing weekend! Temps neared 80 for many communities yesterday afternoon, with that 78 in Boston, being the warmest day since October 7th of last year. Today, temps step back by about 10 degrees, hovering around 70 early this afternoon. We’ll also have more towering cumulus clouds that build up, producing a few scattered, brief moving showers mid to late afternoon. While most of the day is dry, occasionally the 4 new Peregrine hatchlings may have a passing shower or two in the afternoon! This first photo shows the female returning to the nest with fresh food for the chicks!

2020.0504.2-001The female was seen brooding and feeding the chicks this morning around 7:30AM.  She broods all four chicks.  She departs for a few moments and returns with food and she prepares to feed the chicks, while taking a few bites for herself. The female assumes an increasingly elevated brooding position as the chicks grow, and is especially careful with her feet when rising and moving away.  The brooding female gently pulls back with the underside of its beak, as needed, one of the small chicks, which moves out from under her, as she might hook a displaced egg. Female attentiveness to brooding depends on weather, the number of nestlings, and their age.  Brooding tends to become increasingly sporadic after about the eight day.

 

Literature cited:

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

Lawrence Peregrines: Egg #4!

March 28, 2020 in In the Nest Box

Conditions; clear skies, wind S at 3MPH, temp at 37F; forecast for day ahead – increasing clouds, with a high near 56. Calm wind becoming southeast 5 to 7 mph in the afternoon. Tonight rain likely, mainly after 3am. Cloudy, with a low around 40. Light southeast wind. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

2020.0328.LPWhat a joy to behold this morning just before 7AM….egg #4! The eggs have been laid 48 hours apart over last number of days.  This is the normal pattern and this may be the last egg to be laid. So now, the Peregrines shift into full and shared incubation duties that will last the next 32 to 33 days or so.  We are about a week ahead of last year’s egg laying time frame and two weeks ahead from two years ago.  With God’s grace the circle of life continues!

2020.0328.LP1According to Birds of North American Online: the eggs are fairly smooth without gloss. When fresh, ground color varies from pale creamy to brownish or reddish overlaid with dots, spots, and blotches of various warm browns to deep reds and purples; great variation. Generally deeper and richer color than other large North American falcons.

Lawrence Peregrines: Egg #3

March 26, 2020 in In the Nest Box

Conditions: partly sunny, wind N at 18MPh, with gusts to 29MPH, 40F; forecast for today – cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 45. North wind 11 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph; tonight – increasing clouds, with a low around 40. Light south wind becoming southwest 10 to 15 mph in the evening. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph.

2020.0326.LP-001After a long observation period this morning through the New Balance Falcon Cam, finally just before 9AM, the female lifted up and took in flight for a break and revealed egg #3 right on schedule.  Typically the female Peregrine lays eggs about every 48 hours until the process is complete.  We have seen mostly 4 eggs laid per year at this location, and usually near the end of March! This first image shows the eggs in the scrape all close together!

2020.0326.LP1-001Moments later, the female returned to the lateral perch that extends out from the nest box.  She rested there for a awhile before resuming her incubation duties!

Lawrence Peregrines: 2020 Egg #1!

March 22, 2020 in In the Nest Box

It was a cold start to this Sunday, with temperatures in the upper teens to 20s, under a clear sky and subtle breeze.  This afternoon, under sun-filled skies, temperatures only rebounded back into the upper 30s. The wind chills were in the upper 20s through most of the day. Tonight, the Peregrines will have increasing clouds, with a low around 24. Southeast wind around 6 mph.

2020.0322.LPMade a visit to the extended Clock Tower area late Friday afternoon, and checked on the activity around the nest box and the extended Clock Tower. It was fairly quiet and the female was seen from the street and through the webcam. She was mulling around inside the nest box. Checked again this morning and wonderful surprise in seeing the first egg for 2020!

Later in the afternoon, she spent a more time incubating the egg, and basking in the later afternoon sunshine! Recently, her behavior was very consistent with the general lethargy that a female falcon typically experiences in the few days prior to laying the first egg. In many cases this lethargy may last a week or longer. She lazes around and spends lots of time in the nest box, nest scraping, and other courtship related activities.

2020.0322.1-001Incubation usually will not begin until the second to last egg has been laid. In this cool spring weather, with night time temps in the low 30’s, the female will spend some time incubating the egg, but it may not be a non-stop effort! The female has a silver federal leg band on her right leg; and a black over green 38/BV band on her left leg.  The male has only a silver right leg band and no band on his left leg.

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!