Richmond Falcon Cam

Friday, May 22, 2009

Watching & Waiting

From 2003-2005, the Richmond falcons nested (successfully, with a lot of help from DGIF in moving chicks to the roof to make them safe) on the 17th floor balcony of the BB&T building. Because that balcony is not a safe nesting site, we blocked access to the nest box after the birds moved successfully to nest at Riverfront Plaza in 2006 and 2007. During the non-breeding season, we also placed some bricks and cinder blocks on that balcony to further discourage the falcons from nesting there.

Despite these modifications, on Friday May 15, 2009 we determined that the pair was defending the BB&T 17th floor balcony where they nested from 2003-2005. We also discovered an abandoned falcon egg, evidently from an earlier failed spring 2009 nest attempt, on a different 17th floor balcony of the same building, and took that egg for toxicity and heavy metals testing. Because the adults were focusing on the "old" balcony, we decided to remove the bricks that would prevent access to the balcony, but we did not have the tools necessary to uncover the nestbox at that time.

On Tuesday the 19th, DGIF biologists returned to remove the cover from the nest box. Although the falcons were absent the box was uncovered. That evening the falcons were discovered focusing on the ventilation slots at the top of the West face of the Bank Of America building. This site was inspected as a potential nestbox site by the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) many years ago, and was discarded because the surface inside the vent slots slope toward the outside of the building; there is no way an egg or chick could safely be incubated or reared in that setting.

Nonetheless, because the adults continued to focus on that site and on Thursday, May 21st DGIF Nongame biologists returned to the Bank Of America building and inspected the ventilation slots. The the falcons were indeed present. Although the birds could not see them, the biologists were able to confirm that there were no eggs. The ground and lower rooftop below the ventilation system was searched and a smashed falcon egg found. This egg was clearly laid in the last few days, rolling out of the ventilation slot to its demise. The fragments were collected for testing.
The falcons continued to move in and out of the BOA ventilation system all day today (Friday May 22), but about 5:05 pm CCB biologist decided to check back (via the webcam) at Riverfront Plaza and, Voila! The female was in the nest box at Riverfront Plaza , actively building a nest scrape.

Viewers might wish for a zoomed in view of the box but to be extra cautious it has been decided not to manipulate the camera until we are certain the pair has committed to this site. The movement of the camera does produce a slight noise but one that may be audible to the falcons. The birds have been quite tolerant of the camera for some time - but we don't want to take any chances.

This pair suffered an early nest failure in 2007, before finally renesting in the Riverfront Plaza box. This clutch was begun on May 15th, 2007 and successfully raised four falcons. Hopefully we'll see the current situation follow a similar course. We will continue to post updates as events unfold.