Richmond Falcon Cam

Friday, May 29, 2009

Third Egg

This morning Falcon Cam viewers were intrigued by glimpses of what appeared to be a third egg. After watching throughout the day we have finally been able to get a clear view of the third egg.

Whether or not this will be the final egg of the clutch remains to be seen. Although a typical clutch contains four eggs, this pair did lose an egg only a few days before nesting here on May 24th. Once the second egg was laid on May 27th we saw incubation begin, especially during the cooler evening and early morning hours.

Both the male and female will incubate the eggs, although the female generally assumes the majority of this duty. The birds develop brood patches, featherless areas on their breast that become highly vascularized, carrying the parent's warm blood close to surface of their skin. This allows the adults to more efficiently transfer body heat to the eggs. The female's brood patch will be more developed then the male's. Incubation will not be constant as the parents need only maintain the eggs at an optimum temperature. With the relatively warm weather (Today = high 85 deg - low 62 deg) this is less of a challenge for this late renest.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Incubating

Although the female spent much of the morning hours incubating, she has since spent significant time off of the eggs thisafternoon. At the time of this entry (5:40pm) she is again incubating. This makes it more difficult to guess exactly how many eggs will eventually make up this clutch. We'll simply have to wait.


2nd Egg

As the last light faded from the Richmond sky last night (May 26th), the female seemed as if she might be getting ready to lay the second egg of this clutch. Unfortunately, even with the night vision mode engaged we were not able to discern what was happening in the nest.

This morning found a second egg. The female was incubating this morning, indicating that we can probably expect one more egg to fill out this clutch.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Egg

Sometime before 5pm on Sunday, May 24th the Richmond Falcons laid an egg in the nest box on the Riverfront Plaza West Tower. This followed a period of scraping (creating a shallow depression in the nest substrate) and courtship/mating at the nest box that began on Friday.

More eggs are likelyforthcoming. A typical brood for falcons in our area consist of four eggs (although more occasionally occur). As the female had recently laid one egg (which fell and broke) on the Bank of America building, we'll have to see how many eggs ultimately make up this clutch. Both the male and female continue to be seen at the nest box. The egg is not yet being incubated. Peregrine falcons generally begin incubation with the second to last egg of a clutch (yet another indication that more eggs are on the way).

Stay tuned!

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.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where to Nest?

Biologists with the DGIF Nongame Wildlife Program continue to monitor the Richmond peregrine falcons. We have seen the birds copulating several times recently, indicating that they are preparing to nest. Given the late date, we presume that the pair already has suffered a nest failure this spring.

For the last couple of weeks our biologists have spent considerable time tracking the falcons in downtown Richmond. The pair has focused on the southeast balcony ledge on the 17th floor of the BB&T building; the same balcony used as a nest site by this pair in years past (2003-05). Difficulties associated with this site for both the falcons and biologists led us to block access to the BB&T nestbox after the pair moved to Riverfront Plaza in 2006 (see March 21st blog, below). The female briefly visited the ledge of the Riverfront Plaza nestbox on May 14th, but the gravel in that box shows no sign of disturbance. Both adults have been spending significant amounts of time on their favorite perches in their “downtown” territory.

On Friday, May 15th, DGIF Nongame biologists surveyed all of the BB&T building 17th floor balconies for eggs or prey carcasses, and both falcons aggressively defended the windows at the 17th floor balcony nestbox. An abandoned falcon egg was found on the balcony on the opposite (NW) corner of the 17th floor, but the falcons did not defend any windows other than those at the nestbox. It is surmised that the egg is all that remains from a spring 2009 nest failure. The egg was collected and will be submitted for laboratory testing.

From the birds’ behavior over the last couple of weeks, we believe they are preparing to renest, likely in the downtown area. Given this situation, we decided to accommodate them to the extent possible, rather than continuing to discourage them from nesting on the BB&T balcony. The bricks and cinder blocks placed on the BB&T balcony to discourage nesting were removed, and the nestbox covers will be removed as well, as soon as practicable and without further stressing the adult birds.

As an interesting and perhaps prophetic note, in 2007 this pair was very defensive of the BB&T balcony during their renest courtship right up through May 14th; then on the 15th the female laid the first egg of her renest clutch in the nestbox at Riverfront Plaza! We will simply have to wait and watch.

Update on 2 Richmond Falcon “babies”
A US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist banding chicks at the peregrine falcon nest on the Legg Mason Building in Baltimore discovered that the nesting pair was comprised of two new birds. The male of this new pair was produced by the downtown Richmond pair in 2003, at their original nest site on the BB&T building.

Another Richmond offspring, hatched at Riverfront Plaza in 2006 and then moved to Shenandoah National Park where she was hacked on Hawksbill Mountain, was just discovered nesting in the understructure of a concrete bridge that carries PA Route 472 across the Susquehanna River, between Columbia and Wrightsville in Lancaster County, PA.
These are great examples of the importance of banding these chicks. Not only do we learn more about these birds’ survival and dispersal, but such events underscore the contribution of our Richmond peregrines to falcon restoration in the Appalachians and along the Atlantic coast.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update

Since the high risk nest site on the BBT building was blocked by DGIF Nongame biologists in March, the whereabouts of the Richmond falcon pair has been in question. The birds continued to be seen on several of their favored perches. For some time only a single bird was being seen at one time making us wonder if the birds hadn't in fact found an alternate nest site. A number of possible sites have been evaluated by DGIF Nongame biologists but no nest site was confirmed.


Today both birds were seen for some time spending much of the afternoon perched on the BBT building across from the nestbox at Riverfront Plaza. Given the length of time the pair were both present it is unlikely that the pair currently have an active nest. We will continue to monitor the pair and attempt to identify any potential nest sites.