Richmond Falcon Cam

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Male Chick Located

A local falcon watcher with a vantage point from a nearby office building has made a positive sighting of our wandering chick. The young male was seen perched atop the parapet (raised edge of the ledge) at the farthest point possible from the nest box.

This relatively precarious position underscores our decision not to access the ledge in search of the "missing" chick. Any disturbance might have startled the young bird into jumping, resulting in an unfortunate conclusion. It is somewhat surprising to find the young male up on the edge at this age but there are some structures present (lights, fixtures etc.) that might have given him a leg up, so to speak.

As we suspected the young bird has simply taken advantage of the spacious ledge to explore its surroundings. The observer noted at least one of the parents attending to the young male. Given the fact that his sisters are so much larger then he - remaining on his own might offer some relief in competing for food. Should he choose to, he'll be able to make his way back to the nest box.

Walkabout?

Some have expressed concern that the male chick (Band 19/AB) has not been seen on the camera since late Monday. As the chicks have become more mobile the full ledge has become available to them. The picture below should give an idea as to what we can and can't see on the camera.

Only about 30 feet of the ledge are visible on the Falcon Cam. The remaining ledge comprises approximately 110 feet and is fully accessible to the chicks. The adults are also able to access the full ledge and will feed the chicks regardless of where they are.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spiders are Back

Although the camera dome was thoroughly cleaned during yesterday's work on the ledge, we can already see new webs spun across the dome. This area provides excellent habitat for the spiders and apparently the camera dome is an especially attractive place to spin a web.

The camera setting have been changed to to prevent the autofocus from focusing on the webs - but unfortunately the webs will still cause problems with viewing, especially in the morning hours when sunlight glares through them. We will not likely have an opportunity to clean the dome again this season - as there are no plans to access the ledge.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Banding

The banding of the peregrine chicks and installation of safety lines at Riverfront Plaza were completed today. The new fall protection system will ensure that we can access the ledge as needed in the future. Contractors performing the work on the ledge were accompanied at all times by biologists to ensure the safety of both the workers and the birds. Both falcon parents were defensive of the ledge although they often took breaks, perching and keeping a close eye on all personnel involved.











All three chicks appeared well-fed and generally healthy. No external parasites were noted. The chicks were weighed and measured. The measurements revealed that we have two females and a male this year. The male's feather development indicates that he is the eldest of the three.

The chicks were banded with both a US Fish & Wildlife Service anodized green aluminum band and green and black bands with larger characters that can be more easily read in the field. A small blood sample was also taken from each chick in order to test for lead content. This testing is being prompted by the high levels of lead detected in egg materials collected from failed nesting attempts earlier this year.

Vital Statistics
Male USFWS Band #1126-11828 - Aux. Band 19/AB - Weight:627 grams
Female USFWS Band #1807-65007 - Aux. Band 02/AD - Weight: 848 grams
Female USFWS Band #1807-65008 - Aux. Band 03/AD - Weight: 883grams

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Update

The necessary equipment for installation of the safety system on the nesting ledge will not be in place in time for tomorrow's scheduled work.

The safety system is now scheduled to be installed on Monday morning - after which the banding will take place as planned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Banding and Ledge Work

Scheduling banding this year has been a bit tricky as some other issues needed to be resolved before we could move forward. OSHA regulations deemed the fall-arrest system inadequate on Riverfront Plaza. This is the system that assures the safety of any personnel who must access the ledge.

This has created somewhat of a catch-22. The necessary work could not be performed with the falcons on the nest, and we can’t access the ledge (and the falcons) because the work hasn’t been performed.

DGIF staff have been in discussions with the building management and come to a solution. On Friday July 24th beginning at about 9:30 a.m., contractors will install an updated fall-arrest system on only the portion of ledge shared with the falcons (as opposed to the entire perimeter of the building). All work on the ledge will be supervised by DGIF biologists to ensure the safety of the falcons (and the contractors!). This procedure was evaluated carefully by DGIF Nongame biologists to ensure that any disturbance would be tolerated by the birds. Part of the desire to have this safety system installed is to ensure that should an urgent situation arise with the falcons, DGIF personnel will be able to access the ledge as necessary.

The birds will be given a chance to settle down following Friday’s scheduled work and biologists will return on Monday July 27th to band the three eyases. At this time blood samples will also be taken to evaluate the chick’s potential lead exposure. The unhatched egg will be collected for further testing. The camera will not be active for either the safety system installation or the banding. Photos and information from the banding will be posted to the blog.

Those who have followed the pair since 2006 when they first nested at Riverfront Plaza, are very familiar with our Richmond falcon banding routine. In past years, this has included transferring and “hacking” some of the Richmond chicks to augment the Appalachian population, and “penning” the remaining Richmond chicks to enhance their chances of survival (Please see the 2007 blog link http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/falconcam2008/2007-archive.asp for details on these topics). Falcon fans also are aware that our pair did not successfully nest in 2008, and that this year they suffered two nest failures before producing three chicks from four eggs.

Due to the nest failures of the last two years, the lateness of this year’s brood and to reinforce the pair’s attachment to the Riverfront Plaza nest site, we have decided to leave all the chicks at the nestbox site to fledge naturally this year. We are hopeful that the spaciousness of the ledge, the relative abundance of shade and protected nature of this site will result in their successful fledging in mid-August.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Going Mobile





The young falcons are just starting to get their feet under them - literally. The eyases will soon be able to stand and their feet instead of waddling on their "ankles" (tarsus). This will mark their ability tp move around much more effectively. At this point they're still a bit unsteady, but with some practice will soon be able to get around quite well.

This mobility created some consternation in 2007 (another late nest attempt at this site) as the young left the box and were unable to climb back in. We believe that the young were attempting to excape the heat of day by seeking shade elsewhere on the ledge. This necessitated some modifications including the ramp and overhand (for shade) seen on the nest box now.

Should the eyases again decide to explore the ledge there is no cause for concern...the ledge has a significant vertical wall running for its entire length - which will keep the chicks safely contained. As demonstrated by the 2007 season (http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/falconcam2008/2007-archive.asp), the parents will find and feed should they wander from the nest box.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Test Results

Richmond Falcon Cam followers may recall that remnants of two failed nesting attempts by the falcon pair were collected earlier this year. These included one intact egg and some eggshell fragments (see May 15 and May 22 blog entries). These materials were sent for tests to investigate potential exposure to contaminants in the environment, including heavy metals, pesticides and flame retardants.

Some of these results have just been reported. Both the egg and the eggshell were found to contain very high concentrations of lead. The primary pathway for lead deposition into the eggs is through the female, so these findings suggest that the female has suffered exposure to lead. Interestingly, eggshell fragments recovered from this pair’s failed 2008 nesting attempt came back negative for lead. Therefore, it is likely that the female's exposure to lead is recent. We hope to continue our investigations through recovery and testing of the unhatched egg, possible blood tests of the chicks, and consideration of potential sources of lead exposure in the greater Richmond area.

Additional results for other potential contaminants will be posted when received.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Growing Quickly

Our three eyases have have grown quickly! All three are well fed and moving around the nestbox. They aren't coordinated enough yet to walk on their feet...you'll note that they waddle on their tarsus. All three are feeding well...following a feeding you'll note a swollen pouch below the chick's neck. This is a storage organ called a crop. It is a essentially an enlarged portion of the esophagus that stores food prior to digestion. It allows the birds to quickly consume a large quantity of food and digest it someplace safe and away from potential predators or competitors.


You can see the emergence of pin feathers along the edge of the chicks' wings. These will develop into the flight feathers that these birds will eventually use to take their first flight





The 4th egg remains unhatched, at this point there is no chance that it will hatch. The egg remains in the nest and has now been rolled off to the corner.





Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Still Waiting

We have been closely monitoring the 4th egg, hoping to see some indication of a pip. Today marks the 37th day for this egg. While peregrine falcon eggs generally hatch at between 33-35 days of incubation, 37 days is not unknown. We are drawing towards the end of the window where we can reasonably hope that this egg remains viable.

The three chicks that have hatched are doing quite well - and being fed often by the adults. In the short time since they've hatched the chicks have grown noticeably.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

3rd Has Hatched

At approximately 3:20 this afternoon the 3rd chick hatched. What appeared to be a pip was noted this morning but it was difficult to confirm, as the attentive parents kept the egg well hidden today.

The two chicks that hatched yesterday appear quite vigorous and have been fed several times. Impressively, the youngest chick- not to be outdone by its older siblings - lifted its head and got in on a 4:45pm feeding. This is less then 1 1/2 hours after hatching! By all indications these three chicks are healthy and doing well.

Now we'll keep our eyes open for the 4th egg to hatch.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Second Chick in Richmond

It certainly has been busy at the Richmond nest box today! The second chick hatched at about.... The first chick has dried out and its fluffy white natal down is obvious now. The second chick has successully hatched (although the adult rolled it out of sight before it completely escaped the remnant of its egg). We'll keep watching for pips on egg 3& 4


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Hatched

The first of the Richmond peregrine falcon chicks has hatched. At 2:30pm the young falcon chick (also called an eyas) finally emerged! We'll continue to monitor the progress of the other three eggs.


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Pip 1 & Pip 2!

This morning a small pip (or hole) was seen on one of the eggs at 8:25 am. Captured still images also hinted at a small hole on a second egg but it was hard to immediately confirm this.

At this time (1:21pm) we can clearly see that two eggs have pipped. Towards the end of the video you can briefly see one of the chick's bills protruding through the hole. Hatching is physically demanding for these chicks and it may be some time before they completely free themselves from their eggs.

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