Some (or all) of you may have noticed that the camera streams are currently down. Five days ago there was a power glitch in the water tower which has dropped power to the tower itself. The IT department and local campus Facilities dept are looking into the issue and hopefully we’ll have the streams back up shortly (we’ll harass them until they’re back!). The weather in Orange today is dull, drizzly and cold, with visibility at about 50 meters and chilly winter nights already here. No sign of Diamond and Bula at the moment; hopefully they’ve found a quaint bed-&-breakfast establishment somewhere to keep warm.
We’re putting together a paper outlining FalconCam Project’s current and future plans, in regards to the direction the Project should take, capabilities, software and hardware, as well as a projection about where we want to be in 3-5 years time. Cilla also has her head down trying to put together some papers on peregrine behaviour and feeding patterns, and we’re entertaining prospective future benefactors to help us get to where we want the Project to be, in conjunction with this forthcoming paper which we’ll make public when published. At this point we must heartily thank our extremely generous contributors over this past season; their financial contributions have enabled us to cover costs for recent eggshell testing, licencing and repairs, and provided a good start towards our future audio/visual budget. Your kind contributions are appreciated and they allow us to continue FalconCam Project.
There’s one issue left to face now – climb the 50m-high tower to clean out and maintain the eyrie… any volunteers?! …
Campus water tower, home to peregrines
Reading through the lastest ‘Australian Birdlife’ I came across an article about the Eleanora’s Falcon in Morocco. This close relative of the peregrine has a very interesting, if somewhat alarming, habitat. As waves of migrating small birds pass through their territory, these falcons catch the birds and, instead of caching the bodies for later, they keep them alive and imprisoned in ‘nooks and crannies’ of their rocky habitats. Fresh food for later.;…yum (no so nice for captives, however). The article doesn’t say how they are not able to escape, but are able to be recaught….
I’m still awaiting new software and hardware upgrades prior to being able to recapture more data. I am in need of a new computer as mine is eight years old and currently in a hospice situation 🙂 and I need to apply for a grant for this, so fingers crossed.
Although quiet at present, I would love to see what is happening with our ‘streaky’ male who was hanging around in March. I’m also going to be away mid-May to mid-July, so there might be a bit of a gap in the data, but hopefully not too serious and I won’t miss any of the breeding season.
I have recently re-applied for Animal Ethics approval, but without requesting permission to band. That might come later once the basic data recording project has been re-approved.
I was recently catching up with some backlog after being tied up with a major landcare event, and I’m pretty sure we had a visiting male – and I’m also convinced this is the same one (‘streak’) who was hanging about this time last year, but didn’t ‘make’ it with Diamond. His behaviour was also a bit odd; landing on the outside ledge and appearing to be quite uncertain of his actions makes me also fairly certain that this is not Bula. However the images are not that great; any comments?
Is this last year’s visiting male ‘Streak’ come back for another shot?
I also should warn you that we will be off the air for a bit longer. We have to do some software and hardware upgrades. I will have to get a new computer (or lease one) as mine is 8 years old and starting to feel its age (by regularly, and rather annoyingly, crashing for hours at a time). And we also need to upgrade the recording software. Fortunately, I was able to get most of the data I needed this week, and there’s nothing much exciting happening at present (apart from visitors, of course!). No food has been brought in; no sightings of juveniles; and the courtship has been fairly desultory. Won’t be long, however…..
There have been no sightings of juveniles for a few weeks now. I had a heart-stopping glimpse of a peregrine approaching the box on 20th February, but I’m not confident it was a juvenile as it was a very blurry image.
Who is this?
The box is in daily use, although absences of several hours are quite common at the moment (to the chagrin of a keen visitor from Maitland, who missed seeing our birds yesterday). The female is usually in the box overnight, sometimes chasing Bula out late in the evening, but on 22/23 February Bula actually spent the night, which is a very rare occurrence.
Both birds are displaying courtship behaviour and preparing the scrape, albeit in a somewhat desultory fashion. Bula is more active in this respect than Diamond.
The Aboriginal Nature and Bioscience park (to be named Girinyalanha, a Wiradjuri word meaning “talk together, communication, to engage in thought and feeling, and to share knowledge and culture”) that contains the roost trees is to be launched on 15th March and we will be doing some planting of shrubs and understorey next week. These will provide habitat for small birds over time. You might wonder how there are still so many birds in the copse opposite the nest box. It is suspected, however, that the falcons prefer to forage away from home to ‘preserve’ their food source. I might look into this a bit more as it is quite an interesting concept.
Unless something odd and interesting happens, I will be signing off for a week or two as I have a major landcare field day to organise for March 20th. It’s been really dry here and we are getting desperate for rain, but I’m really hoping for a find day on that particular Sunday! Happy to respond to comments, however.
We have had a surprisingly wet January; not good for hunting. This is a picture of Diamond, looking thoroughly soaked!
One very bedraggled Diamond
Fortunately the weather has brightened considerable over the last few days and this a picture of Diamond looking much better (at sunset):
She has been spending most nights in the box. Last night she left the box repeatedly at about 830 – 9 pm, when it was quite dark. Didn’t catch anything, so not sure what was happening there.
There has some food bringing (unidentifiable scraps) and a few juvenile fly pasts and I was able to catch one of the juveniles (probably female) in one of the tall eucalypts having a meal, while one of the others (not sure of gender) harassing Bula on the top of the tower (sorry no photos). Evidence that at least two of the youngsters are still around. This is the most recent sighting (yesterday):
Juvenile swerves before box
Well, after going through three weeks of tapes, I don’t have a huge amount to report, but a few notes and one juvenile sighting.
Diamond has been spending most nights in the box. Quite a bit of time in the day too (male as well). We had a nasty storm on 14th January and Diamond appeared to move back into the box to avoid the deluge – I’ve never noticed that before and have often wondered why they don’t use the box more to shelter from storms.
Usually she leaves the box around dawn and Bula arrives for a bit. There has been some courtship behaviour, too and some desultory scratching at the scrape (mostly Bula).
I had one glimpse of a juvenile. Bula could clearly see her (?) coming and took off, with juvenile in tow. This was on 16th January and I haven’t seen them since (but have only just came back). It’s raining at the moment, but when it clears, I’ll go and have a skulk around to see if I can find them. No food has been brought into the box for some weeks now.
Juvenile fly past 16th January, with Bula (male) following
Happy New Year to all our followers! Let’s hope it’s a happy, healthy, and environmentally clean year ahead for everyone.
Was hunting around the Internet for the latest information on birds of prey and came across a fantastic article on gyrfalcons on the audubon.org website. Well worth a read for anyone interested in birds of prey. An amusing and insightful article, it gives you an idea of the extent to which some researchers must go, physically and geographically, to obtain results. The gyrfalcon is one of the top predators in the food chain in various parts of the world, distant cousin to the peregrine falcon, and in the middle ages ownership was confined strictly to the upper echelons of society i.e. kings and nobles. It’s also the official bird for Canada’s Northwest Territories. Sadly, as with many precious bird species, humans are the leading cause of death in gyrfalcons, directly and indirectly.
Glad the ‘Concrete Hilton’ on campus is a little easier to access than some of these exposed and spectacular rock ledges, even though the 50 metre climb up inside the leg of the water tower is never one to be taken lightly.
Gyrfalcon nestlings, Seaward Peninsula, Alaska (Audubon.org)
Juvenile ‘persuading’ Diamond to leave the box
Just been back a few days and off again tomorrow for two weeks (Tiffany in charge!).
I’ve done a couple of walks and seen one juvenile flying and crying and there have been a couple of fly-pasts, where one youngster flies to the nest-box when Diamond has been sitting on the ledge, resulting in the latter leaving, with juvenile in hot pursuit.
Not sure, but size suggests this is a female.
I got back last night after amazing trip when I saw more birds than I expected, including six raptor species.
Anyway, I now have 3 weeks of data to go through and that will take a while, but I’m pleased to report that on 15th December, one of the juveniles made her (based on size) first visit to the box. Diamond was already up there, but took off (perhaps to make way) as the juvenile approached. She stayed for about 10 minutes, had a good sticky beak around her birthplace, then took off.
Diamond making way as juvenile approaches box
Juvenile arrives for the first time in box
I was expecting this to happen at some time as Snow (female from 2012, in fact our last fledgling) spent a lot of time in the box with Swift (our previous adult female) up until mid-January.
I’ll send the video to Scott for upload if he’s around.
That’s me, not the birds. I’m off to Washington state to visit my daughter and her family.
Tiffany Mason, a friend from the Nature Conservation Trust, will be keeping an eye open for our falcons while I am away.
The adults are still visiting the box regularly, but spending less time in there (although both male and female have used the box occasionally at night). I’m not sure where our youngsters have got to. No longer in the dead tree, which was full of starlings yesterday. No sign of anyone today in the main roost park.
I return on New Year’s Eve, so will check on asap after that, especially to see whether any of the fledglings have the box in my absence.
We had a nice visit from the Orange Anglican Grammar school last week. They helped me with native plant propagation for a couple of hours, then Scott and I gave them a tour of the site and a talk/slide show. Only the male was present, unfortunately.
Orange Anglican Grammar School Year 10 in the park
After some frustrating days of not being able to locate our youngsters, some friends and I finally found them in a dead tree several hundred metres from the nest. This is probably due to the fact that this tree is the only large dead tree without other trees too close, so ideal for ‘flight training’. We did have two dead pine trees close to the nest, but these were felled for safety reasons.
This is the dead tree currently being used by our three youngsters
All three juveniles were seen in this tree (but predictably hard to photograph), with one female flying back and forth to the trees near the nest, but the others staying close.
As you can see, it was sunset, so I could only get a silhouette, but I think this is Tardy based on size relative to the larger females.
The adults are still using the box regularly and have started interaction/courtship behaviour, with even some desultory scrape preparation. Often Diamond is on the ledge and Bula on the top of the tower as shown (Bula is holding a dark prey item).
Occasional prey has come into the box, with one memorable visit with Diamond arriving with a whole galah. She started to stash it in a corner when Bula arrived licking his lips, so to speak. Immediately, she grabbed her prize and took off again, so perhaps a bit of mistrust there!
The other things of note is that on the night of 28th November, Bula spent the whole night on the ledge of the box. This is extremely rare behaviour for a male, and a first for Bula. Early in the morning Diamond arrived and he left immediately. I have no idea why this anomoly took place, but it is quite interesting. Perhaps Diamond had gone further afield for the night, but who knows.
Bula greets Diamond after a rare night spent in the box
A late afternoon stroll in the park today revealed no less than five peregrines within easy reach of each other. The photos are not much chop, but I’m pretty sure Tardy is the one in the tree fork bottom left. One sister is centre top and the other is bottom right, partly hidden.
The siblings – Tardy bottom left (I think)
I also took one a bit closer of Tardy and one of the sisters, which shows off the size difference a bit better.
Tardy and one of his sisters
Tardy returns to the fold
And the parents were not far away, keeping a watchful eye (and noisy scold). All three youngsters took to the wing for brief flights when I was photographing them, but they (the parents) didn’t budge.
Diamond and Bula keeping watch
I spent today going through the tapes since the last fledge and both parents have been visiting the box regularly, cleaning up some of the debris (Diamond took the galah head…) with Diamond over-nighting most nights. She even brought in some prey recently (pigeon), which seems a bit odd, but perhaps they will visit the box again fairly soon. Previous fledgelings have used the box once they start hunting.
So I guess we are all feeling a lot better now!
Had a wander to see if I could find Tumbler – and lo, and behold, she has successfully joined her sister in one of the roost trees….note how well camouflaged they are.
And here are shots of them separately. I’ve put Walga as being on the left, but honestly, not sure which is which at this stage.
Walga, I think…
No sign of little Tardy yet, but I haven’t given up hope. Just fledged juveniles have often disappeared for five days or more before finding their way back to the roost.
Apart from Aspro, who fell out of the nest in a storm last year and was never found, and one who hurt her leg during hunting-training, we have always had success with our fledglings finding their way in the world, so let’s keep hoping and looking.
With Tumbler’s successful fledging this morning the “empty nest syndrome” begins; very sad to see a quiet eyrie for the first time in weeks… well, that is, all except for the city of flies that the remaining carnage up there has attracted (special high-altitude flies, 50m above the ground!). With some luck I spotted Tumbler up in the trees this afternoon, quietly taking in the world, the breeze in the trees and the ever-circling, and agitated, Diamond who was keeping an eye on her progeny from above and from the nearby tower.
The lonely peregrine chick in the pre-dawn light
Pergerine chick Tumbler fledges safely and with strength
Bula turns up to nothing but carnage and flies
Tumbler in trees
Tumbler safe in trees
Tumbler eyeing mum on the tower
Tumbler spotted me
She’s off and with a really good flight plan, flew straight over the roost trees and then out of sight – probably landed near the front gate, perhaps. I’ll have a look for her when I go into town later (I have a community class on sustainability to teach this afternoon).
And she’s off
Yesterday afternoon, I had a good look around the ‘park’ where the roost trees are, plus the area with the pine trees that you can see to the left of the screen, and the paddocks adjoining those trees – no sign of either of the youngsters, but much angst from Diamond while I was doing this. Both parents were either roosting in the eucalypts, or on the tower (while not chasing me around).
At least there were no birds on the ground as far as I could see (some long grass about, however), not any suspect feathers.
I’ll have another look later this afternoon and then again tomorrow morning before heading to Sydney for weekend conference.