2005 Peregrine Nestbox News
Nestbox News is an account of activity at a nestbox placed atop 101 Hudson St., Jersey City, by biologists in the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Division volunteer and Palisades Interstate Park naturalist Linn Pierson provides the entries to this chronicle of the nesting behavior and activity of peregrine falcons and their chicks.
December 29, 2005
Charles Dickens could well have been gazing across the centuries to the year 2005 at 101 Hudson Street in Jersey City when he wrote the immortal opening line to "A Tale of Two Cities."
The year started uneventfully, as most nesting cycles do, with ever-increasing signs of courtship from the rooftop falcons. The male once again sketched the ancient dance of his species in the skies over the financial district, proving anew to the female that his reign over the firmament qualified him to be the finest of all mates. His offerings of food were accompanied by much bowing and ee-chupping, another affirmation of the pair bond. Eggs were laid; eggs were incubated. The male assumed his duties of feeding the female and helping her incubate and guard the nest. We watched, we smiled, we anticipated a hatch date in early May.
On April 30, a rainy Saturday, the dreams of a successful nesting crashed and burned. The male from 101 flew into a light rail wire and severed his right wing. Whether in a flawed stoop after prey or in a territorial battle with another male, he was obviously flying very fast. A good Samaritan brought him to The Raptor Trust, where his life was saved, but his rule of the Jersey City skies had ended, as he would never fly again.
With little more than a week until hatching, the situation atop 101 was pretty grim. At this time, the female should be spending all her time in incubation, with the male supplying the food. And in the days right after hatching, the fragile young chicks have to be brooded all the time. We were saddened to watch the eggs lie uncovered as the female attempted to do all the hunting. It was cool, the eggs were unattended for long periods of time, and hopes for a hatch were starting to dwindle.
Then, as it will sometimes do, life started to turn around. On Mother’s Day, May 8, two out of the four eggs hatched, and a third on May 9th. With the exception of a short time when we supplemented the female’s efforts with a delivered quail each day, she was doing all the hunting and keeping the little eyasses alive. A new male also appeared, and seemed to be bringing some prey in.
Against all odds, the "single mom" raised three eyasses to fledging. One died tragically on her first flight, but the other two, a male and a female, appeared to have made a successful transition to fledglings.
While the bird problems were heartbreaking, the technical ones were maddening. To add to the tension of this time, our camera set-up at 101 started to fail. It had been worsening since the beginning of the year, and now was almost totally non-functional. Worse yet, there was no money in an already sparse budget for such luxuries as replacing camera and computer.
And then, more of those good times arrived. We appealed to our viewers for help, and were totally stunned, humbled and gratified by the response. We received donations from all over the United States, with many letters of encouragement and support, which lifted our spirits immeasurably. Several large donations actually enabled us to add a second camera, which will be mounted right in the nestbox, so we will now have a much closer look at the goings on.
The wonderful woodworkers at our Pequest facility have built a new nestbox, and a camera will be mounted in it before installation. Hopefully, we will be installing it on the roof at 101 Hudson in January. We will let you know as soon as everything is up and running
December 27, 2005
Thus, we were deeply saddened to hear of the death on Christmas night of Police Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen, of Jersey City's Emergency Services Unit, whose lives were lost helping others. They had just assisted another police department in setting warning flares on the Lincoln Highway Bridge, which links Jersey City to Kearney. As they started back to Jersey City in the heavy rain and fog, the steel gate and warning lights that normally would warn motorists that the bridge was being raised were not functioning due to a prior accident, and officers Carson and Nguyen plunged off the open bridge in their ESU unit, 45 feet into the Hackensack River.
All of us from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife who have been involved in the Peregrine Project offer our condolences to the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department and to the families and loved ones of officers Carson and Nguyen. We believe there is a special corner of the sky reserved for those who give their lives on Christmas. And we believe that Robert Nguyen and Shawn Carson are in that corner of the sky, soaring high and free.
July 18, 2005
Our friend the falconer reports that he sees at least one bird most days. One evening last week he saw the young male flying around Grove Street, clutching the wing of a white pigeon.
A young viewer whose dad works for the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife visited The Raptor Trust last week. He told of seeing the injured male from 101 and says that apart from the missing wing, the bird is looking very good, and is adjusting to his life at the Trust. Although his life has certainly been profoundly altered, the falcon will continue to contribute to New Jersey's peregrine recovery project in his new role as education bird.
July 8, 2005
Although we cannot always observe them directly, experience tells us what the birds of 101 Hudson are probably doing at this stage of their development. The fledglings should be fairly adept by now at the foot-to-foot aerial food transfers by which the adult birds feed them. They are easily heard over the traffic noise even in bustling Jersey City, as they pursue the adults in hopes of getting a meal. It will still be several weeks before the youngsters start to hunt on their own.
The sight of fledglings engaged in aerial "play," where they soar and stoop on each other and chase after any hapless bird that crosses their paths, is a glorious sight for anyone lucky enough to happen upon it. Saturday morning, we watched two young birds diving on and off the Palisades and flying low over the sea wall on the Hudson River, strafing the gulls and Canada geese. Even though they seem to be having a great time, in reality, they are training for their lives as predators. As their flying ability grows ever stronger, the juveniles are also learning to coordinate their response to prey, a skill which is vital to their very survival once they are on their own.
For those of you who live and work in Jersey City, look up a lot and listen. You may be rewarded for the effort!
June 27, 2005
In more good news, on the New Jersey Palisades this week, two female eyases fledged, joining the two males who were already flying. Another nest in the park yielded two males and a female. We now have three natural post-DDT nests in New Jersey.
In city and in wild places there are lots of new peregrines in the air, which should provide some comfort as we deal with the losses.
June 24, 2005
Even though we knew it was dangerously close to anthropomorphizing, we couldn't help but think that this little family had been through so much together that they seemed to cling to each other more tightly than most. We had seen these just-before-dark gatherings several times in the past two weeks. We also thought that with the male fledged and the females about to join him, this could well be the last time we would see all of them together.
Little did we know how prescient that thought would be.
Yesterday the skies in northern New Jersey were an incredible indigo bunting blue, limned with only a few soft cumulous clouds. A picture-postcard sky, perfect weather for a peregrine's first flight.
We do not know exactly how the events transpired, but our observer the hotdog vendor, who has watched the 101 falcons almost from the beginning, was standing in front of 101 with his cart when a peregrine falcon fell from the sky and landed next to him. The bird was dead when it hit the ground.
Knowing that there would be no sleep if we didn't find out which bird it was and get an idea of what happened, we took a ride to Jersey City. John Bonner, building manager of 101, had taken care to see that the bird was preserved for us. The dead eyas was one of the females banded at 101 only two weeks ago, and had probably just fledged. She will be sent to our state pathologist, Dr. Doug Roscoe, for necropsy (the wildlife term for autopsy) but preliminary examination revealed signs that she had impacted with something hard, probably a window at 101 Hudson.
There is probably little on this earth to rival the beauty of a peregrine falcon fledgling, with their sleek new feathers and here-we-come-world attitude. The death of such a beautiful creature at a little over 6 weeks is hard for all of us to accept.
We have spoken before of the unique hazards that urban peregrines face, and tinted glass in buildings is one of the leading causes of death in young, unskilled fliers. At times such as this, we are also reminded of the harsh statistic that well over 50% of the raptors born each year will not live to make their second journey around the sun. Unfortunately, this is the way of their kind. The boundless spirit of young eyases sometimes makes us forget how fragile they really are.
Despite our sadness over this loss, we still have two healthy eyases in Jersey City. That they were successfully raised largely by a "single mom" is no small miracle.
Fly free, little one.
June 20, 2005
Yesterday we received a confirmation of fledging from one of our loyal viewers in Jersey City, who (luckily for us) was at work on Sunday morning. She described watching on camera as a falcon landed on the ramp next to the nestbox. She noted that the landing was not the graceful one usually made by an adult, but that the bird "plopped out of the sky" onto the ramp. That is a very accurate description of a newly fledged falcon's landing. After picking around the roof and the nestbox in search of food remnants, the bird again took to the air and our viewer took to an office window, where she watched the young bird flying. Later she saw him on the roof with prey, which would have been delivered by the adult. Even after fledging, the eyases will be dependent on the adults while they are being taught to hunt.
The females will probably fledge sometime within this next week, with the older one going before her day-younger sister, who is still showing some white in her feathering. We have seen both of them sitting on the ledge flapping, but not taking off. We wish them all a safe flight.
June 13, 2005
Those who have been watching the webcam have been enjoying watching the three eyases scampering up and down the ramp we provided on banding day. The male is feathering in very nicely as his fledge date draws near. There is quite a difference in the way he looks today compared with only one week ago when he was banded. Since female peregrines are a third again as large as the male, they take a little longer to grow into their size. Thus, they will probably spend an extra week in the nest area. We have noticed that the young birds are still going back in or near the nestbox late in the evening, so that is a good time to watch for them.
June 9, 2005
June 8, 2005
After banding on Monday, most of us went back to work or out to lunch. ENSP Principal Zoologists Kathy Clark and Mick Valent, however, went on to check a report of peregrine falcons in Elizabeth. The report proved to be accurate. While there was no sign of nesting this year, the pair appears to be bonding to both each other and the area, which augurs well for next spring. (The photo to the right shows the female enjoying a pigeon lunch). Mick will be returning to the site with a nestbox in the near future.
As she did in Stone Harbor two weeks ago, Kathy once again succeeded in capturing band numbers for the birds. The male is a native of Connecticut, hatched in 2000, and the female is one of the two females that fledged from 101 Hudson Street in 2003!
In six years that peregrines have nested on the heights of 101 Hudson Street, we have never heard anything about any of the Hudson Street birds, and now we have two females who are or probably will be nesting in New Jersey. Exciting discovery!
The first surprise was when we walked out on the roof to find an empty nestbox. Several of us had seen the birds being fed earlier this morning. When we heard ENSP Principal Zoologist Kathy Clark saying "Linn. Bird behind you," we went into our human version of a stoop, assuming the female was coming in from behind us. Imagine the surprise when Kathy gestured somewhat frantically and we looked down to see two little falcons huddled behind a piece of pipe a foot behind us, trying to make themselves invisible from from both the sun and the intruders.
Then we all started looking for the third bird...a task that was proving to be difficult. Just how far could one little eyas get on its first foray out of the box?
Not too far, it seems, as we eventually located him under the rim of the box, plastered up against the wall.
The rest of the banding event went much more smoothly. We were accompanied by several invited guests, including Bob Ivry, the Record reporter whose earlier stories on the trials of the Hudson Street falcons brought us nationwide attention, and Beth Balbierz, a Record photographer whose amazing raptor photos have accompanied many articles on Jersey birds. The eyases turned out to be two females and one male. We will give you their band numbers in our next update.
The next surprise occurred when we went to replace the birds in the nestbox. Principal zoologist Mick Valent noticed an unusual looking prey item stashed on one of the parapets to the east of the box. Of course, we had to have a closer look. The quite mordant bird turned out to be a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and it had not been dead long. We are all left trying to figure out how a bird that is no longer overly common in New Jersey was found in the middle of the Jersey City financial district at a time when its migration should have been completed. One of the many mysteries to occur this year at the Hudson Street eyrie!
We are putting together a photo gallery of today's banding and will post it within the next few days. We are happy to report that all three birds are healthy, with no sign of trichomoniasis, and appear to be normal weight. They were extremely active and as aggressive as any four-week old peregrine, as several of us with scratches can attest. We did manage to unfreeze the camera. Viewers may notice the large wooden ramp now leading up to the box. Since the birds are still a little young, and would not be able to jump back into the box, we have provided them with a temporary ramp.
We would like to thank John Bonner of Mack-Cali for his many courtesies today. Mr. Bonner was somewhat apprehensive when we put a young falcon in his hands for the first time. We convinced him it was part of his initiation as falcon liaison and he most graciously acquiesced. In fact, we secretly suspect he downright enjoyed it!
June 3, 2005
Several days after we posted the update, we were joyfully surprised to receive a very generous check from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. We cannot find words strong enough to thank this individual for the generosity and affection shown to the 101 family.
Equally special is the number of donations that we received from visitors to our site. Contributions have come in from not just New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, but from viewers in states such as Texas, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Michigan!
We thank all of our contributors, large and small, for each and every donation made a difference. We will use any remaining funds from the camera purchase for updating the system and possibly installing a camera inside the nestbox.
The only bad news is that installation of the new system is going to take four to five hours. Thus, we will have to wait until after the youngsters have left Hudson Street this summer. Be assured everything will be in place well in time to see what transpires with the new pair during the fall and winter.
If we can anthropomorphize a little, we wish the falcons of Hudson Street could just for a moment think in human terms and be warmed by all the love and encouragement that has been shown to them by all of you. They would surely fly a little higher and stronger!
Thank you all very much from all of us at the Peregrine Project and Conserve Wildlife.
June 1, 2005
Tuesday we received a detailed report from a resident of Jersey City who has experience as a falconer. The ancient sport of falconry has often been viewed unfavorably because of the actions of a few individuals. Post-DDT peregrines, however, owe their rebirth in large part to the fact that falconers with experience in captive breeding techniques were willing to donate not only their expertise, but also some of their prized birds in an attempt to bring their beloved duck hawk back to the wild. The hacking techniques by which those first peregrines were released also came from the falconers' bank of knowledge.
Most falconers we have met have also been excellent observers. So the report this individual sent to us gives us lots of hope.
On Saturday, the observer watched for about two hours as a male and female peregrine flew all around 101 Hudson. He described the thrill of watching the two fly together, with no sign of any aggression. At one point, the male broke off the flight and went into a sharp stoop. Our viewer did not see the result, but he did note that shortly thereafter the female flew to the nestbox with a pigeon. It is possible that a prey transfer took place, which augers well for the future.
Another viewer, watching in San Francisco, thinks that at one point this morning the male landed at the nestbox, only staying for a moment before taking flight again. We thank these viewers for their observations.
We also would like everyone to know that ENSP Principal Zoologist Kathy Clark visited 101 last Friday and gave the eyases a clean bill of health. Kathy said all three looked healthy and strong, but gave them a second dose of the medication for trich as a precaution.
Banding at 101 will take place on Monday, June 6, at 10:00 a.m. Viewers have probably noticed that our camera has been frozen at full zoom. Hopefully, we will be able to unfreeze it so viewers can see the adult birds flying while the chicks disappear for a few moments. For the safety of both birds and people, we will do the actual banding inside the building. We are planning to put together a photographic gallery so everyone can get a close look.
May 31, 2005
The same day, we saw another first for one of the nestlings. The female had left a probable pigeon wing in the nestbox after feeding the young. We watched as the young falcon grabbed the wing and picked at it, attempting to feed itself. The eyas yanked at the wing so hard that it almost fell over, first on one side and then on the other. Soon, prey will be dropped in the box, and the young birds will be feeding themselves.
The eyases are three weeks old now and we expect to band them sometime early next week. We will keep you posted.
May 27, 2005
The story begins in the year 2000 when LCOR Director of Property Management Tom Reid and Property Manager Bob Barth noticed peregrine falcons riding the air currents around what was then New Jersey's tallest building, 101 Hudson Street. They contacted the Endangered and Nongame Species Program to see how they could help. (For the complete story of 101, see About this Project.)
We remember getting the phone call from ENSP Principal Zoologist Mick Valent, asking us to take a ride and "check it out." We walked out on a pier in front of the building on a crisp, blue-sky Sunday morning in early March, and between enjoying the breathtakingly close look at the Statue of Liberty and the immensity of the twin towers soaring above us across the Hudson, for a moment we almost forgot about the birds. Not for long, however, as within ten minutes a female peregrine cut the skies overhead, followed closely by a male, doing an impressive courtship flight. The birds landed on a front parapet on 101, obviously a bonded pair. An easy confirmation.
Shortly thereafter, Mick Valent traveled to Jersey City with not one, but two nestboxes, which were placed on opposite ends of the roof. Almost immediately, the peregrines chose the box on the northwest corner, and have raised their young there ever since.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In the year 2000 there was no webcam to watch and no Nestbox News to read, but there were peregrine falcons hatching and growing in a nestbox atop 101 Hudson Street in the heart of Jersey City's financial district. Two eyasses, a male and a female, fledged, learned to hunt, and thrived on the building's heights until the time when young peregrines act on the primordial urge to strike out on their own. They did just that, and were never seen again.
Well, at least not until last week, that is. Fast forward to May of 2005 when ENSP Principal Zoologist Kathy Clark and Seasonal Wildlife Technician Ben Wurst visited a peregrine nest located in Stone Harbor, in the south Jersey marshes, to check on the resident pair.
Ben's photograph (right) illustrates the female peregrine's less than enthusiastic reaction to the encroaching biologists. The biologists did, however, manage to capture a close-up photograph of both adults' leg bands.
The tiercel, or male, was a local bird, fledged in 2003 from nearby Ocean Gate. But the real surprise was the female, whose band number *D/*M identified her as that first female peregrine fledged from 101 Hudson Street in 2000! This is the first time that any of the 101 alumnae have been sighted, so it is very exciting news.
There have been many changes at 101 in the past five years. In 2001 Verizon provided the webcam through which thousands of people became attuned to the lives of their avian neighbors. A stunning exhibit with live cam became a focal point of 101 Hudson's entrance. And while the Statue of Liberty still lifts her torch over New York Harbor, there is an immeasurable hole in the skyline where the World Trade Center once stood.
Some of the recent changes have involved the human population of 101 Hudson Street. Several months ago, LCOR sold 101 Hudson Street and Tom Reid and Bob Barth have moved on to other endeavors. Thank you seems an inadequate expression for all the many courtesies extended to the non rent-paying neighbors and their human watchers over the years by LCOR, and especially Tom Reid and Bob Barth, who went way above and beyond anything they ever had to do.
Mack-Cali Realty Corporation is the new owner of 101 Hudson Street. We welcome them and are sure that they will continue the fine stewardship of one of New Jersey's rarest nesters. We are pleased that one familiar face from LCOR, John Bonner, has stayed on as Building Manager. Mr. Bonner has already helped us many times in this difficult year.
And so we have come transition and full circle. In a nesting season that has held heartbreak, we also have the comfort of knowing that the 101 Hudson bloodline is alive and well and still living in New Jersey. In the web of life, living and dying are all part of the chain, and we have been privileged to see both, right in the heart of Jersey City.
May 23, 2005
At two weeks, the falcons are exhibiting several new behaviors. Viewers may notice that they are now quite capable of holding themselves up, except when their crops are full and the young birds become very top-heavy! They are moving about the nest box, and are able to regulate their body temperature much better. The female seems to be getting help from the male who has been around, since we see more food coming in to the chicks. You may also notice that the chicks are becoming much more aggressive about feeding and we have seen them actually grabbing their mother's bill when she does not get the food to them fast enough. Those who look at the pictures taken when they were one or two days old and the birds on camera now, we see the amazing size difference that two weeks in the nest brings.
Sunday also held another sort of milestone for the young eyasses. They were featured in an article in the sports section of the Star Ledger. Columnist Fred Aun, who does an outdoors column each Sunday, had written an article about the 101 Hudson St. nest in 2003. He has followed the birds of Hudson Street ever since. Last week, he saw our appeal for help in getting a new camera, and wrote the wonderful article that appeared on Sunday. We thank Mr. Aun for his help. We also rather imagine that this has to be one of a very few instances where peregrine falcons have made it onto the pages of a newspaper's sports section!
May 19, 2005
We have just received the bad news that after almost five years of 24/7 use, repair would not be a viable option and the camera must be replaced. Unfortunately, such replacement comes with a price tag of a little over $4,000.
The Endangered and Nongame Species Program does not receive any dedicated state funding and most of the money we receive goes directly to helping our endangered species. Fortunately, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation provides much needed assistance for our conservation efforts including the webcam.
The Foundation is currently exploring options for funding to replace the webcam including appealing directly to all the viewers who have been so involved with and supportive of the peregrine falcons of 101 Hudson Street.
If all of you who care so deeply about these birds would care to make a donation, large or small, to the Foundation these funds will be applied directly to replacing the camera. Contributions should be sent to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, PO Box 400, Trenton, NJ 08625-0400. Write on the envelope "for peregrine cam" and it will go right into the camera fund.
The Peregrine Project has been a joint venture between ENSP and the corporate and private citizens of New Jersey since its very beginning. With your help, we will be able to ensure that our viewers can continue to watch our Jersey City peregrines for many generations to come.
Thank you as always for your support.
May 18, 2005
We are happy to note that the third eyas is now hard to distinguish from its day-older siblings. All three appear to be strong. If they need an additional dose of the medication for trichomoniasis, they will receive it at the beginning of next week. We are optimistic about their chances for a full recovery.
Viewers who are concerned that the female is not constantly brooding should be aware that at almost two weeks and with such warm and clear weather, the chicks do not need a great deal of brooding.
On Saturday morning, ENSP Principal Zoologist Kathy Clark took a ride north from Cape May County to have a look at the 101 family. It is fortunate that she did so, as she observed in all three eyases signs of trichomoniasis, a disease that peregrine chicks can contract from eating infected pigeons (for a more detailed description of trich, check the Nestbox News entry for June 14, 2004). Fortunately, there is a medication that has proven effective in treating "trich" and Kathy had some with her. She placed the dose in a few tiny pieces of chicken and was able to get it into all three chicks. She also left another dose in case we have to medicate them a second time.
Kathy also removed the fourth egg which had not hatched and reported that it was very light, so it probably was never viable.
We were also concerned, as were some of our viewers, by the fact that the adult female was out of the nestbox for long periods of time on Saturday and Sunday. One of the building engineers had reported seeing two additional peregrines in the area around 101 Hudson. We are left to wonder if there are two males in the area, or a male and female looking for a territory of their own. We will be watching the situation closely.
The good news is that things seemed to be much more normal today. We saw the chicks being fed on several occasions, and the resident female was once again doing much more brooding.
May 13, 2005
According to Len Soucy, director of The Raptor Trust, the falcon is doing quite well, considering the seriousness of his injury. He has completed a regimen of antibiotics and has moved from intensive care in the infirmary to a small outside enclosure.
For anyone who has never visited The Raptor Trust (and we strongly recommend that you do), most of the resident birds have handicaps that preclude their release back to the wild. A bird that is permanently injured and unreleasable but able to maintain a decent quality of life is often put to work as an education bird. Len Soucy is a master at designing spaces that help these birds adapt. For instance, the 101 male will most probably be in an enclosure with a series of ramps covered in astroturf, so he is free to bathe or just get a little exercise. Unfortunately, with only one wing, this feisty peregrine will never return to the wild.
Back at Hudson Street, we have suspended quail delivery for several days, as the female seems to be procuring sufficient food for the eyases. If we notice any change, of course, we will resume. The male seems to be around the area, and while the pair is not fully bonded at this time, he does seem to aid in defense and is providing some of the food. The three nestlings seem to be feisty and well-fed, so we are hopeful.
May 11, 2005
Feeling somewhat like a contestant on one of those survival shows that abound on network television, we nonetheless set out to do just that.
It seemed that the female knew something special was coming last night, since even before we got the door open, she was sitting on the rim of the nestbox. We learned first-hand just what it feels like to be a prey item, as we reached into the nestbox, past the nestlings, and she seemed to be coming at us from all directions. Our fondest hope, once we got our fingers around a large piece of shell, was that if we were struck, pain would not make our fingers constrict and crush it.
Our prize was worth the assault. More than half of an intact shell. Peregrine eggs are lovely and Kathy had a good reason for wanting this one. Any shell that is hatched or addled (nonviable), after first being dried for three months, is used to take measurements that reflect eggshell thickness. The measurements are then compared to pre-DDT thickness, and determine if there are any lasting effects from DDT and its breakdown products.
Although there are several diseases that peregrine falcons may contract from ingesting pigeons, this diet does bestow upon them zero eggshell thinning. Birds that eat long-distance migrants, especially coastal migrants or shorebirds, can still ingest DDT since it is still used in Central and South America.
When the egg analysis is finished in late summer, we will let you know the results.
While we did not see the new male falcon last night, there was evidence of prey remains, and we believe he is in the area.
May 10, 2005
Adding to the surprise factor was the fact that the new male, unseen since last Wednesday, was back on the scene. He was not quite comfortable in approaching the female too closely, but he joined her in making several passes at the unwelcome guest. Obviously, he has not given up and left the area. Early this morning, as ENSP biologist Kathy Clark was watching the female pluck a pigeon in the nest box, she also saw feathers flying well off to the side of the box, leading her to believe that a second bird was present.
Viewers also have a good chance to get a close-up view of peregrine nest sanitation, or lack thereof. The detritus includes some well-plucked bones, feathers, broken egg shells and evidence that some hapless rock dove (pigeon) was banded with the number 26. Peregrines seem to feel totally comfortable living amidst their clutter and the task of cleaning out the nest box frequently falls to humans when nesting season is over.
May 8, 2005
On their first day, the chicks look like cotton balls, with just a little bit of first down. They are unable to raise themselves up, or to regulate their body temperature, which is why the female will continue to brood them for a week or more. We have seen her feeding them today, which is a good sign. We will continue to keep you posted.
The Hudson Street falcons were also the topic of a front-page article by Record reporter Bob Ivry, who had heard of the plight of the birds from a friend who is a viewer and interviewed all involved in the ongoing drama. If you did not see the Record, you can access the article by going to www.northjersey.com. The accompanying photographs by Tariq Zehawi are totally amazing, but you will need a hard copy of the Record to see them. We thank both individuals for their fine work.
May 5, 2005
Today was the first day of "operation prey delivery". We set out for 101 Hudson St. at 5:00 p.m., and the 20 mile drive from Alpine to Jersey City was measurable only in the foot-long increments that constitute rush hour in northern New Jersey. The only good part of the journey was traffic coming to a complete standstill in Weehawken just as the Queen Mary 2 pulled out of her midtown berth, coast guard cutters and NYPD vessels bobbing beside her like a fleet of rubber duckies. Our joy was short-lived as we realized the ship was going to reach Jersey City long before we did.
We arrived at 101 Hudson tired, hungry, saddened by the week's events and wanting only to be home in front of the television, mindlessly watching "Lost."
Thus, when we met the night engineers who would escort us on the multi-elevator trip to the roof, we probably didn't fully give credence to their comments. First they asked about the status of our resident male, and then they wondered why we were going to feed the female, as she had another bird with her. All day long, they were seeing two birds. Politeness made us say "Two birds, really?" while skepticism made us wonder what that other bird really was.
With quail in hand, we walked out onto the roof, where the female was waiting for us with screams of displeasure. We were rather involved in trying to avoid having our head removed from our shoulders and thus it took a moment to realize that the cacking was actually a duet. We looked up just in time to see the second peregrine, a male, working in tandem with the female to protest our presence. Never has the sight of two peregrines in full attack mode been more thrilling than it was this evening.
There is widespread belief among peregrine biologists that there are a good number of unattached breeding age peregrines around that for whatever reason have not found mates. These "floaters" may move in when a bird dies, or in some cases actually challenge established birds, sometimes fighting to the death to claim a mate of their own.
With the clarity that hindsight can provide, several of us were discussing the new development and had noticed that the female seemed to spend a lot of time today looking up, and also that she was vocalizing. We all tended to attribute this to her looking for her missing mate. The new bird is not yet quite comfortable in his new role. While he did work very well with her in deflecting intruders, he still seems to be trying to attract her with a lot of fly-bys, which we watched from inside as she returned to her nest box. Hopefully, he will soon take the pair bond a step further by providing her with food.
We are not yet sure whether they will be successful. For the immediate future, we will continue the daily food runs to Jersey City until we are sure she and hopefully soon her chicks, are being fed. But we certainly are much more hopeful than we were last night.
While nature has the power to break our hearts, it also has an awesome power to restore our faith in the natural order. We will keep you posted.
May 4, 2005
In Saturday's rain, a good samaritan found an adult male peregrine falcon and its severed wing a short distance from 101 Hudson. Apparently no one witnessed the accident, but experience would lead us to believe that the falcon was in a high-powered stoop pursuing prey, and flew into a wire. We have often spoken of the perils inherent in the lives of city peregrines, and this is a perfect example of how quickly a life can be shattered in the urban environment.
We have also spoken of the goodness of Jersey City residents, who have shown an amazing willingness to get involved in the lives of their high-flying neighbors. The fact that this bird was picked up and brought to Len Soucy at the Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ, has given the falcon its best chance for survival. Anyone who has read Nestbox News over the years is familiar with the work done at this world-class facility. Even more importantly, the fact that the bird was brought to the Trust alerted us to the fact that there was a problem, which might not have been apparent on camera for several days. We hope that the person who rescued the bird reads this and accepts the thanks of all of us involved in the Peregrine Project in New Jersey.
This also is an example of why banding rare species such as peregrine falcons is so important. Len Soucy called ENSP principal zoologist Kathy Clark with the bird's band number, which identified it as having been banded in New York. Kathy spoke to her counterpart in New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Barbara Loucks, and thus was able to establish that the bird was banded as a nestling at the Outerbridge Crossing on May 12, 1998. He did not have to travel far from home as an adult to establish his nesting territory at 101 Hudson. The sad news is that while the falcon has a good chance at recovery, he will never return to 101 Hudson.
What will happen to this year's nest? The truth is that the loss of the male could not have occurred at a worse time. With eggs due to hatch in the next few days, the female is entirely dependent on her mate for providing food. After hatching, the male continues to supply prey for about the first two weeks, until the nestlings have some down and can better regulate their body temperature. At this point, they can be left alone for short periods while either parent hunts.
While we cannot predict the end result for 101 Hudson, a lot of minds have been working at trying to save the rest of the family. Yesterday, Mick Valent, also a principal zoologist with ENSP, traveled to Jersey City. When he walked out on the roof, he established what we already strongly suspected, that it is almost certainly the Hudson St. male that was injured, as only one bird flew at him when he went out on the roof.
Again thanks to The Raptor Trust, Mick had with him a supply of quail, which is fed to peregrines who live in captivity. Mick left a fresh quail in a corner of the nest box, all the while being dive-bombed by the female. When he left and she returned to the box, she picked up the quail and flew off with it; whether she actually ate any of it we have yet to establish.
For the next few weeks, if you are tuned in to the webcam between 6 and 7 in the evening, you may well see the female flying at an intruding human, as we make a daily prey delivery.
At this point, no one can be certain if this will be successful. Right now our only certainty is that we will do whatever is necessary to give the remaining 101 family its best chance at survival. And we will keep our viewers posted as to the outcome.
Events such as the removal of this prime-age breeding bird from the wild are very sad, especially in their speed and brutality. No matter how long one's involvement in this type of work, it never becomes easier. However, it is all part of what makes nature work. Not every creature, no matter how beautiful, is meant to live. But with the help of all of you who have been involved, and a lot of finger-crossing, our Jersey City peregrines will have the best chance we can give them. Thank you all for your caring.
April 22, 2005
The female peregrine does the major portion of incubation duties, although the male will relieve her at the nest so she can sit somewhere nearby and stretch, preen, or occasionally hunt. This changing of the guard usually involves a lot of bowing and ee-chupping between the mates, all part of their continual pair bonding.
Notice also how carefully the adult birds move around the eggs or when they hatch, around the young chicks. They ball up their feet so the lethal talons cannot hurt the contents of the nest, and they move quite gingerly. It always gives one pause to see how such a fierce predator can be so incredibly gentle.
Somewhere within the next two weeks the eggs should be replaced by several little hatchlings demanding to be fed, and the time of quiet will be over.
Today is the 35th celebration of Earth Day in America. In some ways, our environment is more threatened than ever. But as you watch the peregrines of Jersey City, keep in mind that on the first Earth Day in 1970, peregrine falcons were totally extirpated east of the Mississippi River, DDT was still two years away from being banned, and we were still three years away from having an Endangered Species Act. We've come a long way in these thirty-five years.
With much good management and support from staff and citizens, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and ospreys have returned to fly over the cities and forests of New Jersey.
We thank all those involved in the ongoing effort and wish all of you a Happy Earth Day 2005!
April 8, 2005
From what we have been able to see, the female appears to be incubating. We have not been able to ascertain at this point exactly when incubation began and how many eggs are in the nestbox.
Peregrine clutches generally consist of three or four eggs which are laid approximately two days apart. Peregrines are usually synchronous hatchers. This simply means that all the eggs hatch at about the same time so chicks are equal in their development. For this reason, peregrines do not start to incubate until they lay what is known as the penultimate egg. This is the third, or sometimes the fourth egg. Incubation lasts about 32 days for peregrine falcons.
An educated guess would be that if all things proceed according to schedule, we should be seeing a hatch sometime at the beginning of May.
Best time for viewing clearly is in the morning when the sun illuminates the inside of the box, or on overcast days.
March 30, 2005
The first of these sounds is the one referred to as the "ee-chup" call. This is a communication sound used between mates, and is probably the "sweetest" sound a peregrine makes. The male's call is generally a little higher than the female and he will use it while approaching her on the nest ledge. Adult birds will also employ this call when exchanging guard duty at the nest.
The next call is known as "cacking" and the loud, strident "cack, cack, cack" of the peregrine is a sound meant to strike terror in the hearts of any potential intruder at the eyrie, whether mammal, bird or human. It is a sound with which peregrine banders become quite familiar, as it is uttered repeatedly when they approach the nest.
The last call which is heard with regularity is the "wail." Again, the long repetitive "waaa, waaa, waaa" frequently issues from the female during courtship, and when nesting, when the male approaches with prey. A frantic variation of this call will be given by peregrine nestlings when they are hungry, especially when they spot their parents approaching with food.
March 24, 2005
Both birds have been seen sitting on the parapets over the nestbox, and we have also observed them sitting on the edge of the box.
Even in the wild, peregrines do not build nests in the manner of other birds. Instead, they create a depression in the nest substrate by running their breasts through the substrate material while using their legs to push out behind them. This depression is called a scrape, and it is where the eggs are laid.
When the box was set out at 101 Hudson, biologists lined it with pea gravel, often called the peregrine aphrodisiac. Watch closely once the snow melts and you may soon be able to see a well formed depression in the gravel.
Egg laying in this part of New Jersey generally occurs at the beginning of April, so the wait will not be a long one. We hope that the snows are over for this winter, as you can see today the effect that snow would have on the nestbox.
In April 2003 the peregrines were already incubating four eggs when there was a freaky April snowstorm. Conditions were severe enough so that the female was forced off the nest and the eggs were buried under the snow and no longer viable.
Fortunately, if this happens right at the beginning of the egg laying cycle, the birds will often double clutch, or lay a second set of eggs, and this is what happened. By the end of April the female had laid four new eggs, which hatched at the end of May.
February 7, 2005
Although it is not always as apparent as it has been in the past few days, the earth's cycle has begun its inexorable journey toward spring.
Cardinals and house finches are testing out their first tentative songs, and the initial wave of red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures are passing over New Jersey's ridges and valleys. We leave work at 5:00 to be greeted by the last rays of daylight as the days begin ever so gradually to give us more light.
This lengthening diurnal cycle also triggers the peregrines of 101 Hudson Street to begin the rituals of another nesting season.
The birds have remained in Jersey City throughout the winter, and viewers who have checked the Webcam regularly have been rewarded with occasional tanalizing glimpses.
Several weeks ago, a viewer who works in a nearby office building watched as the female polished off a meal of rock dove (pigeon). Soon that meal will be delivered by her mate, as he proves his ability to provide for his family by presenting her with tempting feathered morsels.
In the past weeks, random checks have enabled us to see the birds on camera, sometimes singly and sometimes together, sitting in the vicinity of their nestbox. As we write this, one of the birds is perched on the parapet to the east of the box.
Soon another year at 101 Hudson will start to unfold. Watch with us to see what happens.