Great Spirit Bluff falcons are back! We have a new HD nest box camera that has been working well. It is amazing the difference that HD technology makes. We thank A2Z Security Cameras for their help and support!
As many of you probably heard or watched, we banded peregrine falcons yesterday at Great Spirit Bluff. Monitoring, banding, and tracking falcons is one of our primary mission goals. We are rewarded each year when it is time to meet up with conservation-minded landowners and check over the health of the young falcons and band them.
Great Spirit Bluff is only one of many properties that we visit each year. Our resident falcons Michelle and Newman did well during the RRP event with their perfectly normal protective parent behavior. Four healthy eyasses (young falcons) were banded and named: (1 female and 3 male) - Vickie, Alex, Charlie, and Asher. Viewers watched RRP director, John Howe, rappel to the nestbox live on cam, while Amy Ries and Dave Kester carefully managed the elevator ride up and down the bluff. Ries and Kester banded the falcons up top, identified their gender and checked their overall heath, while the Howe family and friends enjoyed seeing the little ones up close and personal.
Many thanks to our participating landowners (both private citizens and companies)! Without their help, this conservation success story would not be possible. This was also the first annual event at the property without our RRP founder, mentor, and friend Bob Anderson. Many fond memories......and the show must go on....
Banded on 5/29/16
Female - Vickie - 09/P
Male - Asher - E/45
Male - Charlie - E/46
Male - Alex - E/88
Check out the slideshow for pics of the event:
Michelle is paired with a new unbanded adult male falcon this year. The Howe family has nicknamed him Newman. That we know of, Travis did not return. Michelle is sitting on four eggs right now. We anticipate hatch to begin around May 3rd.
Egg 1 laid on 3/27/16 @ 12:01 AM
Egg 2 laid on 3/29/16 @ 10:34 AM
Egg 3 laid on 3/31/16 @ 9:22 PM
Egg 4 laid on 4/03/16 @ 2:08 PM
Hatch #1 happened on 05/06/16 @ 4:00 AM
Hatch #2 happened on 05/06/16 @ 7:05 AM
If you would also like to talk on our forum, follow this link: http://www.raptorresource.org/forum/
7/27/15 Bob earned his wings
We honor the the legacy and contribution that Bob made to falcon reintroduction to the Midwest and their ultimate return to the Mississippi Bluffs. This video tells the story of his cliff work and was a special favorite: https://youtu.be/USQs4Bwxa18
The photo below shows him on Great Spirit Bluff. It was one of his very favorites - he loved to be on rope - and is how many of us will remember him. Fly on, friend and mentor. We will never forget you.
2015 Fledglings return!
In an unusual twist, we've had up to 3 juveniles at a time return to the nest box to hang out, be fed, and rest for the night. This is quite a rarity to see at GSB. In past years, since the camera was installed, we've had an early fledge. This season, possibly due to GSBD's installation of the second closer perch on the nest box the juveniles were in and out of the box, testing out their balance, strength, and wings far more than we've witnessed in the past. It seems all were very ready for flight by the time they left the nest and all, with the exception of Rusty have returned to the box multiple times. In the past, the chicks have lived in the brush below for a week or more before attaining positive flight and the ability to even get back to the box. At that point, they have likely become accustomed to sleeping and dining elsewhere. Much to our viewer's delight, this year, the nest box seems to have become a home base for our juvies. We've been treated to an extended season and seen them grow and learn to prepare their own meals, perfect take off and landing skills, and maintain their sibling closeness. What a great season!
Successful Fledge for All
If you missed our falcons fledging, check out the highlights below.
It's a boy! And a boy and a girl and a girl!
The Raptor Resource Project crew showed up Saturday afternoon 5/30/15 to band the GSB eyasses. John retrieved the chicks and Bob and Amy banded and determined gender. Travis and Michelle are proud parents of 2 male and 2 female eyasses this season. Bob says they are very strong and healthy this year. Michelle and Travis are doing a remarkable job keeping them fat and happy.
Rusty - 07/D
Garrett - 08/D
Elizabeth - D/44
Nina - D/45
Banding occurs around 3 weeks when eyasses are growing strong and healthy, but not yet ready to fly. Each chick will receive a set of ankle bling: a purple band from the USFWS, and one to track them in the Midwest Peregrine Database. These bands are small enough to not impact mobility, and loose enough to ensure comfort and safety of these beautiful falcons.
Whenever these bands are read by birders, scientists, or interested parties, their location and status can be recorded in the Midwest Peregrine Database. Each year, we check the bands of our mating pair to see whose offspring our bluffside nest will be housing this season. We were able to ID Michelle and Travis thanks to this database. Someday these chicks will turn up at another nest box and we may hear from them again.
Check out our slideshow from the banding.
A Flurry of Fluff - 3 Hatches in Less Than a Day, 4th hatch on Saturday
All of our darling fluffballs have arrived!
Egg 1 @ 1:24 p.m. on 5/7/15
Egg 2 @ 3:10 a.m. on 5/8/15
Egg 3 @ 5:40 a.m. on 5/8/15
Egg 4 hatch confirmed @ 4:30 p.m. 5/9/15
See video of these cuties during a shift change from Michelle to Travis. Courtesy of Priscillash/EagleWhisperer18
Baby Pool Winner!
We have a winner! Grandma GSBDweller must have years of experience, or she is just plain lucky, guessing close to just one hour off the actual hatch time. She is thrilled to have the closest guess, but she already has a copy of Laura's story book, "Eggbert", so she has offered this prize to the next closest guessers. Since both Kaiah and Roseanne/redwingrose were about 6 hours off, we'll offer each of them a either an electronic or printed copy of the illustrated story. Congrats to our winners!Hope Springs Anew in 2015
2014 was a challenging year for a number of reasons including a cold start, four eggs that didn't hatch, a black fly infestation and early fledge for little Macintosh. We watched our resilient falcon family handle the harsh realities of nature and we all learned lessons along the way.
The new season brings with it a crisp new camera, milder conditions so far, and our reliable and loyal Peregrine pair, Michele and Travis, returning on schedule with a productive start on a new generation. Michele spent the night in the nestbox on March 28th and surprised us with an early morning gift wrapped in brown speckles. Both birds have been taking turns guarding their treasure. These two are such wonderful parents. They make great role models if any other falcons are watching out there.
Egg 1 3/29/15 @ 12:46 a.m.
Egg 2 3/31/15 @ 6:31 p.m.
Egg 3 4/03/15 @ 5:15 a.m.
Egg 4 4/05/15 @ 2:03 p.m.
Michelle lays first egg of 2015 @ 12:46 a.m. 3/29/15
Thank you eaglewhisperer18 for your vigilant recording efforts.
Falcon courtship, copulation and gifts 3/14/15
The property on which these falcons choose to make their home is protected with a conservation easement held and enforced by the Minnesota Land Trust.
About the Falcons: Blogs, photos, and video
First feeding 5/3/12
03/29/2012 Michelle Lays 3rd Egg at 6:54 p.m. (around 3:58 into the video)
About the GSB Project
The Raptor Resource Project installed a nest box here after falcons tried nesting on a ledge that was accessible to raccoon. The box was adopted by a pair of falcons in 2005. Young falcons have fledged here every year since. Great Spirit Bluff is owned by the Howe family. Jonathon Howe, son of John and Susan, was a member of Boy Scout Troop 479 in Eden Prairie, MN. He needed a project to advance to Eagle rank and was interested in working with falcons. Jonathon and his father designed and built four special nestboxes with lids that flip up and cover the box. These boxes have two wonderful features: they are accessible from the top, which means we don't have to lean over a roof to get the babies and (when open) they keep young falcons from jumping out. Human banders and young falcons are safer as a result.
Jonathon also helped plan the deployment of the camera here. He and troop members and friends pulled the cable to the edge of the cliff, dug the cable trench, and buried the cable. We are very pleased with the results.
Why don't falcons build a nest?
Peregrine falcons do not bring nesting material to an area to build a nest. Instead, they make what is called a scrape or shallow depression in existing gravel or other debris by lying down and pushing back with a foot. They naturally nest on cliff areas. Gravel retains heat which is beneficial during incubation.
When will the falcons lay eggs?
They will most likely lay in late March or early April. Peregrine falcons tend to lay eggs between 48-72 hours apart and do not generally incubate them until after the third egg has been laid.
How long does it take the eggs to hatch?
Generally, the eggs should start hatching 33-34 days after the third egg is laid, or after incubation begins.
How long from pip to actual hatch?
Studies show the time from pip to hatch to be anywhere from 50-72 hours. According to Glenn R. Stewart Coordinator at the Predatory Bird Research Group at Long Marine Lab, U of Cal. Santa Cruz, "The chick has a "hatching muscle" in its neck that swells with lymph and begins to spasm toward the time for hatching. In doing so, the beak with its sharp egg tooth at the tip is forced through the membrane separating the air cell from the embryo. The chick pokes its beak into the air cell and begins the transition from gas exchange to lung breathing. With the beginning of lung breathing, it is able to cheep even though there is no break in the shell. Soon, the air cell fills with carbon dioxide and the chick's hatching muscle again spasms forcing the egg tooth through the shell creating a star-shaped break or "pip" that allows air to enter the shell. The chick rests for a good long time, cheeping from time to time and hearing Mother's vocalizations of encouragement in return. Eventually, and with gaining strength, the chick begins cutting its way around the equator of the shell by pulling itself along using little vestigial claws located at the alula (thumb) feather to turn inside its cramped shell. All of this takes about fifty hours-they do not simply shrug off the shell and erupt into the outside world."
When and who bands the young falcons?
Falcons are banded around 3 weeks of age. Bob Anderson and his team will rappel down the bluff to collect the eyasses for banding.
When do the young falcons start flying?
They will fledge at roughly 40 days of age.
How can I tell the male and female apart?
In general, female peregrines are about 30% larger than the males. In our nest, we have also noted some distinguishing markings. Michelle has a small amount of white feathers just above her beak, her head is more broad, and she has a bull horns marking in the white feathers on the side of her neck. Travis has all dark feathering above his beak, a smaller rounder head, and a brighter yellow beak.
How old are the pair and how long have they been nesting here?
Michelle is 11 years old (a 2005 hatch from Maasen Bluff, WI - band P/87). Our unbanded male, Newman, appeared in late February 2016. We identified Michelle at Great Spirit Bluff in 2012, but she and prior mate, Travis (a 2003 hatch from Lee's Bluff Lynxville WI - band 06/N), could have been nesting at this site as far back as 2007. The last previous recorded band reading on a different female at this nest was Katrinka in 2006.
2011 Great Spirit Bluff Banding Event