Great Spirit Bluff Falcons

Great Spirit Bluff Falcons

December 2, 2013 at 1:27am on Great Spirit Bluff Falcons 2,929 followers

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Great Spirit Bluff Falcons

Great Spirit Bluff Falcons

Pets, Animals - Birds

2,929 followers 3,340,543 views

FALCON WATCH - We anticipate the return of our nesting pair of peregrine falcons in late February/early March.

2/4/16 We are gearing up for the return of Michelle and Travis from their winter migration. NEW for this year is the HD Nest Box cam! Stay tuned for their likely return.

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. Although Bob was very proud of his work with the Decorah Eagles, his heart was truly in his peregrine falcon recovery work. This video tells the story of his cliff work and was a special favorite:

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.
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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.

Rusty fledge June 15

Garretts partial fledge June 18

Garrett's real fledge June 19

Nina fledge June 19

Elizabeth fledge June 20

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. GSBD 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.

GSBDweller's Banding 2015 album on Photobucket

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
Egg 1 - 3/29/15 @ 12:46 a.m.
Thank you eaglewhisperer18 for your vigilant recording efforts.

Falcon courtship, copulation and gifts 3/14/15
Edited snips of copulation and Travis bringing Michelle a treat

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. Any contributions donated on this site will go towards protecting additional habitat for these marvelous raptors.
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About the Falcons: Blogs, photos, and video
RRP Blog: Peregrine Falcon FAQ
RRP Blog: Michelle, Travis, and Peregrine Questions
Diagrams of the Nest Box
RRP Facebook Page: News about the GSB falcons and other birds
RRP Forum - Chat about the Great Spirit Bluff Falcons
GSBDweller's Photobucket

Video History

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, is 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?
Travis is 12 years old (a 2003 hatch from Lee's Bluff Lynxville WI - band 06/N). Michelle is 10 years old (a 2005 hatch from Maasen Bluff, WI - band P/87). We identified this pair at Great Spirit Bluff in 2012, but they 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

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