Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Banding Day 2010! A riveting experience.

It is not everyday that one has the chance to band falcon chicks. Even for those who have banded 'many falcons' the opportunity is rarely passed up. Today a few lucky biologists and assistants banded the falcon chicks that are viewable on the BRI Peregrinecam...and what a successful morning it was! The chicks ranged from 21 to 24 days old. I awoke early with a jittery excitement because I was part of the banding team. I drank a cup of coffee, gathered the last few necessary items and set out to meet our falcon handlers Judy Camuso of Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Chris Martin of New Hampshire Audubon, along with a few guests who would assist and observe the banding process.

We gathered briefly to discuss the strategy for capturing the falcon chicks and processing them. The plan emerged quickly and once we were set up to band we made our approach to the nest. Support staff held a shovel and a broom high to protect the falcon chick 'handlers' from the dive-bombing adults. Actually, only the male was diving at us in the beginning. The female was set at the nest in fierce defense of her coveted chicks. After a moment or two, Chris encouraged her to leave and swiftly but carefully loaded the chicks into a large cat carrier. Yes, a cat carrier is the perfect size and shape to carry up to five falcon chicks. We then sought cover from the adult falcons in an enclosed room. There was no mistaking the screeches and screams of the adults outside. They wanted their chicks back.

Chris and Judy set to band and I recorded data and band numbers as each chick was processed. The processing went quickly and I think that it is safe to say that all on hand were impressed by how calm the falcon chicks seemed to be despite what would generally be considered a stress inducing situation. The falcon chicks did not appreciate being manhandled but when left to themselves simply sank comfortably into the 'relaxed-resting' pose that we've been watching on our Peregrinecam.

Each bird received a silver U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band as well as a coded color band (shown below) that was applied using rivets and is unique for any given bird. We used leg size to determine the gender of each bird--even at 24 days old female falcons are larger than males. Today we banded three males and one female.

Judy measured the wing length and bill length of each bird, gave each a good look over for any injuries and then set each bird aside to rest until all were processed. At the end we had a short opportunity for photos before returning the falcons back to the nest tray. The photo below shows the banded falcon chicks. The female is the lower left bird-note that it appears to be the youngest with the fewest growing flight feathers but the largest feet and legs. The entire banding process required just under one hour and could not have gone much more smoothly!

Also, because many parties are involved in this project I want to extend a sincere thank you to the individuals and agencies involved including Judy Camuso (Maine IF&W) and Chris Martin (New Hampshire Audubon). In the photo below Judy and Chris smile with a falcon chick just before returning it to the nest.

Please be in touch if you have questions about these falcons, the banding process, or why we band. This blog post was admittedly rushed to get it to press, there may be more to discuss. We are always happy to share and educate. Enjoy the rest of the journey.

All the best,
Patrick Keenan
BioDiversity Research Institute

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Four chicks growing fast!

Hi All,

Many thanks for all your comments. I have been very busy these past weeks trying to keep up with our webcams and also making a number of presentations about our research. Notably last Friday I shared all of our webcams with students at the Dyer Elementary School in South Portland. It is always refreshing to learn that students are getting smarter all the time.

More to the point, these falcon chicks are growing fast and have experienced a very pleasant spring. After next week we should see them begin to become more active! They will move all over the nest box and platform and they will lounge in the sun on the "porch" looking like rocks. There is still a great deal to see as these birds continue to grow.

We've been able to post recorded footage to our youtube account. So if you want to relive some highlights please visit us on youtube you can subscribe to our channel and get updates when we post a new video.

Have you been able to identify any of the prey items that the falcons share with their young?

Many thanks for enjoying wildlife and sharing this experience with all of us. If you would like to support our work and mission please visit us at www.briloon.org and become a webcam member.

Have a wonderful day!

Patrick Keenan
BioDiversity Research Institute