Wacker Banding

The Crew BandingThe time had come to make the trip to Wacker for banding day. I can’t believe it’s only been a year since my very first banding trip!

I arrived at the Wacker building at 10:15am and saw Matt standing in the lobby with a woman I didn’t know. I waved as I walked up and exchanged happy hellos with Matt before he introduced me to his friend – well, our friend! Turns out, Mary had invited Karen, the woman who works directly across from the Wacker ledge in the Sears Tower and has been monitoring them for nearly eight years. It was really nifty to meet her and I could tell she was just thrilled to be at her first banding.

Mary and zoo vet tech Kristina showed up shortly thereafter and soon the five of us were in the elevator on our way up to the machine room. Fred, the young maintenance guy, met us at the office and took us back to the ledge door room.

SQUAWK!While Fred and Karen looked out the small window in the ledge door, Mary and I procured a small table for the banding and Matt and Katrina started setting up. I noticed Matt getting the ropes out and beginning the process of gearing up. Once we had the table in the room, Mary left Katrina and I to finish setting up the staging area while she went to help Matt with the ropes.

When everyone was ready, Matt opened the door to the ledge, quickly figured out that the chicks had made their way to the north end of the ledge and was out the door. Lickity-split, he was back with both chicks safely tucked into the box.

I think the four of us worked very smoothly together. The chicks – two girls – didn’t have much time to fuss and complain before their new leg bands were on and they were ready to go back out onto the ledge.

My favorite part of the session was when Mary asked Karen if she’d like to actually hold one of the chicks. You could really tell that seeing the nesting ledge, chicks and parents close up was a big deal to Karen, who had so dilligently watched them from afar for so many years. Her face lit up at the opportunity to actually hold one of the chicks. Matt gave her a quick tutorial on holding the chicks, sans gloves. Karen, although a bit nervous, performed like an old hand and smiled hugely as we took her picture with the squawking female chick.

Karen and One of the 2007 Wacker Chicks!With no need to put the very mobile chicks back in the same exact place, Mary simply opened the door and plopped them both back out. Rahn and Etienne made a lot of noise, but settled right down to check out their babies.

We bid farewell to Fred and went back down to the lobby. I walked the group to the Sears Tower parking garage and said my goodbyes and nice ta meetchas before heading off for the MCC.

I had an errand I had to run before I could check out the nesting niches. From the garage top, I’d seen a number of people on the roofs across the way from the nest. One group was a huge crew of construction workers building what looked like an addition on top of the Western Union building. I’d talked to Mary about it and she thought it would be best if we dropped off the document she wrote a few years ago regarding safe behavior around potentially aggressive falcons.

SunburstDocument in hand, I dropped the first off at the building to the north of the Western Union and then made my way into the Western Union building itself. As it turned out, the head of construction was standing right down in the lobby. How lucky is that?? He and a couple of other guys talked to me for a minute, told me a couple of stories about what they’d seen of our falcons up there and then asked me if I wouldn’t like to come up on the roof and take a look. Boy, would I!!

So, up we went. Man, what a nice, nice group of guys. Nothing was happening over on the ledges, but we stood up there looking over for a bit before I decided I’d wasted enough of their time. I did get to hear about the wealth of bird heads they’d found over the last month, in particular. As well, it seems both birds liked to perch on the building, just about a story up from where the men were working, so they’d all gotten a lot of close encounters. I was sort of glad I was dropping the document off before the chicks made their first appearance!

The head of construction led me back down and promised to call if they had any questions or if they saw anything they thought I’d be interested in. Again, what great guys.

I wandered around the perimeter of the building and spotted both of the adults cruising around above the library. I decided to go up to the garage top and set up, with hopes that I’d get another shot at seeing Max’s leg bands.

When I got to the garage top, I realized that the wind was going to make using my scope challenging, but I was up for a several hour monitor session, so I figured I might get something. Over the next few hours, Herc and Max went in and out of the nest with food at least five times. A LOT of activity over there. Max did me a favor by perching on the Monadnock for a good, long rest. I swung my scope around and saw the top “5” on his band as clear as I’ve ever seen it – crystal. For some reason, that bottom band still wasn’t clear to me. What the heck gives with that?!?

He gave me about as good a luck as he ever has and then turned around to nap. I squinted and strained my eyes as I put my scope up to 75x trying to read even one number off his USFW band. The wind was bouncing my scope all over the place, but I got a small lull and read a “72”. And that was all I got before he took off.

"Yeah, I'm keeping my eye on you."After some more hunting and food delivery, Max came back, this time landing on one of the south nest niches. Looking over there at him made me nostalgic for last year! He promptly turned his back on me, sat down on his feet and went to sleep. It looked to me like he meant to get a good, long nap in, so I decided to spend the rest of my time down under the western-face.

I gathered my things and wandered down to my stairwell. That is where I spent the next hour and a half, mostly watching Max and Herc make noisy visits. I am pretty sure I heard some cackles and squawks from inside the nest a time or two and I know I saw a puff of feathers fly up when both adults were gone – I’d put money on wing exercises.

I looked down at my watch and realized it was 4:30pm. I’d been out there for five hours and was sweaty, dirty and pretty bushed. I took one more look up at the nesting niche and then packed up. All in all, a very productive day. And I met some new and wonderfully delightful new people today. Fantastic!

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~ by Steph on June 6, 2007.