The 12 Days of Peregrines
An exciting day today!
First, an update on the museum pair. We’ve been checking the stairs outside the north entrance diligently and haven’t seen any more egg splats. On the sad side, we’ve seen very little of Helen and Mr. M as well. I will hope that they’ve gone to another site to lay eggs in a less precarious place, but time will tell. This follows the same cycle as last year, so I suspect we may not see them again until next season.
I accompanied Mary on our first trip to the Wacker site for the year. As some of you may know, Etienne, the beautiful male that nested at Wacker with Rahn in 2006-2007, died over the winter. I have been anxious to find out whether Rahn managed to find a mate in the two months following Etienne’s death.
We have a woman, Karen, who watches that nest from her 40th floor office in the Sear’s Tower. She has reported seeing peregrine activity on the ledge, but has noted that the nest box she can see is empty. The Wacker ledge has two boxes, one at either end, and Mary and I hoped that the peregrines were nesting in the other box, which Karen can’t see from her vantage point.
We arrived at the building at about 9am and happily reunited with the building folks. After a bit of catching up, Fred, one of the building engineers, took us up to the top for a look. On our way, he told us that a pair was nesting in the south box and had four eggs at least count. Huzzah!
I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad when we opened the door to the ledge and Etienne didn’t immediately land right in front of us. I’ll miss that bird. Instead, we heard a rush of wings and then the furious calls of angry peregrine parents. We caught quick glimpses of a falcon in the air, swooping and diving towards us.
Mary carefully leaned out to check the south box. “Ah, ok,” she said, easing the door shut. “There’s an adult hunkered down in the nest box. Good. Let’s see who the other adult is!”
I readied my camera and then switched places with Mary as I eased the door open. The peregrine in the air continued to swoop and dive. I realized this would be a challenge as I tried to arrange myself so that I could hold the door open, hold the heavy camera lens steady as I eased it through a tight spot, follow the diving falcon through the eyepiece and focus all at one time.
“Geez, I hope this one lands, otherwise leg bands are out.” I said.
Finally, it did land. I could instantly see that this bird was way “taller” and leaner than Etienne – sort of a Gary Cooper type, if that makes any sense. Etienne was a tiny, compact male of perfect proportions. This guy was rangy! He glared down the ledge at me while I snapped as many pictures as I could, hoping that I was capturing his leg band numbers. When he took to the air again, I eased the door closed and quickly began to review the shots.
“Here we go! Looks like black over green, 59 over H,” I said to Mary.
“Excellent! Did you get a look at the bird in the box?” She asked.
“I did, a quick one. She didn’t get up, of course, just sat and glared. She sure looks a lot like Rahn, but we’ll have to wait for the chicks to hatch to find out, I guess.” I said.
“Just like last year.” Mary grinned.
Later, on our way back to the car, I called Sean and asked him to look the band numbers up. For some reason, the band numbers seemed familiar to me.
“Uhhhhh…let’s see. You’re male is …. Joe. Joe from Milwaukee.” Sean said.
“Thanks, babe!” I said, before relaying the info to Mary
“Another Wisconsin bird! Wisconsin birds sure do love Chicago,” she said, laughing.
Mary and I pondered Joe on our way back to the museum. Could this be Joe from last year’s FermiLab pair? Is that why the leg band seemed familiar? Or is this a whole new Joe?
Turns out, it was a whole new Joe. But, there WAS a reason the leg band sounded familiar. As soon as I looked up Joe’s information, I saw the common link. Joe was born in 2001 on the Froedtert Malt Building in Milwaukee. Froedtert is the kind of word that sticks in one’s head, so I opened up the search parameters.
In a weird coincidence, Joe’s older sister is Dory, the female peregrine that nested at the Wacker building from 1996 to 2005. It’s just amazing to me that two chicks from the same nest would, years apart, choose the same building some 100 miles away on which to nest.
Dory and Joe shared a father, but Dory’s mother had died by the time Joe came around. Now, here’s another interesting thing. Joe was in the very same clutch as Lawndale female Nitz! AND, Joe has another older sister in Chicago – Pilsen’s Bryanne was born to the same two adults the year before Joe and Nitz. Cool!
At the end of the work day, I texted Sean and asked if he wouldn’t mind meeting me on the garage top. He texted back to say he’d just left work and would detour up that way for a rendevous.
We got to the garage top at about 5pm, but no one was around. We stayed for about 20 minutes before our rumbling stomachs started urging us towards home. We decided to make a quick trip to the western side of the MCC and see if the adults were out on the ledge.
And so it goes. As SOON as we got to the west side of the MCC, we looked back at the garage and saw one of the adults land right on the stairwell top.
“Let’s try to catch it,” Sean said as he laughed.
ZOOOM back to the garage top. I was pretty sure the adult would be gone by the time we arrived BUT, it wasn’t. We had about 3 minutes to snap a number of pictures before it took off into the air, heading over towards the ledges.
“Black over red for sure,” I said, “but couldn’t see the numbers. Hope one of the pictures shows it!”
“Did you see the size of that bird?” Sean said. “HAD to be Hercules.”
“Oh yeah. I’d bet about a thousand bucks. We’ll see!”
I am HAPPY happy happy (doing happy dance as I type) to report, the pictures showed the band clearly. We now have confirmation that Hercules is back at the MCC!! Now, if we can juuuuust get clear pictures of Max’s bands….