The Last Nest!
Yesterday, we did our last official chick banding of the 2009 season. I say last official, because if one of the MCC chicks (who haven’t appeared on the ledge as of yet) ends up on the ground, we’ll band it. But, I have to hope every year that all of the MCC chicks will fledge without grounding, so there you go. But back to this last nest!
I’ve mentioned in this blog that Mr. M and Helen, 2007 & 2008’s Field Museum/South Loop birds, did not return to the Field Museum this year. Let me give you a bit of history.
In 2007, we were thrilled when a pair of peregrines looked to be nesting on the Field Museum. But, although they stayed around all season, they did not produce any chicks. The museum had just started major work on the roof and we theorized that all of the activity so near their nesting site may have been a factor in the failure.
We have a HUGE roof, so in 2008 the work began again as soon as the snow melted. For that reason, we could not put a nest box up for Helen and Mr. M. They returned in March and Helen began laying eggs. She laid and she laid and she laid, but every egg rolled off the building and broke within days and sometimes even hours of laying.
The very determined pair moved on after losing six eggs at the museum, but picked another troubled site – this time a skyscraper under construction. We all started to wonder if something about construction appealed to this pair! At any rate, they laid eggs on a very temporary structure at the top of the building. Although the construction supervisors worked with us to very quickly build the two a more stable structure, Mr. M. and Helen abandoned the nest. Days later, they were back at the museum.
By the time this stubborn couple decided the season was a wash, Helen had laid and lost nine eggs. I felt terrible for them!
Did I mention how huge our museum roof is? It’s huge. This year, we are (I believe) nearing the end of our roof construction, but at this point it is as busy as ever up there. So again we could not put a box out. Because I knew it would probably be the same scenario as the year before, I actually wasn’t sad when Mr. M. and Helen didn’t return, especially when we started receiving reports of peregrine activity in the south loop. Starting in March, I began walking the south loop looking for them. I consistently saw two peregrines, but always on the wing and always very high in the sky. I never could track them to a building, but the epicenter of their activity was certainly in the far south loop. I really hoped it was Mr. M. and Helen and that they’d FINALLY found a stable nesting site.
In mid-May, we got a call from a building in the “loop proper” (the central loop? the LOOP loop?) saying they had a nesting pair. We set up a time to see the nest and when that day arrived, we were shocked to find Helen and Mr. M.! And, after two years of failure, they had three chicks!! By the way, I have named the nest “Loop-A” for the sake of this blog and the flickr set because the building management wishes the site to remain anonymous and we always respect the wishes of our kindly falcon nest “hosts”.
The pair had finally picked a good site, this one in a long and deep planter – very safe and protected. There was a nice bed of dirt for the chicks and even some vegetation. It looked pretty danged cozy! As happy as we all were that our determined parents finally had nested successfully, our good mood was tempered a bit when we saw that Mr. M. had a wounded leg. However, as we watched him, he seemed to be coping with the injury quite well. He appeared very well fed and feisty. As well, we saw him land and take off several times and he did both flawlessly.
We made several nest checks over the next couple of weeks. The chicks grew steadily and Mr. M. seemed to be working around his wounded leg. Yesterday, we banded the chicks.
There was a great group of people from the building gathered to watch the banding and I have to say, I had a LOT of fun talking to everyone. In fact, I was so involved talking with those gathered that I didn’t get even ONE picture of the banding! But, the important news is that we banded two healthy and loud girls and one healthy and spirited boy! The building residents named the chicks, but since the names actually pay homage to the site, I’m not going to publish them here. I will say that I was sort of hoping those would be the names they’d choose! They really fit.
Mr. M.’s leg actually looked better and he joined his mate protecting the nest, just like any healthy adult will do. That really made me happy to see. Wild animals live a hard life and injury certainly happens with regularity, but they are also tough. I read on the Canadian Peregrine Foundations site that one of their adult males actually lost a leg, but nested successfully for years after. So, I wish our tough Mr. M. many years of nesting to come.
By the by, we have still had sightings of peregrines in the far south loop. I have seen them a number of times myself. It’s possible that as our Chicago peregrines begin to fledge, we may find a nest in the far south loop, but if we don’t, I’ll be back walking the south loop next year.
I have to mention here at the close that our MCC birds have been pretty inactive. I’ve been checking in morning and evening and I just don’t see the level of activity I’ve seen before. In fact, I haven’t even been able to get leg bands yet this year! Dan Cozza has written to me with the same observation. That said, I will be watching very closely for the next few weeks and will not be all that surprised to see MCC chicks pop up one afternoon. Fingers crossed!