Waukegan Banding

•June 3, 2013 • Comments Off on Waukegan Banding

Group ShotOne female, one male.

Today, we banded the two Waukegan chicks. Mary and I met at the museum and then drove up to the plant to meet Matt and Joel. This is the first time I’ve seen Joel this season and it was great to catch up! As usual, the plant had invited a rather large group to view the banding. We had a number of Waukegan city officials, a couple of local teachers and two of their students, plant employees and representatives from the local press.

I really like going to Waukegan for a number of reasons. For one, the plant itself has character. It was built in 1923 and strikes me as both foreboding and beautiful. There are little architectural flourishes here and there that seem like surprising additions to a building designed entirely for dirty and hard work. I see something new every time. For two, the guards at the security booth are hilarious. They have to do a full security sweep of everyone and everything entering the plant, which can be off-putting. While it is very obvious they take the task very seriously, they use humor to make the whole experience more comfortable. They crack me up every time. For three, the plant employees are incredibly nice and always show a lot of enthusiasm with regards to their falcon residents.

The female who established the Waukegan nest in 2002 is also a big reason I love going to this banding. She was born in 1999, so is one of the oldest females in the state. She has raised 40+ chicks during her reign in Waukegan and I am always glad when we confirm that she’s made it another season. And confirm it I did. While Mary, Matt and Joel set up the banding gear, I went out on the roof with my scope and camera to identify the adults. Fran was perched on a walkway railing. Her bands show the wear and tear of 14-years of high impact living and are pretty hard to read, but I was able to get a very nice look at them through the scope. The sideways “X” on the bottom green band is nearly scratched off. The male was, as usual for him, perched quite a bit further away. I stayed stationed on the camera while Mary and Matt went out in hopes that I’d get a chance at his bands. He gave me one really quick and really nice look at them, so I could confirm that Greg was back.

There were two chicks for Waukegan, one male and one female. The team made short work of the banding and then posed for pictures with the group. Soon, we were on our way back out the gates, another year at Waukegan in the books.

Millennium Park Banding

•June 1, 2013 • Comments Off on Millennium Park Banding

Pivot Dive

Crossposted from Beta|Erinyes.

When late spring comes around, it’s not unusual for Whirl to invite me along on a peregrine falcon banding. I don’t work for the Field Museum. To be perfectly honest, I don’t work in science. But that being said, I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to tag along and experience what she does with the falcons firsthand. Today she took me to the Millennium Park site. The birds have nested several hundred feet up on the penthouse deck of a 30-story member of the historic Michigan Avenue street wall. The site has a commanding view of the city and Millennium and Grant Parks. Also of interest, the lobby of the building is trimmed in solid cast and green Italian bronze, with solid bronze doorways. This pair has an eye for luxury accommodations.

Whirl and I met up with Matt and Mary in the early morning and headed up to the penthouse apartment where Neal was waiting for us with his two children, Ethan and Olivia. Neal had brought his kids into the city the night before and had a sleep-over especially so they could be here to attend the banding. So after introductions and setting up the banding table, Matt, Mary and Whirl suited up in heavy clothing and helmets, armed themselves with brooms and headed out onto the deck to retrieve the chicks. Ethan and Olivia, still dressed in pajamas, stayed back with Neal and me to observe.

Millennium Park Male I got on the camera and tried my hand at combat photography from the doorway as both adults immediately set upon the trio of scientists outside. Screaming, diving, strafing– the two birds seemed to be everywhere at once. Whirl makes this look easy. I assure you it is not. Fortunately, it just takes some time to get in the rhythm of what is happening and the patience to just keep shooting. As I like to joke in the era of digital photography, “film is cheap these days.”

So I kept shooting and pretty soon the team returned with four chicks, two males and two females. The banding went very well. In short order the chicks were fitted with their new jewelry, blood drawn, feather samples taken. Olivia produced an iPhone and shot some of her own stills and video of the chicks squawking inside the house.

Both kids were quite taken with the birds. They reacted with intense curiosity and a long list of very smart questions. They also helped Whirl find prey remains that were littered across the deck. From a certain point of view, aspects of studying predators can be a bit gruesome. The kids weren’t put off by any of it and stayed with us the whole time. Olivia wants to name one of the chicks, “Fluffy”. Ethan hasn’t quite decided on a name for the other one, yet.

Before too long, the team completed with the chicks and returned them outside to the scrape. The adults squawked a few more times and settled down with food for the chicks shortly after their return. They’ll be fledging before too much longer, and set out on their own lives. And then we’ll see what happens next.

River Birds Banding

•May 31, 2013 • Comments Off on River Birds Banding

Heeeeeere's Autumn Hope!Two females, two males.

River Birds banding day! Jason, an enthusiast in the area that has been watching this pair from his office window for a few years, joined us as did two guys from the office above the nest ledge, Charlie and Ryan. Of course the two building engineers, Marty and Andy, were also there to help get us in the building and out on the ledge. Good group!

When we opened the blinds to the window that leads to the ledge, we were surprised to find Autumn Hope plastered up against the window. She had her wings flared and was making a lot of noise. It wasn’t hard to figure out she was letting us know that she was NOT happy to see us and that we’d best step back before she opened up a can of whoop-ass. Even though we are much larger than her, she did present a prickly problem. It’s not fun to get hit by a peregrine, but even moreso, we didn’t want her to hurt herself going after us. We had a quiet team meeting and it was decided that Mary and I would open the window slowly and Matt would reach through and grab Autumn Hope. Thanks to Matt’s incredible reflexes, the plan worked to perfection! Matt held Autumn Hope and Mary and I went out on the ledge to retrieve the four chicks.

The male, who I still hadn’t identified, was flying above us, stooping down and screaming, but he wasn’t coming in very close. Soon, Mary and I were back inside with the chicks. Matt held Autumn Hope out the window and we slowly closed the window to it’s narrowest opening before he let her out of his grasp.

The banding went great! We had two females (one large and one medium) and two males. I had to help out with the banding a bit more than usual, so I didn’t really have time to try to get the male’s bands. After the chicks were banded and Matt and I were heading back out to the ledge to put them back, Jason offered to take my camera and try to get some shots of the male. Unfortunately, he had to shoot through the window glass AND the male stayed pretty far away, so we didn’t get an ID. That said, I am really thankful to Jason for trying! Charlie and Ryan told me that they’d spread the word to their office mates that if the male landed on their window ledge, they were to try to get camera phone shots for us. I have hope we’ll get the bands yet!

Evanston Banding

•May 30, 2013 • Comments Off on Evanston Banding

One female, three males.

The team (sans me) banded the Evanston chicks today in front of the usual big crowd at the library. I haven’t gone these past few years because there are plenty of people to help with the actual banding and the Evanston monitors are so good, they always have the adults ID’d early in the season. Nothing for me to do except stay out of the way!

Evanston’s Nona and Squawker had three boys and one girl. In a seriously classy move, the folks up there decided to name one of the male chicks GIES in honor of team member Matt Gies. That really made me smile. He deserves a namesake after over 20 years of working on the Illinois/Chicago Peregrine Program. The other males were named PLATON (the “little falcon” character in War and Peace) and HUMPHREY (for Humphrey Bogart who played Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon). The lone female was named SHAE, which the library’s website says is a feminine variant spelling of English unisex name Shea, which probably means “hawk-like”. I’ll have to take the library’s word on that one as I am NO linguist. They go on to mention that it is also the name of a character in the popular George R.R. Martin book series Song of Ice and Fire, which has been made into the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. To this, I can attest, as Sean and I are huge fans of both the book series and the HBO television series. With hope, peregrine Shae won’t follow in the footsteps of fictional Shea — I’ll leave it at that for those who have not up to date in the books. No spoilers here!

South Loop Banding

•May 29, 2013 • Comments Off on South Loop Banding

Chick NabbingTwo females.

The second banding of the day was at South Loop. Our friend, building engineer Safet, met us downstairs and after a bit of catching up, we went up to the roof. A few ladies from 1130’s marketing team decided to join us as well. Maria Callegari, the Assistant Marketing Director at 1130, got some great shots of Matt, Mary and I going out on the roof to get the chicks. She sent them to me and said that I could post them to Flickr, so thank you Maria! Since I mainly take care of photography for our little group, we generally don’t have shots of us all together, so the shots are great to have.

Both of the South Loop chicks were females, so I lost the bet I made with myself that one was male and the other was female. That said, one female was quite a lot larger, so at least I got the size difference right.

As usual, Mr. M. was on fire in the air! Even with two of us on broom, he nearly got a hit or two in on us due to his extraordinary aerial skills.

Oh, it is worthwhile to reiterate since the pictures of us with the brooms are on Flickr. We do NOT use the brooms to hit the peregrines. Quite simply, we hold them up to present the peregrines with a higher target than our heads. When they swoop down to hit, their feet hit the flexible and soft bristles on the broom instead of our helmets. It’s good for the birds and it is good for us. Even with the gear on, it doesn’t feel great to get hit by a peregrine. It can really ring your bell.

BELL! That reminds me. Last weekend, Sean and I went to the big REI sale and I got a new really nice all-weather windbreaker and a new helmet (Bell) that actually fits my head. For years, I’ve been using Sean’s old bike helmet. Sean’s head is considerably larger than mine, so the helmet was constantly falling forward over my eyes. I’ve also had it fall completely over to the side when I’ve been hit, which I suppose provides great protection for one of my cheeks, but leaves the top of my head exposed. So, GO new helmet!

Pilsen Banding

•May 29, 2013 • Comments Off on Pilsen Banding

The Two Pilsen Male ChicksOne female, two males.

The team did two bandings today. Pilsen was the first site for us. When we opened the door to the nest area, the female was in the box. She popped out and puffed up three times her size, trying to scare us off. It didn’t work, but I, for one, was impressed. We banded three chicks — two males and one female. They were all healthy and squawky. I was able to identify both adults. One of my favorite males, an unnamed male who I call “Lynn”, still rules the roost at Pilsen. He’s a hometown boy from our North Broadway nest. He is 13-years old this year! The female was Bob, who was here last year as well. She’s changed her nest defense protocols. Last year, she was up in the air and swooping a lot. This year, she came a lot closer in, even landing to take us on from the ground a few times. Good to see that pair is still going strong!

Getting ready for bands

•May 28, 2013 • Comments Off on Getting ready for bands

Meals is over Was watching the South Loop cam this afternoon and saw a feeding. We are banding these two tomorrow and they are just the right age. Both the chicks were sitting back on their tails while Helen fed them, so they seemed a little smaller than her, but if they were standing all the way up, I think the larger of the two chicks would be about the size of their mother.

We are also banding Pilsen tomorrow. We don’t have adult IDs there, so I’m excited to get that info. Evanston is Thursday, but I’ll miss that one because I have to stay at the museum and work. Friday is the river birds and Saturday is Millennium Park. Next week is packed too. Then, we will have a bit of a break before our late bloomers are ready at Wrigleyville, Wacker and UIC.