September 21, 2001

2001 Fall Bulletin

More News about Nesting Merlins

Merlins are the rarest nesting falcon in Washington. There are fewer than 25 breeding records for this state. So every new record is an "event" to those of us who love falcons.

Last year, a pair raised young in Bellingham and was the first known city-breeding pair for the state. We love to see that, as their young will also be likely to breed in a city. This summer (2001), two other pairs were found in cities in northwestern WA. A second pair bred in Bellingham at a different location (5 young) and yet another pair tried to nest in Mt. Vernon but failed. Some sort of avian predator killed the female at this site.

All three of these recent pairs were Black Merlins (Falco columbarius suckleyi), the dark coastal race that inhabits our region.

Airport Raptors

Steve Osmek, biologist for the Port of Seattle, has contracted the FRG to develop and implement a new raptor management plan at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (STIA) in 2001. The purpose of this project is to reduce the number of potential raptor/aircraft collisions, in conjunction with the development of the new third runway.

We are really pleased to see that Sea-Tac is doing the right thing for these hawks. I have found in working with them that they are genuinely concerned about the welfare of the raptors on their runways.

During this summer, we found that the main raptor species at STIA was the Red-tailed Hawk. We discovered 4 active nests around the perimeter of the field and suspect a fifth. The adults produced 9 young. Unfortunately, immature Red-tails in September are one of the major strike victims at some airports. Therefore, we decided to relocate the young for their safety. Two fledglings were given to falconers in June. Seven immatures (plus a Kestrel and Cooper's Hawk) were captured in August and September and safely relocated well away from the airport. Another young Red-tail was apparently struck and killed by a car on the airport approach road.

We are continuing to develop methods to re-locate vulnerable birds as the seasons progress.

Everett Osprey Study

Several years ago, FRG member Ed Schulz discovered an unknown, dense population of 26 breeding pairs of Ospreys near Everett Harbor. They are nesting on pilings and at the mouth of the Snohomish River. Ed has been keeping track of them ever since.

This year, the FRG joined forces with Ed and we expanded the study to include banding of the young. Using the FRG research boat, the Shaheen, we were able to ring 45 young at 20 successful nests from 12-27 July. As yet, no one knows where these birds winter and we hope that our bands will start to change that situation.

We found dead chicks at three nests and at a fourth, we discovered a live but badly deformed eyass. I have never seen anything like this before in my many years of banding raptors. It had a stunted wing, two extended legs and was missing one toe and all the claws on one foot. This bird was later sent to the Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI for analysis. It may be simply a random deformity or possibly something worse. Photos can be seen on our web-site at They are not pretty.

I'd like to thank Darryl Thompson and our friends at Pilchuck Audubon Society for funding this initial work.

San Juan Peregrine Project

We began monitoring the nesting peregrine population in the San Juan Islands in 1975. Since the first pair returned in 1980, this group of falcons has expanded at a remarkable pace. This summer was no exception. We located 2 new sites bringing the total to 19 nesting pairs in the islands. They fledged at least 38 young, another new record for the region. We were able to band 31 of them. We missed 7 other young at 4 of the sites.

Remarkably, Dave Batchelder and Kathy Gunther found recently fledged young on 26 August, fully 6 weeks after normal fledging and a record for the state.

We want to extend a special thank you to David and Ginger Ridgway and Anacortes Telescope for their help on the project this year.

Band Returns

Here are four more band returns illustrating what happens to our local nestling peregrines.

1. A male peregrine banded as a nestling at a site in the San Juans on 7 June 1997 was found as a breeding adult on 3 June 2001, 14 miles from its natal site.

2. Another San Juan nestling (D-1) banded on 13 June 1997 laid eggs at the West Seattle Bridge this summer. Her clutch failed to hatch. Many experienced Seattle hands suspect her mate was Stewart, although it hasn't been proven for certain as yet.

3. Darryl Thompson observed one of the Seattle nestlings (banded 24 May 2000) on 13 February 2001 near Monroe, WA.

4. A nestling female banded on 25 May 2001in the San Juans was observed by Roger Orness on 22 July at the Kent Ponds only 5 weeks after fledging.

The Seattle Peregrine Project

This year Bell and Stewart successfully raised young once again. She laid 4 eggs as usual. All four hatched but one died within 4 days. Three fledged but one died immediately from hitting a window. Ruth Taylor says the remaining two young were last observed on 3 August, the Blue Angels day.

By the way, Bell whacked Mark and I a total of 6 times while banding. She also grabbed Mark's prize hat, carried it out over the city and dropped it mercilessly. As I watched it falling gracefully, gently down through the city walls, transfixed, she flew by and whacked me on the back of my head. What a target! Really dumb on my part……

Tacoma Peregrines

The city of Tacoma was treated to another successful peregrine breeding season in 2001. The 11th Street Bridge falcons managed to raise 4 young again, reflecting the health of this strong and aggressive city female and her mate.

This year, thanks to the expertise of Mark Prostor, we were able to place a live, wireless video feed from the nest site into both the Washington State History Museum and the Frank Russell Building. The people of Tacoma are now able to experience the breeding season events first hand. We want to thank David Lyles and the Lyles family for making this possible in honor of our friend, Jim Lyles, who passed away last year. Jim would have loved seeing the enjoyment of all the people who were able to view the nest site from the Museum lobby. The Frank Russell Company funded the video feed into their building lobby for the benefit of their employees.

I'd also like to say that this project would not be possible without the permission and kind cooperation of the Washington Department of Transportation, particularly Dennis Ulmer, Kip Wylie and the entire bridge crew. These guys have been really great to us.

One of the young birds died after being hit by a train in downtown Tacoma.

Fall Hawk Banding

After working at Chelan Ridge with the USFS and Hawkwatch International for the past two autumns, we decided to move on and see what was happening on other Cascade ridges.

This year, we selected Entiat Ridge above Leavenworth to see what might be moving along that system. The geography looked promising and we had always been curious about what might be happening there.

We placed our "deluxe" blind on the ridge in late August and have been banding with a small, skilled crew ever since. At three weeks out, we have banded 100 raptors so far, including 60 Sharpies, 20 Cooper's, 6 Reds, 6 Kestrels, 5 merlins and 2 harriers. This is about average for the Cascades in the past. We are averaging about 5 birds a day at our single blind, not bad for the first season at a new site. More about our final results later.

A Satellite Transmitter

Two of our kind members (who would like to remain anonymous) have donated the funding for a satellite transmitter this fall. We plan to put it on an adult Red-tail at Entiat this week. Of course, the precise date is dependent on when the right bird is caught.

With luck, we plan to follow this bird over the next 10 months. We hope to learn how it migrates south, what route it takes, where it winters, when it starts to return in spring, what route it takes north and ultimately, where it nests next summer.

We would like to invite you all to follow the progress of this Red-tail on our web-site,, as soon as she is released. It should be quite informative and fun.

October Hawk Classes at Vashon Island and Port Townsend

We will be holding our traditional class, Hawkwatching in Western Washington, at both of these locations beginning in October this year. The Vashon class will be held on 5 consecutive Wednesday nights (7-9) beginning on 10 October. The Port Townsend class will be on 5 Tuesday nights starting on 16 October at Chimacum. Please pass this information on to your friends who live in those areas. For more information, call Bud at (360) 757-1911 or e-mail Cost is $135.00.

Hawk Stuff Fledges

Rhonda Booth has just started a new business that features hawk and hawk watching products. Her "hawk stuff" ranges from field guides to jewelry to kids' puppets. We hope it will become the single best place to find a variety of raptor related products. We selected them together, so I think you will find there are some really great things there. Check out her new website at or call (360) 707-2203 to get on the catalog list. A portion of the proceeds will go to supporting FRG field studies.

If you know of any additional hawk products for her catalog please let her know.

Annual Dues

Annual dues for the FRG are $25.00. If you like what we are doing, please send them in and help continue our efforts. We truly appreciate your support

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