That Awkward Age

They grow so fast. We now have four hungry, blotchy teenagers, and the feeding routine has accelerated considerably which makes for good box watching. It’s getting pretty crowded in there (see below). They try stretching their wings and just fall over.

Get your kids hooked. It occurred to me that for all you newly-minted home teachers, the nesting box could make a great science module. I regretted not thinking of it sooner — I was once a middle school science teacher — but those early days can be pretty static, with lots of sitting and staring, and there’s plenty of activity and development left. Not only are the feedings more frequent, but once their feathers come in they start flapping and flying. And there will be poop. Lots of poop.

So here is my Nesting Box Module:

Observations: Students should check the box three times a day (no exact times) and keep notes of their observations. I find that feedings occur with some regularity between noon and 4pm, but also other times of the day. What are the falcon chicks eating?  And check in after sunset . . . it just looks cool.

Research: Bird anatomy (is the peregrine falcon diet the same as other city raptors?), natural habitat and range, history of raptors in America. (Reading: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.) The history of falconry . . . where is this sport still popular in the world today?

Local research: When was the Providence box installed? Hint: Providence Raptors has a great chart. What other raptors visit Providence? What other raptors breed here?

Banding: Why is this done and how. Watch video at ASRI Facebook.

Vocabulary: Eyas, tiercel, cloaca, stooping, fledging. There’s more for the falconers.

Field trip: Head downtown to the Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street (opposite the entrance of the Arcade) and look up. The photo below shows roughly where the box is situated. See if the adults can be observed flying in and out.

Listen to the conversation on the banding video. Someone mentions that, although the parents will eventually kick the eyasses out of the box, they don’t force them out of the general neighborhood right away. So keep looking up during the summer — you can occasionally see the family wheeling about overhead.

Now look down: The parents always clean house when the bones have been picked clean-ish. I don’t know what the nearby rooftops look like, but I have found items (including a woodcock head) on the sidewalk below. Take a picture and try to identify it. (A Brewed Awakenings is about to open next door, with outdoor seating. Try not to draw attention to what you are looking for. Life is hard enough for businesses right now.)

Assigned television: NOVA World’s Fastest Animal. Looks like this 2018 production is still available for viewing. Topic for discussion: Some cities name their chicks, the ASRI has chosen not to. Why? New this month is NOVA Eagle Power. (I think PBS has been opening up its catalog of videos for exactly this purpose during quarantine. The photography is jaw-dropping.)

Needless to say, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island (ASRI) has some of this info and great videos. Those videos are often the work of urban wildlife photographer Peter Green of Providence Raptors, another great resource.

The YouTube feed of the nesting box works best for those using iOS (me anyway).

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The parents both flew in just seconds after I snapped the featured image. It’s just too crowded now, and you will start seeing the parents hanging around the ledges and the roof of the box and such.

The arrow points to where the box is mounted on the top of the old Industrial National Bank (a.k.a. the Superman Building). Bring binoculars if you’ve got them.

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