Two cameras will chronicle the falcons while streaming the footage live on the Internet to viewers around the world. The video is available on the Department of Environmental Protection's website, www.depweb.state.pa.us, where the FalconCam is featured on the front page.
DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty said the popularity of the online broadcast has made the peregrine falcon page one of agency's most visited. "The response we receive from this webcast is phenomenal every year,” she said.
"Last year, the falcon page was viewed more than three million times. It's amazing to see and read the comments visitors from around the world have left," McGinty said. "We've received questions and feedback from viewers in America, Canada, Europe, New Zealand - basically, from every corner of the planet."
The female peregrine falcon with her chicks, May 2002 (Photo courtesy Pennsylvania DEP)
Much interest is coming from classrooms where teachers and students are following the progress of these falcons and learning about the ways they can protect their habitats.
"By seeing the falcons' progress up close, we can appreciate how our actions have a very real and direct impact on the wildlife and environment around us, the secretary said.
McGinty said viewers may be able to see the eggs arrive this weekend. Based on data recorded at the site from past nesting seasons, the first egg should arrive sometime around March 25.
In each of the past two years, the female falcon has laid a "clutch” of five eggs. The eggs should begin to hatch around Mother's Day, May 11, and the young falcons, or "fledglings,” will begin to take their first flights around Father's Day, June 15.
The female has laid eggs here since 2000 with two different males, the second having been introduced in 2005 after the original male was discovered injured the previous year.
This will be the fourth year this pair of falcons has nested at the Rachel Carson building, named for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worker and author of "Silent Spring" who discovered that the pesticide DDT was thinning the eggshells of wild birds, preventing them from reproducing.
The general use of the pesticide DDT was banned in the United States as of January 1, 1993, ending nearly three decades of application during which 675,000 tons of the chemical were used to control insect pests on crop and forest lands, around homes and gardens, and for industrial and commercial purposes.
Peregrines are predators at the top of the food chain and accumulate high levels from their prey since pesticide residue becomes more and more concentrated as it works its way up the food chain.
In the early 1900s, there were about 350 pairs of nesting peregrines in the state, but the use of DDT contributed to the near extinction of birds, including the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon.
Pennsylvania's peregrine falcon population has increased since the early 1990s as a direct result of reintroduction efforts such as the one at the Rachel Carson State Office Building.
Today, there are approximately a dozen pairs of peregrine falcons nesting at locations across the state. While their numbers are improving, peregrine falcons remain an endangered species in Pennsylvania.
So far, the nest at the Rachel Carson State Office Building has produced 34 eggs. Of those, 32 hatched, producing 16 males and 15 females. The sex of one nestling hatched in 2006, the runt of the clutch, could not be determined. Of these, 19 falcons survived - 10 males and nine females. This is the eighth year that the state has provided this up-close webcam look at the falcons.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.