FalconCam 2017

By LIZ TOTH

Did you know that the fastest animal on earth lives in downtown Dayton?  The peregrine falcon is able to fly at speeds over 200mph making it the fastest animal on earth!

The FalconCam provides an up close view, from hatching to fledging, of Dayton’s family of peregrine falcons.  From the first glimpses of the fluffy white chicks as they pip out of the egg to the drama of their first flights from the 23rd floor of the Liberty Savings Tower we get an insider’s view on the behavior of this fascinating bird.  Over the years the Boonshoft FalconCam has allowed the viewers to learn the details of family life that were previously unseen.  Watching the mother as she tears a freshly caught bird and puts it into the gaping beak of her young chick gives new meaning to the word “breakfast”.  While we enjoy watching the daily activities of the birds this information is being put to scientific use.  As soon as the eggs are laid biologists know that the pair is in good health and can get a count on the number of eggs.  2017 is the 16th year of the Boonshoft FalconCam.  The season started with wildlife biologists cleaning the nestbox in February and checking to be sure it is secure, stable and ready for the falcon pair.  One of the falcons was nearby and swooped and called loudly to show its displeasure of humans in its territory.  Because the falcon was moving so fast it could not be identified as having leg bands or not.
Falcon2017RoofB

Now that nesting season is underway little to no human presence is ideal near the nestbox. The door leading to the roof of the Liberty Savings Tower has a sign that is a reminder that the birds need privacy while nesting.

Peregrine falcons were added to the list of federally endangered species in 1970.  They became endangered through the use of a pesticide called DDT that thinned the shells of their eggs preventing them from hatching and a dangerous decline in the population.  Wildlife biologists have worked hard to increase the number of peregrine falcons and in Ohio the peregrine was removed from the list of state endangered species in 2015.  The recovery of the peregrine population has been a success but biologists must continue to carefully monitor the population.  The Dayton nest has been selected as one of the Ohio nests that will continue to be monitored.  Data collected from the FalconCam includes the continued presence of the pair, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs that hatch and the number of chicks that fledge.  The continued monitoring and data collection from the nest through the FalconCam will contribute to the success of this majestic species in Ohio.

To learn about the peregrines at other locations in Ohio visit the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s website.

Dayton’s own peregrine pair can be viewed on the Boonshoft FalconCam.

Questions about the FalconCam?  Email us at falcons@boonshoftmuseum.org

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Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
Wintogreen_Video

Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.

Falcon Chicks Are Here!

Dayton and Daniel’s eggs hatched!  On Sunday afternoon one chick was visible in the nest.  Later Sunday evening a second chick hatched.  If all progresses normally, the chicks will be the same size as their parents within six weeks.  At this link you can see images of how fast the chicks will grow:

http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

During the first 24 hours after hatching the chicks will use energy from the remaining yolk sac that they had while still in the egg.  Within a day the female will begin feeding the chick.  The baby chicks eat the same food as their parents, mostly birds brought to the nest by the male.  The female will tear tiny pieces using her beak and feed them to the chicks.

In this image you can see one of the parents eating a meal just outside the nest box to the right side of the image while the oldest chick sits in the nest box.  Within hours of this meal a second chick hatches.  The chicks are called eyases and, like most babies, they eat a lot.  They will double their weight in only six days!

mealtime

In order to hatch from the eggs the chicks used a sharp tip on their beak called a beak tooth to pip out of the shell.  A special muscle also developed while in the egg along the back of the neck that assists the chicks in hatching called the hatching muscle. Some of the egg shells are still visible in the nest with a reddish brown outside and white on the inside of the cracked shell.  This year incubation went a little longer than estimated.  Even though the eggs are laid days apart they typically synchronize to hatch around the same date.  In this image from around 8 p.m. Sunday two chicks peak out from the adult peregrine.  The babies cannot thermoregulate well until about 10 days old so the parents continue to sit on them to keep them warm.

two chicks 3b

 

Updated on 4/20/16 at 10:00 a.m.

Update

Surprise! A new chick was born! There are now three Falcon chicks as of this morning.

Four Eggs For Dayton’s Falcons

Dayton and Daniel have four eggs in the nest!  Peregrine falcons lay an average of four eggs in a clutch with each egg laid a few days apart.   Dayton laid her first egg on March 10.  This is earlier than in previous years, possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather.  Last year she laid her first egg on March 18.  Incubation of the eggs starts toward the end of egg laying and the eggs will synchronize to hatch around the same time.  Incubation takes 29 to 32 days.  Dayton started closely sitting on the eggs by March 14 so hatching could take place as early April 11.  For now Dayton spends all of her time warming the eggs and turning them.  She is observant of any dangers outside the nest but Daniel is nearby protecting their territory.  Occasionally he will come to the nest to relieve Dayton of her incubation duties and provide her with food.

eggs!!24March2016

Click to view the Falcon Cam

The falcons can be observed wiggling on the eggs to press the bare skin on the chest, called the brood patch, down on the eggs to keep them warm.  In species where only the female incubates the eggs the male doesn’t develop a brood patch.  Male and female peregrines both have brood patches because they share incubation of the eggs.  If you watch the Falcon Cam you’ll see the adult peregrines rock side-to-side as they settle on the nest.  This rocking opens the feathers that have curled over the brood patch and puts their skin in contact with the eggs.

Dayton turns the eggs every hour or so during the incubation process.  Both parents will work to maintain the ideal temperature of 99.5 F. Occasionally, the eggs may be left alone for short periods, but one of the birds will always be nearby keeping a close watch over them.

Dayton and Daniel are typically very successful raising their chicks but sometimes the young peregrines run into trouble later on.  Recently one of their chicks from last year, a male named Harrison, was injured and needed help.  Harrison was brought to the Glen Helen Raptor Center where he spent time recovering from wounds on one wing.  Harrison made a full recovery and was able to be released in Springfield in a territory not already held by other peregrines.  To learn more about Glen Helen Raptor Center go to this link:

http://www.glenhelen.org/#!raptor-rehab/clog

Dayton’s Favorite Falcons On Camera Mid-March

Did you know that the fastest animal on earth lives in downtown Dayton? The peregrine falcon is able to fly at speeds over 200mph making it the fastest animal on earth!

As part of the Boonshoft Museum’s efforts to educate the public about local wildlife and promote conservation efforts, we have always hosted the FalconCam, which provides an up close view, from hatching to fledging, of Dayton’s family of peregrine falcons. From the first glimpses of the fluffy white chicks as they pip out of the egg to the drama of their first flights from the 22nd floor of the Liberty Savings Tower we get an insider’s view on the behavior of this fascinating bird. Over the years the Boonshoft FalconCam has allowed the viewers to learn the details of family life that were previously unseen. Watching the mother as she tears a freshly caught bird and puts it into the gaping beak of her young chick gives new meaning to the word “breakfast”. While we enjoy watching the daily activities of the birds this information is being put to scientific use. As soon as the eggs are laid biologists know that the pair is in good health and can get a count on the number of eggs. Over the past 14 years the chicks have been banded so they can be tracked in other regions and blood has been drawn so the genetic health of the population can be evaluated.

Banding 2008 4

Peregrine falcons were added to the list of federally endangered species in 1970. They became endangered through the use of a pesticide called DDT that thinned the shells of their eggs preventing them from hatching and a dangerous decline in the population. Wildlife biologists have worked hard to increase the number of peregrine falcons and in Ohio the peregrine was removed from the list of state endangered species in 2015. The recovery of the peregrine population has been a success but biologists must continue to carefully monitor the population. The Dayton nest has been selected as one of the Ohio nests that will continue to be monitored. Data collected form the FalconCam includes the continued presence of the pair, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs that hatch and the number of chicks that fledge. The continued monitoring and data collection from the nest through the FalconCam will contributed to the success of this majestic species in Ohio.

FalconInFlight

Falcon Cam sponsored by:

Vectren_live smart

To learn about the peregrines at other locations in Ohio visit the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s website: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife-watching/falcon-cam

Dayton’s own peregrine pair, Dayton and Daniel, can be viewed on the Boonshoft FalconCam starting in Mid-March.

If you have questions about the FalconCam? Email us at falcons@boonshoftmuseum.org.

Cookie Chemistry

You can’t think of the holidays without thinking of cookies! From gingerbread houses to sweet sugar cookies, everyone has a favorite—including a certain someone who is responsible for magically bringing presents to kiddos across the world!

It just so happens that National Cookie Day was last week, and because science and baking go hand-in-hand, we are going to explore the chemistry behind the perfect cookie! Too much flour, different fats, baking soda, and liquids, they all play a roll in crafting your cookie favorites.

First, let’s consider what holds our raisins, chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts together: the dough. Depending on the cookie, the dough can be created using different ingredients. For this example, we’ll use the classic chocolate chip cookie which requires eggs, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda, flour, salt, and vanilla. How do these things mixed together go from gooey to great? The answer: Heat causing a series of chemical reactions.

  1. You’ve just placed your dough on the cookie sheet and popped it in the oven. The heat causes the butter inside the dough to melt, which is what causes the cookie to go from a doughy ball to a round flat cookie.
  2. Next, your cookies will blow off some steam—literally! At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the water in your dough turns into steam and the water vapor rises through the dough. Additionally, the baking soda starts to turn into carbon dioxide gas which will raise the cookie up even further.
  3. By now, you’ll start to notice that your cookie is turning golden brown in color, which means your cookie is just about done! Some tasty reactions are happening, including caramelization, when sugar reaches a high enough temperature, it begins to break down from clear crystals and transforms into a brown liquid, and the Maillard reaction.  This reaction combined with reaction from the combination from the sugar and protein from the eggs and flour creates a simply scrumptious result.

cookie-science3

You can conduct your own experiment by making a batch yourself and trying different ingredients, but if you want to make the classic chocolate chip cookie—look no further than this Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

 

Careers In Curiosity: To Infinity and Beyond!

jason

Jason Heaton, Assistant Director of Astronomy

What was your childhood dream job? Ballerina? Fire Fighter? Marine Biologist? Everyone is different, but it is certainly a rarity to be so inspired by something that you make it your life’s work. Jason Heaton, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Astronomy, visited the Boonshoft Museum as a little boy and fell in love with the possibilities that the night sky provided.

For this month’s Careers In Curiosity post, our guest blogger and Planetarium expert extraordinaire, Jason, will talk a little bit about running a Planetarium, teaching children and adults about our Solar System, and much more. Check out his blog below:

armstrong

In 2003 I had the chance to meet Neil Armstrong

Hello, Nice To Meet You

My name is Jason Heaton and I am the Assistant Director of Astronomy at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Astronomy department at the Boonshoft houses an observatory, a planetarium, and astronomy related exhibits.

How I Started in Astronomy

My career in astronomy began at the Boonshoft when I was a child. My parents enrolled me in the Boonshoft summer programs for many years. I

exoplanets

The NASA sponsored Exoplanets exhibit, produced by the Boonshoft Astronomy Department

loved archaeology, paleontology, and the activities at SunWatch, but the planetarium was by far my favorite. An energetic and hilarious planetarium director named Art Goss inspired me and fueled my love for the night sky.

In school, science classes were my favorite. I went to college at the University of Dayton, enrolling in Aerospace Engineering. I began working in the planetarium as a part time job while I was in school.  During that time, I fell in love with astronomical visualization…making

planetarium

A planetarium audience rides an Ice Slide set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

the stars come to life in the planetarium. I graduated U.D. with a degree in Computer Animation. I have been working for the Museum ever since, for more than twenty years now.

The Best Part of Working in the Astronomy Department

We do many different things in our department. We build astronomy exhibits such as the Exoplanet exhibit which recently opened. We house the Apollo Observatory, a large telescope open for free to the public on clear Friday nights. We have many different types of events that happen in the planetarium, people have proposed marriage, live bands have played, and astronauts have lectured. We have created planetarium shows and astronomical visualizations that have been shown around the world.  However, my favorite thing about working in the astronomy department is presenting the live shows about the night sky in the Dome.

starbuck

Speaking of magic, the planetarium is also one of the main stages for Harry Potter Camp, where I play Professor Starbuck, the Hogwarts summer school astronomy teacher.

Someone once said that as people we all have one thing in common…we all look up at the stars at some point in our lives and wonder. The planetarium is a unique place. When I was a child, it was magical.  People come to our planetarium to learn about the sky and experience that same feeling of wonder and magic.

As a presenter, I have witnessed the same feeling of magic in the eyes of children coming to the star shows. They will often come back after the show and ask a million questions, it becomes obvious that they will leave the museum loving the stars the same way I have.

Future Generations

You never know who is going to come into the planetarium and become a future astronaut or astronomer. The first person on Mars may be someone who is in school right now. The astronomers who find the first Earth-like planet; the mission specialist onboard a future space station; the scientists that will help us get back to the Moon; all of these people have one thing in common: someone, or something, inspired them and their love of the night sky, perhaps in a planetarium like ours.