After record snowfall this past winter, Merri and her new mate, Lance, are starting a new family together. Merri laid her first egg on March 30, the second one on April 1. She can lay up to four eggs per season, and she lays them approximately every other day. So we can expect the third egg to appear on Friday and the last one on Sunday.
You may see the eggs left unattended for short periods of time. This is normal. Incubation doesn’t really begin in earnest until about the third egg. From then on, Merri and Mack will take turns sitting on the nest to keep the eggs warm. The eggs are expected to hatch 30 to 33 days after the last one is laid.
According to local veteran falcon watchers Ursula and David Goodine, as far as they know this will be Lance's first experience in fatherhood. The couple has been monitoring the peregrine falcons at Fox Hall on behalf of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) since 2007.
Merri and Mack, her previous mate of nine years, successfully raised a total of 20 chicks atop Fox Hall, including one that was adopted from Lawrence. Mack passed away unexpectedly in June 2014. (DFW biologist Tom French believes that Mack flew into a building and fractured his neck.)
The Goodines gave the moniker “Lance” to Merri’s new mate since he was hatched and raised along with three other chicks on top of the New Balance Factory Store in Lawrence, Mass., in 2010. Lance is about five years younger than Merri.
“It’s difficult to know exactly when Lance entered the scene, as another adult male [from Nashua] was also trying to claim the territory after Mack’s death,” notes Ursula Goodine. “What Dave and I know for certain is that on July 7 of last year, Tom French called us to rescue an injured peregrine falcon that was found in a Lowell junkyard. Luckily, we were able to identify him from his leg bands as Lance from Lawrence. After capturing him, we took him to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton, Mass., where he was treated for a shoulder laceration for 12 weeks and then released.”
A few days later, Imelda Joson, an avid falcon watcher and photographer who has been monitoring the birds at Fox Hall since spring of last year, spotted Lance on East Campus.
“It’s amazing how Lance was able to navigate his way back to Lowell from Grafton — a straight distance of over 35 miles — just to be reunited with Merri and reclaim his territory. I call that a real love story!” she says.
Joson adds: “It was fun to watch Lance’s reaction on the nest cams after the first egg was laid — it was his first time to see the egg so he wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it. He would sometimes gently poke the egg and would sit on it for less than a minute before flying off. Merri was the one incubating the egg most of the time. But Lance is very sweet — he brings Merri his fresh catch every day. He would feed her first before flying off to hunt for his own food. So I think Lance would make a great dad!”
This photo of Merri, left, and Lance inside the nest box was taken on March 4, 2015. At the time they were vocalizing and bowing to each other as well as gently touching and grabbing each other’s beak. These are part of normal courtship behavior for peregrine falcons.
Stay tuned for more updates. Keep watching!
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