1998 Local Activity Reports

by Bev McBride

Peregrine Falcons nested again in downtown Ottawa, for the second year in a row. Chances are it was the same two who nested here last year (see T&L 32:78-79). Ottawa’s Peregrines are one of 18 known nesting pairs in Ontario, and one of six pairs that chose to nest on downtown skyscrapers instead of natural cliffs outside the city.

This year one female and one male hatched. Pippin, the male, was a spunky flier from the beginning. Not once did he require a rescue from the ground. Observers never saw him return to the nest ledge on the 25th floor of the Citadel Ottawa Hotel. As far as we know, he’s still alive.

The female, Jo-Jo, fledged several days after her brother. Unfortunately she died on her first day of flying. She crashed into the 240 Sparks St. building, the same building that foiled Allison, the only chick to hatch last year.

The OFNC’s Birds Committee worked with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) to set up a dawn-to-dusk watch over the young birds. Volunteers took shifts on the ground and on the roof of Constitution Square from June 29th to July 10th. We tracked the movements of the whole family, but stood forever ready in case a fledgling got into trouble and needed to be rescued (see previous article).

Screeching filled the air around the Citadel on June 24th as the parent falcons tried to scare off Bruce Di Labio. He had volunteered to crouch on the nest ledge to distract them while OMNR biologists banded their youngsters. Bruce also took a look at the prey remains on the nest ledge: Spotted Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Black-and-white Warbler, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Martin, House Sparrow, cowbird and flicker.

The Peregrines shared stage that morning with the two children who won the contest to name the chicks. The winners and their classmates attended the “banding brunch” where they watched the whole process on large, live-action video monitors.

Judging by the date the eggs hatched, we expected Pippin to fledge first, around July 4th. A keen team of volunteers filled a schedule beginning two days before that, just to be prudent. Then, young Pippin surprised everyone by taking his first flight late in the morning on June 29th. Maxine and Gordon McLean came to the rescue, inhaled their lunch, and dashed downtown. Many other volunteers took on new shifts at very short notice. The watch was in full swing by supper time.

We dutifully monitored Pippin’s progress over the days (he didn’t really need us) as he visited more and more rooftops in the area, tearing apart the pigeons and other less discernible items of prey his parents brought to him. As his flight feathers grew in he acquired more of an adult-like silhouette and took off on ever-longer tours around town. By July 7th observers saw him receiving prey in airborne exchanges with his parents, or making stunning, aerial dives out over the Ottawa River.

Meanwhile, hoping to prevent another accident like the one that caused Allison’s demise, OMNR biologist Daryl Seip tried to persuade downtown building managers to let him hang streamers on their mirrored buildings to break up the sky’s reflection.

Negotiations were just underway when, on July 3, Jo-Jo decided it was time to fly. After an impressive first flight over to the Delta Hotel, she took off down Sparks St. and into the west side of 240 Sparks about five floors down from the top. Volunteer Bruce Wright, a veterinary graduate student, examined her body and confirmed she most likely died quickly on impact.

Saddened, volunteers continued the watch. Daryl went ahead with his streamer-hanging plans in case Pippin became more reckless as he learned to hunt. In a few days the mirrored sides of the 240 Sparks St. building and the Bank of Canada building were festooned with fluttering orange and pink survey tape streamers. Pippin was still seen in the area into the first week of August. Did our efforts help him survive?

After two years we’re beginning to learn more about monitoring Peregrine fledglings. Still, among the volunteers we have only a little experience retrieving grounded chicks and in dealing with injured birds. We did learn a lot about coordinating volunteers and having a functional observation post. If we’re lucky, we will be able to apply what we’ve learned next summer when, who knows, there could be three or more fledglings to follow! Some had previous experience in Peregrine Falcon release programs or had done other work with falcons. Several people were on permanent emergency call, including the Wild Bird Care Centre and Dr. Dan Rodgers of the Alta Vista Animal Hospital. Management and staff members of the Citadel and Constitution Square were most cooperative throughout the watch.

Volunteers who filled even one four-hour shift made a highly valued contribution. However, almost half of the volunteers put in 16 hours or more. A very devoted group of folks put in 20 or more hours.

Many thanks to Sandy Garland, OFNC webmaster, who with input from volunteers kept an almost-daily update of the Peregrine watch on the Club’s website; and to Dave Smythe and Alan German who prepared information materials for the many curious passers-by.

Peregrine Watch Volunteers (those marked * contributed 20 or more hours)

Ken Allison
Tim Allison
MaryEllen Arsenault
Roseanne Bishop
Bob Bracken*
Richard Brouillet
Louise Campagna
Brenda Carter
Bruce Di Labio
Trish Flimdall
Anne-Marie Fyfe
Angie Fuller
Sandy Garland
Alan German
Carol German
Paul Gully
Jill Hawkins
Lesley Howes
Katie Iwaniw
Krista Iwaniw
Ian Jeffrey*
Ron Jones
Tony Keith
Greg Kelly*
Nancy Kelly
Mary Lou Kingsbury
Warren Kingsbury
Kathy Krywicki
Bernie Ladouceur
André Lavign
Nancy Lavoie
Chris Lewis
Bonnie Mabee
Richard Mabee
Terry Maulsby*
Bev McBride*
Jean McGugan*
Gordon McLean*
Maxine McLean
Greg Money
Stacey Money
Gib Moreau
Kathy Nihei
Frank Pope
Iola Price
Dr. Dan Rodgers
Bev Scott*
Daryl Seip
Colin Selby*
Dave Smythe*
Verna Smythe
Michael Tate
Scott Thompson
Eve Ticknor
Rick Ticknor
Chris Traynor
Nancy Vivian*
Bruce Wright*

 

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