2003 Summary

from Eve Ticknor, Falcon Watch coordinator

How does Horizon choose the location of her nest? Certainly the Crowne Plaza Hotel is the best of all buildings in Ottawa for all her requirements. Clearly she prefers a roof overhead. Not all peregrines do. Both sides of the hotel have a sheltered ledge, have the necessary gravel for the nest scrape, have easy access with nearby high perches, are reasonably protected from human interference. The only difference seems to be lighting; the east side gets the afternoon shade while the west does not. And, how does she then decide where on the ledge to lay her eggs? She seems to like inner corners or support columns, perhaps as one less area to watch. But, why one spot as opposed to another?

Somehow she senses something is just right and the decision has been made. This year was the west side, sort of near the north end, and in a space between some boards, all in all, not an easy place to see for us humans, as I found out.

By April 16, Horizon was brooding 4 eggs! Imagine squatting almost continuously day in and day out, for just over a month….. Thanks to a spot on Constitution Square’s Tower 1, I was able to keep an eye on her throughout this period, mostly late afternoons after work. Although the Falcon Watch hadn’t officially started, mine had! We watched each other during my first few visits. Subsequently, she’d look up at me, “Oh, yes, it’s you again,” and she’d go back to her nap.

May 15, our first chicklet had hatched! A tiny fluffy white baby, so gently tended by its fierce parents. More days passed until I realized the other 3 eggs weren’t going to hatch. Soon, so did Horizon and full attention was given to the sole chicklet. A call to the Canadian Peregrine Foundation in Toronto revealed that, unlike past years, we would have no foster chicklets to raise. The strange weather out west had delayed nesting for breeders there and no chicks of an appropriate age would be available. So, a lone chicklet for Ottawa!

Knowing this, I decided to start the Falcon Watch June 21, and contacted Susan Goods, our excellent Volunteer Scheduler! It was time to start “collecting” our volunteers. Who would be returning from last year? Many do! And then, calls and emails started to come in from hopeful new volunteers. Once again, we would have enough.

June 16 was Banding Day, and a different one at that! Pud Hunter (MNR) and Mark Nash (CPF) came in from Toronto, bringing with them Chris Enright (Veterinarian College at U of Guelph). special guest, Steve Heiter, was present. His name suggestion of Solitaire was chosen for our chicklet. Like most parents we anxiously awaited the announcement of “Its a boy” or “Its a girl”. Colin Langford (MNR) was harnessed up to play “predator” and went out on the ledge to decoy the adults while Pud captured Solitaire. Unlike other years, our chicklet was asleep and didn’t make any noise until it was brought inside. Colin actually had nothing to do as the adults weren’t alerted to come to its defense! That’s not to say that this chicklet was quiet and well behaved. Not at all! It kicked and screamed and struggled the whole time!

The moment arrived and “Its a girl”! Solitaire was a feisty big female, weighting at a hefty 960 gms. We were elated and apprehensive. Our past record for native-hatched females was not good, nor was it for west ledge-raised chicklets. Would this year make a difference? The odds were against it – only 1, female, west side; we look at each other and decide “It WILL be a good year”!

June 21 saw the start of the Falcon Watch, at a bleary-eyed 6 am! We settled in a parking lot at Albert and Lyon and settled down to start at the edge of the ledge. We couldn’t see Solitaire, but did see her parents on guard. We waited and reminisced, knowing we would have several days like this before any action would take place. It was a time to renew “old” friendships and to meet “new” ones, and to get to know the area before it would be time to start running. Shifts changed on schedule, and visitors came by. Our first day ended quietly.

Solitaire made a very brief appearance the next morning, then stayed out of sight for the rest of the day, although we often heard her loud demands for more food! She seemed rather a lazy chicklet. With little activity from her and good views of the adults it was a great opportunity for our volunteers to sharpen their identification skills.

Our days were heating up and sidewalks are not known for being cool….. However we were invited to use a sheltered corner by the C S Co-op and C S Alterna Banks! This included the use of a picnic table, facilities, water and coffee, and an excellent view of the ledge!

My next foray up to the roof was to Tower 2, as I deemed Tower 1 too close for the comfort of Connor and Horizon. It was very brief as I realized I was being closely watched by both adults! Solitaire was spending lots of time preening. She must have been quite itchy as her down came out to make way for her brown feathers in the intensifying heat. She was more visible and we watched her experience the feel of the wind one afternoon, facing into it with her wings uplifted.

Horizon and Connor became quite agitated the morning of our 6th day. Workers at Constitution Square’s Tower 1 were preparing to put up their huge flag for Canada Day. This would take place over several days. Solitaire was now moving up and down the ledge, flapping her wings, or running. She was now a voracious chicklet the size of her mother. Her tiny mind seemed fixated on food. At one point she traveled northwards along the ledge until she reached her father, who was roosting near the middle of the ledge. As she reached him, she jumped up and bit him on his beak! Then, before he could react, she hauled off and hit him on the head with her left foot! She lost her balance and fell inwards while a shocked Connor fled the scene! Later on she again traveled the ledge at a run, heading south. As she approached Connor, he flew away to the other side of the hotel. There are definitely aspects of chicklet-raising that he doesn’t like! I think she was merely reminding him why he was there….

By Day 8, Solitaire was doing strong wing-flapping, followed by a long nap after a hug meal. Just as we were wondering if she would ever fly – she did! Everyone stopped breathing as she flew with strong, steady wing beats northwest over the Delta, circling southwards over the Park Apartments on Bay St., and heading for constitution Square’s Tower 1 (where we lost the only 2 chicklets raised on the west ledge). Just in time she veered south towards the Minto Place Suite Hotel, and… vanished!

Where was she? Everyone had an opinion – between buildings, down a street, onto a railing, into a window. We called for reinforcements, added passersby and divided up. I headed for the Minto and contacted Security. With a member of Housekeeping, I checked many balconies, then met up with some volunteers and compared notes before we split up again. A call from Minto brought me there again, this time for… a pigeon! After a 2 hours, another call from Minto – this time. EUREKA! The Schofields, staying in a suite near the top floor, had found her on their balcony. I pulled the drapes open and there was a tired Solitaire sitting on the floor! True to her nature, once I scooped her up, she struggled and complained and tried to bite me, all the way “home”! As I put her down on the ledge, she managed to strain a muscle of her right leg, but it was much better by the next day. She never needed rescuing again!

Two days later she was once again airborne in the late afternoon, making 3 or 4 short , but good, flights, staying up high. She attempted 1 or 2 landings on Place de Ville’s Tower C, and showed great recovery skills. Horizon accompanied her daughter on 2 of those flights, showing her how to do things. After landing on Tower A during her 2nd flight, she discovered a puddle of water and spent some time playing in it, perhaps with her reflection.

Ahhhh….. Canada Day! Solitaire stayed put for most of the day. So far she has proven herself “not a morning” bird! The sky was full of flights, though not hers – Snowbirds, Sky Hawks and their helicopters, small planes circling Parliament Hill, planes trailing advertisement flags, even Horizon doing some incentive flying. Finally in the early evening, Solitaire flew to the Minto and landed perfectly on the cap of a very narrow stack on the roof. From there she flew to the round top of the Marriott and eventually to the northeast area of Tower B’s roof where she stayed. I’m sure she was startled at fireworks right in her face accompanied by loud noises coming from both the fireworks and the echo from Tower C!

The last couple of days were pretty quiet for Solitaire with little flying, although a search was down again when it was reported she had flown off and hadn’t been seen in some time. Imagine the surprise and embarrassment for some volunteers when she was discovered napping right at “home”.

Although Solitaire has not done as much flying as I would have liked, she flew very well when she did, and exhibited excellent recovery and landing skills. I believe her reluctance to spend more time flying is due to being an “only child”. Those who have siblings have competition, incentive and someone to “play” with, and she had none of these. I feel she will do well and I have, therefore decided to close our Falcon Watch and let our hardworking volunteers have a well deserved rest (including the Coordinator and Scheduler)!

A heartfelt Thank you to the following:

  • The Ottawa Citizen for their coverage of our falcon family
  • Matthew McNaughton and the staff of the Crowne Plaza Hotel for their support for our volunteers and for hosting the banding of Solitaire
  • Ian Fisher,Yvon Morin and the staff of the Constitution Square for their support and assistance to our volunteers, especially parking and roof access for the Coordinator
  • The staff and Security of the Minto Place Suite Hotel who assisted us in locating Solitaire on her first flight
  • Carm Timpano of CS Co-op Bank, Gary Sevigny of C S Alterna Bank and their staffs for inviting us to use a sheltered spot in front of their building along with the facilities and water and coffee (so welcome on those very hot days!)
  • Elizabeth LeGeyt for her support in her weekly column in the Ottawa Citizen
  • Sandy Garland for posting our daily updates on the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club web site
  • Mark Nash of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation for assisting with the banding of our chicklet and for posting our daily updates on their web site
  • Pud Hunter of the Ministry of Natural Resources for banding Solitaire
  • Chris Enright of the Veterinary College, University of Guelph for inoculating our chicklet against the West Nile Virus
  • Colin Langford, our Predator during the banding
  • Shannon Stone for assistance to the Coordinator
  • John Kyle for frequent observations at a high level
  • John Ayres and Eliane Leclerc for frequent observations at a high level
  • Bill Petrie for assistance during our search for Solitaire
  • The Marshall family for assistance with spotting our various falcons
  • Arlene Williams for sighting reports
  • Nathleigh McKenna-Rochon for sighting reports
  • the Schofields for knowing what to do when they found Solitaire on their balcony!

And most important Thank you’s for all our volunteers who took shifts to keep an eye on our intrepid chicklet:

 

Nel Ahmed
MIcheline Beaulieu-Bouchard
Tony Beck
Claudette Bernachez
Marian Bird
Roseanne Bishop
Ken Buckingham
Silver Buckler
Barbara Chouinard
Marie Clausen
Gayle Duggan
Tammy Dupuis
Stephen Farkas
Susan Goods
Christine Grant
Claire Haas
Judy Hall
Jill Hawkins
Steven Heiter
Mark Hickman
Terry Higgins
Ron Hoffe
Lesley Howes
Bill Hunt
Ruth Hutchinson
Ian Jeffrey
Denise Killick
Marylou Kingsbury
Warren Kingsbury
Ruth Kochschult
Lene Kollgard
Mickey Kostove
Bernie Ladouceur
Danielle Lamarche
Christine Lepine
Phil Maillard
Kristina Makkay
Gordon McLean
Maxine McLean
Bernard LeMay
Helene Michaud
Lorraine Montoya
Cynthia Moore
Rosemary Mosco
James Normington
Jim O’Neil
Diane Parkin
Frank Pope
Remy Poulin
Trieste Rathwell
Bob Roach
Gisele Sadik
Renate Sander-Regier
Nancy Scott
Daryl Seip
Heather Shaw
Michel Simard
Langis Sirois
Allen St Onge
John Sullivan
Jim Sutton
Dahlia Tamasoiu
Austin Taverner
Eve Ticknor
Chris Traynor
Gilles Vautour
Ian Wilson
Laurie Wood
Nick Zeis

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