2005 Summary

from Eve Ticknor, Falcon Watch coordinator

“Community Service is the rent we pay for our place on earth.”

This proved to be a year that will stand out in our minds for years to come!

It started quite normally, with my first sighting of Horizon on her nest on April 11th. She had chosen the west side of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, near the north end. The spot was rather difficult for us to see from the roof top across the street as she was tucked in between debris left on the ledge and at an angle that put most of her behind a pillar! Nonetheless, Chris Traynor and I confirmed 4 eggs by the 14th. Now we settled in for the log wait until the hatching. As always, the actual date is a guestimate since I never know when she starts brooding in earnest. Peregrines do not start full-time brooding until the last egg is laid, so it is a combination of when she is no longer seen on a regular basis, Connor’s behaviour and past history. She had been there a few days before I first saw her. As it takes an average of 33 days to hatching, I came pretty close, saying it might be around the 11th of May. As it turned out, it was 2 days earlier.

May 9th was the hatching day for 2 fluffy chicklets! Seeing them for the first time gives me a thrill that never changes from year to year. And seeing the parents being so gentle and careful with them is heart-warming. Once again, we will have the Falcon Watch so it was time to put our organization into operation. I had the wonderful, capable assistance of Marie Clausen, who did all the volunteer scheduling! Saying I couldn’t have done this without her is a cliché, but so true!

Once in a while I went on the roof of the Constitution Square, Tower 1, for observations of our family. Horizon made sure no one stayed there for long, and some days, not at all. When she says go, we go! Phil Maillard and I were watching from the street on the 28th of May when we saw 3 peregrines in the air! It was soon evident that Horizon and Connor were escorting another female out of the area. They were right with her until they went out of sight near the river. Soon both of ours came back without her. This was the first time I had actually seen another peregrine in the area during the breeding season.

June 10th – Banding Day. As we were going to be holding this ceremony in the Pinnacle Room of the hotel’s penthouse, we chose to close all the drapes to lessen the stress on Horizon who got really worked up last year with all the people standing by the windows who didn’t realize her nest was right underneath! Although this year’s nest was at the other end, we thought it prudent. One set of drapes stayed open as they were broken, so we put a barrier to keep everyone from rushing that area. We could see Horizon on the ledge across the way, relaxed so far. Some photos were taken without alarming her. This changed rapidly once our “predator” was out on the ledge! Tracy Simpson had said after last year’s events, she wouldn’t go out again in Ottawa. Surprise – she was doing it again. Afterwards she said the high heat and humidity worked in her favour as Horizon was too stressed from the weather to put as much fight into defense as before.

It was evident during the banding that we had 1 male and 1 very large female. Littlefoot, named so by Crystal Allan and Susie Costa of the Alterna Bank, weighed in at a respectable 700 grams. His sister, however, weighed in at 1040 grams, the largest we have had. Both were 32 days old – virtual twins! She was named Storm by Nic Conroy, who said that was because peregrines fly fast like lightening in a storm. Good thinking! both chicklets seemed quite calm during all of the proceedure.

The next day we started the Falcon Watch. We seem to hit the extremes in weather with this annual venture. As we swore 2004 was the coldest, 2005 started out the hottest (and soon the wettest)! A high humidex affects our birds as well as us, so it was a very quiet day. Gilles and I started the day out around 5:30 a.m., the best time, comfortwise. We were visited all day by neighbours who were waiting for the Falcon Watch to start again. It is so nice to see “old friends”! Visitors staying at the Crowne came over, all excited as they have peregrines in their home town – Nottingham, England! One lady had the bus driver tell everyone to come see, so at various times, they did. Entertainment was also provided by a nest of 6 baby squirrels in the attic of the building next to us, and their daring mother. Connor also took it upon himself to escort a Turkey Vulture away from his territory. A big plus this year was the discovery of the Scone Witch, right next to us. Heather Matthews, owner, became interested in our birds and would check with us for daily updates, as well as dropping off a bag or 2 of scones at the end of her days. Keep them coming, Heather!

The second day saw 2 young falcons peeping over the edge for their first look at a new world. They are so cute with their little heads bobbing up and down as they look at everything around them. Over the next few days we saw more of them as well as the wing-flapping exercises they need to be doing. At times in the evenings we were delighted to watch Horizon and Connor enjoying the winds and appearing to fly for the pure enjoyment of it. Hopefully Storm and Littlefoot were thinking the same.

And then, it was time. Littlefoot suddenly took off from the northwest corner of the ledge! He tried to get to the roof but missed, tried the middle of Tower C, missed that as well and flew right back to his home, the first time any of our chicklets have done that so quickly! He took just 5 minutes to accomplish this, and with an overhang to fly under. I had an interview on location at 6:20 am, with Lucy van Oldenbarneveld of Ottawa Morning (radio)! more people will know about our chicklets now!

Day 9 saw both chicklets taking flight! Littlefoot went to the roof of the Delta while his sister decided a bit later to try her wings and made a lot of short flights, first to the top of Tower C, then the Minto Place, then the Delta. Littlefoot tried again, this time landing on a window ledge of the Crowne Plaza, eventually the West Memorial Building, and finally to the East Memorial. The next morning Connor chased 3 crows so fast they left a few feathers behind! What a start to his day.

Storm spent her day doing a lot more flying while her brother shuttled between the East and West Memorial buildings. Unfortunately he disappeared after lunch and hasn’t been seen again! He was last seen flying east on Albert St, supposedly toward Tower B. We spent a lot of time from then onwards searching for him on the ground, on ledges and balconies and on rooftops. Nothing. So we are going on the premise that he got excited while flying and simply kept going out of range. At this point, hopefully instinct will have kicked in and he will have learned to hunt. We will go with this unless we hear otherwise. It is a bit disconcerting as we have never had a chicklet disappear for so long! Meanwhile, we have a strong flyer to keep our eyes on, his sister. She is proving to be a quick learner and should do very well.

And so we came to the end of this year’s Falcon Watch, with mixed feelings. Although concerned about Littlefoot, we feel that our Watch was a successful one. Storm never needed rescuing and has shown us a superb flyer, strong and graceful who should take after her mother. This is what we are all about.

And now for an addendum: We have lost our Horizon! She met with an accident July 6th. While flying north around Tower C, she was seen to have been caught by a gust of wind and went out of sight. A little while later she was found on the roof of the East Memorial, bleeding and unable to fly due to an injured wing. Chris Traynor carefully took her off the roof and out to the Wild Bird Care Centre. She was examined by Steve Hamlyn and Dr Robin Roscoe of the Lynnwood Animal Clinic. Her wing proved to be severely fractured and the x-rays showed that her fractures would never allow her to fly again. The MNR had her immediately transferred to Guelph to be seen by by a falcon expert, Dr Michael Taylor. After his examination, the MNR made the tough decision to have her euthanized. The ultimate reasoning was with her dignity and quality of life in mind. As hard as it is to accept, it was the right decision. We will all miss her but her spirit will be with us always and I know that, come the next Falcon Watch (there will be as soon as another female shows up here), Horizon will be looking over my shoulder to make sure I do things the right way and that Connor doesn’t sneak in too much food to his new chicklets.

I would like to thank all the volunteers, especially Marie Clausen who has had the honour of scheduling all our volunteers. And I wish to thank the many others who have been involved with our falcon family, and the many passersby who supported all our efforts.

Vautour, Gilles
Bird, Marion
Grant, Christine
Maillard, Phil
Sutton, Jim
Marshall, Dominique & Elsa
Montoya, Lorraine
Campbell, Barbara
Conroy, Nic
Mathe, Lynne & Conroy, Calvin
Scott, Nancy
Earland, Chris
Kepkay, Mark
Eyzaguirre, Jimena
Hawkins, Jill
Sirois, Langis
O’Neil, Jim
Ahmed, Nel
Greene, Elizabeth
Pope, Frank
Chouinard, Barbara
Bryant-Bennett, Bev
Traynor, Chris
McColgan, Robyn
Cormier, Yvon
Houston, Wayne
Mabee, Bonnie & Dick
Clausen, Marie
Farkas, Steve
Ryan, Deanne
Heiter, Steve
Colotelo, Joyce
Duchesne, Doreen
Goods, Susan
Bishop, Roseanne
Zeis, Nick
LeHenoff, Jerome
Bower, Bill
Knaggs, Lois
Elsworthy, Lorraine
Dafoe, Joe
Romanow, Jack
Duggan, Gayle
Makkay, Kristina
Ritchie, Heather
Thompson, Polly
Beaulieu-Bouchard, Micheline
Koch-Schulte, Ruth
Ladouceur, Bernie
Beck, Tony
Hurley, Mary
Masson, Sandra
Ayres, John & Leclerc, Eliane

Associates for Certificates of Thanks

Crowne Plaza Hotel
Constitution Square
Marriott Ottawa
Alterna Savings Bank
Crystal Allan, Alterna Bank
Susie Costa, Alterna Bank
Pud Hunter, MNR
Melissa Thompson, MNR
Heather Matthews, SconeWitch
Delta Ottawa
Hainer, Richard
Jane Breen
Lucy van Oldenbarnaveld & Denise Fung, Ottawa Morning Show, CBC Radio
Security staff, Place de Ville (A & B)
Maintenance Staff, Memorial Building

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