About Anouk Hoedeman

Falcon Watch Coordinator

A soggy day for (almost) all

Today started out warm, even muggy. A new volunteer, Christine, joined me for the 6 – 9 a.m. shift, after which it started raining. Nancy and Toni arrived around 10:30 for a very long and soggy shift, and were joined by Frank from 1 to 5 p.m. I dropped by briefly just before 5, and left again once Chris and Marie arrived for the last shift of the day.

The day can be summed up as follows: Six of us spent at least some time in the rain watching Pringle, one person remained more or less dry (Christine escaped in time), and Pringle still hasn’t flow. But he did get soaked.

But golly, he’s close. By all accounts, he spent a significant portion of the day training for his big moment, and he’s looking strong and confident as he furiously flaps those wings and jumps onto the little walls on the side of the ledge.

Here are some adorable photos I digiscoped before the rain. Trust me, you’ll want to scroll down to the last one.

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Nearly there

Pringle-June-21Pringle started the day quietly, staying more or less out of sight for much of the morning and early afternoon while Claire, Marian and Dominique were monitoring him. The adults, Ivanhoe and Rowena, also made themselves scarce.

Around 2 p.m., though, Pringle decided it was time for some flying practice (not practice flying, just to be clear). So he perched far out on the ledge, spread his wings and started madly flapping. He didn’t appear to want to actually fly — in fact, he seemed to be adjusting his direction and the angle of his wings precisely to avoid accidentally taking flight. It was more like he wanted to test these wing things and figure out how they work.

It was quite a display, and went on for a long time. I made sure the towel and gloves were handy and got ready to run. But he stayed on his ledge. Phew. One of the reasons we prefer to have at least two people per shift is that it’s hard for one person to simultaneously run and track a falcon’s flight. Better to have someone hang back to see where the bird eventually ends up, and use the two-way radio to guide the runner. Yes, that was a shameless plug for more volunteers.

Anyway, done with flapping practice, Pringle contemplated the world around him, as if he’d never noticed the details before: ledge, walls, overhang, ground below, passing insects and fluff … He also spent a lot of time examining his feet by holding them up to his face (one at a time, of course!), and trying to figure out how to put them to use scratching his head without scratching out his eyes.

Ivanhoe brought him food — twice — and that was all I saw of either parent between 1 and 5 p.m. The food drop brought its own excitement. On the first visit, Ivanhoe landed on the opposite side of the ledge with what appeared to be a sizable meal. Pringle eagerly flew/hopped over to his father. He’s usually more wary of of his parents’ bait-and-switch routine, and tries at first to act nonchalant when they visit. Then, clutching the food in his talons, he hopped all over the ledge and even caught some air. I advised him to first learn to fly, then worry about flying with food, but he didn’t listen.

He seemed awfully hungry, which may be why Ivanhoe soon came back with a bonus pigeon wing for him. Pringle worked away at his dinner for quite a while — such a generous meal meant he most likely wouldn’t be flying today.

Brian, Frank (welcome back!) and Chris took the evening shift and watched more flapping. In Chris’s words:

Pringle looks strong. At one point he did what I think was the longest sustained wing-flapping (in a stationary spot) that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a few. I was impressed. Mom and Dad brought him a snack but took it away from him right away. That’s a good sign. Maybe he won’t get to be a chunky only child.

Here’s hoping that Pringle takes his inaugural flight this weekend, when there are more volunteers around to chase after him.

Snapping Turtle update: I saw one digging a hole along the bike path this morning. It may well have been the same one as yesterday (same size, same location 12 hours later), but this time her choice for a nest site, between the river and the path, seemed a much safer option than trying to cross Riverside Drive.

Amphibian encounter

The most exciting part of today’s Falcon Watch (for me, anyway) wasn’t Pringle’s prolonged and sometimes wobbly flapping, although it was a close second. It was saving a Snapping Turtle intent on crossing Riverside Drive near Billings Bridge.

I was biking home from Heron Rd. when I saw a couple that had stopped to look at a large turtle on the very edge of Riverside westbound. I could see it was a snapper, and it was about to step out onto the very busy road. So I ran over, grabbed it (being careful to keep my fingers out of biting range) and placed it on the grass a few feet back.

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Naturally, it headed straight back to the road, so I called Nancy, who was still up on Heron and has a turtle rescue box in her car. She said to just carry it across the road in whatever direction it was heading, because it was probably looking for a place to lay eggs. A small crowd had gathered in the meantime, and one brave gentleman carried the turtle across to the grassy area between the westbound and eastbound lanes of Riverside.

Problem was, this would be a terrible spot to leave a turtle, because she’d have to cross Riverside again when she was done laying her eggs, and there might be no one there to carry her safely across. But if we carried her back to the other side now, she’s just turn around again. What to do?

Just then, I saw that Chris had messaged me, and he seems like the kind of person who would know what to do about a stubborn snapper — he’s sometimes a bit snappish himself :). He told me pretty much what Nancy did.

In the meantime, the turtle had tried her hand (foot?) at digging a hole and was clearly unimpressed with the soil quality. So she circled back to the road, thus disproving the running theory among the assembled that she just wanted to do a bit of shopping at Billings Bridge Plaza.

So the brave guy waited for a break in traffic, picked her up again and carried her back to the north side of the pavement. Three of us waited for a while to see what she would do, hoping she’d head back to the water. She slooooooooooooowly lumbered back to the riverbank, gingerly made her way down the steep bank and disappeared with a splash, flushing a Northern Flicker in the process.

Then I went home and washed my hands. Turtles are pretty smelly.

Pringle, June 20

Pringle catches some early morning rays, June 20

But back to Pringle … his parents fed him a few times today and even spent some time hanging out with him on the nest ledge, so I didn’t think he would try to fly. But his flapping was such that he came close to being blown off the ledge a couple of times.

We did get a chance to see him standing right next to Rowena at the front of the ledge, which gave us a chance to compare their size. He is most definitely much smaller than his mom, so I’m standing by yesterday’s conclusion that he is a he.

A big thank you to Dominique, John C., Jorgen, Nancy and Fern for helping out today!

Now here are yesterday’s photos:

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Pringle and parent, June 19

Martha, June 19

Martha, June 19

Meanwhile downtown …

I checked on the downtown nest site Tuesday but have been too busy watching Pringle to post anything about it until now. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any sign of chicks. Diana spent quite a bit of time sitting near the spot where we saw eggs back in April, but there was nothing about her behaviour to suggest she was tending to chicks.

We were hopeful that Diana would be successful this year thanks to her new mate Janus, so this is disappointing but not really so surprising. Despite brooding every year, Diana hasn’t hatched any chicks since 2009.

But here’s a nice photo of her anyway, perched on the southwest corner of Place de Ville’s Tower A.

Diana, 18 June 2013

Diana, 18 June 2013