About Anouk Hoedeman

Falcon Watch Coordinator

It’s a wrap!

Ivanhoe: This particular adult male’s dark grey back and wings contrast sharply with his pure white breast and black-and-white barred belly. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

Rowena, June 20. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

Rowena: This adult female stands apart from her mate through her bigger size — like all female PEFAs — as well as her browner colouring and the distinctive flecks on her breast. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

Data: The male chick is an agile flier who isn’t afraid to aggressively chase his parents when he’s hungry. Like all PEFA chicks, his bill and eye ring are blue-grey rather than bright yellow. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

Amber: This female chick is less agile but a more powerful flier than her brother. PEFAs chicks are the same size as the adults by the time they fledge. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

Both chicks, Data and Amber, are flying well, and their parents Ivanhoe and Rowena continue to train them in the art of being Peregrine Falcons. As a result, we decided to wrap up the 2012 Falcon Watch on Friday, June 22.

At nine days (counting the first, partial day when I confirmed the nest site), this must be one of the shortest watches ever. Chalk it up to a very late start for us, two strong chicks, and a flight-training environment that’s much safer than the one downtown. Data began flying the day after we began monitoring the raptors, and Amber took flight three days later.

The chicks are already venturing to perches on surrounding buildings and will soon learn to hunt, but they’ll stay relatively close to their home base until they migrate in late summer. While both chicks still face challenges, we’re past the point where our continuous presence is likely to make an immediate difference in their safety. That said, CRA employees, some local residents and other falcon fans will continue to keep an eye out for the birds and know where to reach us if there’s a mishap. And since many people have asked about this: We have been assured that the big flag that usually goes on the south side of the building for Canada Day will be hung elsewhere, to avoid interfering with the nest site.

A big thank you to the volunteers who were able to come out to give us a hand, and also to those who offered to help but were unavailable until the weekend. And I apologize if anyone did offer to work a shift and we didn’t get back to you. This was a hastily organized effort, so some messages may well have fallen through the cracks.

We would also like to thank the building managers and security staff at 875 Heron Rd., especially Adam and Jason. They — and everyone else on site — were extremely helpful and accommodating, especially considering the short notice. We are grateful for all the information about this falcon family that we were able to glean from numerous people who work in the building, and we very much enjoyed chatting with curious passersby and answering their questions.

We expect Ivanhoe and Rowena to remain for the winter and to nest again next year (we now with certainty that they were here last year too, and raised two chicks). That, and the possibility that Diana will find a new mate, means we may have two Falcon Watch sites next year. We hope you will be able to join us, and we promise to provide more notice to volunteers next time!

In the meantime, if you have a chance to watch the new falcon family in action, please feel free to share your photos, videos and updates on their progress.

Here, catch!

Data on the security camera with Amber on the top right, and Ivanhoe below, in his favourite spot. Photo by Frank Marshall.

Yesterday morning very early, the falcons were nowhere to be seen. Had the chicks retreated to a shady spot on the roof? Did the whole family go hunting together? Were they simply taking advantage of the more comfortable weather to stretch their wings after two days of oppressive heat and humidity? It was 7:45 a.m. before I got a partial answer: Rowena flew in briefly, and Ivanhoe emerged from the back corner of his favourite ledge. Still no chicks, though.

Tim arrived at 9 to take over, and after we looked for the chicks some more, I left at 9:45. As I drove along Heron Rd., I spotted a falcon chick on the roof of the Tilley Building at the corner of Riverside. I doubled back to let Tim know that at least one of the chicks was alive and well, and as I got ready to leave again, a chick (the same one?) flew back, squawking, and soon retreated to the roof. Amber appeared at noon, just in time for her lunch, while Data continued sleeping. When I returned at 1, Ivanhoe was on the west side of the building, Data on the roof, Rowena on the east side, and Amber out of sight again. The falcons were coping with the heat better than I was, and I was forced to head home just past 2.

Dominique arrived a bit later and witnessed a real breakthrough for Amber. Here’s her report:

Amber and Data flew to meet Rowena on her return.  She had a dead pigeon in her talons, and after a bit of flying, she decided that her chicks were near enough; she dropped the pigeon for the chicks to fly onto, but nobody managed to catch it — it landed on the centre of the parking lot.  As Steve brought the pigeon carcass to a grassy knoll, the chicks flew back to the building, and Amber screeched for some food. Rowena left, flying eastward.

At 4:00 Rowena returned with another bird.  When she dropped it this time, Amber, who had lifted off at her mother’s return, caught it in flight and brought it to a ledge six rows down [much lower than she usually lands, but it was likely her first time carrying something in flight].  She remained there for three hours, eating, grooming and waiting. Staff watched her from inside, and two of them came to see us: they said that the bird she was eating was brownish and biggish; our best estimate so far is that it was a pigeon. Data was fed by his father around 6:15: Ivanhoe brought a bird on the southwest corner, flew north with it and seems to have left the bird to Data, who had appeared briefly for the occasion, flying west as well, at the same time.

Here’s some video from Frank:

Amber gradually made her back to the nest ledge for the evening with a series of gentle and graceful flights that showed off her skill. Her brother had arrived on the ledge a few minutes before, following Ivanhoe, who had flown there briefly himself as if acting as a guide.

Meanwhile, a young pigeon flew onto a nearby ledge, in full view of the three birds. It then ventured to the very ledge where Ivanhoe was, only to see the falcon charge in its direction. The pigeon seems to have flown away quickly enough to avoid the worst.

We left the watch at 9:00, with the two chicks close to one another, safely tucked where we had seen them nine days ago for the first time, and their father in attendance, on the top ledge of the first column of the south side.

A hot, slow day, but not uneventful

Yesterday (Thursday) found our falcon friends on their usual perches around the building. When the temperature is very hot, they tend to prefer the ledges on the west face in the morning. As the sun moves across the sky, they chicks disappear to the roof and the adults make themselves scarce. Despite the intense heat, John and Tim reported seeing the chicks go for a bit of a flight together in the morning, and the chicks continue to improve their landing techniques.

In the afternoon, Data and Amber went on another brief outing together, circling over the roof a couple of times before disappearing from view. They remained out of sight for more than two hours, until Rowena returned. Data flew once around the building in pursuit of his mother before landing on the south face. Rowena continued slowly circling over the building as if looking for Amber. I searched as well, and some careful scrutiny from far, far back finally yielded a glimpse of her. She seemed to have woken up  briefly from a perch atop a structure near the southwest corner of the roof, where she had been hidden by some vents.

Shortly after Frank and Bethany arrived for the evening shift, Rowena returned again — without food, natch — spurring Data to fly off his ledge in pursuit. Amber also reappeared suddenly from the roof and took chase as well. Amidst the ensuing chaos, Data began chasing Amber — it seemed like he mistook her for Rowena. Amber was not amused and screeched loudly in protest as she tried to avoid his attacks. Frank caught a bit of this drama on video:

While it was disturbing to see Data harass Amber like that, it was very encouraging to see how she coped with the unexpected mid-air aggression. She evaded Data a couple of times, then fled to the safety of the building. Unfortunately, she headed for one of the vertical “slots” on the west face. These areas have no ledge or other landing surface. As we’ve seen before when the chicks end up in these slots, Amber tumbled quite close to the ground, then recovered and raced around to south side. She regained enough height to land fairly high up on the south side. This is typical of Amber: She doesn’t always land where she plans to, but she does land safely and on solid footing. Data is more precise in his aim but sometimes flails and struggles to maintain his balance upon landing.

Here’s Frank’s report on the balance of the evening:

Eventually, all of the falcons landed successfully onto respective perches of the southern face. There was much screeching for a time, and this encouraged Rowena to head out south for hunting. She returned an hour later with some food for Amber.  While Amber moved back on her ledge to feed on her meal, Data became agitated, but his calls dissipated. Eventually, Ivanhoe returned and landed on the south side, so the whole family was in one view. Data, still waiting for food, pursued his father in a circle around the building. Amber circled around as well but soon returned to her initial perch.

The rest of the evening was not too eventful. Data displayed his flying abilities when he flew around the building under the 20-30 km/h winds. He had to execute some elaborate maneuvers in order to move toward and away from the building. He eventually returned to one of the southern ledges and stayed there. The lightning later during the evening was too distant to produce thunder, and the falcons did not appear to react to it.


Takeoffs and landings

Amber balances on the roof ledge. Photo by Gillian Mastromatteo

Both Data and Amber continue to hone their skills. They seem to have the flying itself under control, but their landings still need some work. That is, they can both land just fine, but they often have trouble touching down exactly where they want to.

It’s funny to watch how each reacts to missing the mark. Data, when he botches a landing, tends to flap off, seemingly flustered, and either lands somewhere nearby that’s easier to get to or flies out of sight. Amber, on the other hand, simply tries again.

Ivanhoe. Photo by Gillian Mastromatteo

The falcon chicks stayed in the shade for much of yesterday but didn’t take the day off entirely. Amber did a few more fast, powerful and low swoops around the building, and landed on the roof of the lower building again for a while. She tried landing on the security camera, on the spotlights over the big Canada sign, on the corner of the roof and on various ledges with mixed results. She ended the day on a south facing ledge, where Rowena delivered a substantial meal.

Data did some more long distance flying and joined Amber on her ledge in the evening — in time for dinner. He eventually flew to another ledge, closer to Rowena, and tried to get back to Amber but couldn’t quite manage to land. So he settled for spending the night on the nest ledge.

Here’s more video from Frank, this time showing Amber trying to land.

Big girls don’t fly?

This one does!

Amber, Ottawa’s latest Peregrine Falcon chick to fledge, made numerous attempts to reach her brother Data on his ledge on June 19. She was clearly aiming for him but would always be flying too fast and overshoot. She’s loop back and try again but end up too high, so she’d land back on the roof and try again! Video by Anouk Hoedeman:

Here she is flying from the Data Centre building and back again, also on June 19. The rest of the family is watching her accomplish this feat. Video by Frank Marshall: