About Anouk Hoedeman

Falcon Watch Coordinator

Storm!

We’ve gotten used to dramatic days on the Falcon Watch, trying to track three active fledglings who end up in trees and use windows and walls to brake.

Still, this evening was a different kind of drama, with a sudden, nasty storming hit the Data Centre as I was on my way there by bike. I was on Data Centre Road, crawling up the steep hill toward the turnoff into the parking area, when the skies exploded: First, some lightning and thunder, followed by an unbelievable downpour, hail and tremendous gusts of wind.

Soaked within seconds, I struggled to cover the last few hundred metres. I actually had to get off my bike and walk the last bit because I couldn’t keep my bike upright in the wind. James and Jacqueline proved better at meteorological predictions, and I found them under the building’s shelter, relatively dry.

James and Jacqueline

James and Jacqueline

They reported that Ivanhoe used food to lure the chicks from the roof to the more sheltered ledges as the storm approached. One ended up on the south side, while the other two stayed on the west side. The south was indeed sheltered from the worst of the weather, but the west side was bearing the brunt of the storm. As we spoke, we saw a falcon fly fast and low behind the east side of the building. I hoped it was Rowena, whom they hadn’t seen in a while, but had my doubts, and decided it would be a good idea to check on the chicks in case they had been blown from their perches.

Because I was already soaked through, I was the logical choice for this expedition. I headed out into the rain to check the west side and found no sign of any falcons. Next, I cut through the main lobby — squish, squish, squish and a lot of curious stares due to my waterlogged appearances and, no doubt, my now transparent T-shirt (thankfully, my undergarments remained opaque).

Soaked Peregrine chick

Soaked Peregrine chick

Soaked Anouk

Soaked Anouk

On the east side, I soon found one bedraggled chick — probably the one we saw fly during the worst of the storm — on a low ledge. By the time I circled back to James and Jacqueline, they had spotted another chick on the roof of the annex, and the chick on the south-side ledge was still there.

No shelter on the roof of the annex

No shelter on the roof of the annex

As the rain and wind eased up and a rainbow appeared in the sky, first one chick and then the other decided to join their sibling on the south side. The first had little difficulty in reaching the ledge immediately below its sibling’s ledge, but the other had a harder time, and ended up on the roof after a few shorts flights and one crash landing into a wall. Meanwhile, its sibling decided the second-highest ledge was not the place to spend the night, so it flew again. After a few clumsy landing attempts — it can’t be easy to fly with soggy feathers — she, too ended up on the roof.

But she did seem to settled in, so we decided there was little more for us to do. As often happens, returning the rescue box and two-way radios storage inside the building prompted another flight.

The chick that had been more or less safe on the south side was now desperately circling the building and looking for another ledge on which to land. She was not terribly successful and, after a few tumbles, ended up on the larder legdge (were the adults keep their leftovers. While the little pigeon spikes on that ledge couldn’t have been comfortable, at least one of her parents (Rowena, I think) was there too to comfort her.

The summarize the day: All three chicks are flying well, but two of them need more practice with landing, especially if they’re soaked.

Rainbow

Rainbow

Too hot to fly? Nope!

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day at the Data Centre was no holiday! It was hot and sticky for volunteers, but apparently not too hot for Peregrine Falcon chicks to take to the skies.

Rémy took the first shift, and watched the three chicks chase each other through the air. One — probably Luis — disappeared for a long flight that lasted about 20 minutes, but returned to his sisters on the roof by the time I got there.

Susanne soon joined me, and we watched the chicks pose for Canada Day photos above the big logo on the west side of the building. That done, they napped for a while, with a little head or wing occasionally popping into view on the roof.

July 1, 2014

Windblown

Rick arrived in time for another long chase, this time in pursuit of a parent, followed by more napping. Then Chris and Marie dropped by. More chasing and napping. This meant we had to occasionally make a round of the building to see where the chicks ended up. It’s not exactly a short walk around the Data Centre — maybe a kilometre if you stay back from the buildings to check the roof edges — but today it was exhausting.

Dominique arrived for the afternoon shift in time for another flight display, but by the time the others left, she and I could only find one chick and one adult. Chris texted to say there was a second chick visible on the roof as they cycled away, but we were still down one.

We soon saw chicks and adults flying again, but couldn’t see who was who or where everyone ended up. We did noticed one chick swoop low around to the east side, and when I went to investigate, I saw an adult disappear to the east, and Rowena on the east side of the building. Dominique made another round and reported a pair of falcon-like birds flying around another building in the distance, east of the Data Centre.

We suspected that Luis was on prolonged training flight with Ivanhoe, but I couldn’t find them in my scope, so I couldn’t confirm it was father and son. So we waited, eyes scanning the horizon and all sides of the building in case they flew back to the Data Centre. Nothing for a very long time, except sweat, a few drops of rain, more sweat, and one chick flying from the roof to a ledge on the south side. It preened, then settled in for a nice faceplant. Rowena disappeared from the east side.

WIndblown

July 1, 2014

When Gretchen and Tony arrived for the evening shift, I was horribly overheated and tired, but still worried about two chicks’ whereabouts. Dominique did eventually spot a second falcon chick on the west side of the roof, but we were still down one.

There was another flight, with a chick chasing Ivanhoe west over Bronson Ave. As I followed them with my binoculars, I spotted another falcon on the southeast corner of the Canada Post building. The missing chick? I fetched my scope and, after waiting for the bird to turn around, confirmed that it was Rowena. Rats! (Niice to see her, but I was hoping for one of her offspring.)

After training Tony and Gretchen on Falcon Watch duties, Dominique and I, both exhausted by the heat, went home. I asked our new volunteers to try to find the third chick, and promised to return in a couple of hours.

When I came back around 7:30, they reported three chicks on the roof. Oh happy (Canada) day! Ivanhoe showed up with an unlucky pigeon, which Rowena promptly claimed for herself. Luis, though, wanted his dinner too, so he flew down to his mother’s ledge to join in the feast.

His sisters, perhaps feeling left out but definitely hungry, made their way to the south side of the roof. One (probably Clover) soon flew down and managed to land next to her brother — her first accurate ledge landing — but the other (Clementine, the last to fledge) tried and missed.

Then she tried again, and again, and succeeded! Finally, I thought, the parents are both nearby and all three chicks are on one ledge and will settle in for the night.

Unfortunately, Luis was not quite ready to settle in. Instead, he squabbled with his sister and knocked her right off the ledge! Poor thing. Her sister would have swooped right back up there, I think, but this one had neither the skills nor the energy to get back to the ledge.

After resting up, she tried, but missed, tried and missed again, and ended up doing the bat-cling on the wall before flying off at very, very low altitude toward the annex. From that low roof, she tried one more time to reach her sibling, and again missed.

Then disappeared. Again? Well, this time I found her without too much effort, sitting on a lower ledge on the Data Centre as the last sunlight faded away. And that’s where I left her for the night.

Flying lessons

The chicks are all flying, but they are not yet out of danger. The greatest hazards now are adolescent overconfidence and unexpected gusts of winds. We will continue watching them for several more days, so we still need volunteers. Check the schedule HERE, and sign up for shifts HERE.

Today felt like a day off for me compared to yesterday.

Jacqueline and Bushra came in at 6 a.m., and I joined them before the end of their shift and the start of James and Marian’s. They reported two chicks (Luis and Clover) on the southeast main roof, and the third (Clementine) presumed to be back on the annex roof after missing another attempt at rejoining her brother and sister.

They also said she had spent some time making short hops from one of the brick structures on the annex to the top of a ladder that reached down the side. Practise makes perfect, as we would soon discover.

We watched Luis, enticed by Ivanhoe and Rowena into a flying lesson, take an amazingly long and confident flight several times around the building. He started out with the rapid, nervous wing beats of a juvenile, but was soon soaring comfortably, further and further from the building, before returning and making a solid (for once) landing on the southwest corner.

Luis lands on the main building roof, June 29, 2014.

Luis nails his landing, June 30, 2014.

Ivanhoe and Luis, June 29, 2014.

Ivanhoe (on the security camera) and Luis, June 30, 2014.

During this time, we also saw a female chick flying, but we missed the takeoff as well as the landing, so we weren’t sure which of the sisters it was. Or perhaps it was both. A few walks around the building gave us the answer: I eventually found one juvenile perched on the ductwork on the west side of the roof, while Marian found another on the northeast corner. James confirmed by radio that Luis was still on the southwest corner. Great: Three chicks accounted for.

Despite their parents’ entreaties to join them for more flying lessons, the chicks appeared to settle down. That, combined with the heavy air, made it unlikely they would fly for a little while, so I took the opportunity to go home for a few hours.

Nancy and Jorgen reported a relatively quiet afternoon, and I returned at 4:30, just in time  to watch Luis and one of his sisters (we suspect Clover) take another ambitious flying lesson. The male chick is definitely the more confident flyer, but his landings do not yet instill confidence. In his four days of flying, we have seen him crash-land (or just crash) twice into windows and three times into a wall. Thankfully, in each case he either wasn’t going very fast or managed to brake enough to emerge unscathed. His roof landings are getting better, but yesterday he simply slipped on the flashing and fell. Luckily he knew enough to stick out his wings, fly a little loop, and land back on the roof.

The chicks spent the rest of the evening together on the southwest corner of the roof, mostly napping, but sometimes stretching their wings or letting the wind pick them up for a brief but fun little ride. I enjoyed watching two of them crane their necks in perfect unison as a Ring-billed Gull flew overhead.

These chicks are being well looked after by their attentive parents. In addition to making multiple food drops every day, Rowena and Ivanhoe spend a lot of time encouraging the chicks to fly, or simply watching over them.

Nancy, who watched the chicks on her own after I had to leave at 6:30 for a meeting, reported that they did not fly any more tonight. But with thunderstorms forecast for Canada Day, we can expect them to make serious efforts to get back to the shelter of the ledges.

The rest of the story

Sorry for falling asleep at my computer last night. Let’s pick up the story at the point where I found the missing female chick in a tree down the hill from the Data Centre.

Chris, Marie and Anne where still searching the area, and Jennifer was back at base camp, keeping an eye on Luis. I didn’t have a two-way radio with me, so I called Chris on my cellphone with the news. He and Marie made their way over to where I was, and we watched as the chick flapped about in the tree.

A male American Goldfinch sang nearby, oblivious to the killer-in-training right behind him, so a less naive Eastern Kingbird took matters into its, uh, wings, and began harassing the Peregrine chick and two American Crows in the same tree.

What? Shouldn’t the Crows be attacking the Peregrine, as we had seen the day before, and the day before that? Shouldn’t an adult Peregrine come zooming over to chase off the Crows? Aha! The crows were also juveniles, and the three young birds, rather than feeling threatened by each other, were united in their fear of the feisty little Kingbird. Just like children, I thought: They all get along just fine until the adults get involved.

Anyway, this situation didn’t last long, because the Peregrine chick suddenly took off like a bullet, flying east. Chris and Marie sprinted after it while I brought up the rear, hanging back to keep an eye on the bigger picture. Okay, the fact that I’m a terrible runner, with lungs like juice boxes, may have played a tiny role. In any case, my lack of athletic ability was fortunate.

While Chris bolted straight ahead, the clever chick had doubled back, unseen. As I ran (okay, jogged) alongside the north side of the annex building, I happened to turn my head to see a Peregrine perched on a low ledge. I called Marie over, who pointed out the other female chick that had just popped up on the roof of the same building. And a good thing, too, because the newly re-found chick very quickly disappeared to the back of the ledge, where we could not see her from any angle. Had I not glanced over at the building, we may have missed the perched chick. And had Marie not seen both chicks simultaneously for a few seconds, we could not have been sure that the chick on the lower ledge was the one who flew from the tree.

Chris eventually stopped running and came back, and he and Marie settled in to watch the annex until the chicks reappeared. The timing was perfect, frankly, because the Netherlands-Mexico match was starting in half and hour, and I now felt comfortable taking a break from Falcon Watching to do some football watching at a nearby pub with just about every other Dutch-Canadian in Ottawa.

Emotionally, the game was a replay of the morning: Worry progressing to distress and resignation, then, very suddenly and unexpectedly, elation and unimaginable relief.

Lorraine, Nancy and John (my father-in-law, who stopped in after the World Cup game), June 29, 2014.

Lorraine, Nancy and John (my father-in-law, who stopped in after the World Cup game), June 29, 2014.

I returned to the Falcon Watch in great spirits to find Chris, Marie, Nancy and Lorraine in the parking area on the west side of the main building. All three chicks had been hanging out on the roof of the annex. One had just flown back to the roof of the main building before I got there, and another followed soon after. The remaining one tested the wind on the edge of the annex roof, got fed, then dropped out of sight to nap in the shade. Chris and Marie determined that the female Lorraine and I had seen flying to the annex roof early that morning was the last one to fledge, and the missing bird, now back on the main building, was the one that fledged on Saturday. They also came up with some pretty good names for the girls: Clover and Clementine, after two nearby streets in Heron Park that also happen to be near Falcon Avenue. (They vetoed Manaus as a name because it’s masculine, according to Marie the language expert; plus it’s tough to say. Oh well.) So there we go: Luis (pronounced “Lou-ees”, not “Lewis”), Clover and Clementine.

Clementine tests the wind, June 29, 2014.

Clementine tests the wind, June 29, 2014.

P1160230

The wind wins.

The wind wins.

The rest of the muggy afternoon passed uneventfully, with two people watching the main building and two watching the annex. It was not until the next shift, when Frank and Pauline arrived, that we had to run again. The chick on the annex tried, twice, to fly back to the main building, and failed twice. On the first attempt, she ended up doing the bat-cling on the annex wall. Then she practised short flights along the annex ledges before her second big try, when she ended up in one of the concrete columns — a dead end because of its shape — before landing back on the annex. Once she settled down, Nancy and I went home, leaving Frank and Pauline to keep an eye on the chicks until dusk.

High-drama day

P1160233

June 28, 2014.

Wow. That was a stressful day.

When we last left the three Data Centre chicks, there were two on the nest ledge (the unfledged female and Luis, who found his way back there on Saturday evening. The fledged female was last seen on the lowest ledge below the nest ledge.

When I returned this morning at 5:30, no one was in the right place. One adult was on the ledge immediately below the nest ledge, one female chicks was on the ledge below that, and the nest ledge was empty. Lorraine arrived soon after, and we confirmed that there were no other chicks to be seen — until Luis appeared and joined his sister on her ledge.

Expecting another episode like yesterday’s, we began scanning the myriad trees surrounding the Data Centre. Meanwhile, Luis flew off again, and the female flew to the roof of the lower annex building. Despite the adults dropping off food for these two screaming chicks, we could neither hear nor see the third. We heard no crows harassing anyone, and we did not see the adult Peregrines chasing any crows or otherwise acting in a concerned manner. We walked wider and wider circles around the Data Centre grounds, to the other side of Bronson and Heron, and even back to the CSEC building. But we found no hint whatsoever of the chick’s whereabouts. Puzzling.

Anne arrived for her shift, Lorraine left, then Jennifer arrived. Chris and Marie came early to help look for the missing chick. We searched high and low, and speculated about her fate. My energy was flagging in the already oppressive mid-morning heat, so I grabbed a handful of almonds and my water bottle and set out for another loop around the back of the annex. I scanned trees, the RA roofs and swimming pool, the sports fields, the roads.  Anywhere I could think of.

When I got to the northwestern corner of the property, I turned around and began a long walk back to base camp. Except I decided at the last second to take a look around the corner, along the ramp leading from Bronson northbound to Riverside easbound. And there she was, perched in a pine tree on the hill that drops down toward the RA Centre and the Rideau River.

And now is the point in the story that I realize I’m falling asleep while typing (or typo-ing, perhaps). So here’s a photo and the two most important facts:

  • We still have three chicks
  • The Netherlands beat Mexico in their World Cup match! Hup, Holland, hup!

I’ll try to relate the rest of the day’s tales in a future post.