About Anouk Hoedeman

Falcon Watch Coordinator

Out of the woods

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Well, that’s two chicks literally out of the woods, for now.

Anna and Lorraine arrived for the first shift to find only one female chick left on the nest ledge, and no sign of the other. Luis was still up on the roof, where he spent the night.

An extensive search of the area didn’t turn up the missing chick, but they did see one of the adult Peregrines flying over to the treed area southeast of the building, behind the construction zone, to chase off some American Crows. This behaviour pointed to the chick being somewhere in the trees. Unlike the dead ash where Luis spent a good part of yesterday afternoon, these trees were dense with leaves, and the Peregrine chick was too well hidden for any of us to find.

After Lorraine left, I checked the trees again from every angle, the decided to return closer to base camp and keep an eye on the trees from there. Eventually, I thought, she would have to fly out of there, and I would have a better chance of spotting her from further back.

Manaus imitates a bat. June 28, 2014.

Manaus imitates a bat. June 28, 2014.

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The falcon-razzi.

Faceplant, June 28, 2014.

Faceplant.

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Ready to fly again. Not.

Meanwhile Susanne arrived for her first ever shift, which she handled like a pro. She kept an eye on Luis and the unfledged chick while I watched the trees, until a gaggle of birder/photographers showed up to see the falcons. Nice timing. They had only been there briefly when action erupted over on the main building. Luis made another attempt at landing on the nest ledge, and this time one of the adults tried to help him get there. At the same time, I looked up to see the female chick flying right over me on her way back to the building!

Glad as I was to see her, I worried that she was flying too low to make it all the way. Ultimately, we found her clinging, bat-like, to the vertical surface above the very lowest ledge. She hung on desperately for a couple of minutes before finally dropping to the ledge, then scurrying over to the far right side. And there she sat for a while, just 20 feet or so off the ground. Better than being suck in a tree.

The photographers were thrilled at this opportunity to shoot a Peregrine chick from such close proximity. Ivanhoe also obliged with a few slow-motion fly-bys and a visit to the chick, while Rowena and Luis continued to make regular appearances.

The female chick — Dominique suggested Manaus as a name, for the Brazilian city — eventually assumed the faceplant position and slept. She woke up in time for Jorgen, Chris and Marie’s arrival, followed by Steve’s guest appearance. There was much speculation that she would fly, and she certainly acted like she wanted to get back up to a more lofty ledge, but no dice.

I went home to eat lunch and take a very long nap, and when I came back, Chris, Marie and Frank were still waiting for that next flight. Luis, meanwhile, was still trying to get back to the nest ledge, and he succeeded! There was a joyful reunion between fledged brother and unfledged sister, a lot of wing flapping, and a lot of squawking for food. The adults obliged at last — after first luring Luis out from the ledge and back again. We’re not sure in the end who got to eat, but we hope Luis got most of it. We don’t want the remaining chick to pack on too much weight or she’ll never fly!

When I left at 7, Manaus was still pretending she was going to try flying again.

Chris and Manaus check each other out, June 28, 2014.

Chris and Manaus check each other out, June 28, 2014.

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Did I say “lazy”?

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Today, the male chick — we’re calling him Luis because he, too, enjoys the taste of raw flesh — was pretty much the opposite of lazy.

The story begins early this morning, when Dominique and Bushra watched him take off from the nest ledge (finally!) and land on the annex building behind the Data Centre. Not bad for a first flight. Not one to rest on his laurels, he soon flew again, this time completing his circuit around the main building and tossing in a couple of loops right above Bushra before crash landing into a window three ledges below and one to the right of the nest ledge.

That seemed like a pretty good first day, and he soon did a face plant and slept off and on, while his sisters made a ruckus and practised some short hops. That was the situation when Marian, Katheryne and Pauline arrived for the second shift. Eventually, everyone settled down and, since it seemed like it might stay quiet for a few hours and there were three volunteers on hand, I decided to go home for a couple of hours.

Marian, Katheryne and Pauline, June 27, 2014.

Marian, Katheryne and Pauline, June 27, 2014.

I hadn’t even finished my lunch when Katheryne called: Luis had flown again, back to the annex. No big deal, I thought. Until she added, with some urgency: “And Pauline thinks she saw him fly past the trees.” Back on my bike then.

She called again soon after to say that Luis was across Bronson near the “Y building”, and that security staff were questioning them and asking to see their “official” Falcon Watch credentials. As you may or may not know, the building in question houses Communications Security Establishment Canada. CSEC, according to no less authoritative a source than Wikipedia, is “the Canadian government’s national cryptologic agency … responsible for foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) and protecting Canadian government electronic information and communication networks.” Apparently they are suspicious of people inspecting their building through binoculars, although they admitted later that the bright yellow safety vests seemed an unusual fashion choice for shady characters trying to skulk about.

I arrived just in time to see Luis actually land on the roof of the CSEC building, where he perched for a while, looking pretty proud of himself. But he may have found it a bit warm up there in the hot sun, because he soon flew again, this time landing in the top of a tall pine tree north of CSEC. That seemed like a reasonable place to rest … until the trees other occupants noticed him. Three crows began attacking poor Luis, who flopped haplessly around the tree, no doubt getting jabbed by pine needles, until he dropped out of sight. And by “dropped out of sight”, I mean he disappeared. One second I saw Luis with a crow on his head; the next, I saw only a crow.

Where was he? Good question. Pauline and I searched high and low in the wooded area between CSEC and Riverside, to no avail. Jorgen was by now at base camp, Marian and Katheryne had had to leave, and there was a problem with our two-way radios, so I thought it wise to head over to the Data Centre to let Jorgen know what was going on.

Then, I headed back toward the west side of Bronson, but stopped short when I suddenly saw Luis in a small, dead ash tree next to Bronson’s northbound lanes. Huh. No idea how he got there, but I sure was glad to see him, and I like to think he was glad to see me. He gladly posed for some photos, then spent the next 90 minutes trying to manoeuvre his way into a position that would allow him to fly back to the Data Centre. Stupid branches, he seemed to say as he pecked at them. Eventually, he found a comfortable perch from where he could spread his wings and test the wind.  And then, suddenly, he was off!

Treed, June 27, 2014.

Treed, June 27, 2014.

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Luis' ash tree, June 27, 2014.

Luis’s ash tree, June 27, 2014.

This time, he flew east but missed landing on the Data Centre, disappeared for a minute, and tried to land on the northwest corner of the roof. Except he didn’t quite make it, so he clung by his talons to the side of the building for a minute before releasing his grip and flying straight into the adjacent wall. Then he flew west and disappeared once more. I found his a few minutes later on the southeast corner of the annex, where he stayed until the next shift arrived.

James, Frank, Chris, Marie and I kept an eye on Luis because he still looked pretty gung-ho to fly, which he soon did. This time, he crashed (relatively softly) into another window, rested briefly, then flew around to the south side right past his sisters. Alex arrived just in time to spot the chick on the southeast corner of the Data Centre roof.

Not long after, he made two more attempts to reach the nest ledge, but each time ended up on the roof, and that’s where he remained when we left for the night. By my count, he flew at least 12 times and a total of more than 2 km — not bad for his first day.

With one strong flier and two others ready to rumble, tomorrow should be fun.

James and Frank (who's working on his dissertation here!), June 27, 2014.

James and Frank (who’s working on his dissertation here!), June 27, 2014.

Lorraine and Marie, June 27, 2014.

Lorraine and Marie, June 27, 2014.

Laziest. Chicks. Evah.

Another day without fledging. Sigh.

Anna and Dominique saw a lot of flapping on the first shift. More of the same on the second with John, Chris and Kevin … and Anna, who has clearly succumbed to an affliction familiar to many Falcon Watchers: Not wanting to go home in the (usually mistaken) belief that a chick will fly as soon as you leave.

As the afternoon and evening progressed, the chicks did indeed come closer and closer to flying, and one of the females screeched for almost an hour after seeing Ivanhoe. Bev and I (and Anna, until we convinced her to leave) witnessed intermittent flight practice by all three chicks, as did Pauline when she dropped by. Unfortunately, the mad flapping always ended in yet another looooooong nap. Clearly, the chicks are equally committed to practising the face-plant position. Lorraine, Chris and I saw the chicks ready for action several times, but we eventually packed up when the little falcon family tucked in for the night, with mom Rowena watching over her chicks from a nearby perch.

The score now is Falcon Watchers 6 (days), Falcons 0 (flights).

At least I got some fun snapshots:

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

Flight practice. June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

A good size comparison between dad Ivanhoe and one of the female chicks. June 26, 2014.

A good size comparison between dad Ivanhoe (left) and one of the female chicks. June 26, 2014.

Still flightless …

This morning, Rémy and Jacqueline, reported a fair amount of activity, including a lot of flapping and a feeding. By the time Rick and I arrived for the next shift, things had quieted down, and they mostly stayed that way until late in the day.

Rowena and Ivanhoe mostly stayed away from the nest ledge, but when they did land there, the chicks seemed mostly — and oddly — indifferent. They took an occasional break from napping to preen or practise a bit of flapping, but it never lasted long, and they were generally less active than I would have expected.

The highlights were the building getting evacuated for a fire drill or perhaps a potential fire, and Eve Ticknor, former Falcon Watch coordinator, dropping in for a short visit.

It may have been the heavy, humid air that made the chicks complacent, because they did liven up after the skies cleared a bit and the humidity lifted early in the evening. James and I watched Ivanhoe make about four very brief landings in quick succession. For the first time in hours, the chicks got very excited, and began flapping and running with gusto for what seemed like a very long time.

After I left, there were a few similar episodes, but they appeared to have settled in for the evening under Chris and Marie’s watch when I dropped by a couple of hours later.

So, still no flights, but they are definitely getting closer.

After the rain

… and before the next downpour.

I watched the chicks off and on today, hoping — for a change — that they wouldn’t decide to fly, and they didn’t. But they did seem close for a while when the rain stopped sometime after 5 p.m., when one female chick, perched on the left side of the ledge, spent several minutes flapping madly. The male chick joined in for a bit, and then the rain started again. The chicks retreated from the edge, and then Rowena arrived with dinner, so I called it quits for the day.

Before the re-deluge, I managed to digiscope a few photos.

June 24, 2014.

This one wisely stayed under the overhang and out of the inevitable next downpour. June 24, 2014.

June 24, 2014.

This one looked a bit miffed when the drizzle put a damper on her flapping practice. June 24, 2014.

The rare Headless Falcon. June 24, 2014.

The rare Headless Falcon. June 24, 2014.