2010 Local Activity Reports

Click to read the full 2010 Final Report

September 28 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — I have had an update from Mary Beth Washburton about Zanar’s nest on the Prescott-Ogdensburg Bridge over the St Lawrence River. We are sending good vibes to Zanar’s daughter for her future.

From Mary Beth Washburton – Very sad that 3 of the 4 chicks did not survive, BUT the one that did had quite a journey. The surviving chick was rescued from the river when it was about a week away from fledging. She spent two nights in rehab and I took her back to the bridge and she made it!!

Nihei, raised in Ottawa 2009August 19 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — I am sad to report that our Nihei of last season (photo) has died. She had been found badly injured in Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, Quebec last September. She was brought to a wildlife clinic with multiple fractures (scapula and coracoid ) and was cared for by a vet there. Unfortunately she contracted a bacterial infection and died. At least she was with caring people when she died.

June 27 [from Anouk Hoedeman] — There has been an interesting development with the Ottawa falcons. After more than five weeks of incubating three eggs to no avail, Diana and Connor were expected to abandon their nest. Last Tuesday brought a surprise: while one of the old eggs was fractured and now outside the nest, there were still three eggs in the nest. That means Diana laid another egg while still incubating two of the old ones. By Wednesday, the egg outside the nest was gone, but they continued to incubate three eggs as usual.

This behaviour — adding a new egg to an existing clutch after weeks of incubating – and whle still incubating — is unusual, to say the least. If anyone has ever encountered this phenomenon before, or can explain it, please let us know.

It’s not likely that the new egg has been fertilized, but we continue to monitor the nest to see what our falcons might do next.

June 22 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Unfortunately Ottawa’s Falcon Watch will not be taking place this year. Diana’s second attempt at hatching her 3 eggs seems to have failed, and a third attempt is unlikely. We are keeping an eye on her, but are now looking forward to the 2011 season. Thank you for your support for our falcon family, and for our volunteers’ efforts.

June 18 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Good news! NO, it’s not an egg hatch here, but the first of our chicklets from previous years has been sighted and is living quite close to us.

Zanar, photographed during banding in 2004From the Canadian Peregrine Foundation: We have just received some great news from Mary Beth down in New York state. She has been closely monitoring the nesting activities of the Ogdensburg bridge peregrines and in addition to finding out that the pair have in fact produced four hatchlings this year, and nesting on the Canadian side. She has been able to identify the band number of the resident adult female!

I just checked the band number against our records and we have been able to positively identify the resident adult female as Zanar, produced at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ottawa Ontario on 2004, banded Black 69 over Black K, with a sliver USFW band #168705686.

Zanar was banded at 25 days old, 920 grams (empty crop weight), June 11th 2004 (photo at right).

May 4 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Diana is brooding in the same location as last year, at the southeast end of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Due to the delays, I think the hatching will take place in the first week of June, with the Falcon Watch starting closer to the end of June. Stay tuned for updates as we get them.

April 29 [from Scott Holliday] — Just got back in from lunch and they’re back; copulation took place at 1300 on the SE corner of the CP Hotel, they put on a little show for those in the know. The female crow has now recognized her closest neighbours and I am sure is feeling a little more than nervous. Another strange-ish sighting is a female Mallard duck that is nesting in a planter at 270 Albert just east of the main entrance, at least two eggs in the nest and appropriate signage asking people to not touch or interact with the brooding mother duck, she is very well hidden under the evergreen plant in that planter and blends in well with the mulch topping.

April 28 [from Scott Holliday] — Just to let you know that the falcons have been spotted this morning at 10:15 and 10:25 a.m. Male sighted in flight and on CP hotel SE corner (last year’s nest site). TWO females in air above at the same time (both were larger than the bird that landed on CP and of about equal size some “chasing” observed but male did not participate but was watching from a distance and followed when the two females headed north over the East Memorial Block). Heard calling KEE__YAAK_YAAK_YAAK from male when he was on the CP Hotel ledge; neither female responded as far as I could tell. There is a crow’s nest in one of the trees on the Place de Ville patio area (smoking area), and is in perfect sightline from the SE corner of the CP Hotel, female crow is currently brooding her eggs; perhaps this will become a “lunch-counter” for the falcons once the baby crows begin to fledge.

April 28 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Good news, and interesting at that! It is now likely that the abandonment may haave been due to the challenge of another female…. Keep waatching!

April 27 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Last week Diana had been seen on her nest near the northwest corner. This afternoon Chris discovered no eggs and no falcons! There has been activity on all buildings around her, but if Diana were brooding eggs, she would not have been scared off and Connor would be around to guard her.

This has shades of a few years ago, when Diana ended up with a 2nd nest on the east side.

Please, those of you downtown, have a look around on all buildings in the area, all antennas, etc., and let me know as soon as you spot a falcon. My cell phone is on all the time (613-859-9545). I will be checking my email as often as work permits.

April 8 [from Chris Traynor] — I was up on the Constitution roof today for 1 minute this afternoon at 4:45 and that was all it took to spot Diana (I presume) sitting. Unless she is disturbed it looks like we will be setting up at the Alterna Bank this year as she is sitting on the north west side of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Barring unforseen incidents, we should have a hatch in early May.

April 1 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Yahoo! Chris will soon be checking for the nest location and brooding. Keep your fingers crossed!

April 1 [from Marian B] — While on the bus approaching Slater and Lyon this morning, I saw Diana on the northwest corner of the Constitution Square Building. The bus stopped just long enough for me to see Connor fly over and mate with Diana.

March 21 [from Phil] — 9 am, Diana is on the west side of the Crowne Plaza when her mate flies in and joins her. There is some vocalizing and Connor is off again, going around Tower C. Diana takes off after him and they both end up on the antenna of the business centre building. She stays there while Connor cruises around the buildings again. At one point he comes very close to the ground. Just above a two story restraurant! He ends up on the west face of the Crowne again.

January 23 [from Mary C. Hurley] — At 1515 today, watched adult falcon fly to customary perch on west side of Coates Building – I think Connor, looked smallish standing facing building – did not see that he had anything in talons though a few minutes earlier when I was scannaing the east side of the building, noted a flock of pigeons in commotion.

January 19 [from Richard Waters] — For the last three days I have birded around the Civic Hospital area looking for the reported GYR FALCON.

I have been watching the PEREGRINES on a daily basis. I have managed to find them relatively easily at one or the other of their haunts. Today, at 1 pm the female bird was perched upon the radio mast at Churchill and Carling, after wreaking havoc with 20 odd feral pigeons on and near the Focus Eye building just to the east of this location.

I left this bird perched and drove up to Carlington quarry, intially there wasn’t anything around. However, on the way back to my car I noticed a very large falcon, chest puffed out, sat on the radio mast above the ski hill. When it turned around, to my immense disappointment, it was clear that it was a large female PEREGRINE again. At 1.30 pm it made a beeline for the RH Coats building. (I think this bird recognizes me and seems to follow me around. It was certainly watching me closely today?)

At 4.30pm, I stopped at the Coats building to find the male PEREGRINE perched on a window ledge on the southern side and the female PEREGRINE on her favourite floodlight on the east side.

March 14 [from Phil] — Yesterday morning a falcon lands on the west side of the Crowne Plaza, near the north end. There is alot of vocalizing for several minutes, then Diana appears near the north end of that side. Connor then flies over to the light senser on Tower C, facing west. Today, both falcons are on the west side of the hotel again.

January 17 [from Phil] — Yesterday at 1:10 pm Eve and I saw both our falcons at the Coates Building at Tunney’s Pasture. Diana was seen first on the east face of the building, but no sign of Connor. He was tucked in one of the corners because all of a sudden he flies up to briefly greet his mate, then ends up on the north side of the building.

January 13 [from Eve Ticknor, Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator] — Yesterday afternoon, around 4 pm, I saw Diana on the south face of the Coats Building. She was pretty fluffed up but was looking around, not for hunting. I have no idea where Connor was, as I then passed around the Crowne but he wasn’t there.

January 13 [from Richard Brouillet] — I saw a Peregrine yesterday at 13:05 cruising down Carling at Lincoln Fields and the Western Parkway. I believe it was the right size to be a female.

2010 Special Report

By Anouk Hoedeman

This was an unusual year for the Ottawa Peregrine Falcon Watch. Our resident breeding pair, Diana and Connor, didn’t manage to hatch any eggs. But they did confound the experts, and may have broken the record for the longest known brooding by Peregrine Falcons.

Peregrine Falcon with three eggs, Ottawa, 2 June 2010. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

The first sighting of Ottawa’s Peregrine Falcons for the 2010 season was on March 17, when Scott Holliday observed a male at the southeast corner of the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Albert and Lyon Sts. On March 18, he reported seeing three different falcons at same time: a male flying overhead, a female flying from the southeast corner of the Crowne Plaza to the southwest corner of Place de Ville Tower A, and a third falcon of unknown sex on the same ledge of the Crowne Plaza at same time.

Nesting began with a false start, with a female seen brooding near the northwest corner of the Crowne Plaza during the week of April 18. On April 26, Chris Traynor (Falcon Watch veteran and chair of the OFNC Birds Committee) reported that he could find no sign of either falcons or eggs.

Bernie Ladouceur observed two falcons at the Crowne Plaza on April 29. By May 4, they had established a second nest on the southeast side, in the same spot as the 2009 nest. They were presumed to be Diana, who has been breeding here since 2006, and Connor, the resident male since 1998.

On May 14, Chris confirmed that they were sitting on three eggs, although the precise date that full-time incubation began is unknown. He continued to monitor the nest periodically until the end of May. During this time, he noted a difference in the eggs’ colouring: one was significantly paler than the other two.

In June, I began alternating daily monitoring duties with Chris. This consisted of one of us visually observing the nest, usually around 5 p.m., from a vantage point on the roof of 360 Albert (Constitution Square Tower I), located across the street from the Crowne Plaza. The standard procedure was to watch through a spotting scope until the adult got up to turn around, to turn the eggs or to switch places with its mate. We left once we had confirmed the number of eggs and checked for signs of imminent hatching.

Chris went on vacation on Friday, June 18. A full 35 days had elapsed since he confirmed the presence of three eggs, so we suspected that they would not hatch. I agreed to continue checking every day for another week in case full incubation had started later than we thought.

Eve Ticknor contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources to ask if they would like to collect the eggs for examination. On Sunday, June 20, I saw that the falcons were still incubating the eggs as usual, with no change in behaviour, so we asked that the eggs not be collected until the nest was abandoned.

On Tuesday, June 22, I found Diana on the nest, and a pale egg with a small hole in the shell lying about 15 to 30 cm outside the nest. It appeared that the hole was made from the outside. I could not see the egg moving, and Diana did not appear to be paying any attention to it, so I concluded that she had discarded the egg, and assumed she would soon abandon the nest.

I waited to see the status of the other two eggs. When Diana stood up, I saw three eggs in the nest: one pale and two darker. She had laid another egg!

Peregrine Falcon with four eggs, Ottawa, 22 June 2010. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman

My experience with and knowledge of bird breeding and nesting behaviour had until this year been limited mostly to domestic fowl, i.e. raising chickens, ducks and geese while growing up on a hobby farm. Still, this seemed highly unusual: a bird laying a new egg while continuing to incubate an earlier clutch in the same nest. I had never heard of such a thing.

Nor, it turned out, had anyone else. I contacted a number of experts and organizations, among them my fellow OFNC Birds Committee members, the Canadian Peregrine Falcon Foundation, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They in turn consulted other experts. But no one could recall a similar occurrence among any bird species, much less explain our local raptors’ nesting behaviour.

Neither could anyone tell me if the new egg might be fertilized. So I continued to monitor the nest every day to see if Diana would lay any additional eggs. On Wednesday, June 23, the egg that had been outside the nest was gone, and I presumed it had been eaten by one of the adults. After a week with no new developments, I began checking every second day, then every third. I saw no new eggs, but realized there was no way of verifying that the two dark eggs now in the nest were from the original clutch, i.e. one or both could have been discarded and replaced in the same way as the pale egg. In fact, I could not even tell for certain that the pale egg now in the nest was the one laid on June 21 or 22, i.e. it could have been the one from the original clutch, and the new one could have been discarded.

The adults continued to tend to the nest as usual through July. Any new egg, if fertilized, would be due to hatch near the end of the month, so, I checked daily from July 21 to 26. Chris conducted the last few nest checks while I went on vacation. He reported that the Peregrines were still brooding on Aug. 6, but had abandoned the nest by Aug. 24. We don’t know exactly what day they left, but since the three eggs were still perfectly intact on Aug. 24, they probably continued sitting well beyond Aug. 6.

Based on Chris’ reports, we can be certain that Diana and Connor spent at least 94 consecutive days brooding, which to our knowledge is unprecedented. (Chris did hear from a Finnish raptor expert who once had a Tengmalm’s Owl still sitting after 92 days.)

We look forward to Diana and Connor trying again next year. Let’s hope they have better luck — and a much shorter brooding period — in 2011.

Additional observations:

  • The falcons appeared to be accustomed to my presence on the roof of Tower I, and never showed any aggressive behaviour towards me. The adult on the nest often fell asleep or preened as I watched, and the other adult, if present, usually perched on a radio tower two blocks south, at 440 Laurier St. W., or occasionally on Tower II or on the east ledge of the Crowne Plaza.
  • It was difficult to conclusively tell the male and female apart by their appearance unless they were near each other. Variations in the bird’s placement on the nest, the quality of light and the viewing angle made it difficult to differentiate them by size alone. However, it was often possible to tell which one was on the nest by the way it moved and behaved, although this may have been related less to actual differences in their overall behaviour and more to the amount of time the bird had spent on the nest when observed.
  • The male, Connor, usually appeared more alert and active. He kept a more upright posture, moving his wings and tail and cocking his head more frequently and more emphatically. He seemed more curious, and reacted more obviously to passing birds and insects, and to sounds such as sirens.
  • The female, Diana, usually appeared calmer and stiller, and kept a lower profile, posture-wise. However, she often appeared noticeably restless during the period from approximately June 14 to 20, sometimes picking at stones and debris around the nest, briefly lifting objects with her beak and then dropping them.
  • Since 2006, Diana has incubated a total of 14 eggs, of which six have hatched (four male, two female). Horizon, the resident female from 1997 to 2005, incubated a total of 25 eggs, of which 13 hatched (six male, seven female).
  • The Ottawa Peregrine Falcon Watch has recorded one other instance of total nest failure: In 1999, Horizon incubated four eggs unsuccessfully.
  • Because they are not banded, the exact ages of Ottawa’s resident falcons are unknown. Diana joined Connor late in 2005, after Horizon’s death, so she is believed to be at least six years old. Connor arrived as an adult in 1998, so is at least 13 years old.

Contacts:

Eve Ticknor
Peregrine Falcon Watch Coordinator
Ottawa Field Naturalists Club

Chris Traynor
Chair, Birds Committee
Ottawa Field Naturalists Club
ctraynor59@yahoo.ca

Anouk Hoedeman
Peregrine Falcon Watch volunteer