Male chick finds his wings

Our male chick, still unnamed (we’re working on that), had another busy day, gaining strength and skill as he flies. By the time volunteer James Kennett arrived at 6 a.m., he had already flown from the previous night’s low perch (Column 2, Row 4 on the south face) to a higher one on the west face. Apparently this was exhausting, and he did a face plant on a narrow ledge, lying completely limp for long enough that we started to worry. That was about it for the morning.

Faceplant. This is what happens after making your first eight or more flights in less than 16 hours.

In the afternoon and evening, he flew several times and spent a lot of time on the roof. He’s now flown to every face of the building, and has made several impressive if heart-stopping longer flights looping out from the building.

His sister remained on the nest ledge (Col. 3, Row 1 on the south face) all day. She was quiet for much of the day, but did practice some wing flapping, especially in the evening. After spending the previous night near her, the parent retreated from her sight for most of the day. She clearly missed them and her brother. They spent a long time calling to each other when he was perched in the roof more or less above her. He finally flew back to the nest ledge, and they would have hugged each other if they could. They nuzzled and cooed for a while before falling asleep as it got darker out.

Perhaps the most interesting observation today was the arrival of two very brave Barn Swallows who harassed the falcons for a good 5-10 minutes. They circled and dive-bombed the perched chicks and adult male, and chased the adult when it flew. The local baby groundhogs also provided entertainment.

Today, James Kennett and his wife took the early shift with Dominique Marshall (who deserves major kudos for alerting us to the chicks in the first place). James deserves thanks as well for his idea to name the ledges as if the building face is a spreadsheet (e.g., the nest ledge is Col, 3, Row 1 on the south face). I arrived around 8 and held the fort alone from 11 to 12 until Chris Traynor and Marie Clausén came by. Nancy Scott and I spent the afternoon at my place, updating contact lists and instructions and dealing with various logistical issues. Then we did the evening shift together.

Considering the short notice and new location, we’re still playing catchup. But with one chick flying with growing confidence, the stress level has dropped a bit. That said, I’m still sleep-deprived .. Zzzzzzzz


Falcon-chick births welcome news for Ottawa birders

Once endangered bird of prey re-establishing itself in region

CBC News

A group of Ottawa birders are celebrating the discovery of a family of peregrine falcons, and the birth of two chicks, atop a government building near Carleton University.

For years, the group Ottawa Falcon Watch has known an older couple of the large predatory birds has been making their nest atop the Delta Hotel in downtown Ottawa, but unfortunately, those falcons have had trouble producing more offspring.

Anouk Hoedeman said this year marked the third year in a row the older couple’s eggs have failed to hatch.

But just as her group was mourning that discovery, a volunteer reported that two chicks had been spotted atop a 10-storey building on Heron Road.

Hoedeman and four or five others watched Friday as an adult falcon began plucking the feathers off its prey, a pigeon, to feed its two chicks.

The family of birds includes two adults and two chicks here, a young male and female, about six weeks old.

‘A fun kind of mystery’

Hoedeman said the birders aren’t sure where the family had come from, since their parents had not been tagged with leg bands.

“We couldn’t find a leg band on either one of them, so we have no idea where they came from. It’s a mystery. It’s kind of a fun mystery,” said Hoedeman.

A third chick was also found dead on the ground, having evidently fallen earlier this week.

That has people like James Kennett, who works in the building, volunteering to keep an eye on the newly born birds.

“If the bird takes a header or something like that, you know it’s good to have somebody nearby who can report it,” said Kennett.

Peregrine falcons almost went extinct but have made a comeback and are re-establishing themselves in Ontario. Despite this, they are still considered threatened in the province.

Hoedeman said she and her fellow falcon-watchers will keep an eye on this family, until the chicks take flight, and with luck she says, they’ll be back next year.

June 15 – Part II

Mom shows her male chick how to prepare pigeon, June 15.

Friday was very exciting day, since the male chick has started flying! A total of five times, in fact. He’s had a couple of challenges landing where he wants, and was very proud to get up to the roof. But he was miffed later to land on a ledge on the east side with a lot of spiky pigeon deterrents. So he made short  flights to two other ledges (same problem), then flew went back to the south side of the building. That involved a couple of aborted landings before settling for a ledge about halfway up. He tucked in for the night at about 8:30. His sister has been watching the young male’s antics with curiosity but has not yet tried to fly. Mom kept her company for most of the afternoon and evening, and was still there at sundown.

Since it’s been such short notice, we have few people who have volunteered for shifts yet for the weekend. So if you can help out, please email, call or text me at 613-322-5269, or call Nancy Scott at 613-253-1490. (She’ll get the email as well.) She’s now doing the scheduling.

We’re still trying to sort out logistics for where to keep the log book and equipment, and we’re trying to find the instructions and other paperwork. We’ll email copies to everyone if we can.

Friday, we moved from our spot next to the southernmost parking lot, way back from the building, to the visitor parking lot at the southeast corner, much closer to the building, so we could monitor both chicks. You may have to experiment with the best vantage point. The original nest location is on the second ledge to the right, above the topmost window on the south side (facing Heron Rd.) Last night, the male ended up on the fourth ledge down, second from left. He’s also spent time on the roof, and on the east ledges. When the birds go further back onto the ledge, it can be almost impossible to see them. The best vantage points in that case are further back and from the higher points of land.

June 15 – It’s been a long but exciting day

The Falcon Watch started at 6:20 a.m. with Dominique Marshall. I arrived around 7:30. Lots of flapping and napping, and then they switched to napping and flapping. Dom had to leave around 9, so I stayed on. At noon, with everyone napping, I figured it was as safe as I could expect to pop home for a bit to grab a bite, check email, etc. Naturally, I was wrong, and I came back to news that a chick was on the opposite side of the building. It had been seen trying to land, almost falling, then landing successfully.

James Kennep and Alex deVries each went around the building to try to confirm, but saw nothing. Then, just as Alistair Steele (CBC Radio reporter) arrived, the chick reappeared on the roof. So it had indeed flown from the ledge.

There was much posturing, the offering of a dead pigeon for the little fella, a plucking and beheading how-to  and, eventually, a consolation prize of pigeon nibbles for his sister back home on the nest ledge. It was quite a treat for us to watch, if not to snack on.

Everything quieted down for a bit. By this time the Lorraine Montoya had joined me, and we enjoyed more falcon shenanigans. The male flew to the east wall, where most ledges are covered by spiky anti-pigeon things. Once Nancy Scott arrived, the little guy hopped from one ledge to another, twice, then tried to fly around to the south of the building  He missed two landing attempts before nailing the third,

I’m falling asleep while typing, so will have to report more later. Suffice to say our male chick is getting the hang of flying and the female is getting there. Both were on the south face of the building at sundown.

We need volunteers urgently for this weekend. Email!

What a difference a day makes!

Following yesterday’s post concerning the downtown Peregrine Falcons and Connor’s disappearance, we received an email from a volunteer concerning another family of falcons in the Billings Bridge area, and a dead falcon found there earlier this week. She put me in touch with building management, I went there to check and, sure enough, there are two chicks up on a ledge! I also confirmed (you don’t want to know how) that the dead falcon was a chick that had probably fallen to its death on Sunday or early Monday. Sad as that is, it would have been far worse to have found out it was an adult.

I talked to several people at the building and received various contradictory bits of information. (This must be what it’s like when police interview witnesses — everyone’s certain of what they saw, but everyone saw something different). Luckily my Falcon Watch co-co-ordinator(!) Chris Traynor was able to join me in the afternoon and we spent the better part of the day watching this family and talking to people to figure out what’s been going on here. (Forensic birding, we’re calling it.)

This is our conclusion: The chicks, one male and one female, have not yet flown but are close to it. There’s certainly a lot of wing-flapping and beetle-walking going on between naps and feedings. There were even a few very brief flights on the ledge, maybe 10 to 20 feet. The adults are in the area but not usually with the chicks, as they want to encourage them to fly. After 7 hours on site, and only a granola bar for lunch, I headed home to eat, email and post this. The adults had just delivered an entire pigeon for dinner (the chicks’, not mine), so I felt they’d be unlikely to fly this evening. Chris checked in again just to be sure, and reports there’s nothing new.

All this, of course, means the Falcon Watch is back on starting now!

If you can volunteer for some shifts, please call or text me at 613-322-5269 (you can also email, but there’s no wi-fi on site, so I can’t check my email if I’m there). As usual, there will be four shifts per day: from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Considering how far along the chicks are, we don’t expect this Falcon Watch to be very drawn out (i.e. maybe a week or 10 days).

It’s a lovely spot to while away a few hours. There’s grass to sit on, trees for shade, and little traffic nearby. It’s also right next to a Transitway stop. I advise that you bring a chair, water and food, as there’s no coffee shop or other stores located conveniently nearby. Parking costs $7/day or $1.75/30 minutes but not weekends or evenings, I’m told. Alternatively, you could cycle, or park at the RA Centre or Billings Bridge for a few hours, although it’s a bit of a hike up the hill.

Anouk Hoedeman, Peregrine Falcon Watch