Falcon Watch meets Safe Wings

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By Anouk Hoedeman

My bird rescue interests — the Falcon Watch and Safe Wings — converged nicely last week when a man contacted the OFNC Falcon Watch for help with an injured Peregrine Falcon that he and his son had found and captured near the Madawaska River in Arnprior. Apparently it couldn’t fly, so they suspected a broken wing, and the son caught the falcon by tossing his hoodie over it.

I advised him on how to care for the raptor overnight until he could get it to the Wild Bird Care Centre (keep it in a secure box, in a dark and quiet place, feed it some raw chicken and leave it alone as much as possible).

It turns out the Peregrine, a beautiful, dark male, had injuries consistent with a window collision. Luckily, beyond being stunned, some abrasions and a bit of a bloody beak, he wasn’t badly hurt and just needed a few days to rest and recover. Many injured birds are emaciated and dehydrated by the time they’re rescued, but this guy was well-fed, strong and alert. Continue reading “Falcon Watch meets Safe Wings” »

Amelia and Billy take a trip across Bronson

Amelia and Billy on the old CSEC building, July 5, 2015. Photo by Dominique Marshall.

Amelia and Billy on the old CSEC building, July 5, 2015. Photo by Dominique Marshall.

Amelia and Billy, July 5, 2015. Photo by Dominique Marshall.

Amelia and Billy at dusk, July 5, 2015. Photo by Elsa Marshall.

Amelia (Earhart) and her much younger and smaller brother Billy (Bishop) are doing exceptionally well and continue to hone their skills with every flight. They both made numerous sorties today, solo and as a team. Dominique reports that they even made a round trip together this evening to the old CBC/CSEC building across Bronson.

While accidents can still happen, these juvenile raptors are by all accounts confident and competent enough that they don’t need us to watch them so closely anymore. So, the 2015 OFNC Falcon Watch schedule but will not be extended beyond tomorrow (Monday, July 6), although you may of course continue to monitor the chicks to your heart’s content if you wish.

This year, we did not have a volunteer covering every shift, although we did manage to have someone there for the chicks’ first few flights (or, in the case of Amelia’s inaugural crack-of-dawn launch, very soon after). We encouraged anyone who was interested, including people who work at the Data Centre, to drop by unscheduled to see how the chicks were doing. This level of coverage seemed adequate for this particular building and certainly for these particular chicks, who have not played hide-and-seek nearly as much as some of their predecessors.

Likewise, we managed just fine without two-way radios or even consistent note-taking. Some people made detailed notes in the binder, others jotted down a few key points, some provided reports in person or by phone, email or text message. All these methods were sufficient to communicate the most important events. It helps that, after four Falcon Watches at the Data Centre, we now have a good idea of what to expect: much less danger than downtown, but still some great drama and entertainment as the young raptors prepare for and take their first flights.

Thank you to everyone who committed their time to monitoring the fledgling falcons, who continue to demonstrate that 875 Heron Rd. is a great building for learning to fly.

Please do continue to check in on the chicks if you’re in the neighbourhood this summer, and let us know if you see anything noteworthy.

Amelia and Billy spreading their wings

Both young Peregrines continue to impress with their flying.

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon and evening, Billy flew several more times, from the Annex to the south side of the main building, back to the Annex, and eventually to the top left ledge on the north side of the main building. Not bad, considering the strong winds. He’s funny little guy to watch, very animated and clearly very curious about the world around him.

Amelia continued to coach her little brother, rarely straying too far unless it was to harass her parents for food. She has quickly become a very confident flyer who clearly feels that Billy has much to learn from her.

Today, Amelia’s fifth day of flying and Billy’s second, both spent a great deal of time in the air. Rick reported that, in the morning, Billy flew several bigs loops from the west side and back. He tried to join Amelia on the south roof at one point but missed his landing and ended up on a ledge. Well, this falcon business does take some practice.

By mid-afternoon, both chicks were on the west roof, with much screeching. Then, Chris saw something pretty amazing (this has been edited after receiving clarification from Chris): Amelia flew towards Rowena at about roof level, and Rowena passed her a headless pigeon, the weight of which caused Amelia to drop in height. She tried gamely to pluck it but obviously is not used to doing such chores.

Billy, meanwhile, had a good, brief flight but landed just short of the roof edge, hung onto the corner for a bit, then dropped, looped around and finally managed to reach the roof.

Rowena brought the chicks a proper dinner around 5 p.m. They tussled over the food and, surprisingly, Billy managed to knock his much larger sister off the roof in the process!

Later, Pauline reported that all the falcons were doing fine and settling in for the night.


Billy on the Annex, July 3, 2015.

Billy on the Annex, July 3, 2015.

This morning, as predicted, the second chick took his inaugural flight and acquired a name.

Billy — as in Billy Bishop, the Canadian First World War fighter pilot — first made a short hop from the nest ledge to the next ledge over, where Amelia joined him. She now lands solidly on whichever ledge she’s aiming for, and even knocked each of her parents from their perches in a futile search for food.

After much flapping and running back and forth, Billy took off again, and this time Dominique and I saw him head for the southwest corner of the roof. He missed his landing, dropped, caught the air currents again and flew low towards the trees west of the building.

Amelia, showing some helpful sibling instincts, flew after him and guided him to the lowest part of the Annex roof, where he stayed for the rest of the morning. Amelia didn’t venture far, and the adults watched over them from above, Ivanhoe perched on the big Canada sign, Rowena on one of the lights above the sign.

Ivanhoe, perched on the second A, and Rowena, perched on the right light, July 3, 2015.

Ivanhoe, perched on the second A, and Rowena, perched on the right light, July 3, 2015.

Once the chicks settled down, Rowena took off for points west and returned soon with a dead pigeon, which she plucked clean on a high ledge before bringing it down closer to Billy.

Rowena prepares breakfast, July 3, 2015.

Rowena prepares breakfast, July 3, 2015.

Billy was having a hard time scaling the high sides of his ledge on the Annex, so Amelia eventually joined him for a nap, then tried coaching him. She flew back and forth between the Annex and the lower ledges of the main building, seemingly encouraging him to follow. He wasn’t brave enough for another big flight, but he did eventually join her on the main roof of the Annex.

Amelia and Billy, July 3, 2015.

Amelia and Billy, July 3, 2015.

Practice, practice, practice

Amelia, July 2, 2015.

Amelia, July 2, 2015.

Yesterday morning, James found Amelia back on the nest ledge with her little brother. She didn’t stay too long, and ended up low on the east side once again, this time six ledges down.

Time to figure out how to gain some altitude and get back to the top of the main building — not easy, she found out, for a fledgling flying into a very strong headwind.

So, clever girl that she is, she took a series of low flights along the roof of the Annex until she got to the far west end. Then, with little hesitation, she launched herself full-on into the wind, flew west, banked back and let the wind carry her up and right over the roof.

Amelia, July 2, 2015.

Amelia on the Annex, July 2, 2015.

Amelia takes flight, July 2, 2015.

Amelia takes flight, July 2, 2015.

She perched on the east edge of the main roof or under the security cameras all afternoon, as her little brother screeched his little head off and flapped his little wings in frustration.

By nightfall, Amelia was back with her brother on the nest ledge, and although he appeared ready to fly at any second, he eventually made the wise decision to wait another day.