Spring, and falcons, are in the air

It doesn’t feel like spring yet in Ottawa, especially with the 15 cm of snow that fell on March 22, but the latest Peregrine Falcon reports are a good sign that warmer weather is on its way. Kelly Sullivan, who works at the Canada Revenue Agency in Confederation Heights, reported this week that Rowena and Ivanhoe are making a ruckus. Tanya Breton, who works at the Canada Revenue Agency downtown (what is is with these birds and the CRA?), reported that Diana and Janus were flying around quite actively on the east side of the Delta Hotel.

I checked the Data Centre myself today and saw one of the falcons perched on the usual nest ledge on the south side, but without my binoculars, I couldn’t tell which one. In any case, we hope both Rowena and Diana are getting set to lay some eggs.

Meanwhile, Sherry Leavitt took these awesome photos on March 16 in the west end, at Shea Road and Brownlee Side Rd. between Richmond and Stittsville. Fair warning: The third photo below shows one of the falcons with its kill, which looks like a duck. Don’t scroll down all the way if you don’t like to see such photos. We have had reports of Peregrines in that area in the past, but never, to my knowledge, two together like this. So keep your eyes open for other nest sites, folks.

© Sherry Leavitt, all rights reserved

© Sherry Leavitt. All rights reserved.

© Sherry Leavitt, all rights reserved

© Sherry Leavitt. All rights reserved.

© Sherry Leavitt. All rights reserved.

© Sherry Leavitt. All rights reserved.

Churchill & Carling

Matt Maloley sent us a nice Christmas present: two photos of a Peregrine on the Zylog building at Churchill and Carling. He says they spotted this falcon on Dec. 24 attacking a pigeon and taking it to the top of the building and feasting for about an hour. Guess even falcons enjoy a nice Christmas Eve dinner!

Matt says they’ve found other pigeon kills in the adjacent hydro corridor, so this must be a good hunting spot.

Thanks for sharing your sighting and your photos!

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Photo by Matt Maloley.

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Photo by Matt Maloley.

 

The OTHER Christmas Count sighting

Langis Sirois’s Peregrine Falcon sighting during the Ottawa-Gatineau Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 15 was less dramatic than the aerial battle with the Snowy Owl downtown. But he did capture a nice photo of the raptor perched atop a hydro pylon. Thanks for sharing, Langis!

Peregrine near the General Hospital, Dec. 15, 2013.

Peregrine near the General Hospital, Dec. 15, 2013. Photo by Langis Sirois.

The Falcon and the Snowy

The Ottawa-Gatineau Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, Dec. 15. I covered the area along the Ottawa River from the Champlain Bridge to the Rideau Canal, more or less south to the Queensway. By far the most exciting moment of the count, for me, involved Diana, our resident downtown female.

Late in the afternoon, Jon Ruddy, Jeremy Bryan and I had yet to find either of the downtown Peregrines, despite several scans of the Coats Building at Tunney’s Pasture, one of their favourite hangouts. So we decided to try the Delta Hotel at Albert and Lyon, just outside out official area. As we drove up Slater St. toward Bronson, Jon spotted the same enormous, heavily barred Snowy Owl we had seen earlier in the day behind the War Museum. Now she was in the air, flying southeast toward the downtown core.

Excited as I was to see the owl again, this time in flight, I said something like, “Oh crap, it’s headed straight for the falcons!” Someone else said, “I wonder who would win that battle?” I didn’t have to think long before replying, “My money’s on the falcons.” Sure enough, as we crossed Bronson, we saw Diana (our name for the female Peregrine) come flying around the corner toward the owl, which was now right in front of us.

It all happened very quickly (as things do with angry Peregrines), so I can’t be entirely sure of the sequence of events. From what I recall, Diana easily caught up with the now panicking owl over the empty lot on the south side of Slater. It took a hit, scrambled for a foothold on the side of an apartment building, tumbled down, and finally found a perch on the edge of a balcony. But the falcon continued to attack, so the owl took off again and disappeared somewhere behind us, still being chased.

It was an awesome sight, which I think Jeremy summed up nicely in an email the next day: “I don’t think I’m likely to ever again witness a Snowy Owl and Peregrine Falcon engaged in an aerial dogfight. It really was more reminiscent of a scene from an action thriller than a bird count as the combatants tumbled down the side of the building fighting. I’m glad that the Hollywood ending dictated that the owl got away in the end!”

And she did. Our heart rates back to a manageable speed, we continued on Slater, up Kent and back along Albert to see if the male Peregrine was at the Delta. No sign of him, but we didn’t really care at that point. As we continued west past Bronson and back down the hill, we saw again the owl again. She appeared uninjured and was flying south … hopefully not toward the other resident Peregrines at Heron Rd. and Bronson!

Another sighting in the east end

Ivanhoe and Rowena appear to be spending a lot of time east of the Data Centre. Maria Lythgoe just sent in the following sighting:

I was walking my dogs through the hydro corridor yesterday afternoon when I spotted the falcon at the top of the hydro tower. its located above the perley complex heading towards the general hospital complex. My first sighting! The date for this sighting is Dec.2, 2013 at 3:30 in the aft.