Flying high

After a stormy night tucked into the nest ledge (it’s good to be home again), Pringle got an early start today with several flights that tested his new-found skills. Lorraine and Langis kept an eye on him as he followed his dad to Ivanhoe’s favourite ledge on the top left of the south face.

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Ivanhoe, left, and Pringle have a father-son moment. Photo by Langis Sirois

He flew some more until taking a bit of a rest on the southeast corner of the roof. As the chick posed on the roof edge and Langis set up his scope, young Ian just happened to drop by with his dad to see the falcons. Perfect timing to hook a future Falcon Watch volunteer!

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Ian gets a good look at Peregrine Falcon Pringle, 25 June 2013.

Ian was even lucky enough to see Pringle wing it over to the southwest corner. He (Pringle, not Ian) was still there when Jorgen joined me for the next shift. The next few hours consisted mostly of Pringle’s occasional but impressive flights around the building, followed by periods of us waiting to see where he might reappear. At one point he popped up on the south edge of the roof looking very scruffy. A closer view through the binoculars revealed the reason: He was soaking wet, after apparently taking a bath in a rooftop puddle!

Turns out the bath wasn’t necessary. As dark clouds rolled in around 1 p.m., both Ivanhoe and Rowena circled slowly overhead and then descended, as if to coax Pringle to follow them to a sheltered ledge. By the time he got the idea, the downpour had begun. He looked like he really wanted to fly, but his newly soaked feathers told him otherwise. Luckily, the sky soon cleared and, as Pringle dried off, a Turkey Vulture cruised right overhead. Clearly surprised by the sight of this large¬† black bird hovering just 10 feet over his head, Pringle let out a very funny (to us) series of panicked shrieks. No worries, as Turkey Vultures are more interested in dead things than in live prey.

Once he’d dried off a bit, Pringle wisely flew to the nest ledge before the next storm. When the lighting started, Janet, Frank and I also decided to head for shelter, with occasional forays into the rain to check that the young falcon was still on his ledge.

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Storm break: Frank and Janet talk science while waiting out the thunderstorm in a sheltered area.

After the rain stopped, the day’s fun really began. First Ivanhoe flew slowly past Pringle’s ledge, which prompted Pringle fly after him. The two circled the building a couple of times, the adult calmly soaring and the chick flapping madly to keep up. After a couple of rounds, Pringle landed on the roof to take a break. It didn’t last long. Rowena joined in the fun and led Pringle on a few loops around the building as well as some figure-eights over the annex, just as people were leaving work. Some of them noticed the commotion and watched with us as the spectacle continued. Soon, all three falcons were flying around and around and around.

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Eventually, Pringle was too exhausted to continue and just barely reached the edge of the roof for a much-needed break. That’s where he was when James and Nancy arrived for the last shift of the day.

Ian gets a good look a Peregrine Falcon Pringle, 25 June 2013.

Left to right, volunteers Frank, Janet, Nancy and James.

As a left, I was feeling a bit bad that they had missed all the excitement. But according to Nancy, the flying continued all evening. Finally, as the sky grew darker, one of the adults once again herded Pringle back to the nest ledge, where they snuggled up for the night.

A busy day

Pringle, the now 40-day-old Peregrine Falcon chick at Heron and Bronson in Ottawa, is not resting on his laurels. After dramatic first flights on Sunday, he got up before the early shift to start flying again. According to R√©my and Brian, he had already flown by the time they got there at 6 a.m., but his first foray to the food-caching ledge we call the “pantry” or “larder” didn’t start well when he landed on the anti-pigeon spikes. (The Data Centre really doesn’t need those anymore, thanks to the falcons!) He flew a few more times and was on the southeast corner of the roof taking a break at 9 a.m., when Rick, Gene and I got there.

We didn’t have to wait too long before he flew again. And again. And again … He kept us on our toes and the passersby entertained as he made his way to various sides and corners of the building. His flights were strong and stable, but his landing gear still had some glitches to work out. Several times he missed reaching the roof or ledge he was aiming for and instead had to loop back to try again. He also slipped and fell while doing some hops along the sheet metal roof ledge and fell about halfway down to the ground before catching himself. He recovered quite nicely by soaring away from the building and gaining so much altitude in the process that he flew right over the roof to land on the opposite side. We also watched him fly straight out from the roof, then spread his wings wide, make a sharp turn and double back to reach the larder. Rick said it looked like he was using the wind deliberately as a brake.

He ended up on the north side of the roof, where he got a meal and rested for a while, giving Laura, Marian, John and Chris a less dramatic afternoon shift. It was very muggy by then, so no doubt everyone was content to take it easier. He was on the move again by the time the evening shift took over. Jorgen, Claire, Frank and Dominique were relieved to find him on a sheltered ledge on the south side before the big storm hit at about 5:30. They were also relieved to find their own shelter in the form of Jorgen’s van, a dry place from which to keep an eye on the chick while watching the lightning show. Chris and Marie showed up once the sky cleared, just after Rowena brought Pringle another meal.

Frank reports that Pringle and his parents spent much of the evening on the south side of the Data Centre, and the chick was fairly quiet as he spent about two hours digesting his food. At 8:30 p.m., as the evening breeze began to make for pleasant flying conditions, he decided it was time to fly again. Chris likens Pringle’s enthusiasm to a kid learning to ride a bike for the first time and not wanting to stop.

He flew around the building, briefly landed on the southwest corner camera, then returned to the east side. According to Jorgen, he rested for less than a minute before Rowena pushed him off the ledge and guided him back to the south side and the ledge whence he had come. That was it for the night, as Pringle tucked himself back into the ledge for the night.

Where will he be at 6 a.m.?

Rowena and Pringle

Here’s the photo promised yesterday. Langis Sirois captured this amazing shot of Rowena (on the left) helping her chick Pringle fly in the right direction. She steered him first to the main building, then around to the opposite side and up to where the nest ledge is. He landed on the wrong ledge, but without his mother’s encouragement and guidance, he would have landed on the wrong building entirely.

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Rowena guides Pringle’s flight, 23 June 2013. Photo by Langis Sirois.

With a little help from his mom …

Nancy, Frank and Dominique reported that Pringle spent the rest of the afternoon on the lowest level of the annex roof, taking some shorts flights and a couple of very impressive long ones halfway across the long side of the annex roof. His flying was steady and his landings solid, but he eventually grew tired from his attempts to get back up to the higher part of the roof. So he settled down for a long nap. Such was the state of falcon affairs when I arrived at 5, and when Chris and Marie arrived at 5:30. During this whole time, Rowena watched over her chick from the highest part of the annex roof.

Pringle eventually woke up and decided to get going again. And boy, did he ever. First, he executed a bunch of quick, almost playful hops along the top edges of the ledges, testing his landing skills. Then, around 6:30, he rather suddenly took to the sky, heading west toward Bronson (nooooo!) and then looping back toward the northeast end of the annex. Rowena flew into action, chasing after Pringle and intercepting his attempt to land on the north side of the main building. Our jaws dropped as she pretty much herded him back around to the west side and forced him up, up up and up and around to the south side. He landed solidly one ledge over from the nest ledge, while Rowena landed on the nest ledge itself. Langis, who couldn’t have timed his drop-in any better, captured an amazing photo showing the two falcons in mid-flight (and I’ll post it as soon as he emails it to me).

You might think that Pringle would be tired and a little freaked out by this very long and very dramatic flight. His human watchers certainly were. As we all rested, Chris, Marie and I chatted ‚ÄĒ not about language acquisition or the physiology of the brain, as Chris had hoped, but about birds, urban sprawl and bikes. I’ll admit we were discussing internal gear hubs and not paying complete attention to Pringle when he suddenly swooped down from his perch, overshot the nest ledge and continued around to the east side of the building. No problem, because Rowena again intercepted him and steered him right back, and he landed on the main roof.

Pringle spent some time exploring the southwest corner of the roof while his mother perched first on the southeast security camera, then on the southwest one. The chick continued flapping and clumsily walking along the various edges of the roof, and struck a series of classic falcon poses against the darkening sky. Then it was time to go again. He swooped down from the roof and headed back to the nest ledge, but aimed too high and ended up on the roof again.

As stormy skies approached, we hoped he’d try again for the shelter of the nest ledge, and of course he¬† obliged a little while later. This time he headed west, and Rowena once again steered him back toward the building. As he gained altitude, she forced him to correct his flight to a lower angle so he wouldn’t land on the roof again. But his aim was still a bit off and he landed on the ledge directly below the nest ledge. Not perfect, but at least he’s sheltered from the thunder, lighting and pouring rain.

Chris says he’s never seen an adult be so attentive and helpful during a chick’s first flights. Several times this evening, we saw Rowena steer him in the right direction, and help him correct his altitude. We almost expected her to just grab him in her talons (gently, of course!) and carry him to the nest ledge. What an awesome mom! And what an awesome chick!

 

Pringle’s progress

I arrived at 6 a.m. today to see the building shrouded in fog. All was quiet. So I retrieved our equipment from the security office, made my way to the south side of the building, set up my chair and sat down to enjoy my coffee. Dominique arrived in the meantime, and asked if I had seen Pringle on the ledge. I said I thought I’d seen him as I was getting out of the car, but visibility wasn’t great, and we can’t always see him if he’s tucked into the back of the ledge, so I couldn’t be sure.

Still, there was no reason to think he wasn’t there, even when one of the adults flew over to the nest ledge and perched there for a while. Many falcon chicks might have reacted to one of their parents arriving for a visit, but Pringle sometimes makes a point of ignoring them. And if he had flown, I reasoned, there would be a bit of a commotion or the adults would at least seem a bit agitated.

The adult flew off, but soon came back with a meal. Still no reaction. That’s when we decided we should make sure Pringle was in fact tucked back on the ledge. I walked around to check from different vantage points, strolled over to check the east ledges, and even checked the grass at the base of the building. Next, I got out my scope and set it up on the overpass sidewalk, from where I knew I could see most of the right side of the ledge. Nothing. So I moved over to the Transitway station for a better look at the left side of the ledge. Nothing.

Now we were getting nervous. So Dominique offered to circle the building to look for Pringle. She soon found him perched on the northeast corner of the brick structure on the annex, the lower building on the north side of the Data Centre. Phew!

Pringle, 23 June 2013

Pringle, 23 June 2013

Neither the chick nor the adult shared our anxiety. To the contrary, the adult was still on the nest ledge, chowing down on a hearty breakfast and making clucking noises. Pringle, meanwhile, looked entirely relaxed. He watched a pigeon flying overhead, shook his feathers a bit, looked at us, and then began exploring the roof.

By the time Chris arrived, he had flown or hopped down to the lower level of the roof, and was beginning to flap his wings. He soon flew again, circling over the roof before landing on the south edge of the annex roof. Meanwhile, mom Rowena flew to the north side of the main building, and dad Ivanhoe perched on the west side to keep an eye on Pringle’s progress.

So did we. Dominique soon had to leave, but Janet and Lorraine arrived for their shift. Pringle remained fairly active, so both Chris and I stuck around for a while longer, just in case. Naturally, he didn’t actually fly again until we left, but Lorraine reports that Pringle is now on a ledge above the annex windows.

So far, so good.