Today was the first day of the Falcon Watch, and we certainly did not start too soon. Pringle practised lots of wing-flapping and stretches today while Ivanhoe and Rowena played hide-and-seek with him.

Yes, I said “him”, because the chick looks much closer in size to his father than his mother. Obviously I can’t absolutely confirm Pringle’s gender, but that’s my best guess at this point.

Anyway, back to today’s events …

Pringle was somewhat active in the morning while Jorgen and I watched, until he was overcome by a long midday nap (Pringle, not Jorgen). During this time, the adults stayed nearby but out of his view, which is normal at this stage. Withholding attention as well as food is necessary to encourage the chick to start flying.

Things got lively later in the afternoon, during Laura and Brian’s shift. Apparently they got ready to run a few times, not because Pringle seemed quite ready to fly, but because he almost got knocked off his perch by strong gusts of wind while stretching his wings. He also took some short, hoppy flights on the nest ledge. Meanhile, Ivanhoe and Roewena did some teasing, flying past the nest ledge or landing there just briefly before taking off again — another ploy to get Pringle to fledge.

This pattern continued well into the evening, during my shift with Claire. At some point, Pringle just started screeching and kept it up even when the adults brought him a couple of scraps and a tad more attention. This, along with more wing flapping and hops, continued until just before nightfall, after Ivanhoe brought him a more substantial (though still not very generous) meal. Eventually, as the sky grew dark, Rowena joined her chick on the nest ledge and they both settled in for the night.

The melanistic baby groundhog made a few appearances again today, as did the local pair of Mallards (let’s call them Fred and Martha), who decided to hang out with Claire and me for a while. Among the other birds spotted or heard were lots of Chipping Sparrows and Cedar Waxwings, young families of White-breasted Nuthatches and European Starlings, a female Downy Woodpecker, Common Grackles, Yellow Warblers, American Robins, Song Sparrows, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, a Great Blue Heron and a few Double-crested Cormorants. There were large flocks of Ring-billed Gulls, some very brave Rock Pigeons, and a few Mallards other than Fred and Martha. For the third time this week, I saw a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons headed back to Sawmill Creek during the evening (a visiting birder told me they hang out on the river near Carleton University during the day).



Ready to fly

The Falcon Watch starts in the morning, and good thing too! It looks like Pringle is just about ready to fly. Yes, that’s the chick’s name, in honour of Gord Pringle, a longtime member of the Ottawa birding community who passed away recently.

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Rowena perched nearby without ever flying to Pringle’s ledge. She did, however, put on a great show chasing a pair of noisy American Crows that ventured a bit too close to her chick. If crows wore clothing, I think their pants would have been soiled.

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If you come by to watch the falcons (preferably as a volunteer!), check out this unusual black groundhog. It’s one of the young ones hanging around on the grass on the west side of the building,





P1130491This evening, I finally got to see how much the Heron Rd. chick has grown!

Since I took the last photos, on June 4, it’s been a challenge to get back to the nest site. Pouring rain and howling winds kept me away some of the time, as did the need to get some work done around the house and garden. Alex and I dropped by last Sunday, but the falcons were hiding from the hot sun, I guess. We didn’t see the adults or chick.

So tonight, I was eager to see how the little one is doing at about four weeks of age. And what a surprise! I swear s/he has more than doubled in size, and is now sporting a spiky new look as the feathers grow in. The malar stripes (the dark mark below each eye) are now apparent, as is the blue skin around the eyes.

Fledging is not far off now, which is why the Falcon Watch starts a week from now, on Wednesday, June 19. We’re still looking for more volunteers to help us keep an eye on the chick as it takes it first flights, and to rescue it if necessary. Find out more on the Volunteer page of this website.

Also of note, as I was watching the falcons, I noticed two Black-crowned Night Herons flying overhead, headed roughly from the Rideau River near Bronson to Sawmill Creek south of Heron Rd.

One is the loneliest number

P1130403 1After a week of looking for more chicks at the Heron Road nest site, I have to concede that I was overly optimistic. Despite my best attempts to turn shadows into hatchlings, there’s only one lonely chick. There was enough activity on the nest ledge today that any others would surely have made an appearance.

When I arrived, Rowena was with her chick, feeding it and nuzzling it. They were in the middle of the ledge, next P1130431 2P1130437 3P1130448 4to the mysterious brown lump of organic material that was there last year as well. Rowena appeared to be breaking pieces of the brown lump off to give to the chick, which only added to my curiosity about the lumps’ origins and ingredients.

Rowena eventually flew off and Ivanhoe took her place. But apparently she wasn’t pleased with his parenting skills, so she came back for a few minutes and shooed him away.

When Rowena moved to the corner where the nest is, the chick shuffled after her. Mom spent some time in the nest — doing what, I don’t know — as her chick watched.

After Rowena flew off once again, the chick spent some time looking over the edge of the ledge (yikes!), then did a face plant in a sunny spot.

Nap time.

As for the downtown site, I looked from the 21st floor of Constitution Square again on Friday, and there were still no chicks visible.

One of the adults, however, was sitting next the spot where the nest was. Its head popped up several times above the wall surrounding the ledge. After some preening, the bird would duck down again for minutes at a time. Unfortunately, we can’t see what’s going on back there. Maybe nothing.

The Hunchback of Heron Road

Finally, photos in which the chick is recognizable as a living creature!P1130326 4

It’s already at the “hunchback” stage, in which the chick is hunched over with its head angled forward. This begins around Day 15, which means the little fella/gal hatched around May 15.

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In related news: I’m 99.9% sure there’s a second chick. Do you see the tiny dark smudge barely visible just to the left of the chick above, at the level of its belly? It moved and changed size ever so slightly. More than once. Yes, I probably was in the sun too long, but that doesn’t mean I was hallucinating.

Meanwhile, Rowena or Ivanhoe was perched on the next ledge to the right.

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A couple of ledges over to the left, dinner was waiting.

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