Two chicks are better than one

A visit to the nest site today showed only one chick and no adults around. Of well. I walked back to the car, packed up the scope and closed the trunk — just in time to see Rowena arriving with lunch.

Rowena feeding chicks, June 6, 2015

Rowena feeding chicks, June 6, 2015

Out came the scope again — feeding time would surely reveal any other chicks hiding in the nest. And so it was. I thought I could make out a second head popping up now and then for a mouthful, and when Rowena flew off, I got a clear view of two chicks.

Rowena, June 6, 2015

Rowena, June 6, 2015

Two chicks, June 6, 2015

Two chicks, June 6, 2015

One looks a couple of days older than the other.

Spring update

Rowena and chick, May 30, 2015

Rowena and chick, May 30, 2015

It’s been a busy couple of months with other bird-related matters, so we’ve been rather quiet on the Peregrine Falcon front. But there’s news: The Data Centre falcons have a chick!

A visit to the site on a rainy and windy May 30 afternoon produced some great views of a very active chick, which was busy poking its head up and occasionally stretching its bare wings. Rowena sat nearby, preening, and Ivanhoe stood watch on his favourite ledge (south face, top left).

Stay tuned!

Some more photos

Photo by Susanne Emond, July 5, 2014.

Photo by Susanne Emond, July 5, 2014.

A couple of photos submitted recently. The first is Susanne’s snapshot of one of the chicks in a dead tree near a Bronson ramp on July 5. This looks like it may be near the tree were one of the females spent a few hours hiding from us on her second day of flying.

The other was submitted today by Zeke Hasaces, who was wondering if it’s normal for this chick to be squawking incessantly.

The answer is yes. It’s probably hungry (when are these chicks not?) and Rowena and Ivanhoe may be withholding meals as they teach their young to hunt and catch their own dinner.

He took the photo through a window, which is why it looks a bit hazy.

Photo by Zeke Hasaces, July 15, 2014.

Photo by Zeke Hasaces, July 15, 2014.

That’s all, folks!

Well, the 2014 Falcon Watch is officially over — actually, it’s been over for more than a week, but I’m only now getting around to recapping the final two days.

On Friday, July 4, I took the first shift but had little to report by the end of it. John, Chris and Kevin took over at 9 a.m., then Eleanor and Steve came in the afternoon. Steve stayed with me for the first part of the evening shift, the Pauline came at 7. The day was filled with napping, flying, eating, more napping and more flying.

For some reason, the annex roof has proved popular with these chicks, with one or two of them spending long stretches of time there not because they were unable to land on the main building (a common reason for fledglings to end up on the annex), but because they clearly wanted to be there.

Luis followed one of his parents across Bronson and Heron, and flew all the way to the Canada Post building, where it perched for a while before disappearing from our sight. Clover and Clementine, meanwhile, did some synchronized flying closer to home, with dad Ivanhoe keeping watch. One tried and failed to land on a security camera — a fledging rite of passage we’ve witnessed before. The cameras are a favourite perch of the adults, so it’s not surprising to see the chicks wanting to emulate their parents. But it is often funny.

On the annex.

On the annex.

On the annex again.

On the annex again.

It was a relatively quiet afternoon for Steve and Eleanor, and much of the same for Pauline and me on the last shift. More, longer, more confident flights, with the chicks usually landing where they planned. All signs pointed to Luis, Clover and Clementine not needing us anymore, so I decided to wrap up the Falcon Watch after one more day.

IMG_4235

Not on the annex!

Pauline settles in for the last shift.

Pauline settles in for the late shift.

On Saturday, July 5, I took the first shift, and noticed a pattern developing: (1) Falcon chicks sit in one place for a while, lulling you into complacency. (2) Parents or random impulses inspire all three chicks to fly at once, causing you to spring into action, then quickly realize you just can’t keep up with an entire family of rather rapid raptors. (3) Watch as the falcons disappear from view, and hope they come back eventually. (4) Wait several minutes or hours until the chicks reappear. (5) Repeat.

Moira and Susanne, with her very funny friend Lucie in tow, took the second shift, and I stayed a while to chat. We watched all three chicks fly west together and disappear from our view. As I headed home by bike, I saw where they were: perched on the roof of the CSEC building on the other side of Bronson, where their conversation was no doubt being closely monitored.

Security breach at CSEC! July 5, 2014.

Security breach at CSEC! July 5, 2014.

Reviewing the notes, I see that the morning’s highlights included a Chipping Sparrow tackling a large, orange moth; two men with binoculars dropping by; and Susanne finding one of the chicks perched in a tree near Bronson. So, all in all an eventful shift!

Eleanor and Heather, there for the afternoon shift, reported nothing out of the ordinary (not even among the Chipping Sparrows?). Nor did Pauline, who began the last shift alone because I had the watch the Netherlands-Costa Rica match.

I arrived after the game with Alex, Alix and Bobby in tow. Alex is my husband. Alix and Bobby, with their looooong and TALL bikes, respectively, were staying with us for a couple of nights on their way from Mexico to Toronto. Okay, that’s not a very direct route, but it’s one hell of an adventure. You can read about their bike tour at http://cargoslug.tumblr.com/. Anyway, they’d recently taken an interest in birds, so they were thrilled to see the Peregrines up close through my scope.

As night began falling, I took a few last photos of the local groundhogs — the falcons chicks aren’t the only teenagers at the Data Centre — and of two of the young Peregrines on the annex roof, silhouetted against the setting sun.

It seemed like a fitting finale for a fantastic Falcon Watch.

Groundhogs.

Groundhogs.

Sunset

Sunset at the Data Centre.

Goldfinches beware!

It was a relief to find all the Peregrine Falcons safe early this morning, after last night’s terrible storm. They all seemed exhausted, though, as there was little movement. I only saw the three chicks fly together once, and not for very long. Mom Rowena offered just a bit of food, so Luis tried briefly to catch his own by chasing some passing passerines. But other that some very short flights, the raptors stayed close to home and out of the surprisingly cold wind.

When Kevin, John and Chris arrived, there was some excitement as an adult brought a whole pigeon. There was more flying throughout the morning, and still more during the afternoon, when Anna and Steve watched the falcons fly for long periods of time. They reported strong and solid landings (for the most part) by all chicks, but also pointed out that one chick didn’t seem to go after the food when the adults dropped it off.

When I arrived for the evening shift with Moira, the chicks had calmed down, and most of the family stayed on the south face of the Data Centre — not surprising, in the wake the previous night’s wild west winds.

Anna and Moira

Anna and Moira

Three chicks

Three chicks

We watched Luis chase an American Goldfinch over the parking lot. He seemed to get the idea, pursuing the little bird as it flew up, down and around. Eventually, though, the speedy young falcon overtook the Goldfinch and kept going. Imagine being chased by a lion, then watching the lion run right past you!

Ivanhoe, post-hunt

Ivanhoe, post-hunt

American Crow feather

Fresh American Crow feather

It wasn’t the only curious sight of the evening.

Following a food drop, we saw Ivanhoe sporting obvious, colourful evidence of a successful hunt. Someone who did not know what lethal predators Peregrines are might think someone had shot Ivanhoe in the belly.

While circling the building to find a chick (seeing all three at once is becoming increasingly rare), I heard American Crows cawing and looked up to see Ivanhoe chasing them through the trees. One was so frightened that it shed a flight feather, which I floated through the air and landed on the grass.

Later, we saw Rowena flying with a three-foot-long stringy thing — pigeon entrails, perhaps?

My overall impression at this point is that the three chicks can control their flights quite well. As Steve pointed out, they are even starting to adopt their parents’ upward-swoop ledge-landing technique. By converting their horizontal speed into a steep vertical lift, they can use their momentum to reach the ledge from below, rather than approaching from above or having to brake hard for a head-on approach.

Still, as the evening progresses, they seem to lose both their energy and their accuracy. Moira and I saw several missed landings, a few very clumsy ones, and a couple of tumbles from the roof edges on landing. One even did her best Bat Falcon impression, clinging to the southeast corner of the building before flying a wide loop to land on the roof.

The roof landings always strike me as the easy way out, especially when the roof in question is on the annex. So they all still need some practice. The good news is that they have always recovered from their stumbles, and one did manage to land on security cameras several times before ducking back onto the roof.

I wonder where I’ll find the chicks tomorrow.

Balancing act

Balancing act

Fully clothed tonight

I was better prepared for the weather tonight, compared to Wednesday night, with rain gear and completely opaque clothing.