The rest of the story

Sorry for falling asleep at my computer last night. Let’s pick up the story at the point where I found the missing female chick in a tree down the hill from the Data Centre.

Chris, Marie and Anne where still searching the area, and Jennifer was back at base camp, keeping an eye on Luis. I didn’t have a two-way radio with me, so I called Chris on my cellphone with the news. He and Marie made their way over to where I was, and we watched as the chick flapped about in the tree.

A male American Goldfinch sang nearby, oblivious to the killer-in-training right behind him, so a less naive Eastern Kingbird took matters into its, uh, wings, and began harassing the Peregrine chick and two American Crows in the same tree.

What? Shouldn’t the Crows be attacking the Peregrine, as we had seen the day before, and the day before that? Shouldn’t an adult Peregrine come zooming over to chase off the Crows? Aha! The crows were also juveniles, and the three young birds, rather than feeling threatened by each other, were united in their fear of the feisty little Kingbird. Just like children, I thought: They all get along just fine until the adults get involved.

Anyway, this situation didn’t last long, because the Peregrine chick suddenly took off like a bullet, flying east. Chris and Marie sprinted after it while I brought up the rear, hanging back to keep an eye on the bigger picture. Okay, the fact that I’m a terrible runner, with lungs like juice boxes, may have played a tiny role. In any case, my lack of athletic ability was fortunate.

While Chris bolted straight ahead, the clever chick had doubled back, unseen. As I ran (okay, jogged) alongside the north side of the annex building, I happened to turn my head to see a Peregrine perched on a low ledge. I called Marie over, who pointed out the other female chick that had just popped up on the roof of the same building. And a good thing, too, because the newly re-found chick very quickly disappeared to the back of the ledge, where we could not see her from any angle. Had I not glanced over at the building, we may have missed the perched chick. And had Marie not seen both chicks simultaneously for a few seconds, we could not have been sure that the chick on the lower ledge was the one who flew from the tree.

Chris eventually stopped running and came back, and he and Marie settled in to watch the annex until the chicks reappeared. The timing was perfect, frankly, because the Netherlands-Mexico match was starting in half and hour, and I now felt comfortable taking a break from Falcon Watching to do some football watching at a nearby pub with just about every other Dutch-Canadian in Ottawa.

Emotionally, the game was a replay of the morning: Worry progressing to distress and resignation, then, very suddenly and unexpectedly, elation and unimaginable relief.

Lorraine, Nancy and John (my father-in-law, who stopped in after the World Cup game), June 29, 2014.

Lorraine, Nancy and John (my father-in-law, who stopped in after the World Cup game), June 29, 2014.

I returned to the Falcon Watch in great spirits to find Chris, Marie, Nancy and Lorraine in the parking area on the west side of the main building. All three chicks had been hanging out on the roof of the annex. One had just flown back to the roof of the main building before I got there, and another followed soon after. The remaining one tested the wind on the edge of the annex roof, got fed, then dropped out of sight to nap in the shade. Chris and Marie determined that the female Lorraine and I had seen flying to the annex roof early that morning was the last one to fledge, and the missing bird, now back on the main building, was the one that fledged on Saturday. They also came up with some pretty good names for the girls: Clover and Clementine, after two nearby streets in Heron Park that also happen to be near Falcon Avenue. (They vetoed Manaus as a name because it’s masculine, according to Marie the language expert; plus it’s tough to say. Oh well.) So there we go: Luis (pronounced “Lou-ees”, not “Lewis”), Clover and Clementine.

Clementine tests the wind, June 29, 2014.

Clementine tests the wind, June 29, 2014.

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The wind wins.

The wind wins.

The rest of the muggy afternoon passed uneventfully, with two people watching the main building and two watching the annex. It was not until the next shift, when Frank and Pauline arrived, that we had to run again. The chick on the annex tried, twice, to fly back to the main building, and failed twice. On the first attempt, she ended up doing the bat-cling on the annex wall. Then she practised short flights along the annex ledges before her second big try, when she ended up in one of the concrete columns — a dead end because of its shape — before landing back on the annex. Once she settled down, Nancy and I went home, leaving Frank and Pauline to keep an eye on the chicks until dusk.

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