The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

 Hamilton

Daily Updates - May, 1998

Tuesday, May 5
Nadine Litwin reports:  We have chicks! All four eggs have hatched and there are four chicks now in the scrape as of this morning. It is estimated the first chick hatched between late Friday night and early Saturday morning (May 1-2). Both adult's behaviour had definitely changed by Saturday morning and through the weekend, with the female standing upright and not laying down in an incubating position, while also denying the male access to the scrape. This morning we had a visual confirmation.
-- About 10:30, the female was at the scrape end of the ledge, but was not laying down on the eggs. Rather she was more standing than crouching, and bobbing up and down frequently. Then the male brought some food to the ledge, but left with it again a few minutes later. After waiting about ten minutes, the female left the scrape and flew away. Shortly after she returned with some food and proceeded to the scrape. It then became evident that she was feeding one or more chicks. A few minutes later, the male returned with his food and an obviously full crop, but was again discouraged by the female from hanging around, so he left, presumably to stash the food for later in the day. Several times while the female was feeding the chicks, one of their little white heads would pop up above the ledge so everyone watching the monitor could see it for themselves.

Wednesday, May 6
Nadine Litwin reports
: The four chicks were kept hidden away today. There was some construction (or window-washing maybe) being set up on top of the Standard Life building which is right next door to the Sheraton Hotel. The male spent quite a bit of time flying around checking things out, and I saw both birds up there investigating the equipment earlier.
-- Yesterday, May 5, the female acted like she was turning another egg. But not today. Today the adults were busy feeding the chicks, on average every one-and-a-half to two hours.
-- What was most interesting about today, and what I got on video tape, was that the female and male took turns guarding the chicks.

Thursday, May 7
Nadine Litwin reports
: Four chicks still visible today at feeding times. Kept hidden away by "mom", probably because of the rooftop activities on the buildings on either side of the Hotel.
-- "Dad"'s doing his share of babysitting AND feeding. Late afternoon today both "mom" and "dad" were feeding the kids.

Friday, May 8
Nadine Litwin reports
: Observed a peregrine falcon making a bee-line for the downtown on my way into the city. For those who know Hamilton, it was coming in from Burlington and James. Interesting to note where they go in the city.

Sunday, May 10
Nadine Litwin reports
: Saw a peregrine, a brown bird, over at the QEW and Burlington St. One of my observers noted a brown peregrine last Tuesday too. Can this be possible? Hmmmm.
-- My favourite feeding session today was between 11:00 and 11:30. "Mom" and "Dad" brought in four kills between them, one right after the other, overlapping each other a bit. "Dad" liked to feed the chicks facing the camera, "Mom" came around them and fed them with her back to us. "Dad" was in such a rush to feed them he *ran* from where he landed on the ledge over to where they were bundled together. He's so cool!

Tuesday, May 12
Nadine Litwin reports
: The chicks are starting to stumble about now. They're active alright, they can hold their heads up and turn them now, and there's lots of flapping (!) but they're still so clumsy.
-- One of the adults, I'm pretty sure it's "dad", is spending a fair bit of time on the camera. We're getting so that we recognize the difference now between when the breeze or wind moves the camera, and when he lands or leaves it.
-- At the end of the day I saw "mom" facing towards the rooftop of one building (Ellen Fairclough), and "dad" across the street from her facing the rooftop of the Stelco Tower. There had been disturbances on both rooftops during the day, it looked like the peregrines were staring down whatever equipment they didn't like!

Wednesday, May 13
Nadine Litwin reports
: Today was "dad's" day for babysitting. He picks away at the gravel in the nest, sometimes it looks like he's pushing it aside, sometimes it looks like he's eating it, sometimes it looks like he's just moving things around. Don't know what he's up to. Twice today he plucked the feathers from a kill *at the nest ledge*. This isn't typical of him. It might be that the rooftops the peregrines use for food preparation have been disturbed. In fact "Mom" spent a lot of *her* time keeping an eye on the rooftops.
-- Yesterday the chicks stayed together in a bundle, today they're separating out into individuals. There's one definitely walking out by itself and exploring. Yesterday they all had some head control, but today one in particular was even able to turn his head around to preen without falling over!
-- "Dad" kept the chicks shaded when the sun was out during the middle of the day. But when it clouded over in the afternoon, he let them wander out more into the general nest area.
-- At suppertime I saw a Turkey Vulture flying through the downtown, quite low, maybe attracted by the carcasses left by the peregrines. In any case, "dad" went after him furiously. While "dad" was stooping and calling, and the Turkey Vulture was doing some pretty impressive evasive flying, a second bird came in and started stooping at the Turkey Vulture too. I didn't think anything of it, just thought that "mom" left her perch overlooking the nest site to help drive out the intruder. The Turkey Vulture and one attacker disappeared from view, the other peregrine glided upwards and towards the escarpment which actually struck me a bit odd. When I turned to look back at the Sheraton Hotel, "mom" was still there! Now I'm going on the assumption that the second attacking falcon was probably a kestrel and the size difference wasn't so noticeable because of angle, light, that the birds were stooping, that maybe it was a large female kestrel, that kestrels nest downtown and would not like a Turkey Vulture nearby either, and so on.
-- However. It does seem to be time to spread the word that there may be a mystery peregrine about, and it's time to start getting the observations that will confirm or dismiss the possibility.

Thursday, May 14
Nadine Litwin reports
: Well, today "mom" spent most of the day in the nest with the chicks. So are they alternating days or what?
-- The oldest and boldest was at it again today. It's made it halfway across the nest area and back, and it's getting confident. But "mom" decides how far it's going to go, and that's that. Everytime the little dickens set out, she went after him, and at the halfway point she coralled him back to the corner where the rest of his siblings were snoozing. What a "mom"!
-- [Nadine sent me 3 day's updates today, so check out the archive for Tuesday's and especially Wednesday's reports. There's a very interesting development going on here with a third peregrine -- similar to the Etobicoke site!]

Friday, May 15
Nadine Litwin reports
: There's a lot of feeding activity that happens in the early morning hours and evening hours. I've been running video tapes during the times that I'm not in the Falcon Watch Suite, and this morning was so typical: 5:38 feeding, 5:52 feeding. 7:01 feeding, 7:06 feeding, 7:22 feeding, 7:45 feeding, 8:25 feeding.
-- Today we saw a chick for the first time throw its head back and (apparently) call. Demanding, imperious already!
-- Another chick made it to the end of the nest ledge, tucked itself under the ledge, then stayed there, on its own, for a good part of the day. A real peregrine, wandering, wandering.
-- It's so hot and steamy ... a July heat wave in May.

Saturday, Maya 16
Nadine Litwin reports
: It's not as hot and steamy as yesterday, still hot but with a breeze. The adults are using the camera as a perch more and more these days.
-- On my way home, when I was on the Skyway Bridge going south, a peregrine rocketed past me going east.????????????

Tuesday, May 19
Nadine Litwin reports
: One of the chicks is walking so well now. Another definitely knows it has a voice. All 4 have been visible today, but there is clearly a size difference ... it looks like we have a range from oldest to youngest, and it's becoming a peek-a-boo game with the youngest: is it there, or isn't it. It tends to tuck itself in the nest and stay there, hidden from view.
-- "Dad" had to get downright aggressive today in moving the chicks out of the sun. Two chose to cuddle up against the wall (back of the nest ledge), but the sun was on them. So he headed over and *pushed* them back to cover, one heading under the nest ledge overhang, the other scampering back into the nest. Then he headed into the nest too, and all but disappeared from view under the overhang.
-- "Mom" was actually aggressive today too, but her style is different. She just puts her back against the nest, and won't let them out (!). It's so hot, no wonder people come by and worry about the birds.

Wednesday, May 20
Nadine Litwin reports
: I don't have anything new for today. The chicks are growing, there's clearly an age range, the adults continue to keep them out of the sun, and Pud [Hunter of OMNR] now thinks they're older than he previously thought based on previous reports.

Thursday, May 21
Nadine Litwin reports
: Eating, sleeping, growing .... that's today in three words or less! It's fun to watch some of the feedings. One chick has decided to spend its day at the scrape end of the nest ledge. So when "mom" was feeding the three siblings at the far end, "dad" came in and fed the one in the scrape. Smart chick!
--They all seemed to have discovered their voices now. And they appear to be using them.
-- It's been much cooler today, temperatures being closer to normal. Looks like the heat wave is finally over.

Friday, May 22
Nadine Litwin reports
: The chicks have started playing "tug-of-war" with leftovers, or feathers, or whatever it is the adults are leaving in the nest area for them. Already feedings are reasonably orderly: while 2 chicks at one end of the nest ledge were being fed, the 2 at the other end watched ... and waited! At least once today both adults came in and fed the chicks *at the same time*, one feeding the 2 at one end of the nest site, the other feeding the other 2 at the other end.
-- One chick looks like its discovered its voice, and spent time trying it out. No one, not its siblings nor "dad" preening himself on the edge of the nest site, paid even a scrap of attention.
-- At lunchtime Mark tried panning the camera, and got stuck. By the time he re-focussed on the nest site, the female had moved right forward to the front corner of the nest site, and was staring us down. If looks could kill, we would have been toast.


Saturday, May 23
Nadine Litwin reports
: Well, it took until about 3:00pm today before the adults decided they no longer had to be in the nest with the chicks. It was the camera they kept checking out, both by sitting on it and by generally hanging around, generally keeping a suspicious eye on the object of yesterday's disturbance (!).
-- Mid-day "mom" seemed to be very hot. She moved the chicks out of the sun, fluffed herself up, and moved back and forth between the two ends of the nest ledge. Sometimes she settled down almost like she was incubating again. All of them were panting noticeably. By 2:30 they looked like things had cooled down.

Monday, May 25
Nadine Litwin reports
: BANDING DAY -- The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cool, clear sky, no rain. All four chicks were banded between approximately 9:45 and 10:30am. We have 2 females and 2 males, and an age range from 30 days (female) to 29 days (one female and one male) to 28 days (male). They were pronounced healthy and very well looked after!
-- One female in particular gave Rick Folkes, the rappeller of the day, a very hard time when he went down to get the chicks. She didn't wait for him to come get her either, she just went for him. He had to ask for something to be dropped down to him so he could cover her head before popping her into the backpack. So great to see such a feisty chick!
-- The banding session only took about 45 minutes to an hour because the banding "assembly line" had such good people: Pud Hunter (MNR) banded them, Bruce Duncan (Hamilton-Wentworth Conservation Authority and last year's bander) assisted, Bill Murch (MNR) put the feathers into envelopes, and Anne Yagi (MNR) recorded.
-- While Rick was getting the chicks, we had an opportunity to gather up feathers from the roof of the Sheraton Hotel. So interesting .... this family is not dining exclusively on pigeons, not by a long shot. They eat yellow-shafted flickers, blue jays, some sort of blackbirds, black-billed cuckoo and some species of duck. And that's for starters!
-- The parents resumed feeding at about 1:20pm, and followed this one with two more, one at 2:40 and another at 3:15. Altogether an excellent day. Now begins the countdown to first flight.

Tuesday, May 26
Nadine Litwin reports
: Today when I went in the adults were once again where they seem to like it best: one was on the camera overlooking the nest, the other on the Ellen Fairclough rooftop.
-- The chicks were *very* active today. One in particular is determined to flap those wings and run. The trouble is, she can only flap those wings and keep her balance if she points nose down and tail end up! Her run is quite comical still too: she does some sort of run-hop/skip combination. But hey, she knows what she is, and she knows already what she wants to do, and she's going for it.
-- There were regular feedings throughout the morning.
-- Then the adults took out a young red-tailed hawk in a one-two combination that was apparently nothing short of spectacular. I have to say "apparently" because I didn't actually see this happen, I just saw the hawk when some people brought it into the Falcon Watch Suite in a box. But a lot of people did see, and here is what they report: a red-tailed hawk appeared downtown about 20 stories up. Both peregrines came screaming after it. One stooped and delivered a blow that knocked the hawk, but the hawk recovered its balance and continued to fly. Then the second peregrine flew in from *below* the hawk, and delivered a blow that sent the hawk down like a rock. It landed on the road right at King and James. It was alive when people rescued it and brought it in to the Suite, but died before reaching the Wild Bird Clinic in Guelph.
-- When I left today, both peregrines were doing wide circles on thermals and slow glides over the building rooftops in the downtown core.

Wednesday, May 27
Nadine Litwin reports
: One bird was on the camera when I went in today. I *heard* the other one, then saw what turned out to be him heading home to the nest. When he arrived, she flew off the camera and met him at the nest ledge. He had a kill, which she took off to another rooftop to prepare and/or eat. But during the food transfer I could hear the chirping sounds I'd heard earlier this year at the Niagara Falls site, also when the birds were doing a food transfer. I haven't heard that chirping at any other time. Kinda interesting.
-- It's getting hot again. The chicks are staying together a lot at the ledge end opposite to the scrape end.
-- Today I finally managed to get on video tape "mom" flying from the nest ledge straight up to the camera. Even got the camera jiggling the image when she landed.
-- I think the PEFAs may be getting more aggressive not only because we're approaching that first first-flight day, but because they've been in their territory now for 4 years. It seems that the range they defend so ferociously has expanded. An observer told me that they went after a crow in the downtown core last evening, and another observer mentioned that both PEFAs went after another red-tailed hawk but this time it was further out from the downtown core.

Thursday, May 28
Nadine Litwin reports
: It was hot and humid today, and very very very windy. "Mom" spent most of the afternoon on the nest ledge looking outwards, with the chicks behind her. Our first-born male, showing the most new plumage by the way, took a tumble, head first, and I believe it was the wind that caught him while he was head down flapping his wings. He came back up and scooted under the protection of the ledge, right behind "mom".
-- So they're 33, 32, 32, and 31 days old today.
-- One, the oldest female, is looking really good on her legs. She started running today, up and down the length of the ledge. None of the chicks has tried to jump up on the ledge edge yet. Just as well. There's still plenty of time for that.
-- The adults spent time cruising, soaring and gliding as a team over the rooftops again. I have to wonder if this cooperative patrol isn't a prelude to fledging. They are working together, and it looks like, between the surveying and aggression, that they're clearing an arena for the chicks to use when they fledge.
-- Amazing birds. Amazing parents.

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