Daily Updates - June, 1998
Monday-Wednesday, June 1-3
Nadine Litwin reports: The parents have begun to encourage the chicks up onto the nest ledge. They feed the chicks from the nest ledge now, and leave bits of meat there too. They also seem to be leaving bits of things in the nest itself that the chicks play with. As I write this June 3, the chicks are now 39, 38, 38, and 37 days old. The differences in their plumage are striking.
-- June 1 saw one of the chicks hopping for the first time. Another did a very funny foot-stomping, foot-pounding game with one of the "toys" left behind by one of the parents. Another bit of something that was actually moved from the nest to the ledge itself by one of the adults, began to roll around in the wind. Four pairs of chick eyes focussed on it with such intensity!
-- June 2 we saw for the first time one of the chicks, the oldest male, hop up and down from the ledge. In no time the little guy figured out that he liked it up there. He knows what he is!
-- June 3 marks the beginning of the official street watch. We're now taking bets on when the first chick flies. I think the little male could go as early as Friday June 5. He still has quite a bit of down to lose, and he hasn't started his runnning up and down the ledge yet, but these things go so quickly that I'll be watching out for him by Friday anyway.
-- This little male is also doing a lot of head-bobbing, and stretching of a wing and foot at the same time. At one point he stretched his foot down into the nest where one of his sisters examined it with *great* interest!
-- Both adults feed the chicks, although "mom" is dominant at the nest now. "Dad" actually climbed in at one point, but didn't stay long ... the chicks are all bigger than he is right now!
-- One more new thing "mom" did today was to hold the meat away from the chicks just a little bit. To get it, they had to jump. And they are jumping really well. All of them have good balance, and of course, all of them are preening vigourously much of the time.
-- June 1 was very very windy. By June 2 the wind had died down, but was still strong. And by the 3rd it was down to gusty.
Thursday, June 4
Nadine Litwin reports: Food transfers from "dad" to "mom" at the nest ledge have become a regular occurence. Also "mom" mantles the food items now. Both adults are staying close to the nest, most notably on the adjacent ledge or two ledges over, and on the front corner of the Standard Life building. This Standard Life perch is unusual for the adults. But the most successful chick first flights last year were to the Standard Life rooftop, in fact, right to where the adults are now perching, so maybe a fly-path is being established?
-- Our young male was observed running and flapping up and down the ledge early this morning. He's still the only one spending time on the ledge. All the chicks are busy, busy, busy preening and flapping their wings.
-- A Turkey Vulture was observed in the downtown core later in the day, and the peregrines delivered about 6 different hits. Apparently feathers flew.
Friday-Saturday, June 5-6
Nadine Litwin reports: Some patterns of behaviour are emerging. Both parents are doing what looks like selective feeding: three of the chicks are fed together, the one closest to flying is fed separately. And it does appear that the parent chooses which mouth to feed.
-- All chicks are more active, three of them are up and down on the ledge, and the parents continue to do food transfers at the nest ledge. They also continue to work cooperatively guarding the territory. They continue to go after gulls, and anything else that ventures too close to the inner sanctum.
-- June 6 was most notable for the hop-flying behaviour of the oldest chick. He's almost airborne when he tears up and down the ledge doing this.
-- However. first flight doesn't look like it's going to happen for another day or two. The parents haven't come in with that close intensity they have when a first flight is about to happen. They're still over on other rooftops, like the Stelco Tower and Ellen Fairclough building. The female in particular stays up on the Sheraton Hotel and Standard Life building, but it's the same as she's been doing. I'm waiting for their change in behaviour as our cue for a first flight.
Monday, June 8
Nadine Litwin reports: Waiting, waiting, waiting ..... and more waiting. One of the observers, Janice Carter, has dubbed this family "the manyana family"! The adults are not yet doing much of the encouraging or enticing we're expecting to see. What's more, *all* the young continue to be fed at the nest including our oldest male who's still being fed all he can eat! He is, by the way, really beautiful. He's thinned out and looks just like a peregrine instead of a chubby chick. The second male is well on his way to looking the same, and the sisters have lost much of their down. One bird, one of the females I believe, appears to have quite a fair head. Maybe this will be a distinguishing characteristic. The overall restlessness level is UP.
-- We see wonderful little moments like chicks with mouthfuls of down that they're preening out, chicks watching a feather move about in the breeze, the "flying leaps" our oldest male is now taking on the ledge, an older sister going over and bugging a brother who's just spread himself down on the ledge for a nap (she kept nudging him with her foot!). We've also noted that "dad" came in to feed the youngsters today.
-- We had a bit of a crisis earlier in the day. Craig Shaver from the Sheraton Hotel had to go up to the roof to fix an emergency situation. We alerted the street watch, kept an eye on the camera and waited. Nothing. Then there's Craig standing in the doorway again with a big grin on his face: "like a ghost, I went in and out again like a ghost". He was able to sneak over to what he had to fix by hiding under some pipes, and the adults never saw him. Way to go, Craig!
-- Another observer, Al Osmond, noted that on Sunday morning at 4:30am, the female was right on the nest ledge going ballistic. We don't know what so alarmed her. But a couple of pellets were picked up. If they turn out to be owl pellets, then maybe there's more wildlife going on here than we expected. So we wait another day for first flight. These youngsters will be so ready!
Wednesday, June 10
Mark Nash reports: Freedom has flown! The waiting is over. The first chick left the safety of the nesting ledge on the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel at 7:45 this morning and flew over to the Standard Life building next door.
-- Two more chicks look as though they're ready to follow their sibling. The next chick could very well fly today sometime.
Nadine Litwin reports: FIRST FLIGHT JUNE 10 -- At 7:46am our 45-day old
male chick took his first flight. He takes with him the name "Freedom".
-- He left the nest ledge closest to the camera, he was tucked in right against the wall. He knew what he was going to do, too. He looked down, and looked down, he pitter-pattered with his feet, his wings went up and he did the peregrine fall into flight. The fall part was a bit clumsy, looked sort of like an accident, but hey, this little guy had never done it before! He just put a foot forward, sort of slid off the ledge and away he went.
-- Observers in the street say he FLEW out over the roof of the Art Gallery, then out over the Board of Ed parking lot, by then BOTH his parents were with him, one on either side, and the 3 flew up to the roof of the Standard Life. Of course there was plenty of vocalizing, lots of peregrine talk between the 3!
-- When he went, everything was calm. His siblings were very quiet, one of his sisters was watching him closely. Earlier, his "mom" had spent time on the Standard Life roof and the Sheraton Hotel roof, with food in toe, calling.
-- It's so interesting to compare to previous years. The most successful chick first flights have all been to the roof of the Standard Life. And the ones that all landed on the ground, or the roof of the Art Gallery which is very low, were the ones the chicks took straight out or from the corner this little guy flew out from today. "Dad" flew with each of the chicks last year on their first flights. It's very interesting that *this* year, *both* adults accompanied the chick, that *both* adults *escorted* him around to the Standard Life roof. Perhaps that's what they need, that direction, so that they don't go out so far that they can't get back to a rooftop.
-- Al Osmond notes that this morning was the first in quite a while that the wind came in straight from the north. Maybe a cue for us to look out for a first flight?
-- It's also interesting to note that this year for whatever reason the chicks are older for their first flights. They are 46, 45, 45 and 44 days old today. And they certainly appear to be ready for first flight when they go. This little male not only flew beautifully, he landed solidly.
-- One of the chicks still in the nest, one of the sisters, headed for the corner her brother took his first flight from, and spent the morning in the spot, sometimes sitting, other times trying to take a nap. She seemed dumpy and in a mood, and wasn't the least bit interested in poking around and playing with her sister, who came over to bug her a bit. Maybe the next to go, maybe the next to join "Freedom"??
-- The chicks are so very gentle with each other when they play around, even when having a tug-of-war. Lovely to watch.
-- On June 9 we had a visit by the Wild Bird Clinic. Nathalie, Nicole and Meredith brought with them "Calypso" their peregrine, and "Einstein" their great-horned owl. We had tons of visitors, which was so great.
-- On June 9 we saw on camera that the little male to first fly, "Freedom", was up almost a half hour before his siblings. The early morning feeding at 5:30-ish was quite exciting in that he was *very* aggressive in trying to get his share of the kill. It was brought in unprepared, and "mom" stayed at the ledge to pluck it. "Freedom" was so determined to get it that he bonked "mom" on the head several times! But "mom" was equally determined. She's also bigger (!). So he helped himself as she let him. She fed him directly too, then when she decided he'd had enough, she took the food and simply turned her back on him, and started feeding the next chick.
-- "Mom" rules.
-- Interesting behavour. "Dad" brings in the food, he has for a while now, and he brings it right to the nest ledge. "Mom" meets him, and takes the food somewhere to prepare and/or eat. But she's also been mantling the kill after she gets it from "Dad", and this mantling has been visible to the chicks. Today when one of the chicks got a chunk of food, he *mantled*. The others left him alone. Is this partly learned by watching the adults day after day?
-- The adults are doing those beautiful fly-bys of the nest ledge, those slow and elegant flights that always leave me breathless.
-- Altogether June 9 and 10 have been very exciting. Waiting for the next chick to go now.
Thursday, June 11
Nadine Litwin reports: UPDATE TO JUNE 10 .... second chick leaves the nest at 7:51pm. At approximately 7:50 in the evening, our younger female moved over to the same place along the nest ledge that her brother had taken off from in the morning. She cleaned her bill along the edge, she cleaned her toes, then she appeared to step forward and slip. She seemed for just a second to be facing the wall, and the whole image was one of an accidental first flight. It certainly appeared to have less intent to it compared to her brother's first flight. But. Peregrines don't run and flap off of anything .. they fall or jump off into flight. And she did have intent when she headed for that particular spot. So who knows what was going in that peregrine head.
-- Observers in the street saw her fly around and up to the Standard Life roof (it took 14 seconds), but she didn't quite make the top. She plastered herself against the concrete edging just down from the rooftop, and apparently *clawed* her way to the top. When observers saw her reach the top, they thought that was it, she would stay for the night. But not this one. She took off again and ended up spending the night on a lower rooftop (also Standard Life), in the morning headed for the Stelco Tower where she spent a good part of the day preening and observing events around her (she was at a low level still), then headed for a slightly higher perch on a window ledge of the Fairclough building.
-- This is some bird.
-- Because of her escapades (which are not yet over), observers have given her the name "High Rise".
-- Today June 11 the adults did regular checks of the two chicks still in the nest, they fed these two, they also did regular fly-bys and checks on the two chicks that are out, "Freedom" and "High Rise". "Freedom" did really well today, spending his time high flying between the Stelco Tower and the Fairclough building. Good strong flying, too. The two chicks in the nest are staying quite close together. They are beautifully feathered, and either could go at any time. My bet is that when they go, they will go together.
Oops! The earlier report of two chicks fledging earlier today was half premature. In fact, "High Rise" did fledge last evening, evidently around 7:51 pm, although I haven't yet received the actual report on this. What I thought was only one chick left on the ledge was partially true; what I didn't notice was a pile of debris that I thought was some leftover food. Evidently it was the other chick. Sorry about that!
Friday, June 12
Nadine Litwin reports: Freedom and High Rise finally came home at about 3:30 today, ending a first flight for Freedom that started Wednesday June 10 at about 7:50 am, and for High Rise that started Wednesday June 10 at about 7:50 pm. They are both good strong flyers.
-- It was very windy and very gusty today. When High Rise finally made her move for home, it was straight into a strong head wind. Freedom flew with her, so they landed on the Sheraton Hotel roof together.
-- This was a very busy day for Dad. He almost always had Freedom in tow with him; he did regular fly-bys to check in on High Rise still hanging onto the Fairclough building ledge; and he did numerous visits to the two chicks remaining in the nest. These two, by the way, are now 48 and 46 days old. He also did some lovely, lovely fly-bys that looked almost like demonstrations. He glided by slowly, he hovered over them, he did one mini-dip down towards them then a mini-climb back up and out from the nest, and he left the nest ledge sometimes sideways, something I'd not seen him do before.
-- He almost proved to us that the adults can and do come quite low to the ground if their chicks are there. Yesterday Al Osmond watched him land on the same ledge that High Rise was on, and that was only a couple of floors up from the mezzanine.
-- After Freedom and High Rise returned home, both parents headed up and rode the thermals together to the southwest. They soared right out of sight.
-- At about 5:00 pm, Dad reappeared on the very top of the Stelco Tower. Then I heard his ka-ka-ka-ka-ka. I know there's trouble every time I hear him call like this, and looked and looked. We must have looked for several minutes before we saw it; in fact it was Bill Reid who saw it first -- a red-tailed hawk. By then Dad had gone so high we almost couldn't see him. Mom had joined him and the two of them went after the red-tailed like missiles, fire, fire, fire, fire. It was stunning. As if that wasn't enough, a turkey vulture appeared and Dad went after it, this time on his own.
-- Then he did an absolutely fabulous aerial display with glides, soars and stoops.
-- Freedom was leaning out so far from the Sheraton Hotel roof watching that he lost his balance. These chicks: he tried to scramble his way up first! Then he spread his wings and flew over to the Standard Life roof. In the meantime High Rise had perched up on the camera. About 6:00 High Rise flew back into the nest.
-- Then Mom appeared but she didn't have any food. First she went to Freedom and checked him out, then she went over to the nest and got right in with the chicks for a few minutes, then she moved herself over to the next ledge, which is empty, and settled in for a while facing the sun.
-- I left the family like this, back together, resting, waiting for the next moves.
Saturday, June 13
Nadine Litwin reports: Saturday was an overcast and rainy day, sometimes with thunderstorms. There were a number of food drops in the early morning, so if Freedom and High Rise wanted to eat they had to come home.
-- Caught Freedom on tape with some of his landings: one time he miscalculated the whereabouts of the nest ledge and came in too low. He bumped into it, scrambled like mad, thought the better of it and flew off to try again. Another time he *over* shot his landing and landed in the middle of the nest with a thud. And yet another time he slid in on an an angle as if he were sliding into first base!
-- Saw a food drop that one sister got, followed by another food drop that the other sister got. They each scooted off to an end of the ledge to eat. Little brother didn't get his own drop, so he just waited patiently on the ledge until one of his sisters finished. It was interesting. Mark Nash was watching with me and wondered if when the little male moved from one end of the nest ledge to the other if it was because that's where the first food drop occurred or if it was the older sister that he always spent time with, and expected that maybe she would share with him. She didn't share, but when she was finished, and when he went to check it out later, she did not chastise him or stop him at all.
-- It appeared that all 4 spent the night in the nest.
Sunday, June 14
Nadine Litwin reports: Navigator, our oldest female, makes her first flight Sunday June 14, between 8:30 and 9:30am .... reported to be a beautiful, strong and true bit of flying.
-- Sunday looked like a flying day with the blue sky, clouds and breezes. And sure enough, Navigator, our oldest female, tried out her wings sometime between 8:30 and 9:30am. Observers report that it was a beautiful, strong and true first flight.
-- The last chick, our youngest male and youngest of the brood, has the name Phoenix. But he didn't make a move to fly out. He came so close to the edge, he leaned out as far as he could, he had one foot over the ledge (!), but no first flight. His brother Freedom even came over to the Sheraton rooftop, and we were treated to the two peering away at each other. But still no go.
-- Then later in the evening, 8:30-8:45pm, dad made a food drop at the nest. That seems to get Freedom home, but the sisters were still out when I left.
-- We were treated again today to mom and dad riding the thermals high out to the southwest. This time, one of the sisters tried to join them and found her own thermals to ride. She did beautifully! She soared and glided, she folded those wings of hers and did a shallow but fast glide/stoop at a small bird, probably a swallow, then levelled out again. So cool!
-- We also saw some more serious flying when dad and one of the young took off after another bird, it happened so fast we couldn't tell what it was, I thought a mourning dove. Now that was pretty impressive for a young peregrine too.
-- These chicks are flying beautifully. Mom and dad have them flying high straight away. Maybe holding them back the way they have this year just gets them readier and stronger.
Monday, June 15
Nadine Litwin reports: It's still a no-fly day for "Phoenix". He's active, alert, very aware of what's going on out there, he runs up and down the ledge flapping his wings, almost getting airborne, then decides to stay where he is. Mind you, the family's not rushing him either. There are still food drops at the nest (although "Mom" also lets him get a good look at whatever she's carrying from two ledges away, she also calls him), and his siblings have been in and out of the nest. One sister in particular came in for the afternoon, and the two of the chummed around together. So maybe he's just a homebody!
Tuesday, June 16
Nadine Litwin reports: Today was "Phoenix's" turn to fly. And so he did at 3:49 pm ... straight off and up to the camera! His take-off was very adult-like.
-- He spent some time on the Sheraton Hotel roof; there was at least one other sibling up there with him.
-- But then the thunderstorms came in.
-- I assumed that the family members would bunker down wherever they were, and had actually stopped the tape on the vcr from recording further. Then on the camera screen in front of me, when the rain started coming down, an adult appeared on the nest ledge with a chick close behind, and they had just come in from behind the camera. "Mom" and "Phoenix"?? Yes!
-- "Mom" moved over one nest ledge, appeared to face the chick at a 45 degree angle, and together they rode out the thunderstorm. When it was over, "mom" left, but the chick did *not* try to follow her. Instead it turned to a carcass still in the nest area and started picking away at it. The sun came out, he jumped back up on the nest ledge, and I thought for sure we were going to get another flight.
-- But no. The clouds were closing in on us again, "mom" came over to the next ledge over, did a quick check in the direction of the chick, then left. He stayed where he was, although he watched her leave. And sure enough, the thunderstorms started up again.
-- I think this is amazing. It would appear that this little guy can fly just fine, but it was no kind of weather for a first flight to take place in. For that matter, *none* of the chicks were flying around. It appears that "mom" and "dad" are very much in charge at the moment.
Wednesday, June 17
Nadine Litwin reports: Wonderful flying day. All the chicks were up and out, some riding thermals, and certainly the adults were up on the thermals. At least one of the juveniles is folding its wings and going into long, shallow, accelerating glides. Earlier in the morning all four juveniles found the water puddles on top of the Standard Life building.
-- According to the video tapes, once Phoenix left the nest again (between 5:30 and 7:30 pm last evening), no one returned to the nest to roost. Reports have at least one juvenile roosting on the old IBM building. I'll leave tapes running for dawn and dusk recording for a little while yet, just to see what the family does. "Mom", I know, likes to go back to the nest on her own during the day. I'm counting on her going back regularly, because that's the only way I see for us to get her band numbers with the zoom lens on our camera.
-- Fingers crossed that the next couple of weeks will hold no troubles for our juvenile peregrine falcons.
Thursday, June 18
Nadine Litwin reports: A group of 4 turkey vultures soared overhead. Our adult male peregrine went crazy. He picked one out to go after. He gave up on the other three, came back, and was still so mad he went after a gull that came in too close to the nest.
-- Chicks flying high in a clear sky with puffy white clouds. One chick and one adult seen going towards the west end marshes.
-- All 6 birds accounted for.
Friday, June 19
Nadine Litwin reports: Al Osmond reports seeing one adult and 4 chicks coming in from the northeast at about 5:30 am.
-- One and sometimes both adults often seen back at the nest site. I suspect, based on previous behaviour, that the single adult is "mom".
-- Chicks doing their chick things: flying (and flapping), chasing each other (noisily), chasing their parents (even more noisily), practising their talon presentation, sleeping a lot.
-- All 6 birds continue to be accounted for although it's getting more and more difficult with them so high all the time.
Sunday, June 21
Nadine Litwin reports: It's the summer solstice today. Things are a little different this year. The family playground was moved from the top of the Standard Life building to the top of the Stelco Tower. When I think back, I remember that both adults spent a great deal of time on the Tower. At the time I thought it was because of the construction going on on the bank building across the street from it. Maybe that was true. But it's also true that the Stelco Tower is the highest rooftop around that's still close to the nest. It would appear that our adults wanted their chicks as high as possible as soon as possible this year.
-- All the chicks were of a good age for their first flights. Based on original calculations (33 days incubation from first possible date of incubation), the first flight ages were 39 and 44 days. Based on their ages estimated at time of banding, (and 28 days of incubation) "Freedom", a male, and "High Rise", a female, were 45 days old. Both "Navigator", a female, and "Phoenix", a male, were 50 days old. Even with a compromise age, first flights took place at 42-43 and 47-48 days of age. So these chicks were at the older end of the age spectrum (39-49 days for first flight) when they finally tried out their wings.
-- Janice Carter, one of our observers, has these notes to offer from the 8th of June: "These chicks seem very quiet and placid compared to '97 chicks. ... The parents were flying within view of the chicks and unlike the '97 chicks, they appeared totally uninterested. Last year as fledging time approached, the 2 oldest chicks were doing a lot of wing flapping and running on the ledge of the scrape. The parents engaged in calling and flying in front of the nest which I have not yet observed. [Compared] to last year, there has been no encouragement from the adults for fledging. This could be due to:
1. cool weather, light winds, lack of thermal updraft = less than optimum conditions.
2. preferable to have 2 chicks ready to fledge [at a time]
3. weather extremes between May and June have had a developmental impact
4. chicks are fat, well fed, too "spoiled" to fly!
Monday, June 22
Nadine Litwin reports: "Freedom" and "High Rise" have now been out of the nest for 12 days, "Navigator" for 8, and "Phoenix" for 6.
-- One adult continues to spend time at the nest ledge.
-- All 6 birds still being accounted for. Generally the 4 chicks are together, although Al Osmond notes that very early in the morning one chick and one adult are missing, only to show up later. We suspect that some hunting lessons are underway.
-- At about 2:00 this afternoon some visitors to the Information Centre were treated to an unexpected appearance on the live monitor of one adult and 3 chicks moving through the nest ledge area. The chicks were in close pursuit of the adult, and *very* attentive to it.
Wednesday, June 24
Nadine Litwin reports: Left the site early today. However, all 6 birds were still accounted for yesterday.
-- Received the autopsy from the pathology department, Ontario Vet College, University of Guelph, on the red-tailed hawk our adult peregrines knocked out back around May 26. The primary diagnosis was trauma: "Death was likely due to a combination of blood loss and cerebral trauma." There were many areas of hemorrhage in the musculature including in the right pectoral muscle, right coracoideus muscle, epaxial and appendicular muscles adjacent to the spinal column on the left side, and a massive hemorrhage on the right side of the skull. Also numerous fractures of the liver, and "ecchymotic hermorrhages" in the epicardium.
-- Message: do not mess with nesting Peregrine Falcons.
-- Two of our chicks have reached the milestone of two weeks flying time. The other two have been flying now for 10 and 8 days each. The watch will continue until this Friday, after which a few of us will do head counts in the early morning hours and again in the evening.
Thursday, June 25
Nadine Litwin reports: One of our long-term observers, Elizabeth Fitkowski, has a wonderful observation from this evening. She was watching from her balcony what appeared to be two peregrines on a rooftop. It turned out to be three: two were sitting side-by-side, the third bird, quite small, was sitting apart. Suddenly the three took off after a blackbird. And just as suddenly, three more peregrines appeared and joined in the chase! So all six family members were in pursuit of this one blackbird ... sounds like lesson-time.
Friday, June 26
Nadine Litwin reports: Today our peregrine juveniles have flown for 16 days, 16 days, 12 days, and 10 days. One flies so well that it can be difficult to distinguish him ("him" probably because it's also small, and therefore probably "Freedom") from the adults. One still walks and hops along rooftops a lot ... quite likely "Phoenix". "Navigator" is a *big* bird, bigger than her mother, and will probably take much more of the summer to develop good flying and landing skills. Altogether, they're all doing fine.
-- The family still stays very much together. One factor could be that the juveniles haven't been out flying for all that long yet. Another factor could be in an observation a fisherman brought in today: last night while fishing out by Waterfront Park, he looked back to shore and saw an owl - quite a large one. Could be that Great-horned Owls are in the area, and if so, "mom" and "dad" are not likely to leave their juveniles unguarded for any length of time.
-- The family has expanded the area it lives, plays, and hunts in. They have been using the area behind City Hall and the escarpment for a little while now, and good observations are coming in that report the peregrines from Dundurn clear through to Gage Park. Interestingly, when I walk the area behind City Hall and the escarpment, I find that there are a number of straight line-of-sights to the Stelco Tower and the Sheraton Hotel. The family members are clearly within clear sight of each other!
-- The street watch ends officially today. But a solitary post at dawn and dusk will continue until July 3, with casual observations coming in as they're made.
-- I'm reviewing the video tapes of the season, and will report on them as I go through them.
-- Altogether a fabulous season. We have an experienced pair of adult peregrine falcons in an excellent nesting area. For the second year in a row all four chicks have made it through the fledging period. This year the adults got their chicks through without any assistance from us. Remarkable birds.
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