Hamilton Falconwatch News

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Reminder: The chicks are really skillful at hiding from our camera, under the nest ledge overhang and in corners. Don't be concerned if you don't always see them. Also, don't worry if they lay very still. It's hot out there some days! If you go downtown to see the birds, please keep a safe "social distance" from our coordinators. Thanks!

PLENTY OF FOOD

Friday, June 5, 2020 - Falcon Watch Coordinators Nathan and Chelsea report: The day starts off quietly, with Griffin popping up onto the ledge shortly after 5:00 am. Whitehern joins her brother about half an hour later. Both chicks are heard occasionally calling out for food. At 5:45, Lily makes a stop at the nest ledge, Whitehern excited with wings flapping. Griffin moves over to Lily, and does something that causes her to fly away to the Standard Life building. This is a behavior we've seen Griffin do before, though we never get a good enough look to determine if he's poking or nipping at his mother. Whatever it is, she doesn't like it.

Around 7 am, Ossie is spotted dressing prey on the BDC building. Lily shows up a minute later with another catch. The pair then fly over to the nest ledge, but appear to only bring one of the two meals (photo). They hand over the kill to Whitehern (or she takes it, not seen). Ossie flies over to Standard Life. Lily stays for a minute, watching Whitehern, most likely making sure the kid knows what to do with fresh food. Then she joines Ossie. She comes back about ten minutes later, after Whitehern has eaten, again, giving us the impression that she is checking up on her chick's ability to handle food. An hour later, she returns with more food, and this time feeds it to the chicks.

Around 8:45, Lily makes a wide fly by of the nest, and both chicks respond by flapping hard. In the days to come Lily will be seen doing this maneuver more frequently, showing the kids how flying is done, and encouraging them to try it for themselves. At 9:45, Ossie arrives at the nest with yet another meal. Within seconds, Lily lands, approaches him and takes the prey to feed chicks. This scene is repeated again barely twenty minutes later. A lot of food in one morning!

In between feedings, Lily is seen perched on the Fairclough building, and Ossie occupies a window ledge on the top floor of the Stelco Tower. By 10:40, Lily has also taken up a position on Stelco, a few floors down from Ossie, enjoying the shade that building offers in the morning. Just after noon, both parents swoop in very fast to the middle ledge at the Sheraton, next to the nest, once again demonstrating flying skills to the chicks. One of the chicks is heard calling repeatedly.

For the most of the afternoon the chicks were very quiet as it was very hot out. There was minimal flapping. Around 4:00 pm, a large bird of prey (turkey vulture?) was nearing the nest but the chicks became very vocal, causing the large bird to fly away. Afterwards, Whitehern began flapping a lot. At 5:15 both parents came to the nest ledge for feeding (photo). Ozzie didn't stay long, as usual, while Lily fed the chicks. At 5:30, there was a lot more flapping and possibly even helicoptering. There was a lot more flapping from both chicks, especially from Whitehern. For the rest of the evening they stayed very quiet.

MORE FLAPPING

Thursday, June 4, 2020 - Falcon Watch Coordinators Nathan and Chelsea report: The day starts with the chicks huddled down in the scrape, and with Lily perched on the building west of the Sheraton which we still call Standard Life even though the sign is gone. Ossie was perched on one of his favorite hunting vantage points on the BDC building. At 5:45am a chick appears on the ledge, and the day's flapping commences. Every day the flapping is a bit more vigorous and lasts longer (photos). The chicks can be heard making little cries, begging for their first meal of the day, and around 6:10 it arrives. The chicks continue to be vocal while feeding is taking place. Around 9am Ossie makes a short circling flight and lands on the Sheraton (S). We saw him do this a couple of times today from off the BDC building. He is very diligent about protecting his territory.

Like yesterday, the afternoon was really hot, so there was not much activity from the chicks. There was some flapping and a feeding around 4:20. At 5:30, Lily flew from the nest towards the BDC building, with high speed, to chase away a larger bird, before returning to the Standard Life building. A few minutes later, Lily chased a pigeon and caught it right above us where we sat at the David Braley Center. There were feathers flying everywhere. A few seconds later, Ossie came and helped out. Just after 6pm, Lily came over to the nest and fed the chicks (photo).

For the remainder of the evening, there was some more flapping, and both chicks were on the ledge for a while. At 7:41, a rare sight: Ossie arrives at the ledge with a small meal, and actually gets to feed it to the chicks himself. Lily shows up a couple of minutes later and supervises, but lets Ossie finish the task (photo). Ossie then flew to the Standard Life building and stayed there for the remainder of the evening. At 8pm, Lily brought more food to the nest and left afterwards to keep watch from the Stelco tower.

CHICKS LOVE THE RAIN

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - Falcon Watch Coordinators Nathan and Chelsea report: Arrived at 5am to overcast sky, nice sunrise colors beneath the clouds. At 5:45am dark clouds with lightning rolled in from the west. About 15 minutes of intense downpour with lightning and thunder. At first, Lily and the chicks took shelter down in the lower part of the ledge. Griffin hopped up and flapped a bit as the storm eased up. Whitehern was flapping a little too, down in the scrape. The chicks enjoy the rain. It helps loosen and wash away their white chick feathers. At 7:30am Whitehern joins her brother on the ledge. Both looking very soggy, and exercise their wings a bit (photos). Lots of calling.

Five minutes later Lily arrives with the first meal of the morning (photo). Feeding goes more quickly now, with the chicks able to take full-size bites. At 7:53am Lily takes another catch from Ossie and finishes dressing it on the next ledge over from the nest. She hops over to the nest ledge and feeds most of it to Whitehern, with the rest given to Griffin.

Lily flies from the ledge at 8:50am, to the sign on the east side of Homewood Suites, and Ossie soon joins her. The overhang of the roof, combined with the generally south-westerly wind, offers shelter from the rain, in a spot where they can still keep watch on the nest. They both remain there until shortly after 10am. The weather turns sunny, so it's time to hunt again.

10:40am Lily and Ossie are back at the nest with another meal. Lily feeds the chicks, and Ossie sits on the Sheraton sign "t". above the west end of the nest. As the day grows warmer, the chicks settle down, and there is only minimal flapping throughout the afternoon. The quiet is interrupted by a quick meal around 1:30pm. This is the last feeding until 7pm. Lily is now starting to leave behind the remnants of meals, and the chicks are seen picking at them at different times between feedings. Could this be another lesson for the kids? Teach them not to waste food that might become scarce? The more we watch, the more we learn.

LESSON ON THE LEDGE?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - Falcon Watch Coordinators Nathan and Chelsea report: We hear and see Lily first in the early morning. Her calling can be heard over the chicks. The "T" of the Sheraton is her favourite early morning perch. Numerous feedings occurred throughout the morning. We observed Ossie on top of Homewood Suites, dressing one of his catches. When Ossie is preparing a meal, pushy Lily will call out to him repeatedly, and fly over to him making him fly away with the meal before he is finished dressing it. No patience for Lily. Ordinarily, Ossie lands at the nest with the prepared meal, and Lily takes it from him and feeds the chicks. At 8:35 she must have gotten really impatient (or caught a meal herself), because she shows up at the nest with a fresh undressed catch. She proceeds to remove feathers right there in front of the chicks (photo). It's possible that this was intentional. A lesson for Griffin and Whitehern, showing them what they need to do when they eventually start catching their own food.

An hour after that feeding, Ossie asserts himself by chasing off a crow over the David Braley parking lot. Later in the morning, Whitehern spent some time up on the ledge. The first time we've seen her spend more than a few moments up there. The afternoon started off quietly, with occasional flapping from Griffin. Around 3:00pm, Lily came to the ledge with food, to which the chicks responded very vocally. Around 5:30pm, Lily partook in her favourite activity: divebombing a gull. Right after, she landed on the nest ledge. Ossie came by a few minutes later with food, which Lily quickly grabbed and fed to the chicks. As usual, Ossie left shortly after dropping off the food. The remainder of the evening was quiet, with only a little more flapping from Griffin.

QUIET DAY AT THE LEDGE

Monday, June 1, 2020 - Falcon Watch Coordinators Nathan and Chelsea report: Another cool morning and a beautiful sunrise seen. The chicks were quite vocal this morning. Griffin was observed walking along the ledge and flapping his wings. Lily appeared with a meal around 5:50am. Fifteen minutes later she flew off, quickly prepared another meal that had been caught by Ossie, and returned it to the nest. Lily then spent a couple of hours sitting with the chicks. Later in the morning she had a brief confrontation with a gull, chasing it off.

The chicks were fed again just after 11am (left photo). For most of the afternoon, the chicks were very quiet. Griffin spent much of his time up on the ledge, occasionally flapping (right photo). His sister still prefers to spend her time down on the gravel. Just before 6:00pm Lily brought the chicks some food. There was a bit of flapping from both chicks throughout the evening. All in all the evening was quiet.

SUNNY SUNDAY AND FIDGETY CHICKS

Sunday, May 31, 2020 - Falcon Watch Coordinator Sara reports: The second day of the watch dawned cool and clear. The chicks were fed a meal at 6:13am and another at 8:19am. Lily was spotted divebombing a gull and a couple of hours later, she made alarm calls when a vulture was in the vicinity - either alerting a threat or teaching her young what could potentially be a threat. The chicks were seen often on the ledge. I could see many white feathers floating up in the air, as they continued the process of shedding their white colouring. Both chicks were seen flapping, and strengthening their wings, periodically throughout the day.

Twice today, I spotted one of the chicks slowly creeping up on Lily and nipping at her! The first time it happened, the chick hopped up to Lily, bumped her and Lily backed away. It looked like the chick had nipped at her and Lily appeared visibly annoyed. The second time it happened (around 14:00), the chick walked up to Lily, nipped at her and Lily flew from the ledge. I'm thinking someone might be feeling hangry.

A parent brought a meal to the nest at 19:03, and it appears that it was grabbed by (or maybe given to) Griffin. Lily took off, and Griffin carried the meal along the nest ledge (left photo) and then took it down onto the gravel. He is seen to pick at it, on and off, for the next 20 minutes or so. This may be Lily's first attempt to introduce the chicks to the idea of dealing with a meal on their own, rather than having it torn into tiny pieces for them. Ossie and Lily returned to the nest at 19:53 with another meal (right photo) and Lily fed them this time.

NO EAGLES ALLOWED!

Saturday, May 30, 2020 - A limited form of Falcon Watch began today in downtown Hamilton. Due to Covid-19 restrictions we are unable to have a formal volunteer Falconwatch this year. We have, however, been able to hire coordinators and will bring you their daily reports. For the health and safety of our coordinators we ask that people not come downtown to watch the birds. The best way you can help this year is to let our coordinators work alone, in safety. Thank you!

Today (Saturday), Griffin spent a lot of time on the ledge, and was seen flapping (strengthening) his wings several times in the morning and later in the afternoon. Whitehern also ventured onto the ledge a couple of times. Shortly after 12 noon an adult was seen nearby, chasing, swooping, and finally swoop diving a bald eagle, who quickly left the area! A similar chase took place later in the afternoon with both adults being very vocal and driving away another very large bird. The chicks were well fed, as usual.

As the days grow warmer, both chicks will spend a lot of their time hiding out from the hot summer sun (also sometimes from our camera) and they will spend long hours laying quite still. So if you look at the camera images and don't see a bird, or they don't move, please rest assured there is no cause for concern. Falcons are just being falcons!

BUILDING THEIR STRENGTH

Saturday, May 23, 2020 - There is no doubting that Lily and Ossie are superb peregrine parents, keeping Griffin and Whitehern well fed. The chicks have pretty much reached their full body size, and now the white chick down is starting to give way to their juvenile brown flight feathers. Whitehern gave watchers a tiny scare yesterday (May 22) when she jumped up onto the nest ledge in pursuit of a meal. A performance that, fortunately, has not been repeated since. But it won't be long before both chicks are exercising their wings and building strength for those critical first flights!

This photo nicely captures a trait of Peregrine Falcons (and several other species of raptors) called sexual dimorphism. The femal Peregrine is typically about 40% larger and heavier than her male counterpart. Compare the size of their beaks. It is quite obvious that it is Griffin in the foreground. This is not a difference due to age. They were hatched within 12 hours of each other.

MEET GRIFFIN AND WHITEHERN

Saturday, May 16, 2020 - Banding went smoothly today, with our two chicks being in good health, and quite vocal about the whole process. The first chick banded was a male, weighing 517 grams, and was given the name Griffin (left photo). The second was determined to be female, based on the weight of 720 grams. Her name is Whitehern (right photo). Both were named for museums in the city of Hamilton. Click either photo to enlarge.

As a special treat, here are two short videos of Griffin and Whitehern being banded.

COMPANY!

Saturday, May 16, 2020 - As you may have noticed on the webcam, a climber descended the front of the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel today, just after noon, and gathered up our two chicks, who were brought inside for banding. The chicks were returned to the nest after about half an hour. We will update with their names and photos soon.

CAMERA #2 BACK IN ACTION

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Hamilton Falconwatch would like to say a big THANK YOU to Colin Watson at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel for helping us get Camera #2 once more operating. With the hotel closed right now, this is very much appreciated. The wider view will allow us to watch as Ossie brings meals to Lily (picture at left), who then feeds the chicks. At this point it seems certain that the third egg, spotted in a few photos last week, will not be hatching. This is not a concern. In the wild there is often one or two eggs that do not hatch.

TWO CHICKS!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - Shortly after 8am this morning, Lily left the nest, and as Ossie came in to replace her, a beautiful white head poked up above the edge of the ledge (first photo). A few minutes later Lily returned with the first meal, and during feeding it became obvious that she was feeding a second chick. At 12:30, more food was brought to the nest, and we got a clear look at both chicks (second photo). Judging by the dry white down on the chicks, it seems likely that the first hatching occurred sometime overnight. Will there be more? With this year's brooding conditions having been optimal, we can't see why not. Hatching can occur over a span of several days. So we will be watching feedings closely, to see how many heads poke out in the days to come!

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Monday, April 27, 2020 - Now is the time to keep a close watch on the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel nest as the time approaches for hatching. We have been seeing reports of hatching at other nests in the golden horseshoe, and these birds started laying their eggs just a few days earlier than Lily. So, it seems quite reasonable to expect that they hatched a few days earlier too, and ours are next!

GOOD WEATHER RAISES OUR HOPES

Thursday, April 9, 2020 - Lily and Ossie are now well into the task of incubating their eggs. They began steady incubation around March 25th. That means a week of laying, so the chances are good that they have laid an average size clutch of 4 eggs. But we won't know for sure until hatching time. The pair have been very good at hiding them from our view. We caught one glimpse on March 26th that shows two eggs (photo at left).

Unlike last year, our early spring has not been interrupted by any harsh weather, and the temperatures have stayed consistently warm. This gives falcon watchers strong hopes that we will see a nest full of chicks this year. With luck, they will start appearing around the last days of April.

LILY LAYS HER FIRST EGG

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - Well, there will be no guessing games about whether we have eggs this year! This morning, at 9:40, Ossie did us all a favor and rolled a freshly laid egg into view, for us to admire (photo at left).

Judging by Lily's behavior in recent days, we are fairly sure this is her first one for the year. This is further confirmed by the length of time she is spending off the egg. This is typical falcon behavior. Keeping the first egg(s) cool slows their development, so that all the eggs, even though laid over the course of a week, will hatch within a few days of each other.

SPRING IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER

Monday, March 2, 2020 - Falcon instincts run deep. As the days lengthen, Lily and Ossie know, just as we do, that warmer days are on their way. So Ossie is beginning to 'court' Lily, bringing her meals (photo at left). This helps Lily gain the extra body weight for the soon-to-come task of producing eggs, as well as satisfying Lily's instincts that Ossie needs to be a good provider for her when she cannot take time away from incubating eggs to go hunting.

Yes, Ossie will take brief turns sitting on the eggs. But Lily prefers the greater coverage that her larger body provides for the eggs. Had you noticed that Lily is larger than Ossie? This is called sexual dimorphism. Female raptors are noticeably larger than their mates, so their bodies have room for the eggs they produce. We are looking forward to seeing what Lily produces this year! We should see the first egg towards the end of March.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thursday, January 2, 2020 - Lily and Ossie paid a visit to the ledge this afternoon. They have been doing so quite regularly all winter. As soon as the weather warms up in March, we hope to see a new clutch of eggs.

BACKGROUND FOR 2020....

Hamilton's resident adult pair, Lily and Ossie, are celebrating the fifth anniversary of their arrival in Hamilton, and will begin their sixth nesting season on the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel very soon.

Lily was banded in 2010 at the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power plant, in Michigan, and Ossie fledged from the Osler Hospital in Etobicoke in 2012.

In 2019, Lily laid several eggs, but sadly, none of them hatched. This is not the first time eggs have failed for the pair, and while we don't know for certain, we are guessing that cold weather was partly to blame. The pair's most recent successful clutch was the year before, when three chicks fledged from the nest.

We will once again be looking for volunteers to help us with the on-street watch during the critical period when chicks are making their first flights, in June. Perhaps you will join us this year?

Many bird species exhibit a trait called 'site fidelity'. If at least one of a pair that used a nest site in the previous year returns, and if there have been no significant physical changes to disturb either the nest itself or the birds generally, they will use the same nest site year after year. Peregrine Falcons are known for site fidelity. This will be the twenty-sixth year the same nest site on the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel has been used.

To read FalconWatch Reports from previous years, click on the History button above.

Thank you to all our visitors and supporters for your ongoing encouragement.

DONATIONS WELCOME - If you have not already made a donation to Falconwatch, it is never too late to do so. The Coordinators' daily reports, the camera images, on-street Falconwatch equipment and display window electronics are all made possible by YOUR contributions. Falconwatch does not cost a lot, but grants do not cover all our expenses, and there are bills to be paid. Please click on the yellow 'DONATE button above to learn more about how the money is used and how to make a tax creditable donation by cheque or on-line. We and the birds Thank You!

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