Hamilton Falconwatch News

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OUT AND ABOUT

Saturday, June 22, 2024 - We continue to catch occasional glimpses of our chicks on camera as they fly about the downtown core. Two days ago, Stinson briefly visited the nest, allowing us to capture the portrait seen here. It appears the blue tape on her right leg band either fell off or was picked off, so now her right leg appears silvery white. Blakeley still has her red tape on, so we can now tell them apart at a distance. A good thing, because the only camera shot we have of her, from yesterday, is of her hanging out with an adult on the corner of the old Stelco Building. For those who follow our Facebook Group, a member posted some close-up shots taken of Blakeley outside their window on the CIBC building near Gore Park (where we have had reports of the chicks chasing pigeons).

WORLD'S BRAVEST PIGEONS

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 - Our on-street watch is over, but we continue to keep an intermittent watch with our cameras. Today's activities pretty much mirrored those of the day before, with the chicks resting most of the day, then becoming active in the cooler evening hours. Once again, they flew to different buildings, chasing each other, and stopped to nibble on some leftovers on Homewood Suites. For a while they came to a rest on the Regency building, on a ledge just below the top. This is when a pigeon walked up to the roof edge just above them. Then another flew past, which really caught the interest of the chicks (photo). We're calling these the world's bravest pigeons.

A FINAL SHOW FOR FALCON WATCHERS

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: The final day of the 2024 Hamilton Falcon Watch started out warm, and soon became very hot. Aside from a few brief periods of activity, the chicks were largely sedentary throughout the day. There were a few flights together, interacting in the sky, with the chicks mostly moving between the Fairclough building and BDC. After 5:00 pm the chicks became much more active in the evening breezes. First swooping low overhead to rest on the Standard Life building, they made successive flights towards the west end of the downtown core, settling on Homewood Suites and the Regency building.

The real excitement began at 7:30 pm with McKeever sitting atop the Homewood Suites sign tearing the feathers off a large pigeon while Judson sat below her, occasionally swooping off the building to snatch at falling bits of prey in the air. This went on for a long while - real Peregrine cinema for the volunteers and visitors below.

At 7:50 pm McKeever delivered the meal to the hungry chicks who flew, calling loudly, to the upper roof of the Homewood building. One chick was especially aggressive in devouring the food while the other waited patiently to feed. More than once, the chicks moved away from the food, but when McKeever approached it, they rushed her, chasing her off.

The day, and our Falcon Watch season, ended with the chicks flying about constantly! They took what seemed like endless short flights around and between the Regency and an apartment building on the south side of Main Street, back and forth overhead. Eventually, they chased McKeever off the Fairclough building and settled down there themselves to watch the sunset together.

Blakely and Stinson appear very healthy and content! In the coming weeks they will continue to learn to hunt, and range even farther afield while doing so. Too far for us to follow. So, our watch comes to an end. A warm 'Thank You' to everyone who came out and watched with us, or assisted in any capacity this summer.

WHAT'S A LITTLE RAIN?

Monday, June 17, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: The chicks began the day perched on different parts of the Fairclough building (photos) with an adult watching from the Sheraton. At 11:05 am the chicks flew about chasing one another, a behavior that has become increasingly common this week. Great practice for hunting!

Between 2:30 and 3:15 pm Falcon Watchers were sitting out a very heavy downpour and hoping the chicks would do the same. However this was not to be! One of the chicks flew from a perch on the 17th floor of the Stelco tower to the east window ledge of the Standard Life building and clung there through the rain. The other flew out of sight on the east side of the Fairclough Building. It was a very rainy walk through the downtown core to locate both birds.

The evening hours were similar to recent days, with the chicks moving back and forth between the BDC Building and Fairclough, while the adults hung out on the Sheraton and Homewood Suites. At one point, one of the chicks appeared reluctant to fly and the other repeatedly flew over and around its location calling loudly. This went on for a while until the second chick took off, and then both chicks chased one another around and around in the sky. They even briefly touched talons with one chick flying upside down. They are definitely looking more and more confident in flight. As the day ended, one chick flew from the BDC to an apartment building roof in the Main and Bay St area, while the other remained on the BDC.

PLAY IS EDUCATIONAL

Sunday, June 16, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: The day began with both chicks atop the Standard Life building. Shortly before 9 am one chick was fed, piece by piece, by McKeever. The chicks hung about, seemingly content, until 11:30 when they took a few short flights. One settled on the BDC building and the other in a shady corner of the Fairclough building roof (photo). There was some brief excitement around 10 am, when an adult chased an Osprey off, low over the Braley Centre.

The chicks remained where they were through the morning, and into the early afternoon. Starting around 4pm the chicks became very active. Volunteers witnessed many flights back and forth between BDC, Stelco tower and the Fairclough building. The chicks soared around and eventually began a long series of "dog fights" chasing one another through the air and talon touching. The chicks may think they are just playing, but this activity helps them hone their flying skills.

At 8 pm Mckeever was spotted dressing a pigeon on the Homewood suites, which brought both chicks flying over and calling loudly. The chicks took turns feeding, being fed and trying to steal the food from McKeever (left photo). Eventually, after being chased a few times, McKeever settled down on the railing above the chicks and watched them alternately share and steal the food (right photo). At the end of the night, the chicks settled down on Homewood and the Regency building.

STRONGER FLIGHTS

Saturday, June 15, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: As usual for young falcons, long periods of resting were punctuated by brief periods of intense, powerful flying. The day started off with one chick on the top of Stelco and the other on the Fairclough building. At 8:25 there was a meal brought by one of the parents to Stelco, the only clear sight we had of a meal today. Around 10 am, one of the chicks landed on a window ledge on the west side of the Stelco building. At 11:25 the second chick joined her on a window ledge a couple of floors above (photo). They both stayed there until about 2:30pm, when one of them flew over to BDC. An hour later the other chick took flight. The chicks could be seen flying in pairs, either with another chick or with one of the adults. We observed talon touching a few times.

By 4:30, both chicks had landed on BDC. As in previous days, one or the other of the chicks would disappear into the roof interior, leaving us to wonder if we had missed a flight. At 6:24, we spotted an adult perched on the edge of the BDC roof, and could just see the head of a chick behind it in the roof interior, eating a meal. We missed seeing the adult land, so we don't know if that food was freshly delivered or leftover from other meals eaten in that same location. A few minutes later, the chick chased off the adult (photo), who moved down to the BDC sign below.

After this, all four birds were visible, the adult and chick on the BDC building, and an adult on Fairclough, who took off to join the other chick in a long flight heading east, perhaps for some hunting practice. The chicks seem to be flying longer distances and for larger periods of time each day we see them. We expect more hunting lessons in the coming days. Soon these chicks will be flying and hunting all on their own! This is my last day working as coordinator. The watch will continue, under Matt's guidance, for a few more days. It has been a pleasure watching these chicks grow up. My thanks to everyone who came out and helped.

ANOTHER QUIET DAY

Friday, June 14, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: The birds had a quiet day today, spending most of their time inactive, most likely due to the heat. At 6:30am they could be seen flying off of the BDC building and talon touching, which happened again around 8:28pm. They mostly stayed around the Fairclough, BDC and City Hall buildings, accompanied by the adults.

At 2:20 they could be seen on the BDC building eating a meal, with both parents nearby on the Fairclough building. The chicks sheltered from the heat on top of BDC for the rest of the afternoon, only occasionally poking their heads out or taking short hopping flights around the rooftop (photo). Food was again brought to them, still on BDC at 5:50, by McKeever. The chicks then flew to and from BDC and Fairclough. The parents could be seen circling over the Standard Life building together, enjoying the warm winds.

A QUIET DAY

Thursday, June 13, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: The chicks spent most of today hunkering down in the wind and heat. Shortly before 9 am both chicks were seen together on the south east corner of the Fairclough building roof. A few minutes later, one chick flew over to hang out above the BDC sign on the north face of the BDC building. It would stay there throughout the day, occasionally disappearing from view into the interior of the roof, then reappearing. The second chick stayed on Fairclough, and was also hidden for much of the day.

At 3 pm the chick on BDC took off to perform a few high lazy circles above the Fairclough building and hang in the breeze for a moment before returning to the BDC roof. It wasn't until after 6 pm that we located both chicks, hanging out like friends, on the BDC rooftop ledge. No feedings were observed today, but a chick was seen with food at 7 pm. The evening hours saw a few short flights by the chicks to and from the Fairclough building, and up and around the BDC building, in the warm gusty winds. When we left, both chicks had settled on BDC with one keeping watch on the North facing ledge.

HUNTING LESSONS BEGIN

Wednesday, June 12, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: Another day of flying for the family. In the morning between 6:30 and 8:30 the birds flew between the BDC building, the Fairclough building (photo) and the Stelco tower, going from one to the other every so often. At 9:41 Judson chased off a group of pigeons who were flying nearby, then landed on the Stelco tower.

Throughout most of the afternoon both chicks were staying close together on the top of Fairclough, and Stinson seemed especially tired, spending most of her time lying down and napping. Around 3:00 Judson flew nearby the Fairclough building where the chicks were, and Blakeley joined him while Stinson chose to stay and lie down. Judson could be seen flying with prey while Blakeley flew under him - perhaps teaching her how to catch prey in the air, however, both Blakeley and Judson landed on the Fairclough building. Blakeley began dressing and eating the meal, which was later taken by Judson, all while Stinson, who flew over from Fairclough, chose to sit and watch from a few meters away.

As evening came on, the two chicks were seen perched together, occasionally flapping their wings, on the railing atop BDC (photo). Around 7:30pm, a group of vultures flew over the territory, and were chased off by Judson. As our watch ended, the whole family could be seen perched around the top of the BDC building, then two of them (we're not certain whether they were chicks or adults in the fading light) flew over to the Fairclough building and settled there. Another safe and successful day.

BLAKELEY FLIES HIGH!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: When falcon watchers arrived at 6:30 they found Blakeley atop the old Standard Life building, where she enjoyed a meal and watched the adults chase away an intruder. Shortly before 8:30 she accompanied an adult on a flight over to the Sheraton hotel. As can be seen in the photo, there are still small amounts of white chick down on her body. But it doesn't seem to be slowing her down. This remaining fluff will disappear in the next few days. Stinson was located up on the Fairclough building, where she spent the morning wandering in and out of sight of watchers on the streets below.

While Blakeley was resting under our cameras, she would notice each time one of them moved and stare intently at it (left photo). This must have made her curious, because she was seen looking closely at the camera mount several times, and even nibbling on it once or twice (right photo).

At 10:44 Blakeley was brought a meal, which she quickly claimed (left photo). The adult returned at 11:04 to check up on her, and at one point it was chased down into the roof area of the Sheraton (right photo). Around this time, Stinson discovered a leftover portion of food on the Fairclough roof. This tidbit appeared to be incompletely dressed, half feathered and half torn open, leaving Stinson to meticulously pick at it periodically into the mid afternoon hours. The rest of the morning, and most of the afternoon was spent watching Blakeley cavort about or sit ponderously on the southern and eastern ledges of the Sheraton, while Stinson relaxed on Fairclough. At 4 pm Judson calmly escorted a Turkey vulture away to the West.

In the evening things took a turn for the dramatic. Stinson flew all the way to the very top of the Stelco tower to hang out with McKeever before taking a short series of flights and settling down on the Thomson building for the remainder of the evening (left photo). Shortly before 7pm, Blakeley stole the show with an extremely confident flight from the Sheraton towards Fairclough, and then soared, apparently catching a thermal updraft, higher and higher over the City. She then accelerated in powered flight down and around several tall buildings, carving out an awe inspiring path around the downtown core. She finally settled down on the BDC building and gave a few energetic head pumps (right photo). Shortly after 7:05, she made her last flight of the day, over to the top of the Regency building, where McKeever brought her another meal at 8:50. As we packed up to leave, Blakeley was settled on the rooftop ledge of Regency and Stinson was resting comfortably on the south east corner of the Thomson building.

AN EXCITING SECOND DAY OF FLIGHTS

Monday, June 10, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: The day started bright and early. The webcam recorded that a chick that spent the night atop the Regency building left it's perch shortly after 5:00am. When watchers arrived at 6:30, they saw a chick being fed high on the top of the McMaster Tower. Amazing to see them up so high, so soon! We weren't sure whether the second chick was also up there, as it was the only place we saw the adults bring food. At 9:00, an adult landed on the roof near the one visible chick, and was quickly chased off. The adult then landed on a window cleaning arm above the chick, safely out of reach (photo). Around 9:30, that chick, soon identified as Blakeley, left the top of the tower and landed on Homewood, where she picked at the remnants of a meal for the next half hour.

At 10:05, Blakeley was seen flying over to join one of the parents on the old Standard Life building (left photo). Around 10:20 a watcher located Stinson, perched on a ledge two stories above ground level on the north side of the McMaster Tower (middle photo). Stinson seemed quite happy to stay there for the next couple of hours, watching people pass by. At 1:05, she took off and headed towards Standard Life, where she was accompanied by both parents, who were diving towards her, perhaps encouraging her to fly higher up instead of staying close to the ground. She landed on the Standard Life building where she was fed, while Blakeley was separately fed on the other side of the building. At 1:15, Stinson took flight again, and ended up landing on the A.G.H sign on King Street, where she remained until the end of the watch (right photo).

Blakeley spent most of the afternoon perched on or near the south east corner of the upper roof of Standard Life (left photo). Around 6:24 she flew around the Braley parking lot in front of our home base and ended up landing on the top north east corner of Homewood Suites, where she again picked at some leftover food. At 6:57 both adults landed together on the south east corner, one of which was seen preparing a meal. At first, Blakeley patiently kept her distance, but then moved in and chased off one of the adults (right photo - look carefully, you can see the departing adult!). Around 7:17 Blakeley left, and was seen briefly clinging to one of the small diagonal window ledges on the McMaster Tower, before heading back to Homewood for more food.

At the end of the night all birds were close by and visible, Stinson still on the AGH sign, Blakeley on the lower south east corner of the Standard Life building (photo), and both adults on the north west side of the Stelco tower. A busy, eventful day for everyone.

FIRST AND SECOND FLIGHTS

Sunday, June 10, 2024 (9:00pm): Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: After their initial strong flights (see 8:30am report below), Stinson remained on the upper roof of the Braley Centre all morning, pacing back and forth along the ledge and occasionally hopping down into the inner roof. Blakeley rested on the south west corner of the Convention Centre for a while, then went for a long walk along the north side of the building.

Between 11:15 and 11:30 am several persistent Ring-billed Gulls took turns squawking at and taking some mock dives at Stinson (photo). No response from the adults. McKeever was busy dressing a meal, which she brought to Stinson at 11:39. Stinson seemed unwilling to eat on her own, so she waited until McKeever fed her. A few minutes after noon, Blakeley gave us all a little scare when she attempted to join her sister on the Braley rooftop. Launching from the low angle of the Convention Centre roof, she came in a bit too low, stalled just below the ledge, gave a few panicked scrambling attempts to make it, and turned back towards the Convention Centre. She disappeared from the view of watchers on the ground, but the webcam located her perched on an equipment shed in the middle of the Convention Centre roof, where she would stay for the next several hours.

Eventually, around 4:40, Blakeley tried again, and made a successful dash over to the Braley Centre. The chicks spent a while touching beaks, running up and down the ledge, chasing one another, eating leftovers and taking short flights over the rooftop (photos). At 6:35 pm an adult bird arrived to dress prey on the Homewood building. This seemed to give the chicks a boost of courage to take a series of flights. It was difficult to keep track of them as they moved around and between the buildings. One chick flew to the Standard life building, back to the Braley building and circled north, after which both chicks were seen flying towards the Homewood building. At 8:01 pm we spotted one chick on a ledge high up on the top of the Regency building, west of Homewood. A short time later, an adult arrived to feed the chick. At day's end our last glimpse of the chicks was of them playing atop the Regency.

A big thanks to Charles Gregory for his help locating birds using the cameras today and to our entire corps of dedicated volunteers.

BOTH CHICKS HAVE TAKEN FLIGHT!

Sunday, June 9, 2024 (8:30am): Shortly after 11:10 last night, we noticed on our webcam images that Blakeley seemed to disappear from the far end of the nest ledge. We weren't sure whether she had hopped down and quickly hidden, or if she had made an unprecedented first flight at night. We saw no further sign of her until she was located this morning, sitting on the south west corner of the Hamilton Convention Centre. While watchers were looking for her, they saw Stinson take flight at 6:30, making a good, strong flight over to the roof of the David Braley Centre. Stinson was fed a meal on the north east corner of the building about half an hour later.

ANY MOMENT NOW...

Saturday, June 8, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: Another quiet day today. The chicks got a total of three feedings, at 8:31am, 3:00pm and 6:45pm. The last meal was not dressed by the parents, and was quickly taken by Blakeley, then stolen by Stinson a while after. Not too much action from the chicks today, but around 1:30 Blakeley did fly a short distance from one end of the ledge to the other (photo). The parents stayed close by throughout the day keeping an eye on their chicks who should be ready to start flying at any moment now, with their down feathers gone and their wings ready to soar. The last part of the day was spent by the entire family resting, and the chicks and McKeever were all visible on the Sheraton building, perched and enjoying the light rain.

THE ANTICIPATION BUILDS

Friday, June 7, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: A cooler day with variable weather. It rained briefly several times, and each time, rather than hunker down the chicks paraded about on the ledge calling and flapping, apparently happier than ever. The first meal of the day was delivered at 8:07. It was quickly grabbed by Stinson, who carried it off to the far end of the inner ledge. After a couple of minutes, Blakeley stole the food from Stinson (left photo). A few more minutes later, Stinson stole it back and hopped up on the outer ledge with it. Finally, at 8:15, Blakeley made a grab for the food again, resulting in a brief tug-of-war (right photo). She succeeded in getting the meal away from Stinson, who thereafter seemed to lose interest, and left Blakeley alone to finish eating in peace.

The next meal arrived at 2:50. In a comic turn of events, Blakeley grabbed the food from Judson, and when she turned around, Stinson was right there and grabbed the food from her (photo). Thereafter, while Stinson was eating, Blakeley was seen running along the ledge and chasing off McKeever whenever she landed on the ledge. There were several other food deliveries today, at 3:27, 4:52, 6:44 and 7:00pm. Several times one or both parents would bring food to one chick, and the other chick would attempt to grab it or take a turn.

Twice today there were intruders over the territory. A high flying Osprey passed overhead at 10:33, which Mckeever ignored, and a Turkey Vulture was chased off around 4:30. The parents stepped up their efforts to encourage the youngsters to start flying. At 9:23am Mckeever landed on the nest ledge with food, and then, after feeding just a couple of bites to Stinson, carried it off to a nearby rooftop and ate it herself. Throughout the afternoon, she was seen making a number of low passes over the nest ledge. The chicks, however, still seemed content to rest and occasionally exercise their wings (photos). At 5:25pm we witnessed some deliberate 'helicoptering'. We are now at a point where we are no longer fearing premature first flights but eagerly anticipating successful ones.

ANY DAY NOW...

Thursday, June 6, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: Another relatively quiet day, with the occasional tense moment as chicks flapped their wings while perched at the very edge of the nest ledge. At one point, mid-afternoon, a chick nearly lost her balance doing this. Around 2:50, Blakeley performed a maneuver we call "helicoptering", where she flapped her wings hard enough to briefly lift herself straight up off the ledge for a second. These are sure signs that first flights are due any day now.

The first meal of the day arrived at 6:30am. Just after McKeever finished feeding it to the chicks, Judson arrived with a second meal, which was quickly grabbed and carried off by Stinson (left photo). More food was delivered at 12:27, with Stinson excited to see it (right photo). Both parents were often around in the afternoon, with McKeever hunting pigeons very low over the parking lot right in front of our main base at the David Braley Center. The last meal of the day was brought at 6:50pm. Blakeley tore off a small bit of the meal and fed herself while Stinson was fed by McKeever. The evening was rounded out with some more wing stretching and flapping.

ALMOST READY TO FLY

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: A mostly uneventful day today, with only two meals brought to the chicks. At 7:37am both adults landed at the nest (photo). It appears one of them had a meal, which was grabbed quickly by Stinson, who hopped down into the east corner of the inner ledge with it. Both chicks briefly examined the food, but then walked away within a minute. Perhaps it was not dressed well enough for their liking.

The chicks spent the rest of the morning alternately resting and spending short periods exercising their wings, with Judson keeping watch from the next ledge over. Their second and final food delivery of the day arrived at 12:13. Perhaps the parents are feeding them less in order to coax them into flying? The afternoon was spent quietly with an adult occasionally dropping in to check up on the chicks. Both chicks have lost almost all of their down, with only a few loose white feathers remaining on their body and little white crests on the top of their heads (photo). They could be seen affectionately preening each other and touching beaks around 2:05.

Around 4:00pm vultures were spotted passing over the Sheraton, and were quickly chased away by both of the parents, while the chicks huddled close to the wall of the inside ledge. After that, and into the evening, the chicks became a lot more active, with more vigorous flapping and running along the ledge. They could start trying to fly any day now. Around 6:30pm, Blakeley finally got around to eating some of that food that had been left on the north east corner in the morning.

Near the end of the evening, watchers had a chance to see a falcon flying up close, as one of the adults flew along King Street just a couple of meters above the ground. It was low enough for us to be just a little concerned about it possibly taking a bad turn. So when it flew out of sight up the street we decided to take a quick look around to see if it landed anywhere. But, of course, it didn't. Falcons are superb flyers. A short while later the two adults were seen again. One up on BDC and the other up on Fairclough. The evening ended with a thundershower, which the chicks enjoyed with more flapping, while the adults rode it out, up on their high perches.

ANOTHER FLAPPING DAY

Tuesday, June 4, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: A sunny, somewhat warm and humid day today. The chicks are still strengthening their wing muscles, slowly gearing up for their first flights, which could be any day now. The first feeding of the day was at 8:15, which was only eaten by Stinson. We could see Judson keeping watch nearby at the top of the old Standard Life Building (left photo). At 11:40, McKeever retrieved a partially eaten meal from the east corner of the inner ledge, and fed it to both chicks (right photo).

At 12:15 a pair of Broad-winged Hawks passed by, high over the Sheraton, perhaps late migrants. The adults kept watch, but did not take any action. It was a different story around 2:45, when Judson chased another adult male Peregrine from the airspace high above the Standard Life Building. The intruder left quickly, with no further incident.

There were long periods of quiet in the afternoon, punctuated by occasional bouts of vigorous flapping by the chicks. In the evening, between 5-6 pm Mckeever seemed to be encouraging the chicks to venture onto the ledge and flap about. McKeever would occasionally land on the ledge, but a hungry Blakeley would rush her each time, causing her to take off immediately (left photo). It appears that Judson wanted to teach Blakeley a lesson, literally. So, at 8:13 he dropped off an undressed prey item (which appeared to be a Cowbird or Blackbird). Blakeley grabbed it quickly and took it down into the inner ledge, then spent several minutes puzzling over what to do with food that had feathers all over it (right photo). Each chick took a turn probing at it until eventually a portion was torn open, but the bird was not plucked.

ANOTHER QUIET DAY

Monday, June 3, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: The morning started with heavy fog and not much activity from the chicks. The first feeding started at 9:15am, followed by three others at 11:13am, 5:15pm and 7:36pm. During the last feeding Blakeley was especially hungry and hogged the food mostly for herself, until Stinson got the courage to move closer and grab a few bites.

The chicks were mostly inactive today, with lots of time spent napping and resting on the ledge of the nest. A few times, you could see them stretching their wings, which are now almost down free, over the edge of the nest. During the evening there was a lot of flapping and wing exercises, monitored by both of the parents nearby.

Both McKeever and Judson stayed very close to the nest today, and could even be seen circling together over top of the Sheraton at 7:22pm. One of them stopped at the nest a few times at 11:42 and 2:06 near westdale. They also made a few stops in to check in on Stinson and Blakeley, around 11:35 they both landed on nearby buildings, and at 3:36 one of them landed on the ledge. Overall, it was a quiet, peaceful and most importantly, a safe day for the Peregrine family.

DAMP DAY

Sunday, June 2, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: Light drizzle and cool damp conditions characterized the sixth day of falconwatch. Both chicks spent a considerable amount of time on the outer ledge flapping about, seemingly at ease getting close to the edge. They have lost a lot of their white chick down, but that small remaining bit can be enough to lessen the ability of their wings to generate lift, so this coming week will be the time when we need to be most watchful.

The chicks were fed five times today. At 7:16am McKeever landed on the ledge without food, then retrieved a leftover of a meal from the east corner of the nest ledge and proceeded to feed it to the chicks. Half an hour later she brought fresh food to the nest and fed both chicks. Around 1:48pm, the scene from the early morning was repeated, with McKeever arriving empty-clawed, hopping into the near (east) corner of the ledge, retrieving another bit of leftover food and passing it off to Stinson before quickly taking off again. The last meal of the day was at 7:34pm.

MORE WING EXERCISES

Saturday, June 1, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: The morning started with a feeding at 6:55, with both adults visiting the nest before hand. Later in the morning, around 9:45, several turkey vultures entered the airspace above the nest, which caused McKeever to get quite aggressive and chase them away. There were a few occasional vultures flying nearby for the rest of the morning, and they were all scared away by the parents.

The chicks were mostly resting today, with the occasional visit to the ledge by their parents. There was more flapping, shaking off more of their remaining down feathers. There was a total of five feedings today, with the others being at 12:45, 2:35, 3:42 and 6:27. The last one being a small meal brought directly to the nest by Judson. It was immediately seized and carried away to the other end of the nest by Stinson, who did not share it with her sister. McKeever arrived on the nest ledge seconds later, and maybe had a few choice words for Judson letting that chick take the food from him. After this, Stinson could be seen laying down on the ledge while her sister stood near by. They stayed there until 8:25, and then retreated to the inner ledge for the remainder of the evening. All around a quiet, safe day for the family.

ANOTHER CALM DAY

Friday, May 31, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Cloe Wagstaffe reports: The third day of Falconwatch saw the two adults and chicks sitting in the sun and staying close to the Sheraton hotel most of the time. The first feeding was at 9:21, when Mckeever dropped off a meal for the chicks. Lots of flapping on the ledge from Stinson and Blakeley, who are both losing a large amount of their down feathers each day, and starting to look a lot like their parents. You can see their dark brown feathers starting to show through, soon they will be ready to start flying.

Around 2:55pm a worker was on the roof of the Sheraton hotel, and one of the parents could be seen running up on the ledge and yelling at the worker from the nest. There were quite a few good shots of this on the webcam. The chicks were fed three more times during the day, at 4:34, 6:34 and 7:10, for a total of four feedings for the day. The last one was quite small and only lasted a few minutes. At the end of the day the parents stayed close to the nest, and both chicks stood on the ledge, flapping off large amounts of down feathers into the air and enjoying the quiet breeze and warm sunshine.

Sad news, and a trigger warning: With the passage of time, it has become obvious that Westdale passed away sometime early Thursday afternoon. Review of webcam archives shows hints that she was ill for a day or so before. Please take note that birds do not think like humans. They will not grieve as we do. Once a chick dies, in their thinking it just disappears, and the body left behind is no longer "family". For wild birds, it is natural for them to take advantage of any food source nearby. Eating deceased young allows for a low effort food source for the whole family and prevents the body from starting to decay in the nest - which could lead to various other health risks. We believe we may have already observed some behavior of the adults and chicks beginning this process. As much as is possible with our human emotions, we try not to feel upset by this. This is quite natural. But if this is something you would prefer not to see, we suggest not watching too closely if you notice any of the other birds in that far corner.

A QUIET DAY

Thursday, May 30, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: Generally uneventful for much of Thursday. A feeding was captured on the webcam at 5:39am. After that, no more food was brought to the nest until the evening. Several times during the day up to two chicks, including Stinson for a period in the afternoon, were seen flapping vigorously on the ledge. The only meal of the day we witnessed in person was at 6:18pm. The webcam captured another feeding at 9:16, shortly after watchers had left for the day.

Concern for Westdale: People have expressed concern that Westdale has been staying in the far corner for a long time. We back-tracked through the camera archive, and we found that around noon (Thursday) she seemed to be having trouble moving her bowels, and then around 1pm she moved into the far western corner of the inner ledge, and stayed there for the rest of the day and evening. At various times an adult or her siblings were seen keeping her company, and all three chicks huddled down in that corner overnight. As of this (Friday) morning she is still there. We have no idea how serious this might be. Falcons have very robust immune systems, so if it is some kind of infection we are hoping that this is something that clears up quickly. There is nothing we can do to assist her. With the chicks at their current stage of development, the other two would attempt to fly (too soon) from the nest if we tried to retrieve Westdale. This is nature, and we must simply wait to see it take its course. Falconwatch thanks everyone who expressed concern for our little chick.

WESTDALE GETS FEISTY

Wednesday, May 29, 2024 - The chicks continue to slowly shed their white chick down, revealing the brown juvenile flight feathers that have grown in beneath. The chicks spent more time on the outer ledge today, and we saw a bit more flapping. The first meal of the day arrived at 7:25am, after which Westdale remained on the outer ledge. She was still there when the next meal arrived at 9:30. She stayed up there for another hour, then hopped back down to spend the rest of the morning in the shade. The next meal was brought to the chicks around 1pm.

Supper was brought to the chicks at 5:42pm, and Westdale was quick to jump up. This time, she tried to steal the food from McKeever and "mantle" it with her wings. She ended up in a tug-of-war with McKeever, and was literally dragged along the length of the ledge (photos)! For a moment, we were worried that she might not let go and get dragged right off the ledge when McKeever took off. But fortunately Westdale either had the wisdom to let go or lost her grip at the last moment. After that, things were relatively tranquil. The last meal of the day was brought at 8:20pm, then the chicks slowly settled down for the night.

THE WATCH BEGINS

Tuesday, May 28, 2024 - Falconwatch Coordinator Matthew Mills reports: The first day of the 2024 Hamilton Falconwatch began with breakfast. As falcon watchers arrived at 6:30, McKeever arrived at the nest with a meal. Blakeley was quick to hop up onto the ledge (first photo). Stinson joined her within seconds (second photo). After about 20 minutes, McKeever deposited the leftovers into the inner ledge and left the nest briefly. It appears that she was seeing if the chicks would start to feed themselves. When they didn't, she retrieved the food, and resumed feeding Stinson on the outer ledge (last photo). A few minutes later, she left the nest, and Stinson soon jumped back down into the inner ledge. Another meal was brought at 11:15, and Stinson once again hopped up to get fed.

At 2:20pm more food was brought, and Westdale was the first to jump up, followed quickly by Stinson. Eventually, all three chicks were seen up on the outer ledge (first two photos). Once the meal was done, Westdale stayed up on the outer ledge for the next hour, with McKeever keeping watch from a nearby ledge. There was some mild excitement, mid afternoon, as the adults chased off intruders a couple of times. First an osprey pair wandered into the territory, then a turkey vulture. In both cases, the peregrines made their displeasure known, and the intruders rapidly departed. In the meantime, the chicks were occasionally stretching their wings. Fortunately, they are doing this in the inner ledge, safe from vagrant wind gusts (last photo). The chicks still have far too much of their white chick down to even think about attempting a flight. But it won't be long before they are up on the outer ledge, seriously exercising those wings. The day ended with heavy rain showers, which saw the chicks huddled together in a corner of the ledge. An eventful first falconwatch day.

WESTDALE AND STINSON HOP UP

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 - For the last several days we have observed McKeever feeding the chicks from the outer nest ledge, attempting to coax the chicks into joining her. Yesterday, Westdale was seen making a very brief hop up, for just a few seconds (first photo). This morning, McKeever brought breakfast, and Westdale and Stinson were quick to jump up onto the outer ledge. Westdale hopped down again, but Stinson stayed up there until all the food was gone. Soon, all of them will be making forays onto that outer ledge. For the moment there is no serious concern of them falling. Their instincts will keep them well away from the edge. But in another week the Watch will begin in earnest as their flight feathers come in.

JUDSON BRINGS BREAKFAST

Thursday, May 16, 2024 - Some people have asked why they never see Judson on camera. The answer is that he spends his time hunting for meals for the chicks, and when he gets one, he hands it over to McKeever, who feeds the chicks. He then hangs out on a nearby rooftop or ledge. Today, we caught these images of him perched on the second ledge, next to the nest, while McKeever fed the chicks. The fresh blood on his beak and claws suggests that he was the one who caught that meal for them.

About the bands: All peregrine falcons receive a band on each leg. The silver band, has a unique identifying number from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). But, as you can see here, the band is very difficult to read from any distance. So, the dark colored band, with large, easily read letters, is placed on the other leg, so that a bird can be identified with binoculars (or our webcam). Because of the limited space for large letters/numbers, combinations might repeat in different regions of North America, so the silver band is still needed for a unique identifier.

OUR CHICKS ARE BANDED

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 (5pm) - Hamilton, say hello to Blakeley, Westdale and Stinson! Shortly after 11:30, the three chicks were brought into the 17th floor Club Lounge at the Sheraton Hamilton hotel. Upon being weighed, it was determined that all three are female (females weigh more than males). As is customary for this nest, all three were named for Hamilton neighborhoods. These photos were screen-captured from the banding video, which is now available for viewing. Click here to watch it: 2024 Banding Video.

McKeever made her displeasure known, both vocally and by dive-bombing our climber. He used the pool-skimmer net seen here as a means to fend off her attacks. He was mostly successful, getting just a small rip in the sleeve of his shirt.

BANDING THIS MORNING

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 (9am) - At around 11am our chicks will have a visitor on their ledge. A climber will be collecting the chicks in a specially designed compartmented case, which assures their safety, and then they will be brought inside the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel, for weighing and banding. The climber will remain on the ledge, so that the parents never have a chance to see that the chicks are "missing". The chicks will be returned about an hour later, and the peregrines will fuss for maybe another half hour, then forget this ever happened. The chicks won't be hungry when we pick them up. The adults are feeding them quite well (photo).

MORNING MEAL...

Friday, May 3, 2024 - For those of you wondering what Judson is doing while McKeever stands watch over the chicks, the answer is hunting. Here is a sequence of photos of Judson arriving with a meal, McKeever hopping up to grab it from him, and then feeding the chicks.


DONATIONS STILL NEEDED - If you have not already made a donation to Falconwatch, it is never too late to do so. The Coordinator daily reports, the camera images and on-street Falconwatch equipment are all made possible by your contributions. Grants only pay for so much (and some years they are less than others). Please click on the yellow 'Donate!' button above to make an easy tax creditable donation. We and the birds Thank You!

GROWING EVERY DAY

Wednesday, May 1, 2024 - No, you're not imagining it. Our peregrine chicks are growing quite noticeably every day! These two photos were taken a day apart. The adults continue to bring food to the three on a regular basis, fueling this amazing growth. In two weeks the chicks will be nearly full adult size, ready for banding, and then start to shed their downy white chick feathers for their first set of brown flight feathers. After that, the watch begins!

Quite obviously, the fourth egg failed to hatch. This is not at all unusual with a large clutch. We can only speculate that it was not viable, or perhaps got too cold during the icy weather at the end of March. If the egg isn't removed from the nest, it will be collected for scientific study when the chicks are banded. While falcon watchers always feel a bit sad about these things, we should remember that Peregrines don't have the same kind of thinking as humans. For them, all the focus is on the chicks that need feeding. The cup is not just 3/4 full. It is 100% full of three healthy, and very hungry, chicks!

WAITING ON NUMBER FOUR

Sunday, April 28, 2024 (9am) - This morning we captured this lovely photo of the first three chicks together. All seem to be healthy. Now we need to wait patiently for the last egg to hatch. Normally, during laying, Peregrines brood their first eggs in an intermittent pattern that causes them to develop more slowly. This trick of timing results in the eggs hatching more closely together, reducing the age/size difference between the first hatched chick and the last. This year, the cold and snowy weather saw McKeever start to brood full time right around the time she laid the third egg. The fourth egg was laid about two days after that. So, it is reasonable to assume that the fourth egg will hatch about two days after number three. That would be sometime Monday. Of course, now that we have said this, it will hatch this afternoon. LOL We will just have to wait and see!

CHICKS TWO AND THREE

Saturday, April 27, 2024 (10am) - The second of four eggs hatched around 10:09 pm last night (Friday), and the third hatched this morning around 9:10am. The second hatching was barely visible on camera, as McKeever kept her chicks and eggs warm beneath her. In the left photo you can see a tiny bit of the darker fluff of the newly hatched chick just to the left of McKeever's beak. And just below it the edge of its broken shell. We didn't get a good look at the second chick until the two were fed around 7:57 this morning (right photo).


The third egg started cracking around 8:14am, and the chick emerged from its shell around an hour later. You can see it's tiny claw pushing against the shell in the second photo.

FIRST FEEDING

Friday, April 26, 2024 (6pm) - As evening was approaching, we saw our first (and so far only) chick being fed for the first time. It's not uncommon for there to be a gap of up to a day between hatchings. The infrared camera will be on again tonight, so if one of the three remaining eggs cracks overnight, we will see it.

FIRST CHICK

Friday, April 26, 2024 (11am) - We have our first chick! The others will not be far behind!

HATCHING HAS STARTED!

Friday, April 26, 2024 (9am) - The first slight cracking of an egg was noticed at 5:53 this morning (left photo). Two hours later, a very clear hole in the shell could be seen, with the pink-colored chick visible within the shell (their downy feathers turn white as they dry). As the day progresses, the chick will poke at the shell more, and in a few hours we will have our first hatchling of 2024. And it is quite likely we will see more before the end of the day!

VERY SOON NOW...

Thursday, April 25, 2024 - We are noting some increased activity from the adults in the nest, which we often see in the 24 hours before hatching begins. We think that the adults can hear small noises from the chicks in their shells. A sure sign that hatching is not far off! Our new Hanwha camera (#2) is equipped with an infrared night mode which includes an infrared LED light. This lighting is completely invisible to the Peregrines. Don't be bothered by the reflection of the light in their eyes. As far as the Peregrines are concerned, they are still in darkness (as can be seen on Camera #1). Any time the adult stands up, we will be able to see if a shell has cracked. But don't be fooled by the white mark on one of the eggs. It has been there several days. Our thanks again to Hanwha for this amazing new camera!

TWO WEEKS TO GO

Saturday, April 13, 2024 - It has been nearly three weeks since McKeever laid her eggs in the scrape atop the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. She and her mate, Judson, have been taking turns incubating the clutch, and occasionally turning the eggs over, which helps the chicks inside develop properly (photo). In roughly another two weeks we should see these shells start to crack. It looks like we will need lots of volunteers for the on-street Watch. Please click the Volunteer button above if you can spare a few hours to help keep our chicks safe!

FOUR EGGS

Sunday, March 24, 2024 - Just after 1pm today, McKeever laid her fourth egg of the 2024 nesting season. Given the fact that she has begun to steadily incubate her clutch, this will likely be the last one she lays. But, just the same, we will keep an eye open on Tuesday, just in case she decides to go for five! Note: The scrape is deep enough to completely hide an egg. So, don't be surprised if you sometimes only see three eggs.

THREE...

Friday, March 22, 2024 - As dawn broke this morning, we caught sight of McKeever standing proudly over three eggs. The fact that she is not yet brooding constantly strongly suggests we might see a fourth sometime Sunday.

SECOND EGG

Tuesday, March 19, 2024 - Shortly after 6pm this evening we spotted the second egg of the 2024 nesting season. Peregrines lay their eggs roughly two days apart, so with the first egg having appeared Sunday morning, eager Falcon Watchers were keeping a close eye on the cameras today. The usual late season snow didn't seem to bother McKeever at all. She has not started full time brooding just yet. Falcons deliberately keep the first couple of eggs cooler to start, slowing their development, so that all of their eggs will hatch within a day of each other. This behavior tells us we can expect to see another egg sometime Thursday evening.

EGG!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2024 - This morning McKeever was seen settling in the scrape at the far end of the ledge, looking like she was keeping an egg warm, but when she left, there was nothing to be seen. It turns out the scrape really is that deep. Judson popped into the scrape a few minutes later and rolled the first egg of 2024 into view! Briefly. Most of the time we still can't see it. In some photos we can see just a glimpse of brown. In others it is not visible at all. But it is there. This is the earliest that eggs have ever been laid at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel, beating the old record of March 18, 2020.

SPRING IS HERE!

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 - For the last few weeks we have been observing increased courtship behavior from Judson, bringing meals for McKeever. This morning we captured these photos. In general, we can expect to see the first egg within two weeks of mating. So this could be a new record for earliest start at the Sheraton Hamilton nest. Where will McKeever lay her eggs? As in previous years, the pair have been seen poking around in both ends of the nest ledge. We keep hoping that maybe she will pick the original scrape at the far end. But so far she keeps choosing the near end of the ledge. In a few weeks, we'll know.

NEW CAMERA!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 - The Hamilton Community Peregrine Project is pleased to announce that we have received a generous donation, from Hanwha Vision, of a new Wisenet HD video camera, replacing the old stationary Camera #2. The camera was installed today by Eric Luehmann of Hamilton Video & Sound. Major funding for this work and additional equipment, was provided by a Hamilton Ward 2 community grant, obtained through Councillor Cameron Kroetsch.

This camera brings significant new capability to Falconwatch, enabling us to separately track two groups of chicks on nearby buildings during fledging. The spherical design will give us the ability to tilt upwards and look for falcons perched on top of nearby buildings. Something we could not do before. The higher resolution images will help us more easily read leg bands on our birds (and any visitors to the nest).

As usual, McKeever and Judson were flying about, expressing their displeasure at having humans anywhere near their nest. We, on the other hand are very pleased, and extremely grateful to Hanwha, and all the people who helped make this happen! Thank you!

GETTING READY FOR ANOTHER NESTING SEASON

Monday, February 19, 2024 - As usual, McKeever and Judson have been seen around the nest ledge from time to time over the winter. It's not quite time for them to start nesting yet, but the Hamilton Community Peregrine Project has some work to do to get ready for the coming season. Tomorrow (Feb 20) the fine people from Hamilton Video & Sound will be servicing our cameras. You may see some activity, or odd positioning of the cameras, and both cameras may go offline for a while. Don't worry, the end result of all this work will be some serious improvements. We'll tell you all about it once we're done.

BACKGROUND FOR 2024....

After their second successful year together, fledging four chicks, Judson and McKeever are spending the winter in Hamilton, where there is ample food, and warm spots to shelter from the worst of the winter weather. This will be McKeever's third year at the Hamilton nest, and Judson's fourth.

Judson arrived in Hamilton at the end of the nesting season in 2021. He came to us from Buffalo, New York, where he fledged from the Richardson Complex in 2018. In a delightful turn of events, one of his parents is Felker who fledged from Hamilton in 2012. So the prodigal (grand)son of Madame X and Surge has returned. He arrived too late to mate with Lily, who, sadly, fell ill and died early in 2022, so, apart from a brief time keeping Lily company on the ledge, his first and only mate has been....

McKeever, fledged from a nest on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, in 2019. She is named in honor of Kay McKeever of the Owl Foundation. Her arrival was first noticed on January 22, 2022, when we observed that there were still two adults landing at the nest ledge while Lily (the previous female) was being cared for at the Owl Foundation. A quick check of our webcam archives showed that McKeever had been present for a few days by that point. We don't know if she had a territorial battle with Lily which resulted in the latter being too injured to survive, or whether Lily had taken ill and this newcomer had simply filled in the void left by Lily's absence. In any event, McKeever was quickly accepted by Judson, and the pair produced four chicks their first year together, and four more the next year.

While peregrines are normally a migratory species, sometimes they choose to spend the winter in their nesting territory if there is enough food to last through the winter. 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 this trait. This will be the thirtieth 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.

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