Hamilton Falconwatch News
GROWING QUICKLYSunday, May 15, 2022 - It has been 8 days since our four chicks hatched, and they are already noticeably larger. They will continue to grow with phenomenal speed, and will be almost the same size as their parents in another two weeks. We are still looking for volunteers. With four chicks to chase, we will need a lot of them. Click the Volunteer link above. More close-ups of the chicks in the Gallery.
FEEDING HUNGRY CHICKSWednesday, May 11, 2022 - McKeever and Judson are keeping busy, hunting and bringing lots of food to their hungry brood. All four chicks appear to be doing well. More photos like this can be viewed by clicking the gallery button and then viewing either the 'favorites' or, for everything our camera has seen, select the raw archive. You can also select the option of 'motion detection' as a time range, which will show the moments with greatest movement at the nest.
FOUR LITTLE BEAKSSunday, May 8, 2022 - This morning we awoke to this sight of four chicks, hungrily clamoring for food. After a bit of trial and error yesterday, McKeever figured out the perfect size of morsel to feed her young. A sight we will see many, many times in the coming days. In case it isn't already obvious, we're going to need lots of volunteers to keep an eye on all these chicks as they fly around the downtown area in June and July. Please click the volunteer link now, so you can be notified of the orientation and training session that will be happening in a few weeks. We, and the falcons, thank you!
HATCHING!Saturday, May 7, 2022 - Hamilton has chicks! The first one started to crack through it's shell yesterday, and finally hatched sometime last night. It was looking healthy and strong when we captured a photo of it at daybreak (left photo). You can see another shell cracking in that photo. Over the next three hours we captured some of the best photos we have ever captured of chicks hatching, emerging all pink and damp, and quickly drying off and turning white and fluffy.
Within the last couple of days we finally got a view of four brown eggs, but we still don't know for sure if there is a fifth, or how many more will hatch. At this time it appears that a large piece of shell has wrapped itself around the old white egg, giving the appearance of a two-tone egg (right photo) which can fool us into thinking its a fifth brown egg, so we can't be sure. But we won't be surprised if another chick appears within the next day. Exciting times!
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ANY DAY NOWTuesday, May 3, 2022 - Within the last day, falcon watchers have noticed an increased amount of 'fussing' by the adults around the nest scrape. This activity is likely in response to the adults hearing faint noises from the chicks inside their eggs. This means that hatching time is nearly here! With the parapet blocking our view, we might not see newly hatched chicks at first, but one certain sign will be when the adults start bringing food to the nest. If we're lucky, by the end of the week we will catch a glimpse of tiny white fluffy heads as they get fed.
UNWELCOME FLY-BYFriday, April 22, 2022 - It appears another bird flew close by the nest this morning, but we only caught sight of it's shadow on our camera. Whoever it was, McKeever was not pleased with how close they got (photo at left). But neither peregrine gave chase. Instead, for a few moments, Judson joined his mate on the parapet, and they both looked down from the ledge, quite possibly offering the intruder a piece of their mind (right photo). This kind of thing is not unusual during nesting season. Peregrine parents are always on guard. We have just been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that shadow today.
HALF WAY TO HATCHINGSunday, April 17, 2022 - As we reach the mid-point of their month-long incubation, we are pleased to report that McKeever and Judson are proving to be very dedicated to keeping their precious eggs warm. They have fallen into a smooth routine where they take turns sitting in the nest. The photo at left shows a "shift change" as Judson gets up to stretch his wings and McKeever takes over the brooding. This scene is repeated several times each day. The nest was well sheltered from Friday's wind storm, and both falcons came through it just fine. Judson even found a moment to hunt for his mate (right photo).
Since mid-February, we have been occasionally catching sight of a perfectly white falcon egg in the nest. Our best guess is that it is an old egg from Lily's failed clutch last year, which has been bleached white by the elements over the winter. Though there is also a small chance that a burst of unseasonably warm weather triggered a "misfire" in McKeever's biology, and she produced a colorless unviable egg late in the winter. Either way, she never seemed to pay it any special attention. We don't know if she is now including this egg with the others while she broods, but it does seem to roll into view more than the others. So we're thinking that she already knows it is not viable. We still don't know exactly how many new eggs there are in the scrape, but, given the way the ledge hides the scrape, the fact that we can see two of them here makes it quite likely there are two more hidden from view. We still don't know how many will hatch. With the kind of dedication being demonstrated, we have high hopes for all of them. In two more weeks, we will know!
HAS MCKEEVER FINISHED LAYING?Sunday, April 3, 2022 - It was a week ago today that McKeever laid her first egg. Without being able to count them, we have two ways to estimate when McKeever has finished her laying. The first is a simple bit of math. Peregrines generally lay no more than 4 eggs, so, with an average time between individual eggs of about 2 days, the longest laying can last is about a week. On rare occasions, a fifth egg will be produced, which would make tomorrow the last day of laying.
Our other clue is to look at the color of the eggs. A freshly laid egg is much redder than one that has been sitting in the nest for a few days. This photo shows the difference quite clearly. The egg on the left has been laid more recently, while the one on the right has faded enough that we can be quite sure it is the first (or possibly the second) egg laid. Now, the waiting game begins. And in about a month we will see how many of these eggs are viable and actually hatch. With luck, and the youthful vigor of our two adults, we may see a very full nest this year!
GLIMPSES OF EGGSWednesday, March 30, 2022 - This morning, Judson made the wise choice to roll at least one of the eggs under the small overhang on the inner side of the nest ledge (to the right in our camera view), protecting it from the rain/sleet coming down. This gave us a rare chance to catch a glimpse of an egg. Also, in passing, we note that one of their recent meals had yellow feathers.
During the egg laying period, the falcons will be on and off their eggs to keep them cool, and slow the development of the first eggs. Once all eggs have been laid, they will start incubating full time. The end result of this behavior will be that eggs laid over the course of a week should all hatch within a couple of days of each other, so that all their chicks are of equal strength and we don't have a situation where one chick is a week younger than the others and less able to jockey for position among its hungry siblings when food is brought to the nest by their parents. A clever strategy for insuring the survival of all their offspring.
Update: At 6pm this evening, a second egg was rolled into view. Given the likely size and shape of the scrape, the chances are quite good that there is another egg, possibly two, still hidden.
WE HAVE OUR FIRST EGG!Sunday, March 27, 2022 - Updated: There is only one thing we can think of that would make a peregrine falcon sit out in the rain and snow, rather than find a nice shaded perch. And this afternoon we saw McKeever perform a very particular wiggling motion that peregrines do when settling their feathers over an egg. So we are now quite certain that McKeever has laid her first egg. Despite Judson's best efforts to convince her otherwise, she has chosen the same near corner of the ledge which Lily used. This means we cannot see into the scrape itself, so we won't be able to count the eggs. Hopefully we will catch a glimpse of one or two when she rolls them around during brooding. The countdown to hatching begins!
MCKEEVER IS STILL WITH US!Wednesday, March 23, 2022 - Update: McKeever returned to the nest this evening (photo). There is no immediate indication of whether she had any interaction with the unbanded female that hung around with Judson most of the day. With the presence of two females, clearly showing interest in this nest, we are going to maintain our watch for a possible territorial battle, and the small chance that an injured bird could come to ground as a result. So, if you are downtown in the next couple of days, please keep an eye on the skies, and the ground, just in case a bird comes down. Thanks!
COMPETITION FOR JUDSON'S ATTENTIONWednesday, March 23, 2022 (edited) - Shortly before noon today we started seeing a new unbanded female closely interacting with Judson. She was seen claiming a meal from him and eating it right beside him while he worked on the scrape (photo). For most of the afternoon, she was around the nest almost constantly, making us think that this bird had displaced McKeever. But, that turned out to not be the case.
SHERATON HAMILTON - THE DESTINATION OF CHOICE FOR MIGRATING FALCONS
Monday, March 21, 2022 - For the third day in a row, McKeever and Judson had a visitor. This one was another juvenile, and was banded (but sadly we were not able to read them). It's feathers still had juvenile markings, but were not as brown as the bird that visited two days ago. Judson was on the ledge at the time, and briefly expressed his displeasure at the company, before flying off.
Update: Around 5pm, the unbanded juvenile that first appeared two days ago visited the nest ledge again. Judson made his displeasure clear. It looks like he is pointing with a wing, saying, "Get off my ledge!"
YET ANOTHER VISITOR!
Sunday, March 20, 2022 - Sharp on the heels of yesterday's visit by a juvenile, today we saw yet another unbanded adult appear on the nest ledge. This one had unusual white striping on its head, which is how we know it is not the same adult that visited three weeks ago. As with previous visitors, Judson and McKeever were seen before and after this visit. This bird was seen beak-to-beak with another adult in the nest, so it seems that Judson and McKeever are continuing to be highly tolerant of visitors.
A JUVENILE PEREGRINE VISITS!
Saturday, March 19, 2022 - This morning at 10 am, and then again shortly after noon, a young peregrine, still sporting its brown juvenile feathers, landed briefly on the nest ledge. Both times it appears that Judson quickly shooed away the intruder. There were no bands to be seen, so we know it was not a fledglng from this nest or any of the other urban nests that have their chicks regularly banded. Further evidence that the wild population in Ontario is thriving!
In the meantime, we still occasionally see Nemo land on the nest ledge. So it would appear that McKeever and Judson are not yet making a concerted effort to drive off other peregrines. But with eggs expected within the next two weeks, this could change very quickly. Perhaps Judson's quick reaction today is the beginning of that protective behaviour. :)
Thursday, March 10, 2022 - The skies over Hamilton are getting busy! Today, while taking some close-ups of the peregrines, our webmaster realized he was looking at someone new. Fortunately, a clear shot of leg bands was captured, and the bird was quickly identified as "Nemo", a male fledged in 2017 from the Don Mills Harlequin nest.
Judson was seen in the nest ledge less than five minutes before, and again a few hours later, so it seems almost certain that this was another peaceful visit. Given the tremendous diligence with which Judson has been courting McKeever, we're still putting our bets on Judson to be her mate this year. But nature has a way of surprising us. So we'll just need to watch closely, and see what happens when that first egg is laid.
WATCH THAT LEDGE!
Monday, March 7, 2022 - As spring approaches, the peregrines are now visiting the nest ledge several times a day. Judson is seriously courting McKeever now. Yesterday he was seen bringing her two meals within as many hours (photos at left). The pair are often seen in either end of the ledge moving rocks around in one of the two "scrapes" where McKeever might choose to lay her eggs. As in previous years, Judson seems to favor the far end of the nest ledge, while McKeever seems undecided. She is sometimes seen with Judson in the far corner, and sometimes by herself in the near corner.
Will she choose the far corner, with its better shelter from the rain? Judson's serious effort at tending and preparing that scrape might just sway her. And there is also the question of whether there is an old, failed egg in the near scrape from last year. The photo at left seems to show an old egg from the failed 2021 clutch, in the corner, bleached white by the elements. McKeever may not want to lay fresh eggs so close. Or she may just remove the old egg. Either way, we will know in a few more weeks.
In the meantime, the unbanded female has been seen at least one more time visiting the nest ledge. According to falcon watchers who have seen this kind of thing before, it is not unusual for the resident pair to be tolerant of visitors before nesting begins. But once that first egg is laid, no more intrusions will be tolerated. So we might see this extra adult for another week or so, but then she will most likely read the writing on the ledge and move on.
A MYSTERIOUS VISITOR
Monday, February 28, 2022 - Twice in the past week we have seen a third adult peregrine visit the Sheraton Hamilton nest ledge. This bird has not displaced McKeever or Judson, who both continue to be seen on the webcam. The photo at left shows Judson on the ledge with this stranger. He stayed there for maybe 10 seconds before taking off.
With no clear bond established between Judson and McKeever it is not surprising that he would be tolerant of another female, but we're a bit mystified as to why McKeever hasn't chased off this intruder. Falcon watch is asking anyone who is downtown over the next week to keep a close watch on the skies if they hear the sound of falcons. We would be interested to know if there have been any territorial battles.
The newcomer has no leg bands, which indicates that she hatched from an unmonitored wilderness location, probably in Ontario or a nearby U.S. state. A lovely sign that the peregrine population is well on the road to recovery!
HAMILTON, SAY HELLO TO... MCKEEVER!
Sunday, January 30, 2022 - We have finally been able to get enough photos of the leg band on our new female to be sure we have read it correctly! Hamilton Falconwatch officially welcomes McKeever to the Sheraton Hamilton nest! She comes to us from Windsor, Ontario, where she was hatched on the Ambassador Bridge in 2019. She is named in honor of Kay McKeever of the Owl Foundation.
The photo at left shows McKeever and Judson on the nest ledge, along with clippings from the various band photos that we used to make this identification. The right hand photo was taken by Paul Gosselin a few weeks after McKeever's banding in 2019. For Hamilton Falcon Watchers, this means that we have a four year old male and a three year old female - perfect ages for a breeding pair. We have high hopes for seeing a nest full of chicks this summer!
SAD NEWS.... AND SOME COMFORT
Sunday, January 23, 2022 - We regret to announce that downtown Hamilton's resident female peregrine falcon, Lily, passed away this evening. It would seem that her dehydration and frostbite were more severe than they first appeared. This together with the injuries she sustained from some kind of collision were too much for her aging body. At 6:30 she passed away, despite the best efforts of the Open Sky Raptor Foundation and the Owl Foundation (to whom we are extremely grateful).
But there is some comforting news to help offset this sadness.... This afternoon we captured the photo at left, of two adult peregrines on the Sheraton Hamilton nest ledge! We don't know if this implies that some of Lily's injuries were from a territorial battle, or if this new bird is just seizing the obvious opportunity to move in on a nesting territory with only one adult present. Judson appeared a little bit upset, but did not try to drive off the newcomer. So, despite the sadness, it looks like we will not have to worry about having a female for the coming nesting season. We will keep a close watch in the coming days, to see if we can identify the new bird.
A NEW YEAR BEGINS WITH CONCERNING NEWS
Sunday, January 23, 2022 - As our brave peregrines deal with winter snow (picture at left), we received a report that Lily has been rescued from a location on the ground near the corner of Bay St and York Blvd, on the north-west corner of the downtown block that she and Judson call home.
She does not appear seriously injured. No fractured bones. But her weight is down - possibly a sign of her dealing with hypothermia in the dreadful cold of this past week. It was also noted that one of her wings seemed slightly stiff, perhaps evidence of a collision with a building or possibly even a vehicle. We will post updated information as we get it.
BACKGROUND FOR 2022....
This is the seventh anniversary of the arrival of Lily at the Hamilton nest. Strictly speaking, this will be Judson's first year to produce chicks, given the fact that he arrived at the nest while Lily was brooding the (failed) eggs last year.
Lily was banded in 2010 at the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power plant, in Michigan. Judson fledged in 2018 from the Richardson Complex in Buffalo, New York. 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 returns!
Lily last hatched a pair of chicks in 2020, with Ossie. The pair produced several eggs in 2021, but none hatched. Judson arrived just about the time that they should have hatched. A third falcon was seen nearby for several weeks after Judson appeared. We couldn't see its bands, but we're guessing that Ossie lost a territorial battle, but wasn't quite ready to give up on Lily. The other possibility is that another female was accompanyinng Judson, and had hopes to displace Lily. But a momma on her eggs was not something any intruder would want to face. Either way, the extra bird departed a few weeks later.
With the Covid-19 pandemic stretching into its third year, we will still need to be mindful of possible provincial regulations regarding public contact, but our expectation is that we will be able to operate an on-street watch this coming year. So in the coming months we will be seeking volunteers for the Watch. As always, your kind financial assistance makes all the difference, as this pays for our coordinators, who lead the effort to keep our chicks safe.
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-eighth 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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