Hamilton Falconwatch News

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VOLUNTEER ORIENTATION SESSION THURSDAY

At 6:00PM, Thursday, May 23rd, there will be a Falconwatch Volunteer Orientation Session at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre, Room 1005A (ground floor), 100 Main St. W. (corner of Bay St.).

The session will provide a brief overview of the street watch, our expectations for the current nesting season, and training in the basics of working safely as a member of the watch, including how to react when a chick comes to ground after making its first flight. There is no minimum time commitment for the watch. You can work one shift or several, or even volunteer to do a regular shift. Even if you are uncertain whether you will have the time to volunteer, please attend the meeting so you know what is involved. All are welcome. We hope to see you there.

RSVP: If you are planning to attend, please e-mail volunteer1@falcons.hamiltonnature.org to let us know. Thanks!

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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 NEEDED - Now is the time to show your support for our Hamilton Peregrines! 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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