Hamilton Falconwatch News
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August 26, 2008: Not much new about our 2008 fledglings, but click on the History button above for great news about Cootes (2004) and Albion (2006).

July 11, 2008: Falconwatch Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: Miles continues to explore downtown Hamilton and share air time with his old nest mates. He is gradually increasing his flying range and stamina to keep up with the boys. Miles demonstrates superb flying skills that give no cause for concern, so 'Round Two' of Falconwatch '08 has wrapped up. Thanks to Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro and the dedicated volunteers who came out of retirement to help re-launch Miles.

Now that the adults are not sticking as close to the Sheraton all the time, local American Kestrels, the smaller falcon cousin of the Peregrine, have been perching on the hotel and on Madame X's favourite antenna on the Fairclough Building. While Madame X and Surge are not quite as agressive as they were when the brood was younger, they continue to fiercely protect the territory against predators. This afternoon they teamed up against a Red-tailed Hawk and ushered him out of the downtown area.

Thanks very much to everyone who has made a donation to Falconwatch. We REALLY appreciate your help! Any Falconwatcher who would like to contribute toward the costs of Falconwatch can do so by clicking on the 'Make a Donation' line above. Enjoy the birds!!!

July 9, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Miles and his siblings were flying and interacting with each other for much of yesterday, with Surge and Madame X not far away. Miles enjoyed a large feeding late in the morning, which took him nearly an hour to consume. He appears to have settled comfortably into his old home. Last evening he ventured east with the boys for a bit of adventure, but returned to the BDC building to settle down for the night.

July 8, 2008: Falconwatch Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: Yesterday afternoon Miles was returned to downtown Hamilton and released from the Sheraton Hotel. Falconwatchers rallied to keep an eye on him and were pleased to see that his flying skills and aerobatics are everything we could have hoped for. Stay tuned for further details as Miles gets reacquainted with his home town.

HCPP was pleased to have word today that Albion, a Hamilton fledgling from 2006, is successfully breeding at the Scudders Falls Bridge (I-95 and the Delaware River) in Pennsylvania, home state of Madame X.

July 6, 2008 - Falconwatch Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: For the past several days it has been hard to catch sight of all three juveniles at the same time, although we often hear them in the sky around the Stelco Tower. It was a treat this evening to find them all perched in the sun on an old television antenna east of downtown. I looked away for just a few seconds and all three were gone! Places to go, things to do...

Miles is eating and flying well. Because his tail is his rudder and Peregrines need superb maneuverability for successful hunting, it is important to make sure that his steering is up to par. We hope to be able to return him to Hamilton this week. We will continue to let you know about Miles and if more volunteer help is needed as soon as we receive new information. Stay tuned.


Miles - July 1, 2008

July 3, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Blashill, Elstone and Duncan rarely return to the nest now, preferring to spend their days (and nights) elsewhere. It was surprising to see two birds in the scrape yesterday evening - just after 19:00 empty nesters Surge and Madame X were reunited in the nest briefly. The chicks still interact with each other quite a bit in the air, often taking off together and chasing each other about. Most of our viewing now occurs from a distance. As our three high fliers are getting hard to track, yesterday evening wrapped up Falconwatch for the time being.

Miles is eating with gusto and has been moved to a flight cage where he will have a chance to test his wings again. Like any youngster might be, he was enthusiastic to be off "bed rest" and ran and stretched happily in his new quarters. We will continue to let you know about Miles and if more volunteer help is needed as soon as we receive new information. Stay tuned.


July 2, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Falconwatchers have had little to worry about these days, with Blashill, Elstone, and Duncan all doing well and progressively gaining independence. All three are now excellent at flying and are able to land smoothly on a variety of surfaces. While they can be distinguished from the adults in appearance (the chicks have a golden-brown breast), from a distance it is easy to mistake a flying chick for an adult. They are well on their way!

With the chicks ranging far out of our sight most of the day it is very hard to keep track of them. We will keep you updated on their activities as best we can. We will also let you know about Miles and if more volunteer help is needed as soon as we receive new information.


July 1, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: The chicks were giving Falconwatchers sore necks Monday with their long, high flights across downtown. At times, they could barely be picked out flying in the sky. The three spent some time this evening in a new area - playing on the antenna of the tall Century 21 building, testing out perches. Meanwhile, back at the rehab facility, Miles is showing signs of improvement. His tail is looking better, and his healthy appetite has returned. We hope to have more news in the next few days.


June 30, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: The chicks have become very aggressive feeders. A couple of times on Sunday they were spotted off in the distance trying to hunt pigeons. Later, one (Elstone, we think) was seen chasing Madame X to gain access to some food she had just brought in. Blashill displays the most 'adult' behaviours of the three - for example, perching on slim ledges normally used only by Surge and Madame X.

The adults, for their part, have begun to visit the nest ledge once or twice a day, usually rooting about in the far corner, almost as if they are tidying things up for next year. For several years now we have seen this activity after the youngsters vacate the ledge.


June 29, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: On the last official day of Falconwatch, we were pleased to see Duncan venturing farther from the nest. At one point this morning, all three chicks were perched far to the east, on the antenna and elevator shaft roof of the Royal Connaught Hotel. The chicks have on occasion been spotted with fresh food following a prolonged absence, suggesting that they may already be starting to hunt for themselves. They aren't yet fully independent - the adults still bring in food several times a day - but they are certainly on their way!


June 28, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Things continued as usual Friday. It is now common for the chicks, especially Blashill, to take off and not reappear until hours later. Mornings and evenings are still the best times to view the birds in the Sheraton area. Elstone and Blashill were sighted this evening perching on and playing around the antenna of an older building much farther to the east than they would venture before. Duncan, on the other hand, still prefers to stick to the buildings closer to the nest for now.

Miles remains on 'bed rest' at the rehab facility this weekend. His tail injury is looking better, and he will be transferred to a flight cage next week. Stay tuned.


June 27, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: It was Duncan's turn to get into trouble Thursday. After spending some time perched on the upper roof ledge of the west CIBC tower, in the afternoon he dropped down into a small enclosure. He tried several times to get out but there wasn't room to develop the lift needed to get airborne. Around 16:15 Falconwatchers decided it was time to intervene. Duncan was captured and lifted up onto a higher platform, from which he immediately took off for the Standard Life building.

News from away: Miles is doing better, but still needs 'bed rest'. It is hoped that in a few days he will go into a flight cage so his flying ability can be evaluated. Meanwhile, the 'Three Musketeers', as one observer called them yesterday, are putting on aerobatic exhibits worthy of much older birds. On several occasions Thursday, including one at 12:45 in the heat of the day, all three were in the air chasing, diving and talon touching for close to five minutes at a time. The former Stelco building has become a favourite landing spot. On Wednesday Elstone stopped off on the seventh floor where the picture at left was taken with a cellphone camera (Thanks Corrie!).


June 26, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: There was lots of activity again yesterday. Duncan, Elstone and Blashill are taking longer and longer flights, often chasing each other at high speeds through the air for several minutes at a time. They have continued to improve their skills and have even been observed catching food dropped by the adults in mid-air! The visitors who attended last evening's Hamilton Naturalists' Club Wednesday Night Walk got close-up looks at the birds through telescopes and actually saw one of the food transfers right overhead! Meanwhile, Miles is on 'bed rest' back at the rehab facility for the next few days. Stay tuned for more updates on his condition.


June 25, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: We are happy to report that an X-ray taken Tuesday showed no breakages or other major injuries to Miles' tail. He remains under surveillance at the rehab facility for now, but it shouldn't be long before he is able to return to his downtown home. On Monday Miles weighed in at 633 grams, an excellent weight for a 47-day old male Peregrine. When the birds were banded on June 2 there was some doubt that the two heaviest were female because all their weights were so close. Since female chicks are always heavier than males, they start to fly later and take longer learn to fly well. Based on the amazing flying skills shown by these birds, especially Miles, experienced Hamilton Falconwatchers are now agreed that all of the 2008 chicks are male.

While Miles is taking time off, Elstone, Blashill and Duncan continue to do well and learn 'adult' behaviours. Until recently, they would stay around the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the nest. It is now becoming more common for them to venture farther from the area, at times too far into the distance for Falconwatchers to track. Though not yet observed hunting for themselves, the chicks can be seen very efficiently disposing of food dropped by Surge or Madame X. While the volunteers are kept quite busy with just the three chicks, we are all anxious to have Miles return and be reunited with his siblings.


June 24, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: I arrived Monday to find my fellow Falconwatchers concerned over a missing Miles. Shortly after dawn all four chicks had flown energetically, but Miles had been gone from sight since before 07:00. After many hours of searching, he was spotted perched on the pool deck of the Sheraton Hotel, a bit closer to the ground (and to King St. traffic) than we like to see a chick. Although Miles had no obvious injuries and appeared to be very alert it seemed odd, being the excellent flyer he is, that he had gotten into such a low position and had not flown all day. When he finally took off he had trouble gaining height and landed in the parking lot across the street, where members of the Falconwatch team were on hand to make a rescue. To be sure that he was not seriously injured Miles was taken for professional care. The initial examination found no injury to the wings or head, but some injury to his tail. It appears that he may have collided with something. Miles remained at the facility overnight. We will keep you posted.


June 23, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: There was a spectacular show Sunday morning - chicks chasing each other back and forth over and around buildings, touching talons, landing here, landing there, chasing after the adults. The Falconwatchers were worn out! The picture at left shows one of the birds, Blashill we think, during a brief stop on the top of the west CIBC building.

By late morning the chicks had used up lots of juvenile energy and things calmed down quite a bit. Their favourite spots for mid-day naps are on the roofs and ledges of the Sheraton and the Standard Life buildings. A storm came through just after 14:00 and woke them up. They stood flapping in the rain and even made a few small flights during the downpour. By evening they were out in full force again, with more amazing flying displays. Shortly after 21:00 three of the yougasters came back to the nest ledge (left) to settle down for the night. In the coming days they will start to venture farther from the area and become difficult to track, so we must enjoy the show while we can!


June 22, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: It is becoming a challenge to track the chicks, with all four in the air and heading in different directions at times. Duncan is spending more time in flight, and even managed to tackle his older brother Miles for food in mid-air this afternoon (impressive, considering Miles' excellent flying technique). Both Duncan and Elstone enjoy spending time playing in the puddles on the Standard Life roof, and all of the chicks like chasing each other in circles above the downtown buildings. Several times today Miles was seen 'escorting' gulls out of the area. It won't be long before the adults teach them how to hunt for food on their own.


June 21, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Falconwatchers were quite busy Friday with all four chicks now out of the nest. Miles has become a very advanced flyer and has performed some impressive landings (for example, on the window ledges of the Stelco tower, a favourite perch of his parents). Duncan, a novice flyer, spent much of his day hopping along building rooftops and made a rather clumsy landing on CIBC in the evening. The chicks stayed close to one another today, reuniting for long periods on the Sheraton and Standard Life buildings. Not yet ready to hunt, they still rely on Surge and Madame X to bring in food. Over the next few days they will be taken on 'training' trips by the adults, sometimes one-on-one, sometimes an adult and more than one chick travelling together, to learn how to manoeuvre in the sky, to hunt for food, and to transfer things - usually food - from one bird to another.

June 20, 2008 update - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: At 09:04 this morning Duncan joined his siblings in flight. The image at left shows Duncan seconds before he lifted off. Falconwatchers are now Empty Nesters, but will have at least a week more of following the youngsters as they learn the ropes and fledge completely. The chicks may return to the nest at any time, especially in the evening. Stay tuned!


June 20, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Blashill, Elstone and Miles were all out of the nest for most of the day. Elstone was finally ready to get airborne again, taking several long flights and usually landing on either the Sheraton or Fairclough. The three chicks interact quite a bit when out of the nest, often perching and flying around together. Duncan, at 40 days of age, has yet to venture from the nest but has been doing some impressive flapping on the ledge. During the evening, Blashill settled in to her favourite sleeping spot on the Piggott building, Elstone went back into the nest, and Miles perched nearby on the corner of the Sheraton. This morning Elstone left the nest at 06:04. This image of Duncan (left) was taken a few seconds later. He was 'Home Alone' again, but it won't be long before he is off as well!


June 19, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Blashill was located safe and sound Wednesday morning, perched on a window ledge on the Piggott building. It wasn't long before she took off again, landing first on the Fairclough building and then on the CIBC. Miles made a spectacular - for a chick - early morning flight right around the Standard Life Building and back again. Clearly feeling more adventurous, he then made many successful landings on other buildings in the area, including one trip with Madame X to the BDC building over on Main Street. Blashill was active too, and on several occasions was seen sitting together with Miles on a building or chasing each other and/or one of the parents through the air. They are already excellent flyers!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Elstone, still recovering from his Sunday adventure out of the nest, stayed there until 15:52 Wednesday afternoon and then ventured only as far as the lower roof of the Sheraton. The image (left, above) shows Elstone just taking off. In the second picture (left) Duncan is seen looking curiously at the just departed Elstone. Elstone returned to the nest a little while later and just before dusk Miles, true to form, also came back to the nest and settled in for the night. Blashill travelled to the Piggott building as dusk approached. Only then could the Falconwatchers relax a bit.


June 18, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: After spending the night in the nest, Miles took off again early Tuesday morning. During the day he made several small flights back and forth between the Sheraton roof and the Standard Life building to the west without any trouble. All was going well until 19:35 in the evening when one of the other chicks - Blashill, we think - took off from the nest ledge and landed below on the Thompson building. Less than half an hour later, this chick was off again, flying south past the Convention Centre and right out of sight. In the meantime, for the second night in a row Miles found his way from the roof of the Sheraton back into the nest. Falconwatchers searched until after dark for the missing chick and will keep looking this morning.


June 17, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: While his siblings preened and practiced flapping in the nest ledge, Miles spent much of Monday hopping around on the upper roof of the Sheraton, hesitant to make another flight. Finally, around 17:10, he was off again! He flew westward and landed on the roof of the Standard Life building, where he remained for about 2 hours before continuing on with his journey. After attempting to perch on the slanted window ledges of the Fairclough building across the street, a flustered Miles returned once again to the Sheraton roof, where he slowly made his way over to the camera arm. Just before 20:30 he made the leap from there back into the nest, just in time for bed. At 05:23 this morning they were all in the ledge (left), but it is most likely that we will have another flight (or more!) today.


June 16, 2008 - update: Senior Monitor John Merriman reports: At 07:34 this morning Elstone literally hopped back into the nest ledge and filled his siblings in on his adventures yesterday and overnight. At 08:20, shortly after a visit from Madame X, a second chick - we believe it was Miles - took off and made a nice high flight out and around over King Street, then back to the upper Sheraton roof. Did Mom say something that made him go? We'll never know, but stay tuned to our new soap opera, 'As the Peregrine Flies'.


June 16, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: After a relatively quiet start, Sunday became VERY exciting when the first flight of one of this year's chicks took place! After many 'almosts' Elstone, at only 39 days of age, took off from the nest ledge just after 15:30 and headed east along King Street. He circled and then stopped briefly at the Stelco building, and then flew across King Street where he bumped into a window at the Hamilton Convention Centre and dropped down to a walkway. Quick work by Falconwatchers kept him in sight during the flight so that once down, even though he couldn't be seen, his exact location was known. Fortunately a member of the HCPP Rescue Team was on the scene. Accompanied by Convention Centre staff Heather went to the walkway and took Elstone literally in hand before making a transfer to the carrying box. Heather and fellow Rescue Team member Mike then examined Elstone (left) and found that there were no injuries, and also that based on his current size and weight Elstone is a male, not a female!

While all this was going on it looked as though the oldest (40 days) chick, Blashill, was ready to test its wings as well, but it decided to stay put. (Since we now know that Elstone is a male we are being careful about gender because Blashill actually weighed a bit less at banding.)

After determining that Elstone was OK, Heather and Mike took him up to the roof of the Sheraton and released him. Elstone initially looked a little suprised (left) but within minutes he had found his way up to the parapet of the Sheraton roof. He first walked to the far east end of the parapet, then back toward the centre, then east again. Finally he decided that he wanted to be close to his siblings and went as far west as he could go, winding up perched on the camera arm for much of the evening while the other chicks stood watching curiously from the nest ledge. At 05:45 today he was quite active, walking on the parapet and jumping up to the camera mount. We'll see what happens next! Stay tuned.


June 15, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: The full on-street Falconwatch started yesterday. In the image at left it looks as though the two chicks are checking out the observers. A few times on Saturday Falconwatchers became nervous as the birds flapped hard and their feet left the nest ledge for a second or two. Although the youngsters are now close to full size, patches of down remain on even the oldest of the bunch. Until they are fledged the parents stand guard on the nearby buildings, prepared to ward off any potential threats. The chicks become vocal whenever an adult passes by the nest, hopeful that it will bring in a meal.


June 14, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: There was quite a bit of activity around the nest on Friday. All four chicks were often up on the ledge together, as in this image taken at 07:04. Around 15:20 Surge and Madame X chased off a lurking threat - from a distance it looked to be a Red-tailed Hawk. Lately, the adults have been dropping food into the nest rather than feeding the chicks individually. During several meals today the four could be seen fighting over the scraps. A major rain and thunderstorm rolled in around 8:45PM; the youngsters spent a few moments flapping in the rain before settling down in the nest for the night.


June 13, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: The older chicks are getting very brave. Around 18:15 Thursday evening one could be seen hanging on to the outside edge of the ledge, wildly flapping its wings. One more step and it would have been off! Surge and Madame X brought in plenty of food today. The chicks need it to build their strength in preparation for their first flights! It does appear that the youngest has learned to get in there when food is brought. In the image at left, taken Thursday at 07:11, he (white back) stayed right in front of Madame X until she finished feeding them all.


June 12, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: The youngsters are growing fast and are quickly shedding their down feathers. The youngest can be easily picked out by his fluffy white coat. He didn't try for food during the first morning feeding and was too late to get any during the second (image at left), so he stayed hungry for most of the day. Finally, just before 18:00, one of the adults dropped some food into the nest, which he eagerly consumed. The adults do make sure that all the chicks get fed, but sometimes make them work for it.


June 11, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Madame X disappeared from sight for over an hour Tuesday morning before returning with breakfast around 09:00. A heavy rain in the early afternoon (that's a chick in the fuzzy image at left) brought all four chicks down from the ledge into the safety of the scrape, but not for long. They are flapping and stretching their wings more and more each day. Around 3:20 one of the chicks was running and flapping its way along the ledge.


June 10, 2008 - Falconwatch Coordinator Rachel de Catanzaro reports: Yesterday's first morning feeding came at 06:13. Madame X dropped the food into the nest and let the chicks sort it out for themselves - the two smallest ones didn't get much. After a flurry of activity around 06:30 when both adults chased a gull almost to ground level over the School Board parking lot, the nest was quiet for much of the late morning and early afternoon. Around 11:20 Surge brought in a Mourning Dove and the chicks enjoyed an early lunch. After 17:00 this afternoon all four chicks were again active on the ledge. The next big meals arrived at 17:50 and 20:00. During the last feeding the TV monitor showed Madame X giving much of the food to the smallest chick.

Hello to Ms. Morrison's students at Westdale High School and Ms. Woof's students at Glendale High School. We hope some of you can make it down to the Sheraton area to see the chicks close up.


June 9, 2008 - The HCPP is pleased to introduce this year's Falconwatch Coordinator, Rachel de Catanzaro. Rachel, who is about to graduate from McMaster University's Biodiversity program, will ride herd on the falcons and Falconwatchers until the chicks fledge. Here is her first report:

I arrived on site today at 09:00 to find two, and soon three chicks up on the ledge. It wasn't until about 5:35 this afternoon that the fourth chick finally joined the others on the ledge for the first time, as can be seen in the image at left. The nest ledge is a busy sight when they are all up - the chicks periodically stretching their wings and calling when an adult arrives home with a meal. A daring Red-tailed Hawk flew by the nest twice today, first at 12:30 and then again at 1:50, only to be chased out of sight by Surge and Madame X. A few gulls met the same fate later in the day. The chicks seemed to cope well with today's heat, and the evening rain helped to cool them off.


June 8, 2008 - Last evening was perfect for Falconwatching - a beautiful, warm and breezy almost summer moment with two...no, three chicks flapping on the ledge. Just after 19:00 a third chick popped up from the scrape. From across King Street it looked like the youngsters were enjoying themselves; stretching and working their wings while getting a fix on the world from their point of view. They still have lots of baby down to shed and are busily preening it out and grooming their new feathers. The most seasoned of the chicks is very comfortable stamping around on the ledge and getting the feel of her feet under her. Both adults were close by and a couple of gulls passing too close to the nest felt just how close by Surge really was. The adventure continued this morning, as can be seen in the image at left, captured at 0606 today.


June 7, 2008 - When the chicks start getting up on the nest ledge regularly, veteran Falconwatchers begin to get a bit nervous. A strong gust of wind or a misstep could mean a problem for all involved. As can be seen from the image at left, taken at 19:46 Thursday evening, we are now at this point. Monitoring of the nest site will begin this weekend, with the full on-street Falconwatch starting up later this week as we get closer to the time the youngsters will start to fly.


June 5, 2008 - Falconwatchers will be pleased to learn that last evening HCPP Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble was named the winner of the first Betty Blashill Environmental Award, given to Hamiltonians "who have gone above and beyond" in their volunteer efforts to improve the natural or social environment, for her work with Falconwatch and the Hamilton Naturalists' Club. Congratulations Audrey on a well deserved honour.


Thanks to the students of Ms. Stretton's Second Grade class at Ancaster Meadow School who asked, "Why are the chicks banded?" The young Peregrines are banded to help Falconwatchers and other people who study birds learn where they go after they leave the nest, and also how long they live. Our chicks receive two bands, one on each leg. The silver coloured metal band shown in the image at left is supplied by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and carries a multi-digit number which uniquely identifies the bird. Details such as the bird's age, weight, length and wing span, plus location and date of banding, are recorded and stored in the USFWS database.

The second band is hard plastic (the black band in the image at left). This band carries two characters - numbers or letters - which are recorded and also uniquely identify the bird. These characters are much larger than the numbers on the metal band to help observers with binoculars or telescopes identify a bird from a distance. If a bird is observed or found injured or dead and the band number(s) returned to the USFWS, the original bander is notified. Some bird bands have been recovered thousands of miles from where the bird was banded; some many years after banding. In the image at left the green band is actually the USFWS band with coloured tape applied to help Hamilton Falconwatchers identify individual birds as they fledge in the next month. The tape will eventually wear off, leaving the numbers on the metal band visible.


June 4, 2008 - It appears that Monday's banding was just in time! At 17:25 Tuesday afternoon the first chick made it up onto the ledge to nab some supper. Earlier in the day it seemed that Madame X was hesitating with food on the ledge. We could interpret this as trying to lure the chicks into action, in which case she was successful as can be seen in the image at left, or possibly she just needed to catch her breath before she jumped down into the fray! The youngsters are rapidly growing into their darker big wings and feet and it will be nothing but fun from here on.

On an unhappy note, the Hamilton Community Peregrine Project was saddened to learn of the passing on May 25 of Len Dixon, the first person to identify a Peregrine Falcon at the Sheraton Hamilton hotel. Len recently retired after 35 years with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. In 1994, while working as I.T. Manager for the Board, Len reported seeing what he thought was a Peregrine Falcon flying near the Sheraton. When the bird returned in 1995 his new report resulted in action by the Canadian Wildlife Service and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The Hamilton Naturalists' Club was asked to organize a monitoring effort, and Falconwatch was born. Len will be remembered for his wit and his love of nature, especially the falcons. We will miss his visits to Falconwatch and look forward to naming a chick in Len's honour.


Watch our chicks being banded on the Banding Video (courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator)

June 2, 2008 - Part 2: Everyone, meet Duncan, Blashill, Miles and Elstone. Our chicks were retrieved from the nest ledge today by climber John Millar, assisted by Chris Phinney. They were named after four former Presidents of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club (HNC) who passed away recently, Bruce Duncan, Betty Blashill, John Miles and Bob Elstone. The birds were banded by Anne Yagi of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), who was assisted by Bruce Duncan's son James. In the image at left two of the chicks are displayed for those attending the banding, among whom was Jim Stollard, current President of the HNC.

At this age Peregrine chicks are not fully developed so determining gender is not possible. Female Peregrines are always bigger and heavier than males; based on weights it was decided, for the time being at least, that Duncan (666 g) and Miles (700 g) are male while Blashill (714 g) and Elstone (718 g) are female. By the time they fledge, in a month or so, the birds will be almost full size and it may then be possible to confirm or perhaps modify today's gender assignments. In the image at left climber John Millar holds one of the chicks before placing it back in the nest ledge.


June 2, 2008 - Part 1: If around 10:00-11:00 this morning you see a pair of feet in the webcam picture, don't worry! Today a climber will descend from the roof of the Sheraton to the nest ledge. After the chicks are placed in a container they will be raised up and brought inside the hotel. They will be checked over by biologists, weighed, banded and named, then returned to the nest. In the picture at left, captured late last week, it looks as though Madame X is filling the chicks in on what is going to happen today.

May 29, 2008 - One of the things regular Falconwatchers always comment on is the size of the chicks' feet, as illustrated in the image at left. The legs of young Peregrines grow faster than the rest of their bodies, which makes it possible for the birds to be banded while they are still young enough to handle safely.

May 26, 2008 - The chicks and adults got a good bath during this morning's cloudburst. Surge even went up and played in a puddle on top of the Standard Life building. The image at left was captured at 14:51 yesterday afternoon and shows three of the chicks napping while Madame X and one chick are on their feet.

May 21, 2008 - Look at how big these guys are!!! The image at left, captured at 14:39 yesterday afternoon, shows Madame X and the youngsters near the end of a feeding session.

May 17, 2008 - The four chicks continue to do well. The image at left, captured at 06:22 this morning, shows the youngsters getting some fresh air while Madame X stepped away for a short break. The youngest seems to be getting closer in size to the others.

May 14, 2008 - The four chicks are doing well. In the image at left, captured at 06:15 yesterday morning, it looks as though Madame X is saying, "Now children, here's what we are going to do today."

May 11, 2008 - The Hamilton Community Peregrine Project is very pleased to advise that once again four Peregrine Falcon chicks have hatched in the nest at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. The image at left, captured at 11:17 yesterday morning, clearly shows the four chicks getting acquainted with one another. Now the hard part begins - growing and fledging. We will continue to watch the birds as they grow, and if all goes well see them starting to fly around the middle of June.

Welcome back to the students in Ms. Stretton's Grade 2 class at Ancaster Meadow school. We are glad that you are watching the falcons for another season and that the students in Ms. Bonneville's Grade 2 class have joined you.

May 8, 2008 UPDATE - The image at left, captured at 10:20 this morning, clearly shows three chicks and a single egg. Falconwatchers can see how big the eggs really are. Thanks to a watcher in Niagara Falls for flagging this moment.

May 8, 2008 - The image at left shows Madame X and the first two chicks of this year at 15:45 Wednesday, May 7. The picture is one of a series that started about ten minutes earlier when Surge brought food to the ledge and Madame X then fed the youngsters. All pictures can be viewed by clicking on the 'Gallery' button and selecting the time range.

At 07:15 today one egg and two chicks were visible. We are not yet sure if the third chick hatched overnight. Stay tuned!

May 7, 2008 - Sharp-eyed visitors to our site spotted the second chick of the season shortly after sunrise this morning. See the "Favorites" section of the Gallery for latest photos. There should be more opportunities to observe the chicks as feedings become more frequent.

May 6, 2008 - Senior Monitor Mike Street reports that around 0845 today Madame X started getting very fidgety. Close to 0900 it loooked as though there was an extra bit of white showing, and by 0940 it was certain. In the image at left the ball of white fluff behind Madame X is 2008's first chick. (The first Falconwatcher to report the chick was watching in Australia!) Stay tuned!!!!

April 25, 2008 - Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: Thursday evening I arrived downtown just in time to see Madame X taking a stretch break on an antenna on the Fairclough building. Within two minutes she headed back to the scrape to tuck the eggs in for the night. A short while later Surge soared into view and took up his sentry post on the Stelco Tower.(At left: Madame X just leaving on her break.)

It was great fun to meet students attending Ecofest yesterday. Hello to classes from St. Joachim in Ancaster and St. Christopher school in Hamilton. I hope you enjoyed learning about Hamilton's Peregrines and will follow their story. Greetings to Ms. Bingham's third grade class at St.George-German School. It sounds like you are becoming excellent junior scientists.

Let us know if your class is following the story of Hamilton's Peregrines. We are always pleased to hear from fellow Falcon fans.

April 23, 2008 - HCPP volunteers have noticed how much time Surge is spending sitting on the eggs. Madame X obviously trusts his experience as a father and considers him fully trained now. When he first arrived at the Sheraton nest in '06 she supervised him very closely. Last year he took a more active role at the nest and now he just seems like an old pro!

Volunteers frequently hear the call of an irate peregrine in the area of Bold and Caroline Streets, seemingly in response to the regular presence of a hawk perched on an apartment building there.

Hello to classes from Cathy Wever Elementary School in Hamilton and St. Thomas School in Waterdown. It was fun to talk to you at Ecofest today and I hope you will keep following the story of Hamilton's peregrines.

We expect the eggs to start hatching around May 7, so stay tuned.

April 11, 2008 - Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: Madame X and Surge have clearly settled in to incubate the four eggs. Surge is doing a lot of the incubating while Madame X supervises from a nearby vantage point. The picture at left shows a shift change - Surge has just come out of the nest as Madame X, back to the camera, gets ready for a turn.

The image at left shows the four eggs in the ledge just after 14:000 Sunday, April 6. We have enhanced the picture as much as possible to show viewers how big the eggs really are. We expect to see live chicks around - appropriately - Mother's Day.

The Jackson Square television monitor and information station is up and running. It is located in the aisle closest to King Street, on the James St. side of the Sheraton Hotel, between the cell phone sales booth and the stairway. Easiest access to the monitor is through the mall doors at 100 King St. West. Falconwatch would like to thank the Jackson Square Therapeutic Centre for sharing their booth with our monitor.

April 6, 2008: Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: Madame X has kept her record intact - around 14:00 today a shift change allowed a clear look at four eggs in the scrape. Here we go again!

April 4, 2008: Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: At about 14:38 this afternoon Surge was standing on the ledge with three eggs visible in the scrape behind him. Today's cold weather cannot have been fun for the birds. The Jackson Square television monitor and information station is up and running. It is located in the aisle closest to King Street, on the James St. side of the Sheraton hotel, between the cell phone sales booth and the stairway. Easiest access to the monitor is through the mall doors at 100 King St. West. Falconwatch would like to thank the Jackson Square Therapeutic Centre for sharing their booth with our monitor.

April 3, 2008: Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: At about 12:45 today Madame X stood up to stretch and three nice large eggs were visible. She's almost right on schedule!

Wednesday's lovely afternoon sun allowed a clear view of two big brown eggs when Madame X left the scrape to stretch her wings just after 1 PM. Surge took a short turn tending the eggs in her absence, although she didn't stray far. As Madame X relaxed in the sunshine and preened I was able to confirm her band numbers. While experienced falconwatchers can recognize individual birds by their facial characteristics we make a point of confirming the band numbers each breeding season.

As a group of seven turkey vultures sailed innocently over the downtown core I wondered whether the peregrines would consider them a threat and give chase. Although TVs are carrion eaters and not predators, the adult Peregrines have in the past attacked and driven TVs away from the nest area while the nest is active. Yesterday neither Madame X nor Surge considered them a risk and allowed the large migrants to continue on their way undisturbed. On the other hand, the mature Peregrine Falcon who passed through downtown met with an entirely different reception. Surge chased and fought with the intruder, letting him know in no uncertain terms on whose territory he was encroaching.

March 30, 2008: Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: Here we go again! Around 10:30 yesterday, Saturday, we were able to clearly see an egg in the nest!!! Peregrines typically lay two to four red-brown eggs at alternate day intervals, so by Monday we will hope to see another. Madame X has laid four eggs in the Sheraton Hamilton nest each season since she started her breeding career in 2001. The adults won't start incubating the eggs full time until the last or second last egg of the clutch has been laid, so don't worry if you see the first egg or two left uncovered in the scrape for a while. This is perfectly normal. The adults will share the responsibility of incubating the eggs for 30 to 35 days.

March 27, 2008 - No rest for a Peregrine on a fine spring day. Yesterday morning's fair weather brought workers onto rooftops for required activities and several migrants into the Sheraton air space. Madame X and Surge warned away humans and other birds who ventured too close for comfort. A young hawk hunting pigeons at the Board of Education building across the street drew their fire for some time, then an immature Peregrine chased them and was chased in turn by the pair. Identification of the young stranger was not possible as he didn't stick around long enough. There are no eggs in the scrape yet but Madame X and partner were seen mating.

March 25, 2008 - Madame X and Surge (we are pretty sure) are regularly seen at the nest ledge or perched close by. Now that the birds have shifted the focus of their activity to the nest we often see them above King Street on the Standard Life sign (immediately west of the Sheraton) and on the west side of the Stelco Tower. Both vantage points offer unobstructed views of the nest and a clear line of defense against potential intruders.

On Saturday morning a senior HCPP monitor reported three adult peregrines downtown. The 'extra' bird may be one of the spring migrants now making their way through our area or possibly a visitor from Burlington, where a pair of adult peregrines are being reported regularly around the nest area at the Burlington Lift Bridge.

A hint for locating the peregrines when you are downtown: start at the top of a building and systematically scan back and forth along the straight edges of the roofline and window ledges, working your way down toward ground level. In this manner you will be more likely to spot the 'blip' of a bird contrasted against the straight lines of the man-made surfaces.

March 18, 2008 - Madam X and Surge have been very busy on the Sheraton ledges and Standard Life building signs. In addition to sitting side by side, they have also been seen feeding each other. Yesterday they chased back and forth in circles all over the downtown area, noisily calling to each other. These behaviours are all part of normal courting activity for Peregrines, so things seem to be moving along pretty much on schedule. If the weather cooperates we could see eggs in the nest in a week or two.

March 10, 2008 - neither rain nor snow nor sleet...... Lead Monitor Audrey Gamble reports: This weekend's icy blast of wintery weather did not dissuade Madame X and her mate from visiting their nest site. On Saturday afternoon both adults were spotted on ledges adjacent to the nest ledge and at 15:30 Saturday Madame X was perched on the nest ledge despite the heavy snowfall and gusty winds. At 15:55 today both adults were in or on the nest ledge. Stay tuned.

Spring 2008 - The adult Peregrines spent the winter of 2007-2008 roosting at various locations around the Hamilton downtown core. They are aggresively defending their nest site on the Sheraton Hamilton hotel. In the next few weeks we will be working to confirm that the two falcons in our skies are still Madame X and Surge.

In 2007 Madame X and Surge hatched four chicks. They were stricken by a bacterial infection a few weeks after hatching, and sadly, two chicks did not survive to fledge. When the surviving two were banded in June one was found to need a bit of medical assistance and was removed from the nest for a few weeks, while the other was found to be strong enough to fight off the infection on its own. The surviving pair, named 'Jump Up' and 'Blue Foot', gained strength and went on to become agile masters of the air.

Madame X was hatched on a bridge on Pennsylvania Route 309, the Cross-Valley Expressway in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Banded as a hatchling on 7, June 1999 she was known to the falcon watchers in Northeast PA as 'Runaround Sue', a name suggested after she was found running along the expressway guide wall one morning. We are keeping the folks in Pennsylvania posted on Madame X's progress.

Hatched and banded in Etobicoke in 2002, Surge spent at least part of the 2004-2005 seasons trying to establish a nest at the Burlington Lift Bridge. In 2006 he replaced the male at the Sheraton nest and has been in Hamilton since.

Many birds exhibit a trait called 'site fidelity'. If at least one of a pair that used a nest site in the previous year return, 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 over and over again, year after year. Peregrine Falcons are known for site fidelity. This will be Madame X's eighth year in Hamilton and Surge's third, and the fourteenth 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.

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