Hamilton Falconwatch News

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Sunday, July 27, 2014 - Falconwatch 2014 started off with lots of anticipation. Both Madame X and Surge were quite active around the nest ledge and didn't even bat an eye when contractors and Sheraton maintenance crews replaced the two cooling towers on the lower roof on March 9. Mating was observed on March 21, and on April 5 the first egg of the season appeared, getting everyone excited. The excitement increased on April 10 when a second egg was seen on camera.

Sadly, by April 19 it was clear that both eggs had failed. That didn't stop our favourite falcons, however. On April 30, for the first time in their 20 years at the Sheraton Hamilton, the Peregrines switched the location of the 'scrape' to the opposite end of the nest ledge and resumed pre-egg laying activity. Mother's Day. May 11, brought good news as the third egg of the year was seen in the ledge and normal brooding behaviour started up again. Because virtually all activity was taking place in the east end of the ledge, the cameras could easily see the adults but not the egg or eggs. As late as 15:44 on May 27 at least one egg was visible, but by June 2 the adults had abandoned the new scrape and were spending most if their time away from the ledge.

Since 2001 Madame X has raised and fledged 40 chicks, 25 of them with Surge. That's quite a record. What will happen next year we don't know, but Falconwatchers will have noticed that the adults are making regular visits to the nest ledge and seem to be creating a scrape a few feet closer to the camera than the original 1995-2014 scrape. Nest ledge “maintenance” is normal after a breeding season, and is a clear sign that the adults intend to be back next year. That ties in nicely with news that our Internet partner, Fibernetics, will be keeping our webcam on line, so the cameras will be running right through to next spring and beyond. We will also keep our display going in the Jackson Square window as long as we can.

We would like to know about unusual activity at the nest, events other than one or two adults simply being present. Many Falconwatchers are using our Facebook page (icon at top right on your screen) to report and follow nest activity. If you are not on Facebook and see something that really seems of the ordinary, please email us at falcons@hamiltonnature.org with the date, time and a brief description of what you have seen.

As the weather grows colder the adults will likely spend less and less time at the Sheraton, instead taking up their normal winter station on the CIBC sign on the building at King and James. We will be keeping an eye on them there too, though not with a camera. Let’s all hope for a good winter and a successful season in 2015.


Thursday, June 12, 2014 - It appears that sometime around June 2 the third 2014 egg disapeared, and soon after the second scrape was abandoned by Madame X and Surge. This has been an interesting season for all of us Falconwatchers, a season of firsts for our intrepid pair who have definitely been keeping us guessing. What happened? We just don't know. Will anything more happen this summer? It's possible - in 1995 our very first Peregrine chick, Hamilton, was not hatched until early July - but given the ages of our adults it's not very likely.

The success that Madame X and Surge have seen over the years is unparallelled. When it comes to being parents they are the exception, not the rule. This may be the first year that they don't have chicks, but that's okay! Since 2001 Madame X has raised and fledged 40 chicks, 25 of them with Surge. Instead of mourning one or more chicks we may not see this season, let's celebrate the huge contribution Madame X and Surge have made to the recovery of their species, and hope for the best next year.

We will continue to monitor the nest ledge. If anything develops we will update the Web and Facebook pages immediately. Thanks once more to all our volunteer and internet Falconwatchers.


Monday, June 2, 2014 - A regular viewer has asked why Madame X seems to be spending a lot of time in the west end of the nest ledge when whatever action there is takes place in the east end. The answer is that she is simply taking a break, while still keeping an eye on the egg(s). In previous years Madame X did this often, but it wasn't visible on camera because her "break" perch was the top of the camera itself!

So what's happening at the nest? We're not 100% sure. The adults continue to do everything they should be doing to incubate one or more eggs, and as late as 15:44 on May 27 at least one egg was visible.Based on the April 30 date when the brooding behaviour was first confirmed, and a normal 35-38 day incubation period, if the egg or eggs are viable one should hatch toward the end of this week. All we can do is wait and hope. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - We have had another glimpse of an egg. This image was taken Sunday, May 18. All we know is that the egg was intact; only time will tell if it is viable. If it is, hatching will occur around the end of the first week of June. Because the scrape is so close to the edge of the nest ledge, where the camera cannot see, we simply don't know if there is more than one egg. Stay tuned!

Madame X and Surge continue to take turns brooding the egg or eggs, with an adult on the nest almost continuously, right around the clock. The only real difference between this and brooding periods in previous years is that the scrape is at the east end of the ledge. Otherwise, it's the same old boring story - hurry up and wait. The pictures show Surge (l) and Madame X in the corner of the ledge.


Sunday, May 11, 2014 - It was a very happy Mother's Day for Hamilton's falcon watchers, when we caught sight of an egg that had been rolled into view at the near end of the nest ledge. This confirms the suspicions that were raised by the constant "brooding" behavior in that corner. The question remains as to how *many* eggs Madame X and Surge may have hidden in the new scrape, but for certain there is one, and this restores our hopes of seeing chicks sometime soon. How soon? Well, we can't be sure, because we don't know exactly when the egg(s) were laid. But it will likely be sometime in the next few weeks. Keep your eyes on the nest!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - For the first time in their 20 years at the Sheraton hotel, Hamilton's peregrine falcons may have decided to switch the location of their 'scrape' in the nest ledge. Madame X and Surge have been spending nearly all their time sitting in the corner of the ledge closest to the camera - the opposite end from their usual nesting location. Their behaviour looks like typical brooding of eggs, but because of the angle of the camera to the nest ledge we cannot see what they may actually be sitting on. With the failure of the first two eggs, perhaps their instincts prompted Madame X and Surge to try a new location, or perhaps one of the original eggs broke, and they were deterred by a "mess". We really can't know for sure. But we are keeping our fingers crossed that this behaviour means what we think it does, and that we may still see some chicks appear by the end of May. We may not be able to see them hatch, but there will be no mistaking when the adults start bringing meals for hungry chicks! So here's hoping!


Saturday, April 19, 2014 - This question is pretty much on everyone's mind. Here's what we know for sure - Madame X will be 15 years old this summer and Surge will be 12. That is an amazing age for wild raptors to reach! And of course we know that with age comes reduced fertility. Madame X is reaching the end of her reproductive years. While this is a sad event for all of us that enjoy watching her and Surge, it is entirely natural and expected. She may surprise us as in previous years and we may have chicks - the current clutch of eggs have likely failed but the pair continue to attempt mating. Or we may not have chicks this year. Either way let's celebrate how successful Madame X and Surge have been over the years, and be grateful for the opportunity to watch these amazing birds and learn from them year after year!


Thursday, April 10, 2014 - Early in the evening, eager and patient falcon watchers were rewarded with the sight of a second egg nestled in the scrape alongside the first. Back-tracking through the webcam archive photos, we realized, based upon the darker color, that we had actually been seeing the new egg (while the other egg remained hidden) for most of the afternoon. We found the moment of laying in the archives at 1:27 pm, and constructed the composite sequence shown to the left. In the final photo the egg is a faint brown shadow under Madame X. In the history of Hamilton's nest, this is the largest gap between layings that we have ever seen. Normally, eggs are laid about 2 days apart. Will there be more? And how long will it be? Madame X continues to surprise us. Only time will tell.


Saturday, April 5, 2014 - At dawn's first light, we were delighted to discover that, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, Madame X laid the first egg of the 2014 nesting season at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel! Later in the morning, our falconcam captured the wonderful image at left, with Surge standing guard over the egg. As is normal for the first eggs in a clutch, the adults will spend significant time away from the nest during the day, so that the eggs are slightly cooler, develop at a slower rate, and will likely hatch at the same time as the eggs laid later in the week. A typical clutch is three or four eggs, with each egg appearing roughly 2 days after the previous one. So keep a sharp eye on the scrape over the coming week! Note: Due to the depth of the "scrape", the egg may not always be visible on the webcam.


Once again our live video camera feed and information display is up and running, inside Jackson Square. It is located just behind the elevators for the Thomson Building, in the middle of the south side of the mall. As with previous years, a second monitor shows a constantly refreshing image of Camera #2. This year our display features a new, larger wide screen computer monitor for the online/live news updates and slideshow of latest favorite photos. We would like to express our gratitude to TD Friends of the Environment Foundation for funding this significant improvement! Drop by and see the falcons live! Tell your offline friends about us!


Friday, March 21, 2014 - Nesting season has officially begun! Around 10 in the morning, Surge, ever the charming suitor, brought his latest catch to the ledge on the south side of the Sheraton and offered it to his mate (photo at left). Later in the afternoon, Madame X was seen in the scrape, working in earnest on preparing it for this year's eggs. Around 5:20, some workers came out on the lower Sheraton roof to work on some equipment, and Madame X perched on the old camera and kept a calm, close watch on them. This didn't seem to bother her at all, as half an hour after that we captured a remarkable photo on our webcam of the falcons mating on the south edge of that same roof. This is a hopeful sign, but we are mindful of the fact that last year we saw mating activity this early but did not see eggs for several more weeks. Nature will decide. Photos of all of today's activity are viewable in our Gallery Favorites section.

As Falconwatch 2014 gets started we are again looking for funding, and are counting on the community for critical support! If you can make a single donation or donate monthly it would be most appreciated. Please click on the 'Donate' button above to learn more about what the money is used for and how to make a tax creditable donation. We and the birds Thank You!

...and just for caring so much about the falcons, we have a new wallpaper for your computer desktop! A lovely photo of Surge taken Sunday by Ryan Iverson. Just click on the Gallery button (the one right next to the Donate button... *smile*) and follow the link to the wallpapers.


Sunday, March 9, 2014 - Senior Monitor Mike Street reports: The falcons have some visitors on the Sheraton rooftop today. Maintenance crews are replacing the two cooling towers on the lower roof. Surge came by once while the crane was being raised the first time, and Madame X came by for a close look a short while later, settled on the construction crane across the street, then made another pass across the Sheraton roof, before heading off to the east side of Stelco tower, where she appears to be sunning herself (as of 10:50am).


Friday, March 7, 2014 - While working on setting up the camera for this year's nesting season, we chanced to catch sight of the two adults, and captured this photo of them perched on the ledges along the front of the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. A bit later on, Madame X landed on the nest ledge closest to the camera and we were able to zoom in, check her bands and verify her identity. We will verify Surge's bands at the first opportunity.


March 4, 2014 - In a few short weeks Madame X and Surge will once again begin nesting atop the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. Positive identification of the birds will be made once we have our webcam up and running (soon!), but for now we are presuming that we still have our old resident pair, Madame X, back for her fourteenth year, and Surge, back for his nineth season.

In 2013 Madame X and Surge hatched two chicks, both girls - Laura and Brock, named for heroes of the war of 1812. Laura flew strongly from the very beginning, but Brock had some troubles, and needed to be rescued twice in the first few weeks. Both birds soon mastered the skies above Hamilton, were taught the essentials of hunting, and left the area in September. You can read more about their adventures in the History section.

Last year was an excellent one for webcam photos. Once they started flying, the chicks returned often to rooftops close to the camera, so that we had some amazing shots, including some rare close-ups of their behaviour and development throughout the fledging period. Our thanks again to the TD Friends of the Environment Fund for ther generous funding for that new camera, installed in 2010, which has made all this possible. We look forward to capturing more beautiful moments this season!

Our FalconCams will be reactivated within the next week (once again, with the generous support of Worldline / Fibernetics), and we will be on the lookout for courting and nesting behaviour. We can expect to see eggs in late March or early April.

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 the twentieth 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.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - As winter begins - and what a start to it! - we can report that when not scattering the downtown pigeon population as they approach, Madame X and Surge are spending much of their time atop the CIBC sign on the building at the southwest corner of King and James. It appears this location offers them the best shelter from the prevailing winds and best access to food.

We have a Christmas present for Falconwatchers! Well known Hamilton photographer Barry Cherriere has kindly given us permission to use the image shown above, ”Madame X in flight (2009)”, as a ‘wallpaper’ image for your computer. Webmaster Charles has prepared the file for several different screen resolutions. To download the file, click on the Gallery button above, then on "Falcons on your Desktop!" Click the link under the image for the correct full size file for your computer, then right-click on the full size image and select 'Save image as....' to save it on your computer.

We are looking forward to the 20th season with the Sheraton Hamilton Falcons.

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