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(originally created by Eric Tull)

 

PEREGRINE FALCONS (Falco peregrinus) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY

2008 Observations        by Elli Jilek


The 2008 peregrine season is off to a good start, despite the start of the construction work just west of the MacKimmie Library buildings. So far, the large cranes, noise and general upheaval in front of the Craigie Hall nest site have not prevented the peregrines from returning. Our first confirmed sighting was made on Wed., April 9 by Eric Tull and confirmed later that day by myself. We had 2 falcons almost from the start, and the female has now been verified as the same one we had last year. This confirmation came from Pat Young, which means that we have an excellent opportunity to have new offspring. The male's pedigree is still unknown.

An unknown number of eggs were confirmed in the scrape by myself on April 30, with Pat checking the site 2 days later and finding 3 eggs. We may still get one more egg, as they do not lay all at once. Last year's eggs were laid between May 19 and 23rd, so we expect this year's hatching to occur about June 6, about 33 days after incubation.

The attached peregrine photo, in profile, was taken last year - it is of one of our young ones before it 'flew the coop', but it gives you a good idea of how quickly they go from egg to capable, and beautiful, flyer. Let's hope that the eggs prove to be fertile, and that despite the construction, we will have another successful peregrine season.

Please report any problems or interesting sightings to me via e-mail: jilek@ucalgary.ca. Thanks to all those who continue to take an interest in this, and to those on campus who reported the initial sightings. Remember that according to the Alberta government's 2007 endangered species report, the peregrine is still on the 'threatened' listing. This is why every new falcon continues to be very important to the species.

Friday, May 9th: 4 eggs confirmed by Pat Young and myself (a photo taken by John from Campus Security is attached). Despite the appearance of several large cranes and increased construction noise, the adults are sitting on the eggs and bringing food to the ledge when needed by the 'sitter'. The eggs are about the same size as 'regular' large eggs, and well camouflaged against the background.

June 6-9:

4 eggs hatched - 3 similarly sized, with one smaller, which was probably the last egg hatched - most likely to have occurred on, or between, Sunday and early Monday. Along with two security staff, and under the watchful eye of a parent (mom?), I verified that we had 4 live chicks in the scrape by Monday noon.

 

 

 

 

Trying to confirm the number of chicks from security cameras and binoculars proved to be unreliable, so a close-up look was required. All appear to be healthy and very eager for feedings from mom and dad, who were both on the ledge Monday afternoon, no doubt keeping a close watch. There are bits and pieces of 'food' nearby, as indicated in the attached photos.

 

June 13-17:

 One of the chicks appeared to be missing.  I went to confirm this, as neither a visual confirmation by myself via the Library Tower window, (with binoculars) nor the Campus Security cameras were able to see all four. Upon inspection at the nest site, we discovered the smallest was indeed gone. Its fate was, and still remains, unknown. It could have been suffocated by the others, as it was quite tiny and may have been unable to receive enough food to sustain itself. But this is all speculation. It is always sad to lose a chick, but better now than at a later stage I suppose.

 

 

Friday, June 27th:

Banding was undertaken by Pat Young and  John Campbell (a certified bander), with myself attending, as well as John's son and several security staff members. We have 3 boys (triplets!), and as you can see from the attached pics, they are well and too cute for words. They allowed us to weigh them (all around the 630 gram range), and suffered the indignities of banding very well, despite their occasional efforts in trying to take off parts of fingers and giving us all the 'evil eye'. 

This procedure took about 1/2 hr., with the parents swooping at the ledge where Pat was collecting them for banding, and then placing them back together, one by one. He also collected the bits and pieces of leftover prey that lay about which will give a good idea of the kind of feathered prey they prefer at the moment. From the remnants, it is mostly the usual gull and pigeon entree.

 

Banding photos provided by myself, Kim, Amanda and Kelly. Additional photos of the falcons, chicks, and other bird life will be posted in due course.

I will be placing the annual falcon alert posters on various doors and other locations as the chicks are now flapping their wings, gaining some flight feathers, and growing quickly. They can be seen at the front of the Craigie ledge (weather-permitting), and looking around and doing walk-abouts on the ledge. Both parents are good providers, and are ever-present. So now we head towards the most vulnerable time - their first flight stage, and hopefully the construction activity will not impede this.

 

July 15-17:

...and away we go!!!!!!

We have lift-off, and all three fledglings have managed, within a week, to hone their flying skills quite nicely. The first fledgling took off early Tuesday, July 15th, which was reported to me by the head of the construction site. The second one, who I had been watching on and off Wed. morning, seemed very eager to join his brother, so I was expecting him to join his sibling that day, which indeed happened. The remaining 'boy' was flapping about and jumping/hopping along the ledge, practising as hard as he could Thursday morning, so I tried to keep an eye out for his first attempt. This took place some time between 10 and 12 am, although I was not able to see the actual flight. I got a call from a colleague who notified me that a young one was down near the library tower. As there were strong winds that morning, I suspect he caught a bit of an updraft and didn't manage to use it to his advantage (yet). I captured him, without too much effort, although he did try to out-run me (plus the usual 'evil-eye') and then held his ground by making himself the size of a vulture, but he was retrieved nonetheless, despite himself.

Along with Campus Security, I returned him to the Craigie Hall bldg., and let him go on the roof, which provides a good, large area for practice and gives good access for the parent to see and feed the young one. One of his brothers was close by, so this provided some much-needed encouragement and support. Throughout the rest of the day he flapped and made his way back and forth across the roof area, and by Friday had managed to fly to another roof area (the Performing Arts bldg.) and show off his new-found skill.

No calls over the weekend boded well for the three 'flyers', and by Monday, they all appeared to have developed a good grasp of the air currents and updrafts. Two of the boys tend to 'hang out' together, with the 3rd one (Nr. 3) being close by. An adult is also usually in the vicinity, so their next couple of weeks will produce more distance-flying and then learning to grasp prey in mid-air. If you're lucky, you can see them most days in or near the library bldgs., Social Sciences, or the Math Sciences bldgs. Usually the rooftops or window sills are where they rest and look about.

My thanks to Blair, various Campus Security staff (those manning the phones and helping with the rescue), and to all those who have provided help along the way. Enjoy the photos.

I will be providing a special link in the near future to other photos taken in connection with the falcons and other bird-related activity here on campus. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 27:

Just as I was thinking we had an exceptional group of fledglings, with only one 'accident', I get a call late Sunday evening from Campus Security that a fledgling had been reported down by a passerby near the old Administration bldg. We have had accidents there before, which may be a result of the way the link to Social Sciences and the many windows come together in that area. I captured him easily, as he was sitting on one of the outdoor planters, looking a bit 'dazed'. I assumed he had made contact with a glass pane, as his beak showed signs of a bit of impact. I checked his wings and after confirming no other visible signs of an injury, checked with our falconer friend who advised keeping the fledgling overnight for observation.

 

 

 

So an unexpected houseguest came home, given his own room (in a large cardboard box I always have handy - see photo), incl. an en-suite, and the company of our two cats, who were quite inquisitive as to the strange bird smells coming from the box. They were not given any visiting rights though, and so the falcon was able to recover in the quiet and darkness of 'his' room.

 

 

 

He was returned to Craigie roof next morning, with the help of Campus Security, released and although reluctant to leave the box, appeared none the worse for his overnight adventure. Later that day, I watched as he took off and landed on Social Sciences with help of some strong updrafts.
   

For the rest of the week, I tried to keep track of him and the others, and despite lots of rest time on various bldgs. (library tower, Soc. Sciences, Math Sc. and the Ed. tower), all 3 fledglings made great progress in their flying/gliding skills. A parent was often nearby, and provided prey when nagged long enough by the 'little guys'.

 

Aug. 2-10:

I was away for the week, and upon my return, was able to find 2, and sometimes 3, of the birds, mostly hanging about the east and west sides of Social Sciences. No reports came in about anymore accidents, so we have to assume all is well and on schedule. The falcons will be around until early-mid September, so you can still hear and see them if you know where to look. One or two of the young ones can be heard calling in a pathetic tone to get a parent to feed them, especially around 5pm around the Social Sciences bldg. Just like any typical always-hungry pre-teen.

 

 

Sept. 8, 2008:

Two peregrines are still around campus - one of which 'seems' (hard to verify) to be a juvenile. They hang around together a lot, and are usually to be found on either the east or west side of the Social Sciences bldg. - top window ledges or corners. The other falcons have either moved further afield, or left the city altogether. No more reports of downed birds or accidents, so this is good news.

They will leave for the South sometime in Sept. - according to their own private clocks and schedules, and hopefully they will make it to their destinations safe and sound. Last year Alberta falcons were tracked as far away as Columbia, South America.

That's it for another peregrine season, so I would like to acknowledge the help and support of Pierre and his construction crew, many Campus Security staff members, and several library staff (incl. Blair), who helped in many ways to make this another successful year.

Here is a special link that includes some additional peregrine photos, other campus birdlife, and some extra ones of a more personal nature. I hope you enjoy it.

More Birds

2010 Observations

2009 Observations

2008 Observations

2007 Observations

2006 Observations

2005 Observations

2004 Observations

2003 Observations

2002 Observations

2001 Observations

1995 - 2000 Observations

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