I can't believe almost 3 weeks has gone by since we started the Peregrine Falcon fledge watch at Etobicoke Sunlife. And so much has happened throughout.
I had no idea what this watch was going to be like, how it would feel with Big Frank gone. But with a mutual friend named Bruce stepping into Frank's big shoes, he sure made it a lot easier than what I had been envisioning. Bruce put in 14-16 hr days for nearly 2 weeks! I racked up over 40 hours in 10 days myself and Angie also put in more hours than ever before. The Falcons had even more support from others as they have for a number of years with Kathy and Bailie in the area a lot throughout the days. Others deserving mention include Sandra and Rene, plus our friends Dave and Andi made a couple stop ins, and Cori all the way from Scarborough another day, to see how things were going.
It's been a difficult watch at times, very exciting at others, and a lot of the time just boring as all get out waiting for something to happen. The company was great, the weather was perfect, so that certainly helped. But after hours and hours of nothing some days, it's just exhausting. And then when the stress hits when the young birds start bouncing around... hoo boy! I had a few moments where I was gasping watching them.
I wish I took notes throughout this as so much is crammed in my memory now and with this sudden heat wave, I'm just plain exhausted, but really need to get some of this out of me and to whoever cares to give this a read.
The first chick to fledge (take flight from the nest) was Layton. A female, the heaviest of the bunch, and named after Jack Layton. It was agreed with those involved to name these birds after some famous Canadians. I was at work when Layton took flight, actually I was just getting ready to pack it in for the weekend, as it was about 1:55pm on Friday June 14th when she flew. It was no surprise that she ended up in need of rescue from the watchers later that evening. Females are the heavier of the two sexes and almost always need help the first flights out, it's just the way it is.
But I raced down there in high excitement knowing we had a fledge that day. I had bet the first fledge being on this day, and on Big Frank going first, since usually the males do take flight first; but whatever, we finally had one off the ledge. By the time I got there around 3:15pm or so, Layton had got herself into a spot where she would spend the next 5 hours with me, face to face, before I left for the day. She was just to the side of the south entrance to Sunlife, about 15 ft above the walk, and maybe 20 ft away from Bloor Street.
The funny thing through our encounter was all the passersby that wondered what the heck I was looking at, or we if Angie or Kathy were there with me. It was Kathy who gave me the idea to stand in front of her along the way, hopefully keeping her from getting the idea of flying down into the street. The ledge she was in was pretty tight and if you weren't looking right at it, you missed it. So here I am with the big Sigma pointed up a few times, towel over my shoulder, and for the most part just looking right up at her. I'd say 3 in 20 people asked me what I was so focused on. And then they were quite thrilled at the sight. One guy though, he was really curious but wouldn't ask. He kept looking around the area to the right of me, and of course he was missing the bird completely. He then leaned on the wall in front of me, totally clueless a Peregrine Falcon was over his head. I could tell he wasn't playing with a full deck so I kept my focus on Layton, or appeared to be, just not making eye contact with this man. Next thing I know he's leaning on the same light standard that I am, opposite side to me of course, and still out of eye line with the bird, and suddenly he starts singing "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head"! What the hell dude?!?!
Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Crying's not for me
Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me
I wanted to laugh out loud. But I stayed quiet and on the bird. Eventually the guy walked away, still turning every now and then to look in my direction. 8:30pm was coming up, both Angie and I had been up since about 4:15am, and with Bruce and Kathy still on watch, we said "goodnight" to them and of course Layton as well.
We were barely home half an hour and we get a call from Bruce that Layton came down to the sidewalk and they picked her up, with a bit of chase across Bloor, and up it too. She was released back on the roof about 10pm that night.
We spent a lot of the weekend at Sunlife, probably 6 hours each day. Not much happened through those days with the young birds.
But come Monday June 17th, it was Shania's turn to take flight. She had a rougher go of it than Layton, a few more bounces and tumbles, many hours on some condo window ledges, Pigeon netting, a flight over the houses south of Bloor Street and tried to make it up to the nest ledge without success and I watched her strike the reflective glass. My heart was in my throat as I watched her struggle to make the climb to get up there, not realize the glass is a solid structure, hit it and tumble down the side of the building, trying to grasp at the glass without any luck of course and come to the ground out of sight of us due to the mezzanine on the second level. I knew the strike wasn't fatal and she worked hard to stay in the air, which helped break her fall. But I still felt some panic when she disappeared.
Here is Shania hanging off someone's balcony.
Shania around the other side of the condo, just above Bloor Street, hanging off someone's screen window. You can see the look of "what the hell am I doing?" on her.
She spent maybe 15 minutes on this window before darting off and flying south across Bloor into the neighbourhood.
As the minutes passed, which seemed like forever, waiting for her to pop up somewhere, all sorts of crazy worrying thoughts went through my head. You can probably nail a few of them if you think about it. And then suddenly she popped up, almost exactly where her sister Layton did a few days earlier, just on the opposite side of the entrance way. Go figure! Maybe she watched her sister from above on Friday? I'm drawing a blank on how long this went on for, I just know it wasn't nearly as long as Layton's stay up there, as it was later in the day. In the end, the bird beat me in the staring contest, and I just had to get my butt home and to bed for the 4:30am wake up. And just like Layton, Shania came down to the sidewalk less than half an hour after I left the nest site.
Oh Shania... you and your siblings are giving me gray hair!
Stay tuned for more on our local Falcon family!