Raccoon family in backyard

Raccoon family in backyard

July 3, 2014

Pierre the Falcon

Hello readers, welcome to "rob and the animals". My name is Pierre, I am a Peregrine Falcon.


I was born in the early days of May atop the east tower of the Etobicoke Sunlife Buildings. You can sorta see my house way up there on the ledge.


My siblings and I were born very close to each other, just days apart, maybe even hours. Our parents, Jack and O'Conner, were very proud. We are freakin' gorgeous babies!


And around our third week on this Earth, Humans came and took us away, putting funny things on our legs. They weren't heavy things, just funny looking rings like jewelry. We each got a color band as well, and they gave us names. I became Pierre-Yves (Pierre for short) with blue, my sister became Skyla with red, my brother Sunni with yellow, and lastly, the smallest of the us all, our little brother became Heaton with white. My mom and dad sure didn't like the humans around us and they let them know that. And before we knew it, we were home again, and the humans fled. I was giving them a piece of my mind throughout it all too. I really wanted to give someone a knuckle sandwich!


Life was pretty good up on that ledge. We watched the days go by, my siblings and I would play up there, while mom and dad would bring us food many times a day.


I couldn't believe how fast we were growing! No longer little white fluff balls as you can see. About 3 weeks after the humans left us be, we all were ready to explore the big wide world we saw in front of us up there. With all our playing, running back and forth, flapping our wings, it was time for us to take flight.

Sunni was the first to take that big scary leap. As he left, he was egging me on so to speak, calling me out to join him because it was fantastic to be out in the open and see how big the world really is. I wasn't one to be shown up like that, so very soon after, I joined him.

As open as the world is, there are a lot of obstacles too. I learned pretty hard and quick about that one. I also learned that maybe my wings weren't quite strong enough to carry me over the area just yet. So that first flight of freedom fell short with me bumping into a few things, and I lost altitude. I wasn't able to pull myself up any higher and helplessly fell down... way down. It was confusing where I ended up. My home was so high above me, so were my parents. The towers shone bright with the sunny sky and I could see other Falcons around me in them. Who were all these birds? I didn't like the humans being so close to me either. I could smell them under my feet, them and their flaming torches dangling from their mouths. A few took notice to me too and they watched me for a long time.


This was all very stressful for me, so many noises, it made it difficult for me to think. And that's all it took, me not giving 100% attention to what was going on, and suddenly I fell again. I fell right into the land of the humans! They surrounded me. They threw things over me, covering my eyes, and all became dark.

I awaited my fate in a cool dark chamber. And over time that day, it seemed Sunni and Skyla became prisoners too. It was great we were all together, but what would become of us? Where was Heaton?

I guess not all humans are bad. It seems some took pity on our plight and set us free in the darkness over our home. It was nice to be outside again, breathe the fresh cool air of the night, and know mom and dad were nearby.

Daylight came and we all decided to try this again, vowing to not go through the same scenario as we did the day before. We tried really hard this day, flying from tower to tower and staying high above the Earth. Mom was very happy to see us doing so well, she'd feed us with the more we did, the better we got. This was awesome!

For some reason Heaton did not want to join us yet.

I felt stronger with every flight, and faster too. And from the first day to the next, you wouldn't know I was the bird who fell to the Earth. I loved flying, and going fast. I was faster than Sunni and Skyla. I prided myself on this. Nobody could catch me in a game of tag.

A couple mornings passed, after breakfast, I worked on my speed some more. I flew a little further from home. On my return, I could see one of my siblings coming towards me. I couldn't believe they were moving as fast as me! I wasn't going to let them surpass me and I just kept at it. We were getting closer and closer, neither of us making room for the other. And then suddenly we collided, all went to black, and that's the last thing I remember.

........................................................................

If you haven't figured it out yet, Pierre died in that moment. What he saw was his reflection in the glass of the buildings he called home. It's a sad situation for so many birds, not just the Falcons, and not just here at Etobicoke Sunlife. The reflective glass is a killer. It looks just like the open sky and the birds think they can fly right through it. So a bird going fast doesn't stand a chance. They die on impact, breaking their necks, and spiraling to their deaths.

I was shocked and saddened with Pierre. He was my boy of the bunch, my favorite. Anybody who knows me, even just through these blogs surely knows why. Pierre. The name alone did it for me. Pierre the Pigeon, and now Pierre the Falcon. Sure it's coincidental that this happened, but it was enough for me. No Falcon is really better than another, but many of us watching over them through fledge watch end up with a favorite we pay more attention to, the one we root for, and hope to hear of in a nesting territory in a few years.

It was me who discovered Pierre the morning of June 19th. We were having some adventures with Skyla who had been struggling to get to the top of the towers from the day before. She put some grey hair on my head that day and gave me good reason to go home and have a few on that "Whiskey Wednesday". The next morning, being Thursday the 19th, I set out early to the site to help locate Skyla who had spent the night in a tree down Eagle Road, a few houses south of The Longest Yard. I had met Baylie down there shortly before 6am.

Skyla on Wednesday the 18th, clinging to someone's balcony on the south/west corner of Islington and Bloor.


She then found her way to a tree on Eagle Road, where the Crows took notice to her, and screamed at her for hours.


Through the search, I took notice to Pierre and Sunni high atop the west tower, Moneris as we call it. Unfortunately Heaton was no longer with us. He had passed less than 48 hours earlier through an entirely different situation. Both Pierre and Sunni were doing fantastic, flying high and landing well. I got some really crappy photos of them buzzing around the day before, which was fine, I just wanted to see the tape colors and figure out who was who, and who was doing what. This morning, same thing, good flights, and I watched them both get their breakfast.

I had found Skyla atop the gymnasium at Etobicoke Sunlife. Baylie and I parked ourselves in good view of her, watching and waiting to see what she would do next. Of course, it was a great photo op; but we were ready for just about anything with Skyla.


Kathy slept in that morning, joining us shortly after 7am. Yes, through the watch, that is sleeping in for some if they arrive after 7am. LoL! Kathy had been our key watcher through the days this week, and often into the evening too. She needed a break and took a very small one that morning.

Skyla disappeared on us over the concourse. We chatted for a bit, waiting to see if she would pop up again. She did not. And after some time, I offered to do a round check of the buildings, see if she popped up out back, plus try to spot Pierre and Sunni again.

After last year's watch and discovering where Lizzie fell to, I learned enough to look everywhere on a round check, up and down, behind stuff, and to use the reflective glass to my advantage, see parts of the concourse through the reflection.

I just made my way around the back, looking high and low, when suddenly a reflection caught my eye. I was wanting to believe that this was not a young Peregrine Falcon I was spotting. I couldn't fool myself... it was. But I had no idea who.

I ran back around the building to Kathy and Baylie, half freaked out, very upset, and out of breath. I walk a lot but I don't do much running. Kathy returned with me while Baylie kept an eye out if Skyla popped up again.

Kathy saw the reflection and away we dashed to the security office. They are well aware of the Falcons and assist us whenever needed. We told them where the bird was laying and they led us to the door to this part of the roof. We knew the bird was dead but we raced to it anyway. It was a huge mystery as to who it was. Nothing against Skyla, but we were kinda betting it was her. She was having so much difficulty compared to Sunni and Pierre.

My heart sunk when I saw the reflection. My spirit was crushed when I saw the blue tape band around the leg. I held back the tears, I was so upset, and I think I yelled "fuck!" Of course I didn't wish this bird to be one of the others, I didn't want it to be any of them... hell, I didn't want it to be a bird at all. But in a situation like this, there's nothing any of us can do, even if we saw the bird hit the glass. There's no rescuing them in a situation like this, it's a recovery. I thought again, "why Pierre?"

When he took his first flight 3 days earlier, and he was rescued, a woman who helps watch the birds during breaks at the office in ESL named Rene ripped her top off to help cover him. That's the story on the internet. Rene was not mentioned but her top removal was. Of course she had a shirt on under this top but it was great to let the readers following our posts let their imaginations go with this. Pierre's rescue was unique to say the least. Why him? *sigh*

I guess it was meant to be for me to find Pierre, or rather it had to be. I'm not sure why. Maybe a reality check for me since I've seen very little tragedy in four years of Falcon fledge watches? Or perhaps it was right for this beautiful boy to be picked up by the one human that probably thought of him a little more fondly than the others? Whatever the case, I am happy that US as a team got to Pierre shortly after his death and we gave him his dignity, getting him out of the public eye, out of the harsh sun on that roof, and putting him to rest.

I transported Pierre away quickly and was hesitant on returning afterwards but I had to. I couldn't just leave Kathy and Baylie wondering where I went, if I was okay. I needed to see that they were okay too. This stuff isn't easy and while they've seen it far more times than me, it never gets any easier. We support each other through this kind of stuff. Kathy basically told me that it's okay to mourn the fallen birds but we must continue on with the watch as the others still need us. Deep down I knew that but I was overcome with grief. I did some round checks in a daze, my mind elsewhere and not exactly in the moment. This wasn't a very good mental state for crossing busy streets. It all hit me as soon as I returned to the watch. I stayed for a while longer, my head cleared some hanging and chatting with Kathy, until it was time to go home and get ready for work.

Through this, I posted a photo of Pierre on social media and said something like "R.I.P. Pierre", "Fuck you reflective glass!" and made mention how this is the hardest part of a watch being recovery and not a rescue.


I was comforted by a slew of feedback from friends in way of phone calls, texts, social media comments, etc.

Once home, I look out back to all our feathered friends who visit us every day, and there was my boy Pierre waiting for me. He was a little impatient and gave me quite a scolding at the door. He doesn't like these watches because I'm not home very much for a week or more. I gave him a good feeding and wished we could sit out back all afternoon.

The funny thing to end this tale, with me posting about Pierre's death on social media, not everyone took notice to the photo of a Falcon, or word of mouth spread and people were saying "Pierre died!" Everyone who knows me, knows Pierre the Pigeon. So it was like celebrity death hoax that afternoon as people approached me, concerned and trying to be supportive about what happened. I had to laugh and I had to assure people he was not dead. I posted a photo of our Pierre the next day too.


We always hope to have more people join us at the ESL fledge watch. We struggle a little more each year with getting help. I warn people it's not for the faint of heart. The birds bump and tumble in the early days of flight and sadly some do die. The reward is knowing we are helping the birds that we can rescue and give another chance. The reward is the friendships we build with other watchers at our sites. Some we may not see until the following year, but it's funny, the day we all meet up to start the watch again, it's almost like no time has passed since the previous.

Anyways, it's almost 2am, I've been at this for a couple hours now. I hope it didn't feel that long reading it.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this blog, and giving a moment of thought to a little Falcon named Pierre.

Be seeing you...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

My family and I love your stories. You put us right next to you in the experiences you have out there.

Thank you!

The Whites

Anonymous said...

p.s. we don't mind your occasional colorful wording, it suits the moment, and we hear worse on the streets :)

Susan L. McCreadie said...

Rob, a very sad story, but very well written. Only a true fledge watcher can really understand the feeling. I hope that next year will be better.

Sue McCreadie

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

I can understand your feelings. We had a wood duck nest and a phoebe nest this year.
You've told a sad story well.
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!