It is the middle of March and it smells like spring outside – the air is fresh and crisp and the sky is blue. In fact, it has been so nice that everyone is beginning to shed their heavy winter boots and coats just like a snake does its skin! Still, there is reason not to get overly excited. You see there is snow falling on a Great Horned Owl in a Bald Eagle nest in Kansas -at this very moment – in March. How crazy is that? We have been tricked before only to have a blizzard on 1 May.
Many people wait til the crocus push their beautiful buds up through the snow to even think about spring but, we don’t have any snow. So I am going to put my faith in the birds. The Canada geese and Bald Eagles are returning, there are amorous swans strutting about on some of the remaining ice on the river, and the number of photographs of song birds on the Manitoba Birding FB site is growing daily.
As it happens, I love raptors — you might have noticed. And that is what is keeping me awake late on St Patrick’s Day. The first two Peregrine Falcons have returned to Manitoba from their winter vacation!
Dennis Swayze caught Ella on the ledge of the scrape box at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg today. Welcome home, Ella. Ella is six years old. She hatched in Brandon in 2015 and is the daughter of Brooklyn and Hurricane.
Below is the picture from this morning’s streaming cam of Ella sitting on the ledge of the scrape box.
And, speaking of Hurricane (Ella’s mother), her current mate was spotted on the McKenzie Seeds Building this morning. His name is Wingo-Starr and the spotter got real curious as to why there were no pigeons on the building when they are always there – unless there is working being done on the roof or unauthorized visitors. The spotter was patient and got a full look at the leg band. Wingo-Starr was hatched in Moorhead and this is his third year in Brandon. Migrating is treacherous and there is a really bad storm system moving through the US right now. Let’s hope any migrating birds are hunkered down and safe.
The Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project began in Winnipeg in 1981. at that time four captive-bred falcons were obtained from the Canadian Wildlife Service’s breeding facility in Wainright, Alberta. It was not, however, until 1989 when everyone got really excited. The mated pair using the scrape box on top of the then Delta Hotel (now the Radisson) fledged four eyases. Four! These were the first documented fledglings in Manitoba in fifty years. Can you imagine the excitement and the tears?! Between 1981 and 2012 more than 200 peregrine eyases fledged from four different locations in Manitoba – Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and Gimli. (I have not found an official count covering the last eight years but it is easy to imagine that the number would be more than 250). The birds are banded, thankfully. The Peregrine Recovery Project traces the birds and they know that those born in Manitoba now have territory of their own in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba as well as in the United States in Topeka, Kansas, Red Wing Minnesota, Grand Forks and Fargo North Dakota and Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. They have thrived!
Peregrine falcons are known as the stealth bombers of the sky. They are a specific ‘aerial’ predator. That means that they hunt their prey and capture them when in flight. They are the fastest raptor in the world being clocked at more than 390 kilometres per hour or 242 mph. They are about the size of a crow with very distinctive marking. You will never mistake one of these beautiful falcons for a Red Tailed Hawk. They have gorgeous steel blue-grey back plumage. They have a barred belly – very distinctive stripes with a black head. The adults have distinctive bright yellow around their eyes, talons, and beaks. Adults weight between 1-1.5 kg or 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. They have reverse sex dimorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male.
Females lay their eggs in a scrape box or on the side of a cliff or cave. There is no nest material like you might think of with a Bald Eagle or even songbirds. There is gravel or sand. The courting ritual consists of a circular dance in the scrape box between the male and female. The male does a kind of dance while scraping his feet on the box. Falcons are also known for fantastic aerial displays, as well as some acrobatics on ledges. There will be 2-4 eggs laid at intervals of forty-eight hours. Many sites say that it is 32 days from first egg to first hatch but several researchers are reporting 39 days from first egg to first hatch. Falcons tend to do hard incubation only after the second or third egg has been born. A good example of this was the 2020 season of the Collins Street Peregrines in downtown Melbourne, Australia. Because the delayed hard incubation, all three eyases were born within six hours. There was no sibling rivalry and the triplets fledged successfully. It was simply beautiful to watch.
And a quick update for 18 March 2021. Bad storms are in the United States and all of the nests could be impacted. The snow has stopped on the GHOW in Kansas but Clyde has brought Bonnie food for her and the owlets. It is raining at Duke Farms and unless the female has food hidden, that pantry is bare. I am beginning to think something has happened with the male there. Has anyone seen him? So far Legacy in Jacksonville has a great day but Jacksonville is set to get hit by the storms around 5pm today – that bad weather will hit Fort Myers (E17 and 18, Harriet and M15) and St Petersburg (Achieva Ospreys) earlier. Plus all of the nests – keep them all in your thoughts today.
Thank you for checking in. As always I am grateful to those providing the streaming cams and in Manitoba it is Shaw Cable linked up with the Peregrine Recovery Project. Stay safe everyone.