Peregrine Season has officially begun in Manitoba (and mini-updates)

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.

“Crocus in Snow” by oschene is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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.

“Canada-Geese-3” by Chris Sorge is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

Ella. 17 March 2021. Radisson Hotel, Winnipeg. @PFRP Streaming Cam

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.

Wingo-Starr. 17 March 2021. McKenzie Seed Building, Brandon, Manitoba. @PFRP Streaming Cam

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 Falcon” by Sai Adikarla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

Hospitalfield, Day 8

Inside my kiln at home is approximately three dozen perfectly formed, balanced, light in weight porcelain bottles with chattering.  There are boxes of less than optimum bottles broken up.  I couldn’t decide whether to really go for the colour which at the moment seems to be a range of greens and blues or blue-greens using stains.  For the past six months or so I have personally been put off by glaze.  Nothing seemed to capture what was in my head and that is where Hospitalfield comes in.  When I applied to be a Resident Interdisciplinary artist here, I had no idea if I would be accepted.  The ration of applicants to those accepted I have found is very low.  One in twenty individuals.  I am in great company.  My studio mates are amazing.  Lucy Barlow is shortlisted for the First Plinth public art award for Olympic Park in London.  I am really sending off the best wishes for her.  She has to finish her final presentation to the jury in a few days, so she is working on her project here and tackling that as well.  You can check out her art at lucybarlow.art      Lucy is re-entering the art world after raising her boys, and she is doing some fantastic work.  Allan Whyte also shares my studio.  He’s all over social media.  One of the things that Allan and I have learned together is that the sound recording from the iPhone is just pretty darn good.  He is working on finishing up a commission for Glasgow and is recording sounds and working with some interesting recycled materials.  Check him out, too…and of course there are five other amazing people who I will write about later including Kiki who happens to be a fantastic cook as well.

But the point I am getting at is this.  By choosing a residency that had nothing to do with ceramics I have grown immensely in these eight days.  It isn’t just stepping back in time, sitting here in this fantastic historical room with the paint and wallpaper peeling away in places that have inspired me but it is the sea.  I have never lived by the sea.  The east coast of Scotland is flat.  In fact, it is a bit of a cosmic joke because it reminds me of Manitoba!  Flat.  I did say flat, right?  Just in case you don’t believe me, those really high hills that are the only thing Scottish Tourism sends out – well, they are on the west coast of Scotland.  The work that I am producing is my first reaction to this house and to the sea and the light.  The featured bottle still has a lip that is smoothed out, and the joins of where the moulds met have been smoothed but that is now all gone.

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We had rain and blowing rain and snow when these were made and these huge clouds trying to push the sky backwards.  Today the sky was white, and the sea was blue.  It is ever-present.  When the chill is down to your bones even though you can see the daffodils blooming in the garden, it is because of the sea.  When the slip in your mould doesn’t dry like it does in Manitoba in the winter, it is the sea.  Damp.  Moss.  Cold.  And yet, I would not give up these eight days for anything.  I highly recommend anyone considering a residency to step outside their comfort zone and challenge what they have been doing.  For me, anyway, it has allowed me a time to be free, to be playful, to react to something and someplace.  Magical.

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The sea is just beyond the kitchen garden beyond the walls of the house.

For years it was the life of this village.  And today, if you meander around the harbour, you can find ‘Smokie’ stalls.  If in Manitoba you are expecting smoked sausage, you might be right, but here in Arbroath it is smoked fish.  There are five or six places.

Just a funny historical fact.  The people in Dundee used to have a tradition.  They would not eat herring, but on New Years, they would wrap red herring in little paper clothes and hang them outside to bring good luck.  It is called ‘Dressed Herring’, and it didn’t matter if the fish was smoked, salted, or dried.  You could also purchase them ready clothed at some of the market stalls in town.  They even made acceptable gifts I am told!

And with that little tidbit, I will close this blog today.  I am looking forward to the weather being balmy on Wednesday, and I am going to sneak out of the studio and take you on a trip to two of Scotland’s beautiful castles.  Keep your fingers crossed for the excellent weather arriving!

Give it Up for Joo Young Han, one of the Manitoba Arts Council’s Major Award winners. Well done!

Joo Young (Grace) Han is one of those extremely talented young women, a rising star in Canadian ceramics.  Raised in South Korea, Han graduated with her BFA from Dankook University where she studied traditional Korean ceramics.  There she watched the master potter, Joon Hoon Park, while making hundreds of Korean tea bowls, sambal, a day.  For seven years, Han worked to perfect her ceramic skills including the making of the large jars for fermented vegetables, the Onngi.  In 2011, Han moved to the Canadian prairies.  The image above is a still from an upcoming CBC special on Han.  In 2016, Han graduated with an MFA from the School of Art, University of Manitoba.  There, for two years, she worked tirelessly in her studio asking herself many, many questions.  Am I Korean?  Am I Canadian?  Where is my voice?  Her thesis exhibition focused on those binaries as does the photo above.

The Manitoba Arts Council recognized Han’s artistic excellence by awarding her their major grant of $30,000 this past week.  It is rare for a ceramic artist to achieve such recognition so early in their career.  MAC  not the only one, however!  Han will be part of the Banff’s Centre’s Clay Revival Residency from June 3-July 7 and she will also have a solo exhibition at Medalta.  Well done, Grace.

For a more detailed discussion of Han’s struggle with her identity and the male world of Korean ceramics, see my article in the current issue of New Ceramics, ‘Joo Young Han.  One Path, Two Identities, pp 13-15 (2/18).