Leeds County Home Page
2002 Release in Leeds County
Following the great success of the 2001 Charleston Lake release, the Canadian Peregrine Foundation and Leeds County Stewardship Network are pleased to be partners again at this location in 2002. Three young male anatum peregrine chicks bred in captivity were introduced to the Leeds County hack box on June 27 for release in mid-July. Scroll down for updates on the activities of this year's chicks.
Leeds County Hack Site Reports:
Tuesday August 6, 2002
Friday August 2, 2002
Wednesday morning a Great Blue Heron was flying from Bill Borger's point south towards the box, about a hundred yards from the box it made an abrupt 180 degree turn and flew back to the point. I scoped the box thinking the reason he turned back was that the falcons were at the box but they were nowhere in sight. About 10 minutes later when he was part way across the channel a falcon dive bombed him, he did a 180 only to have a second falcon dive bomb him. Seeing that all available airspace was taken up and no air controllers to advise him what to do he did another 180 and headed for Big Deer Island with two F-16's hot on his tail. I lost sight of them but when I went down to see what happened he was sitting comfortably in the very top of a pine tree on the end of the island and his pesky friends had gone to look for somebody else to bother. Now I now why he turned around before he got to the box the first time. He probably had Aedin and Talon dive bomb him before when he was flying by the box. They of course had no intention of hurting him as he's too big to eat, and they were only practicing their maneuvers.
Sunday July 28, 2002
Thursday July 25, 2002
Wednesday July 24, 2002
Monday July 22, 2002
Sunday July 21, 2002
Dwayne Struthers and Gary Nielsen were at the scene by 6:00 am to begin trapping. The wait could have easily lasted most of the day, but fortunately Horus decided to come into the box for an early breakfast less than an hour later. Hiding silently in the back room attached to the hack box, Gary was able to release the curtain at the front of the box, trapping Horus inside.
Horus was understandably frustrated at having his freedom taken away, and was given a short time to settle down before we began putting the transmitter on him. I fitted Horus with his harness and transmitter in front of a small audience of falcon watch volunteers, and must thank Leslie Hunt and Dwayne Struthers for the great help they provided by holding and controlling Horus while I worked on him. Photographs documenting this procedure will be available shortly in a new photo gallery dedicated to Horus.
After double-checking that the transmitter was sitting firmly in place on Horus' back, Dwayne placed him back inside the closed hack box. We left him inside for a couple of hours, both to let him get used to the transmitter in a safe closed environment, and to provide him an opportunity to have a good meal before taking flight again, as his crop had been empty when we captured him, and we had interrupted his breakfast plans earlier.
Around 12:30 we checked inside the back of the hack box and were pleased to see that Horus had eaten at least half a quail. The front of the box was opened again, and Horus soon walked out to the platform. It wasn't long before he jumped up to the roof of the box and shot us a couple of stern glares as we retreated up the slope away from the box. He then made a strong level flight north along the cliff, alighting in a large dead oak tree beside his brother Aedin. It wasn't long before Aedin moved away, but by mid-afternoon he flew back to perch beside Horus, and they spent several hours there together. On a few occasions, Horus was seen preening around the harness, making sure all of his feathers were back in place - it seems my skills as a peregrine groomer still leave a bit to be desired! Overall though he paid the harness and transmitter relatively little attention, as is usually the case.
Late in the afternoon, Aedin and Horus were joined by Talon, who landed higher up in the same dead oak. The three of them remained there for a while, then Talon became a bit rambunctious and the three of them tumbled into the air play-fighting with one another. All showed strong flight skills during this brief episode; unfortunately they rapidly disappeared from view again. Two of them, likely Aedin and Horus, settled in on a slope some distance north of the hack box, while the other, probably Talon, headed inland to the west again. Though we anticipated some evening flights, they never materialized, so by the time we left around 9:00 pm, we had to assume that Aedin and Horus were settled in for the night where we had last seen them.
The transmitter that Horus is wearing is solar-powered, and if all goes well, should remain in communication with us for at least one year. Reports are expected several times per week, and will be posted on the new Project Track-'em page for Horus.
Leslie Hunt reports: Horus and Aedin chased a Kingfisher in the morning, but gave up when it landed in a tree. Just before 7am, Horus entered the box and was trapped by biologists to have a satellite transmitter put onto his back. This was done so that his movements can be tracked over the next year or more. The procedure took a couple of hours. Aedin hung around the cliff site during this time, but did not land on the box. He chased a turkey vulture for a while, and then was harassed by a small bird. Another falcon, likely Talon, made a quick fly-by in the morning. Aedin finally entered the box around 10am to eat. Horus was returned to the box around 11am while Aedin sat on top of the box. Aedin hesitated a while before flying away. Obviously he was not terribly disturbed by human presence. Horus was held in the box for a couple hours to eat and calm down after his ordeal. He joined Aedin in a dead oak tree shortly after release. Talon joined them in the oak in the early evening. Some aerial play/combat took place, and Horus and Talon disappeared for the evening.
Leslie Hunt reports: In the early morning, Talon finally landed on the hack box. He landed like a pro. Presumably he went inside. Less than 30min later, he flew north. Aedin and Horus both came back to the box in the morning. Aedin ate while Horus slept. It appeared as though Aedin was guarding the food against Horus. Horus finally challenged Aedin and successfully ate breakfast after Aedin left the box. In the next few hours, Horus and Aedin made a number of flights, with some impressive landings and some aerial play. Aedin was eating again at 10am, and Horus also had another meal at 10:30am while Aedin slept. Talon made a couple brief appearances (fly-by's) in the early afternoon. Only Aedin was seen eating lunch. Aedin and Horus hung around the box for most of the afternoon, flying here and there. They played, dive-bombed each other, and fought over food. Horus ate supper. No sign of Talon.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: Just a quick note to set at ease all those who were worried by the disappearing act of the three peregrines yesterday. Dwayne Struthers called me this evening to let me know that Aedin came back to the hack box this morning, and spent much of the day there, in part to digest the quail which he hauled out from inside the box and ate on the platform, to the delight of the volunteers observing from across the lake. Horus arrived just this evening, so all three are accounted for.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: Today the release went ahead as planned! Shortly before 8:30 am, Dwayne Struthers gathered up the chicks one by one, and I inspected them for any remaining signs of frounce/trichomoniasis. All of them appeared to be in good health, so they were put back inside the hack box and left to settle down (and have breakfast) for another hour.
At 9:30, Dwayne and I removed the bars from the front of the hack box. Within a couple of minutes, Talon emerged to the platform out front. Around 9:33 he took flight, heading out confidently to the east, heading far across Deer Island, eventually looping around counter-clockwise past the observers at the north end of Little Deer Island, crossing the lake, and then heading west over the woods behind the hack box and out of sight. It was a remarkably strong flight throughout, with no "wobbles" at all. On a couple of occasions Talon even soared briefly, and when attacked by a Purple Martin, he showed remarkable composure by ignoring his aggressor completely.
About ten minutes later, Horus walked out to the front platform of the hack box. From the island across the channel, we could easily recognize him by the bleached feathers on the right side of his tail. For more than an hour, Horus made brief flights from one edge of the hack box to the other, and included several visits to the roof of the box in his activities. Throughout this time, Aedin watched from inside the bars remaining at one corner of the box, seemingly not understanding that he too could escape!
It was around 11:05 when Aedin finally emerged, and for the next half hour the two engaged in a fair amount of play-fighting which nearly resulted in both of them being knocked off the platform at times. Somehow though they managed to hang on each time.
At 11:36, Horus took off, heading north along the shoreline. He flew perhaps 100 metres before turning around and heading back in the direction of the box, making an awkward landing in an oak tree up the slope from where he had started. Though his flight was not as strong as Talon's, he nonetheless maintained his altitude well and was in full control until his landing (and that's always a challenge for young peregrines to learn). After just a few minutes in the tree, Horus took to the air again, heading south and then curving inland in the same direction as Talon earlier.
Perhaps feeling a bit lonely, Aedin waited only another twenty minutes after Horus' departure to take flight himself. He followed the same route as Horus along the cliff face, but doubled back a couple of times over the camouflaged tent from which the cliff-top observers were monitoring. Aedin ended up a bit higher on the slope, near the top of awhite pine. His flight too was quite good, and his landing a bit more solid than that of Horus. However, he seemed a bit perplexed by all of the branches surrounding him, as for more than an hour we watched him as he seemed to be trying to find a way out of the pine, only to get his wings blocked by branches at every attempt! Finally around 1:10 pm he did find a way out ... and naturally he too headed inland like his younger brothers.
As a result, we spent the afternoon on the lake watching the rocks and the skyline, waiting for the fledglings to reappear, but by 6:30 pm none had returned. We suspected that they were not far inland, but in the dense forest finding them on foot would have been very difficult, so it made more sense to continue monitoring the hack box area, as they are expected to return there for food.
As we left the site, Leslie Hunt and I were treated to one of the great coincidences of timing that sometimes befall us when dealing with peregrines. Driving out on Lower Oak Leaf Road, we were just passing Slack Road when we were astonished to see a juvenile peregrine flying toward us, right over the road! It headed right past us, and veered off to the north and out of sight. Though we had only a brief look at it, we agreed that it was a peregrine, and the relatively shallow, stiff wingbeats were consistent with it being one of the three we released today. This location is approx. 3-4 km from the hack box, so it appears that at least one of the youngsters (probably Talon) is trying to make up for lost time! Observers will be watching the site again all day tomorrow, and hope to see Horus, Aedin, and Talon all return to the hack box for meals.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: What would a Leeds update be without news of another delay? Seriously, we had hoped that today's release would proceed as planned, but once again the birds dictated otherwise. All the same, it was a very interesting and productive day.
The morning began with several of us running in circles, in part due to the limited cell phone service in the vicinity of the hack site, which resulted in several broken and confused conversations. By 9 am these challenges had been resolved, and we were at the hack box, ready for what was to be the final step for the chicks before the release - providing them with "unique identities" to enable observers to quickly tell them apart from a distance.
Many temporary markers have been used for this purpose, including coloured paint, streamers, and tape. Today, however, we employed a new technique which to our knowledge has not been previously used on peregrines, but which CPF director Mark Nash learned has been applied successfully to studies of vultures and California condors. In consultation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, it was decided to give this approach a try at Charleston Lake. The method involves bleaching selected feathers, the location of which is different for each bird at the site and can be recognized from a distance. For the Charleston Lake site, it was decided that one chick (Horus) would have the three outermost rectrices (tail feathers) on his right side bleached, and that Aedin would receive the reverse treatment, i.e. the three outermost rectrices on his left side. Talon's feathers were left unmarked.
In brief, the process involves applying a peroxide solution to the feathers, and immersing them in it for a period of roughly 30 minutes. Following this, the feathers are thoroughly washed with water to remove any residues. The feathers will retain this appearance until the bird undergoes it's first moult at approximately one year of age. Photos to follow in a few days.
The bleaching treatment appeared to be very successful for Horus and Aedin, although its effectiveness as a monitoring tool remains to be seen when they are out of the box and moving around ... which brings us to the fact that the release did not occur today as originally planned.
While handling the peregrines for the bleaching of feathers, both Mark Nash and I inspected their condition. On Horus, the first to be brought out of the box today, Mark noticed evidence of frounce (trichomoniasis) in the mouth. Having just recently seen similar symptoms on Richmond Hill's Spirit, he easily recognized the condition and raised the alert. Fortunately the condition does not appear to be severe, and while Aedin and Talon were also seen to have some symptoms, their level of infection was even less extensive.
The incidence of frounce appears to be higher than usual this spring, both among captive and wild populations of raptors, which some have attributed the unusually wet spring in Ontario allowing Trichomonas gallinae to survive and spread at a higher rate. If left untreated, frounce can be fatal, as it results in the gradual constriction of the airways, beginning in the mouth and throat and working down into the air sacs of the lungs. Fortunately, if detected early the treatment for frounce is fairly straightforward and reliable. It involves orally administering a treatment for a period of five days.
Thanks are in order to Garnet Baker and Dwayne Struthers who pursued local veterinarians for medicine once Mark had identified the presence of frounce, to Pia Gamberg in Kemptville for providing the necessary drugs, to Ross Struthers for picking them up quickly and bringing them to the hack box, and to Leslie Hunt for climbing back inside the hack box with the three feisty young peregrines to capture them individually so that we could provide them with their first dose of the medicine (after having already gone through this exercise earlier in the day when they were first examined!). Just as importantly, thanks to all of the volunteers who waited patiently for the release from their assorted vantage points, ultimately in vain, but who were uniformly understanding about the delays.
The problem caused by this is that to ensure all three chicks will receive the full treatment, they must be kept in captivity for its duration. Thus, the release has had to be pushed back by five days, and is now scheduled to occur on Wednesday July 17, around 8:30 am. Of course this means that volunteer shifts have been adjusted once more. The Fledgling Watch will now run from Wednesday July 17 through Wednesday July 24. Those who have already signed up for dates between July 17 and 20 (inclusive) need not change their plans; if you have not yet committed to a timeor were previously scheduled for July 14-16, please consider coming instead in the period of July 21-24. As in the original plans, there will be three shifts each day, 5am-11am, 11am-4pm, and 4pm-9pm. Mornings, although they start early, are often the most interesting time to observe the peregrines, and there are still holes in the schedule for many of the mornings. To volunteer for one or more periods, please contact project coordinator Leslie Hunt at email@example.com or (613) 258-8417.
While the postponement of the release was disappointing for all who gathered at the site today, the gorgeous weather ensured that everyone had an enjoyable day all the same. Observers also had plenty of birds to occupy their attention while the peregrines remained confined - at least half a dozen Turkey Vultures made periodic appearances in the area, and an Osprey was seen early in the morning. Particularly conspicuous were the local Red-shouldered Hawks, which made several low flights near the hack box (likely coincidental rather than intentional) and were heard vocalizing persistently on a number of occasions. A rather tame Common Loon entertained many of those on the water, and the Great Blue Herons demonstrated their fishing prowess throughout the day. The woods were also alive with the sounds of a wide variety of songbirds, ranging from Great Crested Flycatchers to Black-throated Green Warblers to a Scarlet Tanager.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: Based on a review of the chicks' physical development on Monday, the release has been pushed back to Saturday July 13. While they might have been ready to go today, it is better to err on the side of caution, so this delay will allow them to strengthen their flight muscles further before they need to put them to the test. The volunteer Fledgling Watch will therefore be adjusted to run from July 13 through July 20; additional help is still needed - details on how to become involved are in the July 8 report below.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: The three chicks have made a lot of progress toward becoming flight-ready over the past ten days since they were banded. See the latest photos of them in the Leeds Gallery, which show that they have already lost most of their down feathers.
Additional volunteers are still needed for help with the Fledgling Watch, which will commence with their release this Wednesday morning (July 10) and continue for a week, wrapping up on Wednesday July 18. There are three shifts each day, 5am-11am, 11am-4pm, and 4pm-9pm. Mornings, although they start early, are often the most interesting time to observe the peregrines, and there are still holes in the schedule for many of the mornings. To volunteer for one or more shifts, please contact project coordinator Leslie Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (613) 258-8417.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: See the Leeds Gallery for photos of the banding event, and closeups of each of the three chicks.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: Before getting to the report on today's banding, an administrative note. Due to the ages of the chicks being slightly younger than initially expected, their release has been delayed by a few days. It is now planned for Wednesday July 10, with the volunteer watch beginning that morning and continuing through to Wednesday July 17. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Leslie Hunt (see the June 11 message below for details and her phone/e-mail information).
This morning, representatives of the Leeds County Stewardship Council, Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and many project sponsors gathered at the Athens District High School to welcome the chicks for the 2002 Charleston Lake hack release.
As we removed the chicks from the transport box, each was first weighed to determine sex, and then aged based on feather development. We found that we had three males ranging from 27 to 30 days in age.
After being weighed, each chick received a red two-character band on the left leg for visual identification, and a standard silver US Fish and Wildlife Service band on the right leg. Today I had the honour of banding the peregrines, with the assistance of Pud Hunter of OMNR.
I can honestly say that these three chicks are among the strongest and most agile male peregrines I've held - getting them out of the original transport box was no easy feat, and even holding them during the banding was a bit more of a challenge than is usually the case. This strength and vigour bodes well for their release in less than two weeks.
Gary Nielsen of the Leeds County Stewardship Council announced the names of the chicks, the result of a contest held in the community over recent weeks. In order of increasing age, the chicks will be known as Horus, Talon, and Aedin.
After the banding was completed, the three youngsters were transported to their hack box overlooking Charleston Lake. They will remain there for the next couple of weeks, getting used to their surroundings while developing additional muscle mass and completing the development of their flight feathers. The release has been scheduled so that the youngest of the three will be 40 days old at that time.
Regular updates from the site will again be published this year. However, thanks to the work of a group of students from Athens District High School, these reports will for the most part be hosted on the Leeds County Peregrine Falcon Project Website, along with photos, the live webcam, and links to a variety of additional topics. Occasional news will also continue to be posted on this page, so please keep checking here, or on the main CPF news page for updates as well.
Leslie Hunt reports: It is now official ... the peregrine falcon watch on Charleston Lake will start July 7th and run until July 14th (Sunday to Sunday) [note: effective June 27, this has been changed to Wed July 10 - Wed July 17].
There will be 3 shifts each day: 5am-11am, 11am-4pm, and
4pm-9pm. You can volunteer for as many as you like. We will pick you
up at the main dock (about 10 min before the start of the shift) and ferry you
to the site. At the site, you have the choice of being posted on an
island, in a boat, or up on the cliff. Your job will be to keep an eye on
the falcon fledglings. You will be supplied with everything you'll need,
although there is never a guarantee that we will have enough binoculars for everyone. If you have a pair, I would recommend
bringing them along.
IMPORTANT... if you are interested, please let me know when you would like to be scheduled. As much as we would love to have eager beavers showing up unannounced, it will make things quite complicated. One more note... 5am sounds painful, but it is the most active and exciting shift!!! Please note that the DEADLINE for signing up is JULY 3.
Species at Risk Project
Ministry of Natural Resources
phone: (613) 258-8417
fax: (613) 258-9610
Marcel Gahbauer reports: The second season of Project Release in Leeds County will soon be underway! Tentatively the chicks are set to arrive on Thursday June 27, at which time they will be banded and placed in the hack box. Confirmation of this date, and further details about the banding event and additional opportunities for public involvement will be posted on this page shortly.
Marcel Gahbauer reports: After spending more than eight months in New York City, Ruby returned to southern Ontario in late April. Initially she appeared to be heading right back to Charleston Lake, but then she veered to the left, and landed in Trenton, where she was actually caught during routine airport protection activities by falconers at the Trenton military airport. She was in great condition, and we took the opportunity to remove her transmitter - while this unfortunately means we won't be able to follow her travels anymore, the likelihood is that the battery would have soon failed anyway, and recovering the unit at this point allows us to renew it for use on another bird later this summer.
For earlier reports, visit the Leeds County archives.
© Canadian Peregrine Foundation