The Canadian Peregrine Foundation


January - June 1999

Wednesday April 21, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  We have received confirmation from our breeder that the four peregrine chicks for Richmond Hill will be arriving on June 2.  At this time they will be approximately 18 days old.  We plan to keep them in the hack box for approximately four weeks, and then release them when they are ready to fly, likely around the beginning of July.

In February and March, Mark Nash and I had two meetings with the Richmond Hill Naturalists, first with the directors only, and later at a meeting of the whole club.   On both occasions, the Richmond Hill Naturalists expressed a strong interest in assisting us with the hack release project, in particular with helping monitor the young chicks following their release.   This commitment is very much appreciated, for we cannot pull off a project of this scale without the support of the local community.

We will need a large number of dedicated volunteers to help us staff the dawn-to-dusk watch for at least three weeks after we release the chicks.  Whether youcan help us for only a couple of hours each week, or are able to contribute some time each day, we encourage you to become involved.  It's not too early to sign up - if you are interested in helping out, please e-mail us, and we will get back to you with further details.

In the coming weeks, we will post additional announcements on this page about the opening of our Richmond Hill Falcon Watch Centre, the construction of the hack box (volunteers wanted!), the installation of the camera, and more.  Keep checking for updates!

Monday April 26, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  The Richmond Hill Photo Gallery is now active!  The first two photos have been posted, and show the Richmond Hill Town Hall, where the young peregrines will be placed when they arrive in early June.   Click on the link near the top left of this page to access the gallery.

Thursday May 13, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  This morning Mark Heaton of the Ministry of Natural Resources delivered the hack box to the Richmond Hill Town Hall.   Mark Nash and I helped Mark and Chris from MNR take the box up to the roof and assemble it.  The hack box is roughly six feet long, five feet wide, and 3 feet high, and is remarkably heavy!

We have put up the box on the south side of the roof of the Town Hall, facing southeast (Pictures from the assembly should be available in the photo gallery soon).  This will allow the chicks to be exposed to the sun in the morning when they need warmth, and be concealed from the hot afternoon sun.  There is a parapet roughly 90 cm (three feet) high around the edge of the roof.  This will be the first test of the flight skills of the chicks - if they can get up to this ledge from the box (which is set back several metres from the edge of the roof), this will indicate they have developed their flight muscles enough to fly safely.

Next week we will return to Richmond Hill to make some modifications to the hackbox.  We will build a platform on which to place the hack box - this will elevate the box enough that the chicks can see out to surrounding buildings and learn to become familiar with their environment.  It will also make it easier for the hack site manager to access the box to provide food and maintain the box.

Friday June 4, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  The arrival of the four Richmond Hill chicks is fast approaching.  We have been busily working the past few days to get everything set up for them.  Last night we (Natalie Helferty, Bruce Massey, Mark Nash, Daniel Rayman, and myself) spent several hours at the Richmond Hill Town Hall moving in furniture for our Falcon Watch Centre, and planning out the final bits of construction for the hack box, which we will finish building early next week.

The Falcon Watch Centre mentioned above is located in the mall attached to the Town Hall (225 East Beaver Creek), and is just north of the food court.  We hope to have it open by mid-week.  We will also have a second Falcon Watch Centre at the Richmond Hill Central Library (southwest corner of Major Mackenzie and Yonge).  Once we are up and running late next week, both sites will be open daily.  At each Falcon Watch Centre, we hope to have a television on at all times, which will be showing the live signal from the nest box.  On weekdays, one of the project coordinators will be at the Town Hall Falcon Watch Centre to provide information and answer questions during the morning and early afternoon, and will be at the Library Falcon Watch Centre in the late afternoon and evenings (until the library closes - 9 pm Mon - Thurs, 6 pm Fri).  On weekends, a project coordinator will be at the library for most of its opening hours.   These times are still tentative; we hope to have a firmer schedule posted by the end of next week.

The chicks themselves will be delivered Thursday morning, and we will hold a press conference to celebrate their arrival.  Everyone is welome to attend.   We will post details of the time and place within the next few days - please keep checking for updates.

Monday June 7, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports: With just three days to go until the Richmond Hill chicks arrive from the breeder, we decided to spend all day working on getting the hack box ready for them. The construction crew today consisted of Natalie Helferty, Bruce Massey, Daniel Rayman, Stacey Withrow, and myself (from the Canadian Peregrine Foundation) and Mark Heaton and Vicky (from the Ministry of Natural Resources).

In the morning we began by building a three-foot high platform for the hack box to sit on. Not only will this make it easier for the hack box attendants to access the box to add/remove food from it, but it also elevates the chicks high enough that they can see some of the surrounding rooftops. In this way they will become accustomed to the landscape from a young age, and will hopefully have more confidence when they begin to fly.

After making a run to a nearby store for some more building materials, we returned just in time for the severe storm that swept through the area around 3 pm. Fortunately everyone got off the roof moments before lightning struck - either on or near the building, as the lights flickered, and the thunder was deafeningly close.

Meanwhile, we also continued to set up the Falcon Watch Centre near the Food Court downstairs. We still have a fair bit of work to do there, but hope to have it open later this week. Watch here (and/or there) for more news about the opening.

The storm quickly moved out again, and the CPF crew returned to put the finishing touches on the hack box. In particular, we added a platform to the front of the box, so that the chicks will be able to walk out away from it when they are ready to fly, yet still remain in view of the camera. We also added some more bracing to the legs of the platform to give it more stability, although it seemed to have weathered the winds of the storm quite well anyway. After considerable debate about the placement of the camera (to be installed in the next couple of days), we finally called it a day around 6 pm.

The construction process was an interesting one, since several of us had only a very limited understanding of how the pieces were to fit together, let alone what tools to use to accomplish the task (we may know our birds well, but construction isn't our strength). Fortunately Mark had clear plans for the platform, and was able to put all of us to work assembling it. After he and Vicky left in the afternoon, the rest of us amateur architects managed to finish the job with a mixture of creativity, calculation, and luck. We can honestly say that we have not only built a hack box that is sturdy and functional, but also without a doubt original and unique (to satisfy your curiosity, pictures will be added to the Richmond Hill Photo Gallery soon...).

Thursday June 10, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  Today the four chicks arrived in Richmond Hill and were introduced to their new home, which they seemed to accept quite quickly.  They were inspected before being placed in the box, and seemed to be healthy except for some body lice.  All who witnessed the transfer into the box would agree that the chicks are certainly feisty and full of energy.  Now that the chicks are here, we will have daily updates on their progress posted on this page.  See the update below for more details from today.

Daniel Rayman reports:  The chicks have arrived!  At approximately 1:00 pm, four, twenty-eight day old peregrine falcon chicks were placed in their new home-a hack box on the roof of the Richmond Hill Town Hall.  The chicks were greeted by members from the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, The Town of Richmond Hill, and the media.  In less than half an hour two of the chicks were on top of the platform in the box, looking southward and familiarizing themselves with their new surroundings.  The other two chicks spent most of their time in the back right corner of the box.  The chicks were given food immediately after being placed in the box, but by the time CPF staff left for the day, they had not fed.  This is not surprising when one considers the chicks had been under a great deal of stress the past couple of days (airplane flight, new environment, etc.). CPF and TRH staff attempted to get the camera on-line, but their efforts proved unsuccessful.  Hopefully tomorrow will prove more successful.

Friday June 11, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  The chicks are feeding!  This morning at approximately 8:00 am I checked to see if the chicks had fed.  I observed one chick pecking at what little remained of the quail they had been given yesterday.   I also found out the hard way that the chicks are becoming defensive of their new home.  When I attempted to remove the quail remains, I was attacked by one of the chicks. I quickly decided that perhaps removing the quail remains should postponed, and proceeded to drop another quail down the feeding tube.  When I returned at 11:00 am, the quail had been eaten and all four chicks were up on the platform, where they stayed for most of the day.  TRH staff and I verified that the camera is producing a signal.  The signal from the camera should be fed into the CPF suite and to the internet early next week.

Tuesday June 15, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  Today was the first full day that the T.V. in our suite was producing a picture from the hack box.  This provided me with an opportunity to observe the chicks for the entire day.  They look healthy, and their behaviour appears normal.  Today they divided their time between sleeping, eating, preening, and exercising their flight muscles.  For the majority of the morning, the chicks were either perching or sleeping on the platform. In the late morning and early afternoon, the chicks divided their time between the gravel and the platform.   They seem to appreciate the water dish that was placed in the box for them.  Two of the chicks were in and out of the dish quite frequently this afternoon.

The chicks are beginning their preparations for flight.  Most of the down has fallen or been preened off, and their juvenal plumage is quite apparent.   One chick, in particular, appears to be more eager than the others.  He spent portions of his day running up and down the platform, and then flying either into the side of the box or the bars at the front.  The chicks are now 33 days old, and should be totally ready to take their first flights at 45 days of age.   

More work was done today in an attempt to get the webcam up and running.   Pictures from the hack box should be on-line any day now.

Wednesday June 16, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  The chicks activity today mirrored that of yesterday.  They slept huddled together in the centre of the platform for most of the morning.  In the late morning and early afternoon they were more active and divided their time between the gravel and platform.  During their active times, I observed the chicks feeding, preening, stretching, and exercising their wings.  The highlight of the day was a display of acrobatics put on by our two males. At various times throughout the day, they would fly towards the side west side of the box and momentarily perch vertically on the west wall.   This is possible since on the west wall of the box, a door has been cut so that the box can be accessed.  The chicks would grasp the top of the door and lodge their talons in the space between the top of the door and the box wall.  It is rather difficult to describe this scenario in print, therefore I would suggest anybody interested in observing this feat stop by our suite.  This behaviour is likely a form of flight preparation, and should therefore be repeated.  In general, male chicks tend to fledge sooner than females, and from what I have observed the past two days our males are no exception.

Members from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will be on site to band the chicks tomorrow.  The banding is scheduled to take place at 2:00 pm.  All are welcome to attend.

Thursday June 17, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  The four Richmond Hill chicks were banded this afternoon - to our surprise all four were males!  All are healthy and feisty and have demonstrated that they are by no means tame - they struggled vigorously while being handled and attempted to lash out with their talons.  Mark Heaton and Vicki Samaras of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources weighed and banded all four birds, and were lucky to escape with only a handful of talon scratches.  The chicks were placed back in the box, and will now remain there undisturbed until their release, scheduled for June 28.  More details on the banding to follow tomorrow.

Daniel Rayman reports:  Today at approximately 2:00 pm our four peregrine falcon chicks were banded by members of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  The banding ceremony was held in the Council Chambers of the Richmond Hill Town Hall, and was well attended by the media, TRH, and CPF staff.  Our chicks, being approximately 34 days old, were a little older than the typical 21-28 day range when chicks are typically banded.  This made the chicks more aggressive, and as such more difficult to handle.  Despite their age, the chicks were banded without any harm done to themselves (and very little to the banders, thanks to their skilful work).  Based on the weight of the chicks we discovered, to our surprise, that we have four males.  I was under the impression that we had received two males and two females.  This news came as a pleasant surprise to CPF staff, since male peregrines have a higher survival rate than females.

Monday June 21, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  Today the chicks were the most active I have ever seen them.  They spent very little time sleeping, or even standing still.  Throughout the day, they were flapping their wings strongly, and conducting "mini-flights"- flying down from the platform onto the gravel, and then flying back onto the platform immediately.   One chick was observed hopping in the air and hovering up near the top of the box, briefly, before landing back in the gravel.  The chicks also spent more time feeding than usual, perhaps they need the additional food to fuel their increasing activity.   The chicks have now lost all of their down, except for a few patches on their heads.

The bars to the hack box are scheduled to come off on June 28.  Starting that day, a dawn to dusk watch of CPF staff and volunteers will be set up to observe the chicks during their first few weeks of flight.

Wednesday June 23, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  Today was a rather uneventful day in Richmond Hill.  The chicks were fairly active feeding, flapping, and taking mini-flights, though nothing new or particularly interesting was observed.  Perhaps the rest of the week will be more eventful.

Monday June 28, 1999
Marcel Gahbauer reports:  This morning was the big day in Richmond Hill - the bars have been removed, and the chicks have all flown successfully.   The Fledgling Watch is now in full swing, and we are in desperate need of more volunteers to help us keep an eye on these four young birds as they learn to fly and practice the skills they will need to become independent.  Please call (416) 990-3472 or (416) 481-1233 if you can help, even if only for a short time.

The chicks have also been given names, in honour of the partners and sponsors of the Richmond Hill release project.  The heaviest male (and the first to come out of the box during the banding) will be known as "Sir Richmond", as selected from entries collected from Town of Richmond Hill staff prior to the banding.   The second heaviest male is called "Eco" in recognition of the support of EcoAction 2000.  The third male has been named "Rouge" in appreciation of the contribution of the Rouge Park to this project.  The fourth male will be known as "Nate", to acknowledge the valuable assistance of the Richmond Hill Naturalists, who are the bulk of our volunteers at this site.  Watch for daily reports to be posted on this page over the course of the Fledgling Watch.

Mark Nash reports:  Roughly two hours following their release, fresh food was placed on the peregrines' hack box.  All day long they remained away from the Town Hall.  The first of the fledglings to return to the building finally turned up around 7:30 pm.  Over the course of the evening, the young peregrines became increasingly active.  The last of the volunteers left around 9:40 pm, but the birds continued to fly for another 5 to 10 minutes after that, even though it was quite dark by this time.  We were impressed by the fact that all of the peregrines were flying very well.  For the most part they made direct flights from one roof to another with minimal soaring, but nonetheless, they did very well for their first day in the air.

Tuesday June 29, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  This morning the juveniles made several strong flights over top of the two Sheraton buildings and the Richmond Hill Town Hall.  The strong winds of the early afternoon made them a little timid, and very few flights were made. When the wind died down in the late afternoon, they were active once again. They extended their radius of flight east of East Beaver Creek and were observed flying over the Royal Bank and movie theatres.  Briefly in the late afternoon we had all four juveniles in the air flying together.  This was the first time for the day that we were able to verify the location of all four birds.

At approximately 7:45 pm I returned to the suite to pick up a cell phone for one of our volunteers.  To our surprise, one of the birds was inside the hack box feeding!   This bird continued to feed until about 8:15.  The second and third juveniles returned to the box at approximately 8:30 and 9:00, and both began to feed immediately upon return.  To our knowledge the juveniles had not fed since they were released, which means they had gone at least 36 hours without food.  At 9:30 pm the three juveniles were still at the hack box, and the fourth was located on the red Sheraton Hotel building. Hopefully tomorrow he will make his way back to the hack box also.

Wednesday June 30, 1999
Daniel Rayman reports:  Early this morning three juveniles were present on/in the hack box.  There were a few early morning flights, but by late morning the action had stopped.  The juveniles did not fly again until early afternoon when they put on quite a stunning aerial display.  Three of the four juveniles were involved, as they chased pigeons and each other around the Sheraton Convention Centre and the Richmond Hill Town Hall.  Fresh food was placed in the hack box at approximately 3:45 pm and by 5:30 one of the juveniles had returned to the box and began feeding.  A little over an hour later, he was joined by one of his brothers and the two had dinner together.  With the onset of dusk, the four juveniles had one last flight around the Sheraton buildings and the Richmond Hill Town Hall.  They concluded their flight by each perching on seperate aerials on top of the east end of the white Sheraton Hotel.  By 9:30 pm all four were still in this position. 

Marcel Gahbauer reports:  Shortly before 11 am, one of the juveniles was still on the hack box (the other two that had been there feeding in the early morning had left some time ago).  This one reached a small but significant milestone, which we observed watching on the monitor in the Falcon Watch Centre - he made his first kill.  It was only a hapless insect walking across the platform in front of the peregrine, but it does show that the young birds already have the hunter's instinct in them.  It was quite a sight to see him stalking the bug, then lunging and snapping it up.


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