The Canadian Peregrine Foundation
RICHMOND HILL HOME PAGE
Project Release 2003: Richmond Hill
To our volunteers: We would like to thank all who helped out with the fledge watches, as your unselfish efforts and concerns for the health and safety for the birds have been instrumental in their continued survival.
Thursday September 18, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: An overview of the progression of Richmond and Miriam...On or around August 23 in the evening I had the privilege of watching our birds play some exceptional aerial tag. They chased each other and dipped and zoomed between the two condo buildings behind RTH. They must have been airborne for at least half an hour. As the sun started to set, they made their way to the roof ledge of the west condo building. With my bare eyes I could only see they were sitting rather close together (no surprise there) but with my wonderful Bushnell binoculars I saw in great detail a sight that made me both laugh and cry. They were both sitting on the ledge but on opposite sides, so they were actually facing each other. They were so close their chests were touching and I could see them preening each other and rubbing their beaks together. They were even a little playful and every now and again they would do the upside-down head bobs that made it look like their heads weren't really attached to their bodies, but just floated around them.
The week I was on vacation Tracy Simpson took over feeding the kids. She was lucky to escape with her life on one occasion as Richmond dove right for her head. Tracy happened to have her camera poised and ready and she actually got a picture of Richmond defending his box!
The same week I was away Richmond and Miriam were sighted less and less, sometimes not at all. They were still flying well but spending less time around home base. To date they are still returning for food but have been making forays around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Check the Project Track'Em updates for transmitter locations.
Wednesday August 20, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: Yesterday's trip again found Richmond napping in the shade under the hack box. As per usual the female showed up shortly after I left food out and both birds circled the Town Hall as I walked back indoors.
Today I arrived a little later in the day, around 6:15pm. It wasn't quite as hot by then and there were no birds on the roof of RTH. I went out to leave the quail on the porch and as I approached the hack box I heard the signature peregrine scream. I stopped and looked around trying to find the source and located both birds sitting on the RBC building across the street. As I dropped the food off on the porch Richmond took off in my direction. I high-tailed it back inside and when I returned a few minutes later with fresh water he was already chowing down on the quail. I very quietly crept up and filled the water dish (it is behind the hack box on the rooftop and out of view from the front porch. After I got back inside I peeked out for a few minutes to see if the female would appear. Appear she did and did some fly-by's over the box.
Richmond then took off towards the Sheraton Hotel with one quail in his talons! Miriam saw that also and she took off in hot pursuit! I watched them from the inside of the building as she chased him around the roof of the Sheraton. They were weaving and dipping and making very sharp turns in mid-air. Miriam was following Richmond so closely it looked like she was hanging onto his tail feathers with her beak and he was pulling her along. They turned just out of my view and I didn't see them resurface and I guessed they had probably landed somewhere on the south side of the Sheraton.
I was highly impressed by the level of aerodynamics I saw from both birds. They had no problem swerving to avoid obstacles and no problem in gaining height at the last moment to get over the highest points on the roof. I think this is the most advanced flying I've seen from these birds to date. Very encouraging!
Monday August 18, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: I arrived around noon to find Richmond napping in the shade under the hack box. Miriam was not in view but I new she couldn't have been far away. On entrance to the roof with food Richmond took off and circled overhead, screaming of course. He landed on the top of one of the letters in the sign on the outside of the building and all I saw was his little head peeping up over the ledge of the building. He was looking cranky and screaming at me as well. I left the food and removed one of the water dishes to wash out and replace. A few minutes later when I returned with fresh water Miriam had already landed on the porch and was eating away. When she saw me she took off and circled overhead. She was joined by Richmond and they both circled over me.
I caught a glimpse of Miriam's back as she took off and her transmitter is sitting in the proper spot and all of her feathers were nicely in place. Her flying seemed in no way impeded by her new addition and I feel confident in saying both birds have adapted well.
Sunday August 17, 2003
Linda Woods reports: 10:15 am - Upon arriving on the site, Harry already had birds in view. The female was on 100 York Blvd, which is on the east side of East Beaver Creek. We watched as they made short flights. The male is flying very well and doesn't appear to have slowed down since the satellite deployment. The female appears to be needing a little extra time to adjust. She made short flights between the Town Hall and the east condo's.
Saturday August 16, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: Megan and I were on site early this morning. I awoke to the sound of thunder and torrential rain last night and was very worried about our birds because it was their first night wearing the transmitters.
We arrived to find both birds sitting on the west ledge of RTH looking a little waterlogged and preening madly. I took the opportunity to leave food out for them and they had no trouble at all in flying circles over me as I invaded their space once again.
It is good to see them sticking together so closely. I think it may increase their chances for survival in the fledging period and it will be interesting to see if and when they part company. We will be able to monitor this with longitude and latitude coordinates we receive from their transmitters.
Friday August 15, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: The power was restored to my area at 6:20am. My first thoughts were of the birds, but I knew as long as they were together they would be fine. My next thoughts were of Mark and Linda. They needed coffee and I had to get it to them. Thankfully I passed a Tim Horton's that was opened and I got a round of large coffee's to go. I returned to the Sheraton (which still had no power) and mantled like a peregrine over the tray of coffee as I walked down the halls, protecting it from other caffeine-needy passers by. Once coffee and home baked muffins, cakes and squares from my mom's freezer had been devoured, we set to the task of organizing the release.
Once some of the area stoplights were working again and it was safe for us to be out and about we released the birds. With a team stationed in the falcon suite and my team in the machine room of RTH we watched as the birds ventured back into freedom. Miriam jumped onto the roof of the box and spent a long while just glaring at the door to the machine room where, coincidentally, Megan, Daniel and myself were staked out. We waited as they took their first flights with backpacks and then quickly ran out to tie off the trap door so it would stay up, change the water and leave food. Megan and Daniel did a great job of each taking one bird and keeping their eyes on it. The way Miriam had glared at the door made me suspect she wanted to take her ordeal out on my head. All went well and the three of us were safely back inside without incident. The birds spent quite a lot of time preening and their flights were just as good as ever. Their first flight off of the box was to the rooftop of the Sheraton Hotel of all things, and they especially like to perch on the corner above the falcon suite.
Thursday August 14, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: Transmitter deployment day. Both Richmond and Miriam donned shiny new satellite transmitters today as part of Project Track-em. The event was attended by members and volunteers of the CPF (Mark Nash, Linda, Megan and myself), our sponsors and partners Tine Sujitno and Joanne from the Sheraton Hotel, Ontario Power Generation, Richmond Hill Town Hall members, Bushnell, Daniel Geleynse from the Ontario Hawking Club, Sheryl Bunting and her rangers from the MNR, and Rogers Television. Photos
Richmond was first. I held him while Mark Nash outfitted him with the harness\transmitter combination. He was a bit of a fuss-budget, but NOTHING compared to his 'little' sister. Miriam fought, clawed, bit, grabbed, and fought some more. She even succeeded in drawing blood from Mark, making him the louder screaming of the two. After she had her way with Mark she took the rest of her frustration out on the towel, the forceps, the harness - anything that came remotely close to her beak. To top it off, she was huge. So big I could hardly get my hand around her shoulders. And talk about monster-size feet! She's the peregrine version of Big Foot. They do exist! I have never encountered a female peregrine so large, and she has the attitude to match. The good news is that if she can make it through her first year successfully, she'll make a great addition to the wild gene pool. I pity the Great Horned Owl that tries to eat her.
The whole event took us about 2 hours start to finish. We wrapped up and got the birds back onto the roof for replacement inside the hack box. I gave Mark the honours of taking them out of the carriers. Richmond was pretty mad and screamed and Miriam was so cranky that every feather on her body was standing up on end. I've only seen that in one other bird this year and that was Orion from the Mississauga Executive Centre (entry for June 30).
Mark had a spray bottle and was in the midst of giving them a spritz to cool them off and hydrate them when Miriam flew across the inside of the box and landed with both talons on Marks gloved hand biting him and the bottle simultaneously. Mark was trapped at the mercy of an enraged peregrine. I couldn't help but laugh. Mark eventually got his hand back with a few more injuries to add to the list. I put food through the tube for them and they made themselves at home eating and drinking (water) and making merry.
Mark, Linda, Megan, Daniel and myself decided to get a bite to eat while the birds were eating. We had finished our lunch at a nearby Pizza Hut when the power went out. We made our way back, very slowly albeit, to the Town Hall. The problem now was that Daniel was in from Kitchener, Megan was in from Kingston, Mark had no gas to drive home and the subways weren't running and Linda lives in the heart of downtown Toronto. We were stranded. The roads were a mess so we didn't want to risk releasing our babies with all the mayhem but they were cool and comfortable in the shade in any case. The Sheraton Hotel had generously offered us the use of the falcon suite for when we released the birds again, and Mark approached them for just one last favour. Given our situation of being stranded and of being a charity (having no money for extras), could we please stay in a room overnight. The hotel itself was swamped with stranded motorists who couldn't get home. Their power was out, the switchboard was down, the computers down, yet in the midst of the pandemonium Joanne still made time to help us in our time of need and she called saying there was a room for us complements of the hotel.As we were walking over we were pondering the possibility of the room being the falcon suite or not. I know Linda was especially hopeful it would be. We ran into Joanne as we were checking in and sure enough, we had the falcon suite. Photos of CPF's 'roughing it' will be posted very soon. The many flights of stairs up to the 10th floor was well worth it. Mark, Linda, Daniel and Megan enjoyed the blackout of '03 in the luxurious falcon suite 1096. I on the other hand made a run for it later that evening. I had enough gas to get home and back. As I stepped outside the front doors of the hotel I looked up and saw the most incredible starry sky I never thought I'd see from Toronto.
Wednesday August 13, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: Trapping Day!! You know the day will be interesting when you wake up at 3:30AM, which I did. I picked up Linda Woods (CPF), Megan MacDonald (former co-op student and volunteer from Kingston, ON) and we arrived at RTH around 5:45am. We rendez-vous'd with the last member of our team Sheryl Bunting (MNR Stewardship Ranger crew leader and volunteer). There we were; 4 girls, 2 falcons, and a lot of string.
The first item on the agenda was checking in to our room the Sheraton Hotel had so generously donated to us for the day. As we entered the 'falcon suite', Linda and Megan were in awe. The double doors opened from the hallway of the hotel into a marble-floored foyer with crystal-rimmed wall sconces on either side of the wall. A set of french doors lay open to the living room. To the left was the dining room that had a long rectangle table that seated 10, and a door off the dining room opened into the full kitchen. The hallway between the entrance way and the Kitchen area housed closets and a 2 piece bathroom. To the right of the living room was the bedroom fully furnished with a king size bed and an ensuite bathroom that had a jacuzzi tub and sink and a separate door leading to the toilet and stand up shower. Amazing. The ceilings must have been at least 12 feet high. This was no small deal for the Sheraton Hotel to 'donate' the room to us for the day. Thank you again folks!
As Linda ran from room to room in sheer delight, we all concurred she would be the best candidate to have stationed on watch for when the birds entered the box. The view was spectacular. The windows ran from floor to ceiling and in addition to having a great view of the surrounding area, we had an ideal view of the hack box location. Without this vantage point I highly doubt we would have been successful in capturing our birds.
I had Megan and Sheryl with me inside the door of the machine room in RTH that opened onto the roof where the hack box was. At a point when the birds were not on the box I ran out with 2 quail, the 2 other girls and some string. I tied the quail to the inside of the bars of the box so the birds had to walk inside the box to get the quail...in theory. We waited patiently and eventually Miriam and Richmond returned to the box. Still no sign of Major Mac. We could not see what was taking place on the porch but Linda across in the Sheraton with her scope had a perfect view.
Richmond approached the bars of the box and was very interested in the quail. Miriam stood behind him, also very interested. Richmond did not enter inside the box. Instead he tried grabbing at the quail and the string of the quail through the bars! Once he got his toe on the quail he dragged it right up to the bars and tried to pull it through with his feet. We were all laughing at his persistence. Since that didn't work Richmond poked his beak as far as he could between the bars and started pulling on the quail. Meanwhile Miriam stood behind him bobbing her head this way and that to see over his shoulders at what he was doing. Richmond could taste the juicy quail but still couldn't get it out through the bars, so he braced each of his feet on the bars and flapped his wings and pulled with his beak until he succeeded in pulling the entire quail through the bars of the hack box! All of a sudden we weren't laughing at his persistence. I had to go outside and try to encourage the birds away from the porch. As I peeked at them from around the corner they turned to notice me but then went back to eating. I had to slip my hand up underneath them and grasp the quail and it wasn't until I started dragging the quail away they took off, screaming in protest. I had Megan holding the string to the trap and Sheryl came outside with me to stand watch as I re-tied the quail MUCH further back inside the box.
Trapping day take two: lets try this again. I was very worried the female may not return because she is very cautious and easily spooked. The male is much faster at recovering. A few minutes go by and the male lands on the box. He of course tries the same thing as before but did not succeed in pulling the string very far this time. He looks around and then slowly enters the box. In the meantime Miriam had landed on the ledge of the RTH and was watching her brother. Little by little she inches closer. It seems to be taking forever! We were all talking aloud telling her to go follow her brother, go to the box, go IN the box. Eventually Miriam was sitting on the ledge right opposite the box. I could see through the cracks in the doors of the box his tail moving up and down as he was hunched over eating. I didn't want to drop the screen with the female so close because it would scare her off and she'd never go back in the box, but I didn't want to lose the opportunity to trap the male. Finally after what seemed like an eternity Miriam jumped on the porch of the box. She walked back and forth, peering in at her brother. Eventually she entered the box, Linda radioed me she was in, I dropped the screen and Megan and Sheryl accompanied me out to the roof, carriers in tow. I climbed in and got each bird and put them in respective carriers and left them in the box for the night.Again, huge thanks to the Sheraton Parkway Hotel for the room with a view and to the girls Linda, Megan and Sheryl - GREAT TEAMWORK!!! Could not have done it without all of you!
Tuesday August 13, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: As per usual, the birds did their morning exercise routine and by 8:15 am they had reoccupied the RTH rooftop. There they stayed with the odd foray around the buildings and back again.
We are hoping to recapture the birds tomorrow at some point so they can be outfitted with satellite transmitters on Thursday morning, but we had a bit of a problem. There is no vantage point from the ground that enables us to see whether a bird has re-entered the box and there is no place for anyone to sit on the rooftop of the Town Hall. I noticed that the Sheraton Parkway Hotel has an east wing with rooms facing the hack box. I approached Tine Sujitno, Sales Manager for the hotel. She was kind enough to show me several of the rooms and was very interested and excited about being able to assist in our efforts. After discussing the matter with the District Manager, Tine called me and let me know the Sheraton Parkway Hotel would be happy to donate the use of a room for the day at no cost to the Foundation. My sincere thanks to Tine and staff at the Sheraton Hotel Toronto North for going out of their way at a moment's notice to accommodate our needs. The room we will be watching from has a perfect view of the hack box and the platform leading inside. Having a good visual greatly increases our chance of being successful at recapturing our birds for transmitter application.
As I was returning to my car after meeting with Tine something flying swiftly through the air caught my eye. I turned to see one of our peregrines in hot pursuit of a flock of pigeons. It was chasing them into a tizzy around the Esso gas station at the corner and coming quite low. What an incredible sight to see at such close proximity! Our bird was unsuccessful at catching one and I took the opportunity to run up and leave some food for them. After placing the food in the box I waited around the corner of the door to see if they would show up and sure enough, in came the male. He landed on the roof of the box and mantled as if he were claiming the ENTIRE box! He was turning this way and that as he mantled over his domain. By the time I had come back downstairs and got across the street to my vantage point, both birds were on the porch of the box mantling at each other and fighting over a piece of quail. They stick together like glue but apparently there's no love lost when it comes to food.
Sunday August 10, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: Most of the morning and early afternoon we had 2 birds on the hack box. Miriam and one of the males took turns being the king of the castle, standing on the roof of the box. The male jumped onto the roof and started biting at one of the copper bars that was sticking up. The other male spent his time bouncing between the condo buildings and chased pigeons a couple of times too. In the late afternoon one of the males had a collision with the condo and landed on a balcony on the outside of the glass divider. There he stayed, and screamed his head off. From the ground we weren't sure why he was screaming. He was so loud he was drawing the attention of some of the condo residents, who were looking around for where the noise was coming from. The security guards were concerned and wanted him removed. The CPF team was again poised for action.
With the two other birds being monitored, a team of us were on a stakeout of the condo. Harry noticed the bird's left eye was closed a lot. This was cause for concern, but then the eye opened and he seemed okay. He was making no attempt to fly however, and he continually vocalized. This particular building was still under construction in the top few floors and the security guard told me there wasn't anyone up there. I had been chatting to a couple of the security guards advising them not to approach this kind of bird as it could be potentially dangerous for the bird or the person or both. One of the guards was particularly understanding and even allowed me access to the parking lot so I could be a little closer if the bird came down. I was sitting, sipping my coffee, getting a headache from this bird's screaming, when all of a sudden a guy appeared on the very same balcony as our baby!!! And then he started to walk towards the bird!! Our poor little guy was screaming his heart out as he was being approached. I jumped up and started yelling for this person to get back away from the bird. The guy didn't look up or even acknowledge my presence so I started jumping up and down and flailing my hands in the air to try to catch his eye. Still no reaction and he continued to approach the bird. I thought he must not hear me, so I yelled louder.
Well by this time the car alarms were going off in the parking lot because I was yelling so loud and the guy still didn't look up at all. Luckily the security guard let me go into the building at that moment. I went up to the penthouse floor. It was still under construction, no doors were in the doorways and there was construction material all around. I had no idea which direction to go so I followed the vocalizing from our bird. I turned into a room to find a flock of people pressed up against the glass of the balcony directly across from our bird. After I got them away from the window the security guard who was with them informed me it was their penthouse and they were there taking measurements. My apologies to the tenants for taking over their living room (at least I think that is what it is going to be) and my thanks to them and the security guard for allowing me in their space.
As I watched our little bird, who by the way stopped screaming once he couldn't see anyone, I noticed he kept closing his left eyelid. Since he was posing a potential threat to the tenants and causing a disturbance with his screaming I removed him from the balcony to re-release him from the RTH. Linda and Harry were positioned on the ground beneath me and Bruce and Yuki were monitoring the other two birds. Thanks again to a great CPF team for the long volunteer hours and top-notch collaborated efforts.
The security guard escorted me out and Linda and I went to the RTH with guess who - Major Mac! We confirmed it was him by the leg bands. We put him in a carrier and monitored him. Let him calm down after his second ordeal and checked for any signs of injury. Mark arrived shortly thereafter and checked the bird's eyes and his ability to focus and react to things around him. Mark also brought a spray bottle.
After about an hour he was released with no sign of injury. I put him back on the roof and he stubbornly clung on to the towel he had been in - actually Linda's bathmat. He attacked, bit and footed the towel. Then he got bored and started bopping around the rooftop. His siblings were around too and they were a happy family for a while after.
Saturday August 9, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: 05:45 - yet another early morning. Lots of peregrine traffic this morning until around 9am. Both males were bombing around from the Richmond Hill Town Hall (RTH) to the nearby condos, to the Sheraton Hotel roof. One of the males started chasing pigeons - twice! That's the first time we've had peregrines chasing prey on the second day out of the box!
The night before the female was still on the upper elevation of RTH and I didn't see her this morning there. I spotted her on the roof of the mall, just south of RTH. She was screaming, had her feathers puffed out and was walking along the ledge of the roof with the same hunched over posture as the wild hatched peregrines have towards their parents. Like a begging baby. Eventually she decided to move and made her first longish flight to the far building of the Sheraton Hotel. She was flying okay but had a little trouble gaining height. She landed 6" below the highest roof elevation and did the bat down the middle roof level. She spent most of the day there.
In the afternoon Major Mac got a little over-zealous and over-confident. He ended up crashing into the east side of the east condo and coming to the ground. The Canadian Peregrine Foundation volunteers sprung into action! We had people watching the two other birds on the move and at the same time coordinated the rescue of Major Mac. We had people station at points around where he landed and when I approached him he was still dazed from his collision that I had no trouble in picking him up, tucking him in a towel and getting him back to the roof of RTH. He had a bewildered expression on his face like he was wondering what had just happened.
In these situations, one of the things we do prior to releasing a bird that has been rescued is to rehydrate the bird by spritzing water into their mouth with a spray bottle. It usually is not hard to do because the bird in question protests a great deal by screaming. Well, as Murphy's Law would have it, our spray bottle broke. We still needed to hydrate the bird somehow. As I held Major Mac, Mark performed the 'mouth to beak' hydration method. This is an age old technique of a person taking some water in their mouth, and then spitting it into the mouth of the bird. It worked very well.
Any time a wild bird is rescued they undergo a degree of stress. My ears are STILL ringing from Major Mac's 'stress'. He screamed the whole time - from when I approached him, as I carried him back to the RTH, up the elevator, out onto the roof, until he was back in the hack box. As soon as we got him back in the box he went right over to his water dish and stood in it. He took a few sips and his chin feathers puffed up and he chilled out. Then he walked over to some leftover quail and started to eat. Mark went back to his stakeout spot and I stayed up on the roof. I had a great vantage point to see the other birds. Miriam was on the Hilton Hotel roof across the street and Richmond was on the Sheraton Hotel adjacent to the RTH (nothing but the best for our birds!).
It started to rain and it looked like they were both going to go. I was a little worried about the female because she was getting so wet and she'd have to fly across Hwy 7 to get back to her brothers. So I stuck it out in the torrential downpour. It turns out my binoculars really are waterproof just like the package said! A little while later I lifted the screen on the hack box to let Major Mac go. He did not go. He stayed standing in his water dish - cooling off no doubt. Miriam spent the balance of the afternoon practising her landings. By early evening she was landing very well and had made it back to the RTH. She had been sitting on the ledge for a while and then jumped down. We waited and watched but saw no Miriam. We also hadn't see Major Mac surface. Richmond flew in and landed on the swing stage rigging.
It was getting close to sunset so I went up to peek through the door to the roof and see what I could see. Just before I got there Richmond took off in pursuit of a flock of pigeons and as I reached the door I saw his tail end flying off in the distance. A bird with a mission. I opened the door to the roof and peeked around - no birds in view. I slowly and quietly crept up to the hack box and peeked in the side - no birds in view. I crept around to the back of the box and peeked in - BIRDS IN VIEW! Miriam and Major Mac were on the front porch. One was lying down and the other was sitting upright, side by side. I didn't want to alarm them so I turned to go back inside. As I did so I spotted Richmond on the east condo. He spotted me at the exact same time and took off, making a p-line (peregrine line) straight for me. YIKES!! INCOMING!! Needless to say, my last few steps were more like leaps. No sooner did I get inside I turned to see Richmond zoom around the corner. I was nearly impaled by a peregrine!
Richmond did three fly-by's around the rooftop, right past his siblings on the porch of the box. Miriam got up from her napping and flew back to the rigging. She seems to like perching on odd structures. Riggings, satellite dish bases, lightning rods. For the night she hopped down off the rigging and ended up on top of the L in the RICHMOND HILL sign. Major Mac stayed on the porch and Richmond went back to the east condo roof.
Thursday August 2, 2003
Maya Basdeo reports: Volunteers are still welcome to participate: Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org The watch will continue for approximately the next 2 weeks. Anyone interested in participating or wishing more information, please contact Maya.
Wednesday July 23, 2003
Linda Woods reports: The birds are arriving tomorrow for the public banding and then placement into the hack box. Maya and I prepared their temporary home, giving it a new coat of paint, replacing the gravel and giving a good general clean out. A timely job but well worth it in the end! It looks fabulous!!
Monday, July 21, 2003
Linda Woods reports: The birds have arrived via Air Canada. Once again many thanks to the Staff of Air Canada for their patience and attentiveness to our precious cargo. The birds are alert and in the typical peregrine moods. They will be kept at Birds of Prey centre where they will be monitored and observed during feedings in preparation for placement into the hack box.
For earlier reports, please visit our Richmond Hill Archives
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