Ken's Comments - 2001

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They/we are back ....... for another year!!! Begun 5 years ago, "Ken's Comments" is devoted to keeping our viewers up-to-date on the successes and setbacks of our peregrine family atop Regina's City Hall. Ken Holliday CFP, CLU, CH.F.C., one of the original people who spearheaded this project beginning in 1985, has been, and continues to have a keen interest in this project. The falcons are banded at 20-25 days with a band displaying a universal identifier and the phone number and address of the central registry in the USA. In this way, the birds can be tracked. This is useful if the bird is ill, injured, lost, or killed. This has resulted in a few 'strange' phone calls as to where our wandering friends are and how they are doing. The entries you see here are from such phone calls, and from Ken's watchful eye trained on the falcon family on the top of Regina City Hall.

This year we are also pleased to bring you the observations of Jon Triffo (jrt). Jon spends his lunch time and any free time watching the falcons, and has some keen observations of the behaviours and rituals of our resident falcons. Be sure to visit his gallery.

If you have any questions regarding our falcon family, or falcons in general, Ken will attempt to answer them. Ken also has a "Falcon Watch" e-mail group where his new comments can be sent directly to your e-mail. Please direct any requests, questions, comments or inquiries to Ken Holliday.

July 24/2001 - This year we had 5 eggs, all hatched - one was late and had to be helped and the chick eventually died. The other 4 are all successfully hacked and flying! We have 2 males and 2 female chicks this year - they started by pushing one or another off the light they use for a perch and had to be rescued and put back in the nest box. Many many thanks to the City Hall staff for their assistance this year. Many many thanks for the phone calls advising us of falcons down at street level. All were caught and returned to the nest box to try again.

We have 2 new assistants - volunteers, Scott Dickin and Deanne Newkirk. Both are SPC (Sask Power Corporation) staff.

I doubt there will be any return to the nest box this year so our cameras will soon be shut off, and the TV in City Hall lobby removed. .......... Ken

Webmaster note: I have changed the opening default camera shot to be camera two. This will allow you to view camera two thoughout as you surf the rest of the site. Camera two seems to be the more active of the two lately, and if nothing else, you get a lovely shot of the city - much better than an empty nesting box. ;-) ........ Annette

July 09/2001 - I had a call from someone at City Hall saying one of the chicks had fallen to the lower roof of City Hall. I believe it is likely OK there and am not planning any recovery. I have asked Jon (Triffo) for his thoughts on it. .......... Ken

July 06/2001 - Leigh and I went up today armed with an extra computer and camera. If you are a regular reader, you will recall that last year, we relocated the one camera so that instead of facing the side of the nesting box, it was facing the front of the box. We have gone one step futher this year and installed a second computer and camera so that there are two viewing options. The original view is looking at the nesting box from right to left with the nesting box opening to the right of the camera. This new view is from the back of the nesting box and facing out to the front opening of the nesting box.

The reason that we added a second camera (or in the case of last year, moved it to face the front) is that at this time of year, our chicks are starting to be a bit more curious about the outside world. This allows us to see the opening of the nesting box and the outside view of the City of Regina from the nesting box. They are venturing out near, and onto, the pedestal which is the entrance to the nesting box. From here they will start practicing wing flapping in preparation for their first flight.

8B3 certainly let us know she could see us working on the box. She peered over the edge and scolded us through the wire netting that is the roof on the area in which the nesting box is located. We could see the chicks sitting comfortably in the nesting box on the monitor that is located next door. It was quite stunning to see how much they had grown up in the 2 weeks since we banded them. They have grown more mature feathers, and are starting to look a bit scruffy with their transition from babies to teens. You will note that they are substantially bigger, filling up more of the camera view when you see them on the live photos.

We selected a location for the camera, and then moved it again, dissatisfied with the resulting image. Hopefully, this new location will be satisfactory. Sun interference, and falcon safety and comfort are all factors in installing equipment such as this.

After installing the camera in the second location, 8B3 swooped into view and landed on the pedestal. I was inside with the computers and watching her on the monitor through the second camera. There was flash of across the screen with a full wing span and she gracefully lit on the pedestal, closing her wings. "WoW!" was all I could say. It was an impressive sight!. She looked so stunning in full wing span - filling the entire opening and beyond, and so small when she had pulled in her wings. Of course I was watching this in full motion, so it was quite stunning. We can't do full motion 'live' video as it is a bit too taxing for people's connections. If you have a small video camera attached to the internet, you will be familiar with what I am talking about. However, we hope to do some more video clips in which you will be able to see more of this in full motion. .......... Annette

June 25/2001 - Well, banding is done for another year. I have a small digital camera that I purchased recently, so am able to supply a few pictures of the people and event. The pictures will take time to load, so I have moved them along with comments to another page. ........ Annette

Screen The Net

Webmaster note: You will note that at times, the image in the nesting box appears "out of focus". That's not really what is happening. Our little darlings spray excrement on the camera lens, obscuring the view until someone goes up and does some housekeeping duties. This takes a bit of planning as the person waits till the parents have left to do the cleaning. ........ Annette

Webmaster note: Have you noted that the babies tend to be looking to the right of the screen many times. If you have wondered what that is about, here is the explanation.

The front of the nesting box is to the right. If you look at the chicks, the natural light is hitting their faces from the right. In other words, they are sight seeing over the landscape of the City of Regina. Their nesting box sits on the 16th floor of City Hall, and it is quite a view from there. ........ Annette

June 20/2001 - The usual thing yearly has been to band our young birds at about 25 days of age. We have been inviting the public, bringing the birds to the main floor Regina City Hall and letting the children touch and see. This year due to prior meeting room bookings and to schedules of bird banders and others, we have to change our pattern.

June 25 - 2:00 PM - media and Falcon project staff volunteers and special guests are to meet in the lobby of city hall. We will all go to the 16th floor, furnace room where the nest box is. This means passing through security doors and we must travel as a group. There we will band the birds. The media will have all a photo opportunity and hopefully the media coverage will let the rest of the interested people know our 2001 success. If you want to attend, please call me at 306-584-2544 before Friday 22nd noon. .......... Ken

June 19/2001 - My day began with a very disturbing phone call. There was a report of a dead falcon found on the roof of 12th Avenue Sask Tel building, which is directly below the microwave tower that our Peregrines like to perch on. My last visit to this building was last year when I retrieved one dead immature Peregrine, one extremely ill immature Peregrine, and 1 dead Merlin. I regarded, therefore, this morning's phone call very seriously, and I got ready to go downtown right away.

Before I was able to leave the house, I received a second phone call reporting another dead falcon at street level, in the gutter, at the same Sask Tel building. I quickly checked the web cam on Internet and not a single nestling or adult was in view.

Upon arriving downtown, I began my investigation with my binoculars. Adult female, 8B3, was in attendance at the front of the nest box, and at least two nestlings were visible with her. The nestlings are at the age where they are taking more notice of the outside world, so they are beginning to sit near the entrance of the nest box which is currently out of web cam view.

My next stop was Sask Tel where I was presented with a dead adult, female Kestrel (North America's smallest falcon). This was the only falcon found at the location this morning, and after interviewing several people I was able to piece together the puzzle of dual reports.

The dead Kestrel, presumably killed by mirror-window-collision after being chased by adult Peregrine tercel, 65, was found on the street and reported to Sask Tel Security, then collected by Sask Tel Property Management. The bird was thought to have been a dead "baby" Peregrine that was blown down from the building's roof sometime earlier. Sask Tel called City Hall, and then both Sask Tel and City Hall called the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. By the time I was contacted there appeared to be two seperate reports . . . one about a dead Peregrine found on the building's roof, and one about a dead peregrine found at street level.

On my way to City Hall, to conduct some more interviews there, I spied tercel adult 65 sitting on the south facing SGI (Saskatchewan Government Insurance) building sign. On the web cam monitor in the lobby of City Hall, I was able to confirm that all four nestlings were alive and well as they all came back inside to huddle and snooze.

With mystery solved, and all six Peregrines in view and looking fine, I decided to go to my favorite breakfast spot in the whole world (Smitty's in Cornwall Centre) and get a better start to what would eventually be a great day, at least for me . . .

. . . the early morning plight of one small Kestrel caused a ripple in our busy human world.

Special thanks go to Security personnel at Regina Market Square, Security and Property Management personnel at 12th Avenue Sask Tel, Security and Front Desk personnel at Regina City Hall, and to Lee-Ann Irvine, my good friend and coworker at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Til later . . . jrt

June 11/2001 - Sometime on Sunday morning or Saturday night (I suspect) hatchling #5 passed away. Tercel adult has been malingering uncharacteristically on City Hall all weekend and he continues to do so today. Female adult has been leaving the nest box for periodic flights about the territory. She seems to be exercising in a self-initiated fitness program. Some of her routines include high speed aerial dives. The 4 surviving nestlings look well and are growing fast, although the smallest one still has to struggle for food.

When I removed the dead nestling from the nest box today, 8B3 protested only to an obligatory extent. I used a metal hook so she wouldn't be offended at the site of human hands defiling the sanctity of her nest (which was built by human hands no less). The removal of the tiny corpse was quickly accepted, perhaps even anticipated. Life goes on . . . but Tercel adult stills sits near the nest box on City Hall. Til later . . . jrt

Webmaster note: June 7th. Oh, what a couple of days! We had some *huge* technical problems that took quite some time to sort out. The web site itself was lost, so we have been down for a couple of days. Worse yet, that meant that people missed the new arrivals. We all felt terrible that we couldn't be bringing it to your live. Anyway, there is some new arrivals. I received word from Jon Triffo that ...... well, why don't I let him tell it. He is so much better at it than I. (Read the June 5th comments first. As usual, we have then in chronological order, but I am uploading 2 days worth this evening.) ........ Annette

June 8/2001 - #5 is alive. I spied our newest nestling buried beneath a mob of siblings today, but it looked warm, cozy and content. By late afternoon it was plump, dry, fluffy white, and nearly indistinguishable from the other 4 restless nest mates. 8B3 is getting out more now, and the adult tercel nearly moved in to attempt brooding the batch during her absence once, but I used the opportunity to collect the last remaining eggshell fragments. If all continues to go well, I won't be troubling the adults for quite a while now. Leg banding for the juveniles has been tentatively scheduled for June 25.

I may never know if #5 needed assistance in hatching, but I am sure that the struggle for existence on top of City Hall will continue with no guarantees. Currently, however, optimism prevails, hope is high, and the will to live is strong. Til later . . . jrt

June 07/2001 - My fears about a life and death struggle in egg #5 were horrifically accurate. I took the egg out today and immediately noticed that it was very warm. Next, I felt a desperate vibrance of life at my finger tips. Holding it up to my ear, I then heard incessant, panicked cheeps from within. Meticulous examination of the exterior revealed a small amount of fracturing within a 2 or 3 millimeter radius at the egg's widest girth. This is where the infant began its "pip" by pecking away from within with a temporary "egg-tooth" on the tip of its beak.

When was the pip initiated? Less than 24 hours ago? More than 24 hours go? The earliest I could get the infant to Saskatoon would be late tomorrow afternoon.

I broke the pip area open with my pocket knife. The infant's beak appeared immediately and the baby cried helplessly. I broke the egg open wider. The baby appeared to be underdeveloped and somewhat dehydrated. Overall, the situation looked very grim. I returned the egg to 8B3. She wasted little time getting it under cover with the rest of her robust looking batch. If the infant cannot survive, may its passing be as natural as possible, in the company of its natural parent and siblings. I'll return in the morning to see what I will see. Until then, I have no adequate words for what I feel. ... jrt

June 6/2001 - Still waiting for #5 . . .I was surprised today, once I discovered a new way to spy on 8B3 feeding the nestlings, to see one whole egg still in the nest! (A fragment left over from earlier hatching was visible all day in the monitor, so I had assumed that #5 got out this morning.) The last egg is still being intensively incubated, so there is still hope.

The tiniest nestling had a rough time getting a share of food today. While the two largest chicks were "selectively" being alternately fed (by all appearances) the second smallest chick was able to open its beak in just the right place from time to time and secure a substantial amount of food. The smallest chick kept trying and trying, opening its beak as high and wide as possible, trembling with strain, and falling pathetically over backwards when it ran out of strength. What a heart breaking sight this was with my nose only inches from the action, but I did not intervene. The hapless chick refused to give up and it even moved up in front of the others and stretched skyward for food again. Soon, when all the others were nearly satiated, the struggling littlest one was rewarded with a tiny morsel to gulp down, which it did without hesitation. This small amount of food seemed to be a great source of encouragement as the littlest chick began begging more strenuously the ever. After another round of everyone else getting food, and when all other mouths were too busy gulping, the smallest one received a chunk of food so large and heavy that when 8B3 let go of it, the chick's head went crashing down to the nest floor. I began to think that the nestling would never be able to swallow such a huge piece food, but I was wrong. The littlest one attacked the quarry ferociously and gulped it down with amazing determination for survival.

I can only wonder if an unseen battle for survival is taking place inside unhatched egg #5. Tomorrow I will likely be getting up and out earlier than usual. Til later . . . jrt

June 5/2001 - Have a cigar, or 4 or 5! Hatcheling #4 was liberated from confinement at 2:15PM today. 8B3 pushed her mandibles in behind the emerging nestling to pick out and eat a small remnant of egg yoke. Finally free in the process, the hatcheling scampered under cover of warm breast feathers. I could tell earlier that hatching was in progress by the way 8B3 sat high, shifting delicately about, and reached beneath herself with her beak every two or three minutes. At one point she picked at the hatching egg and ate small pieces of it.

When chick #4 was free and cuddling in with its siblings, 8B3 pushed the newest large piece of eggshell away from herself, looked at it with some indecision for a while, and then pulled it back beneath her to incubate it some some. The eggshell kept popping loose and she couldn't seem to decide what to do with it. Finally, as if to rid herself of unnecessary fixation, she proceeded to break the shell up with her beak, perhaps to destroy its distracting shape and appearance. (I'm only guessing here. A larger piece of shell remained in clear view in the rear corner of the nest box and was completely ignored for at least a day even when the brooding female sat with her cheek resting against it.)

I went up later this afternoon and reached in to collect several eggshell fragments from the nest box, including the large, previously mentioned, intact and fragmented pieces. I opened the back of the nest box when 8B3 left to receive food from the adult tercel. I only had 2 minutes to do the job before both birds began protesting my presence. Just prior to closing the nest box door, I studied the infants until I counted 4 bobbing little heads with absolute certainty. They all looked perfectly normal and healthy so far as I could judge in a few anxious moments. Retrieved eggshell fragments can be tested later for chemical contamination.

If all goes well, I may be able to count 5 bobbing little heads and collect more eggshell fragments tomorrow . Til later . . . jrt

Webmaster note: There is always an 'unofficial' race to see who can capture the 'firsts' images of the falcons. There is the first sighting of the falcons in town, the first egg, the first chick, etc. This year, the first screen capture of the falcon's 5 eggs is by Ken Holliday himself. Here they are - no doubt about the number any more. There is without a doubt ... 5. ........ Annette

May 11/2001 (later) - John Triffo has just called to say that he positively identified the female. She is 8B3, the same one we have had from the first year (1994). He is still trying to identify the male and to confirm for his own assurance that there are indeed 5 eggs. So far he has never had a clear view - he will keep trying .......... Ken

May 11/2001 - I have just been informed by an avid falcon watcher (Martin Keulen) that there are 5 eggs under the brooding peregrine. He was observing the monitor - saw the birds were away for a moment and took a peek in the nest box. This is not a recommended thing to try doing as it can cause the birds to abandon the nest. I believe Martin is careful and did not risk being observed by the adults. In any event he says there are 5 eggs! You may also be interested to know the top left picture on our new site design of a peregrine facing you and caught in the act of screaming at the photographer was taken by Martin a few years ago during the chick banding. Martin is a professional photographer now that he is a retired City of Regina maintenance employee. Martin has generously given us blanket permission to use any of his pictures - for free. Thanks Martin. .......... Ken

May 3/2001 - The Regina peregrines have been busy while I was away for 3 weeks. I was at city hall today and set up the monitor in the lobby so people there can see the nest box inside with our female incubating her eggs. I did not disturb her so do not know exactly how many she has - usual number is 4. We will find that out in due course I guess. The Internet live camera is not working yet, it may be set up next Monday if all goes as planned. So far this year - all is well! .......... Ken

May 01/2001 - 6 PM this evening, May 01, I watched a Peregrine soaring and sailing above and about in the wind gusts deflecting off the SGI Building. I couldn't understand what I was witnessing. Was tercel Gray getting anxious about female Rosy soon laying eggs? Suddenly, tercel Gray appeared and followed the first Peregrine I was watching along the entire downtown skyline. This had to be a third bird.

A short walk down Scarth Street to where I could see Rosy sitting in front of the nest box confirmed my deduction. She was watching the two tercels with great interest. In my binoculars, Third Bird looked at least 5 years old, with sharp dark markings on his bright white chest and flanks. He was missing two or three primary flight feathers from his right wing, indicating some sort of previous encounter with mishap or danger. In a great deal of obvious confusion, this bird nearly collided into a mirrored window of the West Twin tower. He sailed east and west 5 or 6 times, unsure about attempting to perch or remain airborne, as the resident tercel invisibly worked his way west then north to set up an ambush.

Gray, if he is indeed Black Band 65 from last year, had been true to form in his method of patiently, courteously and then aereobatically urging an intruder to leave his territory. A true "gentleman" among falcons, Gray is deceptively challenging and finite. He decisively sprung his trap and spanked the beleaguered, crying Third Bird into a tumbling stall. Rosy was unable to sit still through all this and she joined the fray at it's climax over Victoria Park. She then perched on the SGI Building's south sign and watched as Number Three headed straight out of town to the south east with Gray as his personal, unshakable escort.

About ten minutes later, Gray returned in a high speed glide, swerving masterfully left, then right. Rosy chirped once and leaned forward to receive her sire and with panache and bravado, he swiftly mounted, copulated, then sailed away to perform a victory flyby over City Hall. As I proceeded to catch my bus ride home, Gray returned to perch beside Rosy, at a respectful distance of two or three feet, on top of the sign. Both were watching vigilantly to the south east while feigning feather duties. Number Three won't be back at least until tomorrow. More later . . . jrt

Webmaster note: As you have probably noted, the camera is not operational yet. Unfortunately, we are all volunteers on the project, and do this outside of running our respective businesses. Add to that the fact that all of the various tasks require a certain level of expertise that must be handled by the individual that is most knowledgable in that area, and you have potential for delay. Our individual who handles the install of the cameras and associated computer and software to bring you the internet connection to the nesting box has had alligators snapping lately, and has not had time get to the task of installing all of the equipment. In talking to him yesterday, he is hopeful he can eek out some time this week. The falcons are not laying yet, and we are hopeful the camera will be running before the first egg is laid. ........ Annette

April 09/2001 - Press Release ... AngelChild Legacies GREAT NEWS! The Regina peregrine falcons have returned! Two falcons have been observed for the last few days going in and out of the nesting box on the east side of Regina City hall. They have also been seen copulating. There is a male (for now we will call him "Grey" due to his coloring) which we suspect is the same male as last year who would be banded with ID leg band "65". The female we will call "Rosy" due to her very rose colored breast. We are fairly sure she is the same one we have had for 10 years and if so she wears leg band "8B3"

The media is invited to call Jon Triffo who will be happy to assist you in getting some really good footage or stills of them and will usually know where to locate them. Jon stated "As for the media, locating the birds shouldn't be difficult at this point. At least the female is likely to stay on territory for long periods of time. Messages can be left for me at: (306)787-2798". Jon checks there for messages regularly.

The Peregrine Falcon was Endangered and is now down listed to "Threatened" by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This recovery is due to release of captive bred birds starting in the late 70's and though the 80's and 90's . The problem of near extinction was caused by the use of pesticides such as DDT which were once thought to be safe. DDT is now banned in Canada, the USA and some of Europe but is still widely used in South America and other nations. Many species have been hard hit by these "safe chemicals". Other species have been hurt by habitat loss such as the Burrowing Owl. The plight of the peregrine is far from safe as they continue to migrate to areas where DDT is in use and feed on birds that have been in the ares where DDT is used. Peregrines are very territorial and require a territory of approximately a 20 miles radius - thus there are not likely be more than one breeding pair in this city. They are not to be confused with their smaller and much more vocal cousin the "Merlin Falcon" seen and heard in most neighborhoods.

The Regina Release was funded by Canada Life, the City of Regina and many smaller contributors. The City of Regina continues to be the host of the nesting birds as they really like the nesting box on the city hall. The Regina nesting box monitor camera has been carried live on the internet through the generous support and assistance of our local internet provider Unibase Telecom. The web site is designed and maintained by the volunteer efforts of Web Wizards........... Ken

April 07/2001 - I just got in from falcon watching this evening and I'm happy to report that both adults are active in and around the City Hall nest box. The tercel spent about 40 minutes in the box before sunset, often disappearing from view to likely make his "scrape" inside. I finally managed to get video footage of the peregrines copulating on the microwave tower. I've yet to discern any leg bands, however, although I'm almost assuming them to be 8B3 and 65. Once they start going in the nest box more often, identifying them should merely require some quiet, well-timed patience at the "peep hole" in the back of the nest box. Til later . . . jrt

April 06/2001 - At 5:30 pm today I found a tercel peregrine on territory and looking just fine. Since I haven't identified him yet (although I suspect he is the same bird we had last year) I call him Gray since he is quite dark and looks quite phantom like in the shadow of clouds. The female (first seen at noon today and very likely being 8B3) is still "officially" unidentified so I call her Rosy since she is more rosy-breasted than ever. At this point, I want to "tag" them with some sort of ID since other peregrines are sure to arrive amid a flurry of tactical and territorial commotion.

Yesterday evening, Bob Kreba and I went out just north of the city and watched the tantalizing antics of twelve Short-eared Owls as they chased, wing-clapped, dove, parachuted, and halt-winged about against the glorious setting sun. Hundreds of Canada Geese, several Ring-billed Gulls, various ducks (Mallards, Shovelers, Pintails, and Green-winged Teal) a Snowy Owl, a Rough-legged Hawk, a Red-tailed Hawk and even a Cormorant were around as well . . . so our slow, slow spring migration is finally picking up!

More later . . . jrt (Jon Triffo)

Webmaster note: Please note that the camera is not yet running. Although the falcons arrival has been observed in the city today, they will not 'check in' at the nesting box for a while yet. Be sure to keep checking for updates ........ Annette

April 06/2001 1:00 PM- She's back!! . . . on Microwave tower today at 12:15PM . . . can't be 100% sure right now . . . but she sure looks a lot like 8B3 . . . more later ... jrt (Jon Triffo)

Webmaster note: Redesign of site - March 2001 ..... Annette

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