I’ve been asked numerous times over the last few years about the status of the OFNC Falcon Watch, so perhaps it is time for an update.
The OFNC Falcon Watch started in 1997 when Ottawa’s first nest of Peregrine Falcons was discovered on the former Citadel Inn at Lyon and Albert streets. For the next decade, our local falcons succeeded in raising many chicks to adulthood.
In 2009, two chicks managed to fledge but this would be the last year that any eggs from this nest site hatched. Annual nest checks showed that the pair was producing eggs but none of them were hatching. Many of us suspected that toxins in the environment were causing problems with the eggs. There also appeared to be some evidence that local pigeons were being poisoned. As pigeons are a common prey item for peregrines, it seemed logical to conclude that this was another possible cause of the falcon’s inability to hatch a good egg.
To complicate matters for us, several years ago the Falcon Watch lost its roof access to adjacent buildings to monitor the nest, making it difficult to check on the falcons. However, peregrines are quite noisy around the nest, especially when they have chicks, so we’re quite confident that they have not had a successful nesting without our knowing about it.
In 2012, after another unsuccessful nest attempt downtown, it was discovered that another pair of peregrines was nesting on the Taxation Data Centre building on Heron Road. This was exciting news! There was speculation at the time that the pair may have also nested in the previous year, but details were sketchy. Since the downtown watch was now more or less defunct, we decided to switch our limited volunteer time to the Data Centre pair. In 2012, the falcons, now named Rowena and Ivanhoe, fledged two birds and, in 2013, one. A good bounce-back year in 2014 saw them raise three more chicks. Since they’ve been at the Heron Road nest site for at least six years and they’ve raised a dozen chicks without any of them needing rescue, we came to the conclusion that our rescue efforts, which had been vital downtown, were not needed at this location. This particular location has the advantage of being rather isolated in terms of other nearby buildings, so when a young falcon takes its first flight it has few options other than to turn around and try and land on the same building it took off from. This would appear to be an easier task than negotiating the tunnels of glass towers downtown where there were too many options available. The first flights of many a young falcon ended in tragedy when they could not tell a glass facade from the sky.
Happily, the Heron Road location seems to be ideally suited for peregrine nesting. It has a nest ledge that is sheltered from extreme weather and long, wide ledges for testing out the wings before first flight. Those of us who still go to observe the young birds have seen some remarkable first flights, and we look forward to many more. I would encourage OFNC members to go and visit this site anytime to watch these amazing birds.