Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/5/2009 (2980 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG – Princess and Trey, the peregrine falcons that breed each year at downtown's Radisson Hotel, are stubbornly nesting in the same spot where their three chicks died in a severe June rainstorm last year.
"They're back on the darn ledge," said Tracy Maconachie (a.k.a. "the Peregrine Chick"), a conservation biologist who co-ordinates Manitoba's Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project.
Once again, the raptors have shunned the sheltered wooden nest box on the hotel's roof.
This spring's brood of three chicks was in the process of hatching Tuesday on the exposed triangular ledge, 13 storeys above Portage Avenue.
But this time, it's hoped that a slight human intervention will protect the falcon family and avert another loss. Last Saturday, Maconachie, who has led the project as a volunteer for 16 years, used a window-washing platform to scale the building and give the birds a clear plastic bin as a "nest tray."
She put about 16 kilograms of pea gravel inside the bin and piled up another two kilograms around it. She transferred the three eggs into the gravel (peregrines are not bothered by human touch, she says). The new setup was immediately accepted by Princess and Trey, who continued to take turns sitting on the eggs and hunting for prey.
The bin, which is about 58 centimetres long, 39 centimetres wide and 15 centimetres deep, "is high enough that even with three inches of gravel in it, there's still a little bit of a wall to protect them from the wind," the biologist said. "And they're well out of range of water coming up from below."
Drainage holes have been drilled in the bottom of the bin.
The remote-controlled streaming webcam that allows fans throughout the world to watch the nesting drama went live on Monday, co-sponsored by CBC Manitoba and Shaw. It's at www.cbc.ca/manitoba/features/falcon
Right now, either Princess or Trey always has the chicks tucked warmly underneath them, but webcam viewers can get glimpses of the downy babies. "(Viewers) will get the close-up while the chicks are young," Maconachie said. "As they get older and more mobile, we'll pull back so people can watch the entire ledge."
Last year on June 6, when the chicks were nine days old, such a deluge fell that the ledge's drain couldn't keep up. The ledge, which only had a thin layer of gravel on it, began filling up with water. A rescue drama unfolded as a firefighter rappelled down from the roof of the 30-storey building, put the soaked chicks in a bag and rappelled to the ground.
But it was too late. The chicks succumbed to a combination of drowning and exposure. Peregrines can't regulate their body temperature during the first 10 days of life.
Maconachie heard from some falcon followers who were so upset by the deaths that they had to leave work that day. Some people have asked why the recovery project does not block off the weather-battered ledge so it can't be used.
But Maconachie said it is illegal to interfere with the habitat of an endangered species, and she considers the ledge to be an important part of Princess and Trey's nest habitat. Trey was born on that very ledge in 1996.
"We don't want them to nest there," she said. "But I'm really opposed to blocking it off. They use the ledge so much. They court on it, they eat on it, they roost on it, they defend their territory from it."
Maconachie is pleased that this year, there is a second pair of breeding peregrines in the city. Their nesting location, in a residential area of west Winnipeg, is being kept confidential. That nest is exposed to the elements, too. Maybe it runs in the family, because the male is a son of Princess and Trey.
The goal of Manitoba's Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project is to re-establish a self-sustaining population of the endangered birds.
Since 1981, the project has released more than 190 falcons. Many of the birds and their descendents have returned to nest successfully in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, North Dakota and Nebraska.
The Radisson Hotel has been a nesting site every spring since 1989, occupied by six different pairs in total.
Manitoba peregrines winter in countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.