Well lookit this, I might actually key out another blog this week... two in two days! Lets hope for no interruptions and get this one going now.
Most of you are aware of our Falcon watching adventures through June, mostly at the Etobicoke Sunlife buildings at Islington and Bloor. I kinda got lost in the summer and some Falcon events, back and forth with some work hours going from a morning shift to an afternoon shift, which has really messed things up. But I got to finish the tales of the watch, from my point of view sooner than later (it's already a blurry bunch of bits now).
I want to tell you about the first bird to fledge from the nest this year, her name is Layton, and she is named after Jack Layton. Seems famous Canadians was the theme at some of the sites. If you have been following my blog, you might remember her from the last and probably only blog I did of the Sunlife Falcon Fledge Watch of 2013. If you missed it, here it is.
Like that blog tells, I spent about 5.5 hours face to face with Layton the day she took her first flight. She was rescued that one time and has been a star flier ever since. I recon she never wants to touch ground, be handled by humans or put in a cat carrier ever again. What has amazed me with her, is that from the day after her rescue and release, she suddenly was learning really fast on what it takes to be a great Falcon. She flew fast, hard and was agile in no time... and vocal too! In mere days we'd be seeing her out and about more so than on the nest ledge.
The first real notice of how quickly she was learning was when I showed up after work early the next week to help with the watch and heard her screaming above me. Why was she screaming? She was playing with her father, Jack! Jack is an amazing dad and an amazing Falcon. I will tell stories about Jack one of these days. I was in awe to watch Layton right on Jack's tail high above us. She was having a blast and keeping up with him. They flew about the buildings for a couple minutes and then Jack lead Layton right to the nest ledge. He landed. She landed right in behind him. Jack took one look at her and then flew off, and Layton stayed there on the ledge. It was almost like Jack knows Layton is young bird and she needs to build her strength and endurance over time, so him leading her home, was like he said "okay kid, time for a rest". Layton chilled out for a few hours after that. I was so happy I got to see this occur between dad and daughter.
Jack being chased by Layton, notice how the much larger the young female is over her dad?
Jack on his way out after dropping Layton off.
Dinner time for the 3 other chicks as Layton was layed out after the big flight with dad.
A few days later I was rewarded in seeing Layton and Jack having another go at it in the sky. The show was longer this time and they were lower at some points, higher at others, and disappeared behind the Sunlife building too. It was spectacular!
Seeing Layton's progression was thrilling. But we always have concerns about a young bird growing up so fast and perhaps getting a little too over confident in their ways. Fortunately for us at ESL, we never had an issue with Layton getting into trouble again.
We were more focused on her 3 siblings now but it was always a blast to see what Layton would show us next. And a couple days after her last play time that I saw with Jack, she showed me something new, something I have heard about with Falcons but never witnessed... food transfers! Basically an adult comes in with dinner and gets the young Falcon to fly up to the parent, upon which they release the meal, and the younger bird catches it. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. But we watched Layton do two food transfers over 3 hours and both were successful. I missed taking pics of the first one because I was too blown away and wanted to see it all with my own eyes and not through the camera. Of course after the fact I was kinda wishing I got something to share with others and keep for a memory. So how great it was for a second transfer to happen mere hours later! We heard the screaming, saw mom O'Conner come flying in with a kill and thought she'd be bringing it to the ledge for her siblings. As she neared, we heard Layton and saw her race after mom. And the transfer happened. Angie, Bruce and myself were cheering her on from the street below. Here's some of that action that I am delighted to share with you all.
Layton coming up under O'Conner.
Great release by mom and catch by daughter!
Layton races off with her prize.
Here's mom O'Conner after the second food transfer. What a Falcon she is! We have many stories about her.
As fellow watcher Bruce put it, "we just had our reward for all the hours we've put in with these birds".
Another day or so later, I'm down at the watch. It's pretty quiet until these old guys from the condo to the east of the nest building decide to come up to the roof top and enjoy some sun. Well, O'Conner was not having any of this and immediately flew in on these guys, screaming her disapproval at them and swooping down over their heads. The guys were waving their arms up in the air at mom, and one guy jumped a few times trying to hit her with his hand. A stupid move on this guy's part and mom's talons sure could do some damage to him. But mom didn't let up. I wanted to yell and scream at these guys but I'm in the alley behind The Longest Yard, so I am across Bloor Street from them and 20 some odd stories below (no way they could hear me). And there I am without my camera! Argh! So I could do nothing more than watch. Moments after mom flew in on the defense, I heard a familiar scream and soon had my visual of young Layton joining the fray with O'Conner. I could tell she really wasn't sure what to do but she just followed mom and repeated everything she did. So now these guys had two Falcons strafing them and neither were giving up. Like mother, like daughter I guess. The guys were now high tailing it for the door to get inside again. But just before they did, there were more Falcon screams, and Layton's smaller sister Shania was now off the nest ledge and coming to help. I was mind blown by this! I won't forget this but am sorry I have no images, crappy and cropped as most are that I get from this watch, but something to share. Oh well. I'm sure you all can paint a better visual in your head than what my shots could have shown you.
Ya, that was pretty awesome and the fact that Shania, who fledged a few days after Layton, was out and on the attack too. The other 2 siblings were slower to get motivated and fledge but they have their own stories I hope to share before the fall.
And as we waited for Lil Big Frank and Lizzie to take flight, we enjoyed Layton and Shania's playing in the sky above us.
Here is Shania on Layton's tail. They were having a lot of fun up there.
And they took turns on who was chasing who. As you can see here, Layton is now on "the attack" after Shania. I forgot to mention that Layton has a green tape band, Shania has a red one. It makes for easier and quicker identifying during the fledge watch.
We are now about 6.5 weeks since I took those last shots. And though the watch has ended, I still visit the site, even momentarily every couple weeks. I see the young birds high above us and it's hard to tell who is who most times due to the height and angles. I've discovered a favorite roost of Layton's, or so I think, since I've found her there a number of times in the recent times. It warms my heart to see her doing so well (so are her siblings but this blog is about Layton).
I tell people that I know without any doubt Layton will be a recognized nesting mother in the next couple years, somewhere in North America. I only hope it's somewhere not too far off that we can go and visit our girl.
Please wish Layton all the best when she leaves home come fall migration!