Baby falcons arrive in tower

Red Deer birders rejoice — three new baby falcons are now part of the city’s skyscape.

Red Deer birders rejoice — three new baby falcons are now part of the city’s skyscape.

Over the last three years, the peregrine falcons who regularly nest in the Telus communications tower on Hermary Street in Highland Green have developed quite a following.

A few dedicated watchers have made a habit out of visiting the area around the 111-metre tower, taking photos and videos, while hundreds more have gone online for voyeuristic views inside the birds’ nesting box through live webcams in place since 2010.

This year those webcams have been riddled with technical difficulties, and the online watchers have missed out on viewing the ever-exciting hatching season. But the webcams were functional for long enough for watchers to notice the four eggs laid, and now spotters have found that from those eggs at least three eyasses (baby falcons) have come forth into being.

A video posted to the Red Deer River Naturalists’ live stream page – still utilized by enthusiasts posting updates despite the feed being inactive — on Saturday showed three mostly white baby falcons poking their heads out of their shelter

Anne Hermary does not call herself a birder, but is repurposing the telescope she used to use for stargazing to gaze at the local accipitrine stars. She spotted two babies as early as June 26, having eagerly anticipated such a sighting after viewing the four eggs on June 1 before the webcam went down.

She said she expects the birds are around three weeks old by now, and thus would expect them to be becoming pretty active. Peregrine falcons will begin flying at about 35 days old.

“I have high hopes for this year’s bunch,” she said.

In 2011, excitement over egg sightings was followed by disappointment, as three eggs laid in the nest were eaten by the father, Windsong, and the mother, Perry, and the other two did not hatch.

Perry was found dead later that year with an abundance of chemicals in her body. Last year, however, another female, Nessa, took up residence on the tower, laying three eggs, all of which hatched.

Judy Boyd, with the Red Deer River Naturalists, said it is possible that all of the eggs have hatched this year. Since monitoring began in 2010, all of the babies that have hatched have survived the early days and fledged, so she expects any newcomers this year would have a good chance at making it too.

The adult birds nesting on the tower are believed to be the same as the last two years; Windsong, the male, and Nessa, the female. Boyd said it can’t be known for sure until the cameras are back up.

“We’ve just had all kinds of technical difficulties with them — pieces breaking on and off. We’re waiting until the chicks fledge, then we’ll be taking everything down and revamping the whole system,” said Boyd.

She thanked the chatters and would-be viewers on the usually live feed for their patience.

“We really did try to get them back up and running, but it just wasn’t happening, so it was really great that the chatters and viewers were being so understanding,” she said.

Peregrines, while still on the province’s list of “threatened” species, are on their way back in Alberta. In the 1970s there was only one breeding pair in the province, but through conservation efforts and the banning of the chemical DDT, their numbers have recovered.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com