Focus on falcons (video)

Peregrine fans have gone out on a ledge to get more and better angles of a pair of birds expected to return at any moment to a nest on the Telus tower in Red Deer.

Telus employees Lorne Dixon

Telus employees Lorne Dixon

Peregrine fans have gone out on a ledge to get more and better angles of a pair of birds expected to return at any moment to a nest on the Telus tower in Red Deer.

Windsong and Perry captured an online audience from around the world last year when a video camera was mounted in their nestbox with live pictures posted online via Ustream, an Internet broadcasting service.

Crews from Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Telus and the Red Deer River Naturalists put their talents together on Monday to put the nesting box back up on the tower and install four video cameras, including one with night vision so people can watch the birds any time.

Naturalist Judy Boyd anticipates that it will take a day or two to sort out the technical details. She hopes the falcons will wait until everything is ready to go before returning for the 2011 nesting season.

Last year, the single camera provided incredible insight into falcon behaviour, said Boyd. Having additional angles will cover the blind spots that were so frustrating last year, especially as the young falcons started their first tentative flights.

Last year, Perry laid five eggs from which she and Windsong were able to successfully raise and fledge three young falcons — two females and one male.

While it was never clear what happened to the other two eggs, people watching the nest will get a much more complete picture this year, Boyd said on Monday as Telus crews hooked up the cameras.

Whether the same two birds will return to the nest will not be known until they arrive, she said. Last year, Perry challenged and won the nest from Windsong’s previous mate, Georgeanne, who was a little smaller.

Oddly enough, in the world of Peregrine falcons, the males will fight males for rights to a nest while females will fight females, said Boyd. The winning birds then get to work on raising a family, she said.

Fish and Wildlife first placed a nesting box on the microwave tower, located in Highland Green, about 11 years ago. Falcon pairs had attempted to nest on the tower in previous years, but were having difficulty because of its exposure to high winds and nasty weather, she said.

The web camera was installed for the first time last year. Boyd said she doesn’t have reliable numbers on how many people actually visited the site.

Just like last year, this year’s project is a collaboration between people from a number of groups, she said.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife provided the nest box and the necessary permission to install the new cameras, Telus provided the power, the labour and the technical expertise, the Kerry Wood Nature Centre donated a computer and a person who had been part of the chat room last year donated one of the four cameras.

The Red Deer River Naturalists will cover remaining expenses, about $2,000.

“The bills haven’t come in yet. It will be considerably more than last year,” said Boyd.

While the falcon cameras are still being set up, her group is already getting rave reviews from a web camera with night vision that was set up in mid-March at the nest of a great horned owl at the northeast side of the Ellis Bird Farm.

A link to video from the owl cam is operating on the Advocate web page a link to the falcon cam to be provided as soon the site becomes available.