It is a reasonable expectation that not everything is going to go smoothly when dealing with four young Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus.
Well, as so often happens in a family, we had one recalcitrant youngster to deal with! Chroma was heavier than the other chicks by about a hundred grams at the weigh-in when they were banded, and this worked to her disadvantage when she took her first flight. That extra weight prevented her from getting the right amount of lift that she needed and she got stranded and had to be rescued.
Here are the details of her feet showing her colour band which enables us to easily identify her, and the more formal alpha/numeric code assigned to her.
When we rescued Chroma we noticed that she had a slight limp and she was transferred to a safe location by Rudy Kruppa, an experienced, highly-skilled falconer who leads our team, for a period of observation and examination.
It is important during this period to make sure that the bird stays hydrated.
Having determined that nothing was physically wrong with the bird, a release was scheduled for 20:00 on Monday 15 June. All did not go well! Chroma took flight and headed for a nearby building, higher than the one from which she launched, but again could not gain enough height to make a landing. She came to earth at the edge of a construction site and we were very grateful that the machinery had been shut down for the day and what might have been substantial jeopardy for Chroma was not a factor.
As always, the CTV station where the nest box is located showed great interest and concern, and a camera crew was immediately on scene to record the events.
Here is the actual rescue. Lisa Reh, our fledge watch coordinator, and Rudy distracted the bird with towels until it lunged at one of them, locking in its talons enabling Rudy to envelop the bird in the other towel, imprisoning its wing against its side to prevent any possibility of injury.
Once again Chroma was removed to spend the night under Rudy's watchful eye and I think that every member of the recovery team felt that no better care could be provided for the bird.
An examination by Rudy revealed no evidence of injury and a second release from the roof of the CTV building was set for 15:00 yesterday.
I should mention that in the meantime, several of us had been monitoring the rest of the family throughout the day, and the flight prowess of the other young birds was improving exponentially with every attempt they made. The most proficient of all was Redbud, entirely appropriate of course since she was the bird named by Waterloo Region Nature at the end of my term as President!
As I watched this youngster take to the air, it was impossible not to anthropomorphize a little - perhaps more than a little! It seemed that with every flap of her wings she discovered new abilities, she banked and turned, jinked, veered and tested her prowess with little bursts of speed. Surely she was revelling in the freedom of the open sky and coming to the understanding that her lineage were indeed the absolute masters of this realm. I was absolutely enthralled to see her claim her destiny.
But, back to Chroma. From atop the roof of the building she launched again and it was obvious from the moment she lifted off she was going to make it this time.
She was joined by one of her siblings as though to encourage her on.
To great applause from all the anxious watchers she successfully landed on top a nearby apartment building, high up, secure and out of harm's way.
Reggie, her brother, flew by in a gesture of solidarity with his prodigal sister.
By now, at times, all three other youngsters and both parents were in the air, a welcome home party if ever you saw one.
Mystery, the adult female, wasted no time in delivering food to her hungry daughter.
Here is Chroma, healthy, capable of flight, ready to face the world as a Peregrine should, bold, fearless and ready for any challenge that may arise.
Already reports have been received from the early morning watch crew that at times all four siblings have been cavorting in the air together. This is a success story in which we can all take satisfaction and I am very happy to have been part of the team.
You are all probably wondering how I suddenly gained such photographic expertise. The answer is, of course, that I didn't! I am indebted to and enormously grateful to Karen von Knobloch, a fellow falcon aficionada and key member of our team for allowing me to use her pictures. It is her skill that enables us all to share these wonderful moments in the lives of our falcon family. On behalf of all the people who read my blog, Karen, thank you, thank you, thank you. Your kindness is emblematic of the spirit of friendship, cooperation, camaraderie and largesse of spirit which defines falcon lovers the world over.