As I’ve mentioned in the past, the birding downtown can be very dull, especially in the concrete corridors away from the green space surrounding the Ottawa River and canal. Every now and then a Great Blue Heron, Common Raven or Turkey Vulture will fly past my window, but those are about the only interesting birds I’ve seen from my highrise office building on Elgin Street. I wasn’t expecting much yesterday morning, until one of the lawyers I work with who knows about my o̶b̶s̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ interest in birds sent me an email message to come look out her window. To my shock, there was a Peregrine Falcon perching on the balcony of one of the new condos across the street!
It looked like a young bird to me, perhaps a female, with her brown colouration and streaking on the chest instead of the fine horizontal barring shown by adults. She also had a pale orange-coloured vest with a small dab of blood in the center, suggesting she had just eaten. We watched as she sort of hopped-flew down the balcony rail until she found a spot to her liking.
She then fluffed herself, and scratched her head with her foot before spending about 20 minutes calmly looking around. When I mentioned this sighting to the coordinators of the Ottawa Falcon Watch, both Chris and Anouk mentioned that this didn’t look like Diana, the female who has nested downtown since 2006 (though not successfully for the past 7 years; the last chicks to fledge, Tailer and Nihei, did so in 2009 and all subsequent attempts at nesting have failed). Perhaps it is one the previous year’s young from the Heron Road nest, or a different bird altogether that has found the area to its liking – Chris and Anouk say there have been quite a few reports from nearby Cooper Street on the other side of Elgin between Cartier and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway, though they do not believe a pair is nesting there.
The Peregrine Falcon has been called the fastest animal on earth. When traveling, it averages 40-55 km/h in flight; when directly pursuing prey, it can reach speeds of up to 112 km/h. However, its title comes from the magnificent hunting stoop when, dropping from heights of one kilometre or more, it can reach a speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) as it drops toward its prey.
I was so happy I had brought my camera to work that day, as I had intended to go birding at lunch, though a heavy workload prevented me from doing so. These photos are taken through the glass window, but turned out great despite that!
This was the closest I’ve ever been to one of these deadly hunters, as they like to perch at the top of high buildings resembling the cliffs of their native habitat. It was a thrilling sight, and definitely the best birding experience I’ve had while at work!