Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
April 21, 2004
Submitted by: MVFN member Rod Bhar
Peregrine Falcon Release Topic at MVFN Meeting
The Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project in Leeds County, Ontario was the subject of the April 15 meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) at the Almonte United Church. Gary Nielsen, the coordinator of the Leeds County Stewardship Council, gave an inspiring talk and slide show to a very enthusiastic audience, describing the recovery project now in its fourth and final year.
Gary explained how the Peregrine project was a cooperative effort between landowners, volunteers, and local businesses. Ideal nesting sites are rare. Peregrines require a southeast-facing cliff at least 80 feet high and moderately clear of vegetation. When the group chose a cliff on the edge of Charleston Lake as a release site, the consent of the private landowner to place a “hack box” atop the cliff was crucial. Volunteers provided hours of labour, building the hack box, fixing it atop the cliff, and monitoring the progress of the Peregrine chicks that were placed within the box. Local businesses contributed free equipment and labour to the project. All money for the project was raised within the local community, including $52,000 in start-up costs and $15,000 in annual on-going costs.
In the first three years of the project eight peregrine falcons have been successfully raised and released from the cliff. Gary emphasized that releasing birds from natural cliff faces is important because the young Peregrines need to imprint on natural nesting sites if they are to breed in the wild. Nesting pairs of Peregrines have been established in cities across the country, but these birds do not nest outside of cities.
As of yet, none of the released Peregrines has been seen breeding in Leeds County. Gary noted that the best time to expect a breeding pair will be in two years after the released birds have had a chance to mature. Where exactly they choose to nest is unpredictable. Gary explained that they could find a cliff site many miles away from the release area in Leeds County.
Gary concluded his presentation by asking for the cooperation of naturalists across eastern Ontario to report any Peregrine sightings that may confirm a new wild nesting pair. Currently there are estimated to be 57 breeding pairs of Peregrines in Ontario.
The speaker was introduced and thanked by MVFN member Rod Bhar, who also presented him with a gift of local honey products. The next MVFN event will be the May 16th visit to Queens University Biological Station at Chaffey’s Locks. Also, the Annual General Meeting, will be held at Union Hall on Thursday, May 20 and an exciting gala evening with Algonquin Park specialist Dan Strickland, will be held May 29, at the Carleton Place Canoe Club. Check out the MVFN website, mvfn.ca for more information.