Bittersweet

We always like when we receive reports of Manitoba chicks that have survived hatch year. It is bittersweet however when we get that report because a bird has been found dead somewhere. Somewhere this year was here in Winnipeg on the roof of the RBC Convention Centre just south and west of the Radisson Hotel. One of the peregrines’ fans received a photo of a dead bird on the roof from a friend who has a view of the roof. Recognizing that it was a falcon, she passed it along to me and I contacted the Convention Centre to see about retrieving or having our bird retrieved. Despite the playing host to 1,000 evacuees from the Wasagamack forest fire and Eid al-Adha celebrations, the folks at the Convention Centre were a great help and we were able to retrieve the bird. From the photo, there had been no way to be sure of the bird’s size, it could have been a merlin or a peregrine as female and juvenile merlins look very much like juvenile peregrines but smaller and the bird in this photo was dark brown. Once I had the bird in hand, there was not doubt that it was a peregrine and the legbands meant we would be able to identify the bird. Though the body was in very poor condition, by the size of the bird it looked male and the bands confirmed it. Best estimate of death is more than 2 weeks ago based on the level of decomposition and the weather we’ve had. Not gross, just quietly sad, I hate finding dead peregrines, but ones that might never have been found is sadder for me. Because of the location and because it would have been mid-August when he died, it could have been any one of this year’s four male chicks. But the band number wasn’t right and then taking a closer look through the birds poor condition and accumulated dirt, I realized it was an adult male but who? Not one of our resident males, their band numbers I do know, so was this even one of our birds? The black band said probably yes as the US birds have multi-coloured bands. If not one of ours, maybe someone from Alberta? I thought not because the band number did seem familiar or was at least close to a band sequence we’ve used in the past. But I couldn’t be sure without checking and I don’t carry the master list around with me. That meant our quietly sad bird would have remain a mystery until I could check the list and because of other commitments, that wouldn’t be until Saturday.

I started with the 2016 band records and no match. Then 2015 and again no match. Next 2014 and the mystery was solved and yes, bittersweet. Our mystery bird was Beaumont from Beau’s and Beatrix’s West Winnipeg nest in 2014. Yet more tragedy for this little family. Beau and Beatrix nested together for only one season. He’d had one excellent then three difficult years nesting with his first mate Jules in West Winnipeg before she failed to return and he was joined with Beatrix. It was Beatrix’s first year, but she took to motherhood like a pro and had an excellent teacher in Beau who was by this point a battle-hard veteran after his years with Jules. Their mating was much more of a partnership – much more relaxed and a more equal share in raising the chicks. And their four chicks did very very well, no injuries or near-misses, a picture perfect year from start to finish. Then in 2015 Beau was supplanted by the current West Winnipeg male Ty and was injured so badly that he couldn’t be released back into the wild and now lives (and is doing well) in captivity. Beatrix and Ty did well that year raising two female chicks that survived to migrate out of the city. In March 2016 however, Beatrix was injured during a massive hailstorm in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas on her way back to Winnipeg. She spent some time recuperating at a rehab facility in Texas while we began the long process to bring her home. It took another eight months before she could be transported across state, provincial and international borders to the rehab facility here in Manitoba where she continues to receive treatment. We haven’t to-date received any reports from other jurisdictions of Beaumont so it may mean that he has been living a transient, bachelor life and this year he was ready to settle down so he came home. We have been able to identify all the birds we’ve spotted or who have been reported to us this summer in and around southern Manitoba, so maybe he was just passing through? Or just being cagey until he found who and what he was looking for – that’s certainly happened before. Unfortunately, that’s not something we are ever likely to figure out. It is also unlikely that we will be able to confirm his cause of death given the very poor condition of his body, but given where he died and the position he was found in, I am pretty sure that he collided with something – the office building next door or a fixture on the roof itself are the two most likely options.

A very sad way to finally come home.

A thank you to Barb and her friend for passing along the information to the Project.