Huge Loss: Jolicoeur

We’ve had a sad number of losses this year but this one truly sucks. Today Joli was found dead not too far from the Logan nestsite. She’s been dead for at least a couple of weeks, so it may well be that we won’t be able to tell what happened to her, but it really doesn’t matter, we have lost one of our best peregrines.

photo courtesy of Dennis Swayze

When I started writing this, I was once again struck by how short a time Joli was actually here – it has always seemed like she’d been here for years. But it wasn’t. She was only seven years old and she was three when she nested for the first time. Joli was hatched in 2010 and is the daughter of Dakota Ace and Miracle from the Bank of the West nestsite in Fargo, North Dakota. She arrived in Winnipeg in 2013 where it didn’t take long before we found her with Cowboy, our 2000 wild-hatched male from McKenzie Seeds in Brandon. We saw him briefly in 2002 but he didn’t reappeared until 2011 when he turned up in Winnipeg with another Fargo female, Joli’s half-sister, Kate. Kate and Cowboy didn’t nest, so when Joli replaced Kate in 2012 we weren’t entirely optimistic the pairing would work. And it didn’t – in their first year together Joli and Cowboy didn’t nest but we were pleased that they hung around throughout the summer doing all the things that resident breeding birds do. That’s always been a good sign for the future of a pair. Joli also learned a few “extra” tricks from Cowboy. We have noticed over the years that while each bird is an individual, each pair has a personality of its own as well. Cowboy was a very acrobatic, aggressively protective bird and he certainly taught Joli how to be the same. And while she could never match Cowboy’s deadly attack runs, she was able to surpass him when it came to her protective instincts. We wouldn’t know how good a student she was until the following year however when she and Cowboy had their only chicks together – three males all of whom survived to migrate that autumn – not bad for a first-time mom.

In 2014, Joli returned but Cowboy didn’t. Finding a new mate was relatively easy for Joli – she had a fling with Smiley (Grand Forks 2009), a very eligible bachelor at the time but he obviously didn’t fit her bill. Instead she chose Hart, one of Princess’ and Ivy’s 2012 chicks from the Radisson Hotel. Hart was young and enthusiastic though it seemed he might be a bit too slow a learner to actually nest his first year back in town. We underestimated Joli’s skills as a teacher and they successfully raised four chicks, two males and two females all of whom migrated out of the province without incident.

Hart and Joli returned again in 2015 and though Hart was turning out to be a bit of a flirt with the ladies if he got home before Joli, once she did return, he was all hers. Joli had that kind of personality, she was electric to watch and she was hands-down Dennis’ favourite bird to photograph. And I never worried about her chicks – but more on that later. So back in town for 2015, Joli and Hart again had four chicks, all males this time. But nature was in a bit of a mood that year and threw more than a couple of meteorological temper tantrums and just as the chicks were about to fledge and we lost two of the boys as they tried to fly back to the nest and a third was grounded but fortunately uninjured. All then seemed to be going well for the two remaining boys when the chick that had avoided trouble during the first storm died during a second vicious storm a month later. The last surviving male chick managed to make it through to the end of the summer unscathed and migrated out of the city safely.

In 2016 the news was much better, four chicks, three males, one female, all of whom were about as rough and tumble as you could hope for in young peregrines and they didn’t have any trouble thanks to their parents’ support and training. They all migrated out of town with their cousins from the Radisson and West Winnipeg in August of that year.

Ups and downs they have had before but this year was different and started long before the sad news of Joli’s death. Hart got back into town weeks before anyone else and flirted with each of the ladies as they arrived home. Joli and Faith had a dust-up in the Radisson nestbox as Hart flew uselessly overhead but that only happened once and then Princess arrived home and put an immediate stop to the shenanigans. Joli generally seemed nonplussed about the entire matter and Waited patiently at the Logan nestsite for Hart to settle down to the business at raising a family. Only took a couple of days for him to come around. They were the first to lay eggs this year which meant that they had just started incubating when they got caught in a spring snow storm which buried the nestbox and at one point Hart as well!

photo courtesy of T Maconachie

I mentioned briefly before, Joli was the consummate mama peregrine and her eggs were never at risk despite a foot of snow. Right on time, all four of her chicks hatched out at the end of May. When we banded them in June, we found that this year we had three females and one male. Shortly after banding during a windstorm, the male chick and a sister were tucked down on the ledge mostly out of the wind when somehow a gust of wind whipped through missing the littler male but caught his bigger, heavier sister and blew her right off the nestledge. She survived her fall but had a broken leg and other seeming less serious injuries. But it can be hard to tell on young birds and it wasn’t until she was in surgery that we found that some of those injuries were much more serious and would significantly impair the quality of her life if she survived the surgery. It was decided that a long life in pain would not be in the chick’s best interest and she was humanely euthanized. The rest of Joli’s and Hart’s chicks weathered the storm without a problem and they continued to thrive. A couple of weeks later the Logan family got a little bigger when they became foster parents to a female chick that couldn’t safely be returned to her nest. The foster chick was about the same size as the Logan chicks so we knew that her development would be at about the same rate as theirs even though she was about a week, maybe ten days younger than her foster siblings. The timing was good, the male chick was just days away from fledging but the three female chicks were going to be at least a week or more after him. And we knew that Joli and Hart would have no problem providing for an addition. Within 45 minutes, all four chicks were huddled together like life-long buddies and at the next regularly-schedule mealtime, the foster chick gleefully ran off with dinner and her new siblings just watched the theft with interest. By the next morning, Joli was taking extra care to feed the youngest of her newly-expanded family as much as the chick wanted. For most of her second day with her new family, there was a prodigious chick pile on the nestledge with the newest family member right at the heart of the pile. Within a couple of weeks, all the Logan-hatched chicks had fledged but they continued to return to the nestsite to keep their foster sister company through the day and overnight. It was only in the last few days before she herself fledged that the Logan chicks didn’t return and this just served as additional incentive for her to take her first flight. Once all the chicks were up and flying, they continued to return to nestledge and nearby to hang out together in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Only one of the Logan chicks needed to be rescued and by mid-August, all three Logan chicks and their foster sister were off on their own, only occasionally returning to the area around the nest to visit their parents.

We didn’t see Hart or Joli on-camera near any of the nestsites in Winnipeg after early September (which is normal for this pair) and their departure from town appeared to be confirmed when Faith from the West Winnipeg nestsite started visiting both the Radisson and Logan nestsites. When the news came in, the first thought is rarely that it might be one of the resident birds – after all, they know their own territories and almost never run into trouble late in the season. Then I opened the attached photo and there was no doubt that we had in fact, lost Joli. Seemed like a really cruel way to end a year that had already had more than its fair share of highs and lows for her and her little family. Joli’s chick was the only chick mortality this year and Joli’s foster chick was the first time we have fostered in a wild nest since 1994 and Joli was the perfect foster mom.

Now that she is gone, we will have to see what happens next year at Logan. This was Joli’s nestsite and we can’t say that another female will find it as appealing as Joli did. It may be the end of an era in more than one way. We are fortunate however that while Joli was here, she was Dennis’ muse – we have her whole life immortalized in his photos. We are also fortunate that Joli’s kids are starting to reappear on nests of their own: Sundance from her first nest (and only nest with Cowboy) has been paired with Bristol for the last couple of years – this year they had three chicks – one of whom was Joli’s foster chick. Seemed ever so appropriate for grandma to help raise her grand-daughter; Pip from her second nest was the very able first-time resident male with Princess at the Radisson this year – all three of their chicks did very well despite Porter’s youthful love affair with Lisa at Prairie Wildlife and Pippy’s rooftop adventures; Elizabeth from Joli’s fourth nest spent the summer in Winnipeg with Daer and though Elizabeth was too young to nest, she and Daer seemed to get along famously and we hope they will be back in the spring and maybe she will follow in her mother’s footsteps.

But still, losing Joli is a huge loss for the Project. We miss her already.

photo courtesy of Dennis Swayze

Things to know about Joli

name: Jolicoeur, though we have always called her Joli
She was named in remembrance of the Dr Pamela Jolicoeur, 10th President of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Dr Jolicoeur died shortly before the Fargo chicks were banded and named.

parents: Dakota Ace (1997 Sioux Falls, South Dakota)* and Miracle (2004 Becker, Minnesota)

hatch site: Bank of the West, Fargo, North Dakota

full-siblings: 10 = Duke, Russert (Manitoba)**, Audrey Jean (Crow Creek MN), Sandy (visited the Radisson), Crest, Harrison, Governor, Peace, Lone Ranger and National Champion

half-siblings: 22 = Copper (Sartell MN), Cash, Fargo, Holly (McKenzie Seeds), Lewis (St Cloud MN), Clark, Dakotah (Sartell & St Cloud MN), Prairie Flyer, Hooligan Ace, Katherine/Kate (Logan), Sheyenne, Bear (Grand Forks ND), Scout, Prairie Rose, Hunter, Freedom, Lola, Roosevelt (Grand Forks ND), Marv (Grand Forks ND), Happy, Sandy and Jack.

nest site: Logan, Winnipeg, Manitoba

mates & offspring : 19 chicks = 6 daughters, 13 sons
2012 – Cowboy (McKenzie Seeds 2000) = Butch, Sundance (Manitoba) & Carver
2014-17 – Hart (Radisson 2012) = Pip (Radisson), Squeak, Will & Tory; Calloway, Django, Oscar & Cole; Elizabeth (Winnipeg), Philip, Mountbatten & Windsor; Jennifer, Jessie, June & Jack.

* hatch site location in parentheses with year
** breeding nest site location in parentheses