Webcam community watches young falcon 'Ancaster' take first flight

Flapping her wings and psyching herself up, the city's youngest peregrine falcon steps out onto the ledge of the 18th floor of the Sheraton Hotel and takes off for the first time.

Nesting on the Hamilton Sheraton Hotel, the baby falcon has been watched online since hatching

The young peregrine falcon nesting on Hamilton's Sheraton Hotel took flight for the first time on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (Falconwatch)

Flapping her wings and psyching herself up, the city's youngest peregrine falcon steps out onto the ledge of the 18th floor of the Sheraton Hotel and takes off for the first time.

The flight was captured on a pair of webcams, which broadcast the event live to followers online. For those who didn't catch the first flight in real time on Wednesday morning, the moment was reposted to YouTube. 

Mike Street, a senior monitor with the Hamilton Falconwatch project, has been a volunteer with the group since it began in 1995. He said since March, the group's website has been visited more than 108,000 times. Most of those visits came after baby Ancaster hatched in April.

"People are cheering for the bird," he said. "They watched it grow, literally from a little white fluff ball to this 18-inch, one kilogram creature."

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The young bird has received numerous messages of encouragement and congratulations on Facebook following its first flight.

Linda Miller said "OMG … I feel like I've just witnessed my firstborn taking his first step. Funny how moments such as this can trigger wonderful memories. Safe skys Ancaster. May the wind always be at your back!"

Dawn Be said "And the search begins … wonder what shenanigans Ancaster will get up to today."

Ancaster is airborne

Street said the volunteers at Falconwatch knew the young bird was going to take to the sky when it did. She displayed all the signs of being ready: the jumping around near the ledge, the flapping of wings, the helicoptering.

"The first flight is always the biggest concern because that's the most dangerous one," he said.

Volunteers prepared for the initial flight by stationing themselves at street-level and on the 14th floor of the Stelco building downtown. If the bird was unable to fly back up to its nest after leaping off, the volunteers would make sure it wasn't injured once it touched down onto the ground.

"Falcon watching is hours of boredom and moments of panic," Street said.

Since the Hamilton Community Peregrine Project began in 1995, there have been 24 rescues for birds that ended up at street-level after attempting their first flight. Most of those birds were uninjured and brought back to the nest on the ledge of the Sheraton to try again.

Listed as 'special concern'

​Street said Ancaster was the only fledgling to come out of the nest this year. There were three other eggs, he said, but the cold snap earlier this spring likely contributed to those eggs remaining unhatched.

Over the next few months, Ancaster will continue to practice her flying, building up to September, when she will migrate south. She may come back to the area the following year, he said, but she will not return to the nest on the Sheraton.

Ancaster is the 55th fledgling to successfully fly out of the nest, Street said. All the birds are banded with an identifiable code. Most of those 55 are scattered throughout North America, and bird watchers will spot them from time to time, he said.

Currently, peregrine falcons are listed as "special concern" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).