Peregrinations by Gene Walz
We’ve had a drearily long winter in Manitoba. Six months of freezing temperatures. Even for wintry Winnipeg this is L-O-N-G. It’s May, and big piles of snow still lurk in some shady places. AAARRGH!
The cold and the long-lasting ice and snow (not just in our province but in the Dakotas south of us) have delayed bird migration here. Everything is at least two weeks behind schedule.
Disruptions from routines, even the tardy arrival of spring, can have some very beneficial effects.
Until this year we never suspected that more than a handful of Peregrine Falcons migrated through Manitoba. Then, on April 25, 22 peregrines passed the raptor migration watch at Windy Gates, Manitoba on the North Dakota border. The next day, an astonishing 46 peregrines were recorded. Wow!
Less than 50 years ago, there was only one peregrine sighted in all of Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. Now we have scores zooming through Manitoba in a matter of weeks!
Because we so often hear of declining bird populations, these numbers are both amazing and heartening.
A peregrine recovery program started here in the late 1980s. Since then up to four pairs of these gorgeous raptors have nested in two southern cities in Manitoba every year. With cliff sides and now tall buildings as their favorite nest-sites, few of us thought much about the possibility that other peregrines could be passing through.
Thanks to hawk-watches and the internet, we now realize that the Pembina Valley is a major flight path. Peregrines that breed in Nunavut and Nunavik in the territories north of Manitoba commonly fly through here on their way north to arctic-nesting sites at Rankin Inlet (on Hudson Bay), Igloolik (on the Melville Peninsular), Steensby Inlet (on Baffin Island) and elsewhere.
Peregrines are nesting north of the Arctic Circle in places with few cliffs and fewer skyscrapers. Who knew?!