Monday, March 20, 2017

Harbingers of spring

Spring is just around the corner here in Calgary. Despite the little snow flurry we had this morning the temperatures are rising and the snow is melting. And the University of Calgary awaits the arrival of a mating pair of peregrine falcons any day now.  According to the webpage dedicated to tracking the falcons, they had already arrived by this time last year.  The falcons have been using a high ledge on a campus building since the mid 1990s to nest and raise their young. Check out their website for more information.

I always feel like the arrival of peregrine falcons is a triumph somehow. As recently as 1995 they were still considered endangered in Canada and now, are ‘watched’ for further decline even as their numbers increase. The pair that resides here on campus always seem successful at raising their chicks and I love to hear them calling to each other as I walk across campus.

This means that I buy many books and artifacts for the Doucette Library’s collection that focus on these exceptionally beautiful, resilient birds. Here are a few recent purchases:

The title of this book, Maggie, the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon: a true story of rescue and rehabilitation by Christie Gove-Berg pretty much tells the whole story. It’s an interesting story about the lengths that a rescue team go to save Maggie, ensure her wellbeing and eventually, give her a job to teach children about falcons. The many photographs and clearly written short paragraphs make this a terrific classroom resource for early elementary grades.

In Skydiver: saving the fastest bird in the world by Celia Godkin relates how the peregrine falcon became endangered through the use of DDT. A clutch of eggs are taken from a pair of falcons in the wild by scientists who raise them to either stay in captivity to breed or be released back into the wild. We learn about the dangers, resiliency and efforts to save this breed of falcon.  Good for grades 1-4.

Queen of the Sky by Jackie Morris is another recent book but is best suited for higher grades. This is a story of a rescued bird by a woman who nurses ‘Hiss’ back to health eventually releasing her back to wild. The artwork is brilliantly done with woodcuts, watercolour drawings and photographs. The art paired with the narrative of the struggle to nurse the falcon and the growing bond between the bird and her rescuer makes for an interesting story. This is a wonderful book to share with grades 9 and up.

Another very informative book is Falcons in the City: the story of a peregrine family by Chris Earley. This particular family of falcons decided to roost and nest on the balcony of a high-rise building in Chicago. There are some amazing photographs taken from the balcony of the chicks hatching, growing and flying. Close-ups of the birds as they fly and glide by the balcony are captivating. Students in elementary grades will learn all about falcon behavior, habitats, food and challenges to survive in an urban environment.

The last book I’ll recommend is the Peregrine’s Journey: a story of migration by Madeleine Dunphy. Here we learn what it takes for a female falcon to make an 8,000 mile journey from Alaska to Argentina. Again, this book is appropriate for elementary grades.

Pair these books with the Doucette Library’s peregrine falcon puppet, replica skull, replica egg and talon to have a variety of interesting resources to complement this component of your spring unit.


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