It’s been two occasions that I’ve been given great opportunities to watch the fastest birds on earth.
The first time was when a pathologist at the Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Caitlin Andrews, posted on the MoBirds listserv that she could see a nest where a Peregrine Falcon pair had three babies. I emailed her immediately, and she was kind enough to offer me access to a building, from the passage of which I could see the ventilator of the building opposite,
where the falcons were nesting.
When I went, there was one baby still sitting just outside the nest.
As a little time went by without either parent appearing, the little one (not all that little...it's nearly full-grown!) decided to snack on the ex-pigeon (I think) that was left in the nest:
The other one was trying his wings out, a few floors above, on the top of the building:
The mother came in briefly while we were there, to check out the nestling (and possibly get it to fledge, too.)
A few days after this, I got a message from Danny Brown, and along with Barb Brownell, Brenda Hente, and him, I went to the banks of the mighty Mississippi at Alton,
to watch the birds. Danny said, "You've seen the urban falcons, now come out and see the suburban ones!"
Well, it was a thrill not to be missed...and though we might not have seen the hurtling top speeds that the falcon is capable of, we still enjoyed seeing a family of two fledglings and the parents,
who took turns sitting on a snag of wood at the top of a bluff, with the babies atop a dead tree above them.
While we were there, two other people joined us, too...and we exchanged a lot of information about the falcons.
The male, Brenda said, when we could see the band on his leg, had been banded last year: and on FaceBook, Lori told me that he'd been banded at the World Bird Sanctuary in Nov 2014 and released. How lovely to know that he didn't go far at all! Here's the band, showing:
As the "I'm hungry" noise of the babies increased, the parents went off and though we could not see the hunt, they both returned with food; each parent fed one fledgling. We could not see the third at all, probably it was a way off, being more adventurous.
Here's the bluff (without zoom) that we found the falcons on:
Here's the falcon in flight, coming in to land near the fledglings:
Here's the falcon plucking the feathers out and "prepping" the meal for the babies:
Off she flies to feed her children:
Here are a few shots of the meal (the other one was fed later by the male)
The two children after the meal:
Here's the male with his catch.
He dropped down below our line of vision to feed the other fledgling. We were looking right up the bluff, and I learnt that Falcon Neck is the same complaint as Warbler Neck!
If you look carefully, you can see the two young ones on the dead tree and one adult on the ledge to the right, below:
Here's an adult, preening:
Here's Danny of the Mighty Lens:
Here are Brenda and Barb. The lady on the right is a birdwatcher, too, and stopped when she saw us looking upwards!
Though it was an overcast, muggy day, we were still grateful that it was not as hot as it could have been. Danny complained about the female bird sitting facing the trees, asking it, "Behind you is the Mississippi, the mightiest river in the world,
... why don't you sit facing it?" I pointed out that it was only following our example; we too had our backs to the river, looking up across the road at the steep limestone bluff where the fastest birds in the world were!
In fact, I hoped, as I stepped backwards, trying to find a place where I could get the birds above the tree-line, that I wouldn't be making news by falling into the Big Muddy and becoming a Bit Muddy myself. Brenda more prosaically pointed out Poison Ivy growing behind me and I became even more careful.
My photos of the Wash U falcons are on my FB album,
and those of the Alton trip are on my FB album,
I’ll say bye to the falcons with a final shot of her, with her beautiful eyelids closed as she relaxes a little after mealtime:
I’m not kidding, as I walked down the road to the station to see the Wash U falcons, here’s a number plate I got: