Monday, September 10, 2012

Peregrine the wanderer

The wanderer
Our local eagle clan must be on an extended trip because there are few sightings on the ridge or below in the delta. I'll post some images of flight practice among a congregation of five bald eagles later this week. For the past few years, we've observed groups of adults and juveniles together on the east edge of Hoffman Hill. There's another bald eagle nest on Red Salmon Creek below the hill.

I've been seeing lots more activity in the heron community and among peregrine falcons. I photographed a peregrine in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in the spring. On a trip there last weekend, we spotted and photographed three juvenile peregrines on the Nisqually River side of the refuge.

Falco peregrinus means "wandering falcon. Peregrines have made a comeback in the west. In Washington State, they were downlisted to "threatened" from "endangered." They are still considered to be endangered in the eastern U.S.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the peregrine falcon as the fastest bird on earth, able to reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour when pursuing prey, typically birds but sometimes rodents. Peregrines are also the largest falcon and will take on even large birds like cranes.

Like bald eagles, osprey, and other large raptors, peregrines were nearly wiped out between 1950 and 1970 because of DDT pesticide use. Now they have lifespans of about 15 years, some living to 20.

They live among us, often nesting on skyscrapers and bridges. The Port of Olympia has a nest on one of their large cranes that now has a nesting box to keep birds and port workers safe.

 The falcons in these images are all juveniles. Adult peregrine falcons are gray above and white mottled below – like a shark.

I wondered if the falcon on this snag was carrying what looks like nesting material on purpose, or if he/she just picked it up in her travels.

We watched this spectacular bird at close range (about 30 feet) for about 40 minutes, including a dramatic swoop into the brush to catch a mouse. Let me know your favorites. I'll be adding to my Talons Gallery later this week.