Garden Report: Peregrine Falcon –latest!

The Peregrine Falcon(s) have been much in evidence over the weekend, and I have three stories for you:

First Falcon Sighting
Coming out of the house on Saturday afternoon, I saw an…animal…who, at the same time, saw me. What could it be? For a split second I thought…an alert squirrel.

No. It was a bird, a large bird.

My God. The falcon has come back.

And this time it had captured its prey, what appeared to be a dove-sized bird, and it was methodically plucking it. Again, I dart back for the binoculars. In a couple of seconds I am focussing.

It doesn’t want to be there anymore. It grips its prey in its powerful-looking talons, and takes off –over the hedge, and over the roof of that strange wedge-shaped house across the way.
It flies so strongly and swiftly, that the body of its prey which is hanging down from the talons, is inclined backwards in the powerful motion. What a sight it is.

I go to the place in the garden where the falcon has been. There is a large pile of feathers, feathers with brown ends but white and fluffy at the quill end. A few are longer, but most are quite short, as if they were chest feathers. A few of them have a dark iridescent green tinge at the tip; others have a deep burgundy tinge which also shimmers.
And there is blood. Not a lot, but unmistakeable: from the evidence there is no doubt what has happened here.

I can’t identify the prey. It did look mourningdove-sized, and pretty much the same color, but I could find none of those distinctive md-markings. Nor did the fluffy whiteness of the feathers tally with my observations.

I put a selection of the feathers into a clear plastic bag, hopefully for later identification.

Second Falcon Sighting:
Monday morning, shortly after 8 am, having put out the sparrow feed, I sit down outside for a few minutes.

There had been a big snowstorm predicted, starting Sunday night and continuing into early Monday afternoon. 6 to 8 inches, they said; then 5 to 7 inches; then 3 to 5; then back to 6 to 8, and now maybe lasting until Tuesday. The whole of the northeast coast would be hit.
So they said.

Well –No Snow! Not A Flake!
And was I glad. Much snow means no bicycling for a day. Or two. So –the Snow Pundits were way off. Wrong. Perhaps they are the same pundits who got the New Hampshire Primary results SO wrong. Barack Obama would beat Hillary by…as many as 13 inches, I mean points. He was forging ahead –it could even be more!
But, at the end, it was Hillary –by almost 3 points.

So –no snow. Instead, heavy rain-laden cloud cover, uniformly grey. The sparrows fed, with the usual sparrow community activity. Some pecked in the bowl; others flitted back and forth to the trellis.

Suddenly –no sparrows. And there, just landing, silently, on the side trellis, a pigeon-sized bird, with lovely donkey-brown coloring on its wings and head, and a latte-colored breast. It was slim, but with longish tail feathers. Its beak had –maybe– the beginnings of that raptor hook.
Could it be a young peregrine, I wondered? Quite possibly. It stayed there for several minutes, with an imperious upright bearing, rather than the more frequent pigeon-type stance of (moving left to right) beak-head-body-tail. That familiar bird-continuum.
Then it flew off, swooping and dexterous (if that’s a word to describe flight.)

Third Falcon Sighting.

This one was quite magnificent.

(Since Milton told me his falcon story last week, I have taken to checking out the tall trees over to my right. There is a pigeon roost there –they all leave in a wheeling flight (maybe twenty or so of them) heading off, I tell myself, for a day’s pecking at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, precisely at 8.35 am. The mourning doves also seem to use that space for roosting, but not as regularly as the pigeons.
So I check the tall trees from time to time, but never have seen anything more than a few squirrels.)

About mid-afternoon on Monday I glance up yet again. This time there seems to be, is that…something…up there, about 60 feet up, I would guess. The branches of course are starkly leafless against the sky. It may be…something, but it’s just not clear if it’s…anything.

But when I get my glasses and find the spot, I see this large, powerful bird –a raptor! Just perched there, its talons hooked around a branch, with its mid-greyish brown wings of wonderful texture and subtle marking, and darker head and fierce-looking hooked beak. What was most surprising –and confirming– was the chest plumage, puffed out against the cold, its colors a variegated cream with a beautiful light orange, almost as regular as a naturalistic chessboard.
Its head turned this way and that, its penetrating gaze looking out for…we can only guess. Holding my breath, I watch it for a long time
–I am in that special condition of … a witness of nature.

The bird hardly moves. When, eventually, I make my sparrow chirping whistles, it eventually throws a brief –disdaining, I would say, if I’m not taking this too personally– glance in my direction, before it returns immediately to the falcon business at…talon.

So, now, I have the feeling that I am in the very middle of falcon territory.
It will be interesting to see what develops in the next few months. I will keep you posted.

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One Response to “Garden Report: Peregrine Falcon –latest!”

  1. Beth

    This is a fascinating development, Malachi. Wonder if it’s the proliferation of sparrows in your garden, or something else (what?) that draws the falcon(s). You earlier wrote of mice scurrying around; could they also be a draw? Here are two websites that may interest you. The first is a fantastic close-up photo of a peregrine falcon, perched on the facade of a Belgian cathedral, about to take flight. The second is an informative piece on the website of the NYC Dept of Environmental Protection on the peregrine falcons of Gotham. … Beth
    (photo of peregrine falcon about to take flight)
    (on peregrine falcons in NYC, published by NYC DEP)