Midwestern Wanderlog

2016-04-12 – Spotting falcons

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Soooooo… do you remember not-quite a month ago, when Shane told the story of his buddy and the falcon stooping for a mouse on a fence post behind him?  Apparently there are a pair of falcons who nest nearby, at Red Wing Grain.  There’s even a live falcon cam so people can watch the adults nesting, brooding, then hatching and raising their young.

Sunrise Stats!
First light: 6:01 AM
Sunrise: 6:31 AM
Daylight: 14 hrs, 21 min

I saw them today.  Up on the overlook, getting ready for sunrise; had the camera set, and I was watching the orangy-red-blue skies develop and change.  A bird kept calling, a mid- to high-pitch, mostly single note, but also a call with a brief upward slide.  Then it dawned on me that I was hearing two; fairly close by, each one answering the other.  It was vaguely hawklike, but not quite; not exactly eagle, either.  So I started scanning the area, searching by sound for the source.

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Once I had them spotted, I couldn’t quite believe; I was looking at a pair of falcons.  Probably peregrines; the markings would be about right, although I’d always thought they were a bit smaller.

The peregrine falcon is a bird hunter, and the fastest flier in nature; they can dive at speeds up to 300 mph, and mostly hunt by snatching smaller birds right out of the air.  (Apparently they excel at catching pigeons, though they’ll also hunt songbirds, shorebirds and ducks.  They’ve been seen taking prey as large as a Sandhill Crane and as small as a hummingbird.)

Good morning, Red Wing!

Good morning, Red Wing!

Peregrine falcons are spread out over all of North America, though they tend to be more concentrated on the coasts; in fact, they’re found on every continent except for Antarctica.  Well – you have to go where your food is, right?  And even their name suggests it – ‘peregrine,’ meaning wanderer or pilgrim.

They’ll typically nest on cliffs – although they also do skyscrapers, radio towers, silos, churches, bridges – and get this; from between 25 and 1300 feet above the ground.  And they don’t do much for nest building, exactly; the female just kind of scrapes a shallow depression into the substrate of the chosen site, and there she lays.

Feeling kind of privileged today, to have seen them both!

Panoramic 103a

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