Sunday, February 9, 2014

Close Encounters of the Peregrine Kind

Diane and I took a trip to Forsythe NWR today. Our goal was to see if we could add another Snowy Owl to my list for the year. Forsythe NWR is famous for it's "Wildlife Drive" which is an 8 mile loop road that goes out onto the marsh and back again. The road acts as a dike that allows the inside to remain fresh water while the outside is salt water bay. The refuge is a great place to see ducks in winter however the numbers are few due to the fresh water being frozen solid.

The weather was cold and overcast with a forecast of snow later in the day (it is snowing as I type this). We drove the whole loop very slowly looking for any sign of the Snowy Owl but failed to see it. We stopped along the way any time we saw anything interesting like ducks or geese. At one of our stops, we noticed that all of the shorebirds were flying around in a big ball. That only means one thing - they are being attacked by a raptor.  Here is a video of some of the action (you need to click on it to make it play). Diane is your camera woman for this one and I have no idea why it goes sideways half way through.


The raptor on the attack this time was a young Peregrine Falcon.  Here he is as he fly past the car. The first is full size. He came pretty close to the car. The second is cropped so you can see the markings.

Peregrine Falcon flying past the car
Peregrine Falcon
Here is looking pissed off because he couldn't grab one of those Dunlin. Better luck next time buddy.

Peregrine Falcon on S-6
We decided to get some lunch at Wawa and drive around the loop again to try for the Snowy Owl. So after about a 45 minute break we headed back out on the loop road. We parked at the first corner to eat our lunch and look for the owl. Just as we were about to get going, Di goes "Um, Lin. Look at that".  Just then, our friend the Peregrine landed on the road sign right outside of the car. I mean - right next to the car! This photo is taken with my iPhone. You can see the pretzel rods on the dashboard.

Peregrine outside of the car
After a few minutes of trying to not scare it away, we decided to get bold and try to get some photos with the real camera. This first one is taken from inside the car.

Peregrine Falcon - windshield view
A few other cars drove by and it didn't move so I stuck the camera out the window and snapped a few shots. Then I got really bold and got out of the car to take a few more.

Peregrine Falcon on road sign
I hid behind the car but believe me, the bird knew exactly where I was. Here is looking directly at me - gulp!

You lookin' at me?
He really didn't seem to mind us or any of the other cars that stopped to look at him. He even did a little preening while sitting on the sign. Here is waving at us.

Hi there!
He finally took off after some other poor shorebirds. Di took this video with the iPhone too.


Just when we thought we had enough of the Peregrine - he showed up again. This time he caught a goose right in front of us.

Peregrine Falcon
We didn't have the heart to tell him that the goose was made out of wood. He'll figure it out. We left without seeing the Snowy Owl, but boy did we get a show!
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