Thursday, November 09, 2006

Falco peregrinus

Just as I was heading out today to run some errands (with my dog in tow--she LOVES to go for rides), I caught sight of a bird soaring overhead. I stopped to watch, and to my great pleasure realized it was one of the peregrine falcons that makes Harrisburg its home. (Photo at right credit: Joe Kosack / PGC Photo)

Ever since peregrines began nesting on a ledge outside of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection building (!), I have become obsessed with peregrines. In a wonderful twist of situational irony, the name of the building where our Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is housed is the Rachel Carson Building. Had it not been for Rachel Carson, a Pennsylvanian, and her prophetic book
Silent Spring, we might not have peregrines and some other raptors around these days.

When the peregrines first began nesting on the ledge, the DEP set up a
webcam, which I now watch each spring. When the eyasses first hatch, they are lovely little fuzz balls. Miraculously, they walk back and forth on the ledge, some 15 stories above the ground without falling. Finally they fledge, and each year I hold my breath hoping that none dies in the attempt. The customary mortality rate in the wild is between 25 to 30 %, so with 4 to 5 eyasses each year, I should expect some deaths. But I always hate it.

In fact, the peregrines are the reason I no longer put out bird seed in feeders around our house. The peregrines discovered the various bird feeders in our neighborhood (and, no doubt, other neighborhoods), so they would make periodic raids swooping in for easy kills. I don't mind that they eat street pigeons in the city, but my cardinals are off limits.

Anyway, there I stood with my patient dog by my side wondering why I was gazing sky-ward. The peregrine dipped and swooped, then hung seemingly motionless on a gentle updraft. I like to think we made eye contact, and that I, being a tad too large, was bypassed as a meal, but recognized as a fan!

OK, OK--so it's a bit slurpy, I know, but I do love peregrines.


LauraHinNJ said...

What a treat to be able to see them from your backyard!

I think I may have read about them nesting there in Pa. - maybe I watched the webcam at some point.

I'm amused by how fierce the little ones can be - even when they look so cute and fuzzy.

Anonymous said...

How lucky you are to have them close by - we don't see them very often here, other than during migrations. They are truly amazing flyers.

What a pretty dog you have too. Love the color - and those ears!