Sunday, June 2, 2013

Falcon Watch

Peregrine territory
When I was in Encinitas last month, I met a fellow yoga student who told me of the volunteering she did in Chicago as a bird collision monitor. Confused by city lights and tall glass buildings during the spring and fall migration, there's a big problem with migratory birds being lost to collisions with the tall buildings. 
Something in me perked up as I listened to her tell about her bird work. In college I changed my major in large part so I could work with the Predatory Bird Research Group and spent a couple summers working at hack sites to help the effort to recover Peregrine Falcon populations, a gratifying experience on many levels. Inspired anew, I came home from Encinitas thinking of ways I might again get involved with bird conservation work in my area.
Amid reading up on the possibility of volunteering with Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and the proposed Alameda Wildlife Refuge, I caught up on what was going on the PBRG these days.  Peregrines were down listed from an Endangered Species to a Threatened Species in 1999 so the PBRO doesn't run (to my knowledge) a breeding program anymore. Nonetheless, close monitoring and research continues, and peregrines have steadily recovered, populating both wild and urban sites. I knew about the falcons on the Bay Bridge and those in the PG&E Building in San Francisco. I knew about the falcons on Morro Rock...but my eyes just about popped out of my head when one of the first stories I read was about a nesting pair of peregrines on a bridge here in Alameda!
Friday we visited the Alameda site and found a group of dedicated peregrine watchers (some who drive a couple of hours to see them) with scopes trained on the bridge. Four young falcons had just fledged that week — the female that very day — and we were treated to a great view of the adults dive-bombing a great blue heron flying a little too close to their territory.
I've been geeking out on the falcons since: excited that it's prime time for a close look at not one, but four falcons, hunting, feeding and learning to fly, and delighted I live so close as to have the privilege of seeing them often. I got a little sad when I realized I'd be going to Southern California later this week and would miss some days of seeing the birds develop their flight skills....
I went out to the estuary this evening to watch the falcons, which are audible as soon as you round a corner of a shopping center (a slightly surreal experience). We watched as the adult female chased off some gulls. We watched two of the young adults chase after their parent who was clutching a just-killed pigeon (high-drama for bird lovers). As I was chatting with one of the dedicated falcon watchers, she mentioned seeing other falcons around the state...including Pasadena. Again, my eyes widened. Evidently, there's an active falcon nest three blocks from where we'll be staying later in the week. Guess I'm packing binoculars....


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