Falcon Watch!

June 9, 2019

The other day, Mel and I were invited to be part of a ‘peregrine falcon watch team’ in downtown Kalamazoo. There were three teenage peregrine falcons who were ready to fledge, or leave the nest, within the next few days.

Two of the three juvenile Peregrine Falcons getting ready to fledge

“Since 2010, Peregrine Falcons have been returning to the Fifth Third Bank building in downtown Kalamazoo for nesting. Thanks to the bank, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the efforts of Audubon Society of Kalamazoo (ASK), in 2014, the birds successfully nested in and fledged four chicks from the nesting box installed by the ASK. Then, in January 2015, two cameras and a microphone were installed so that you can now catch live footage as the Peregrine Falcon web camera captures each moment.” https://www.kalamazoofalcons.com/

Peregrine Parent
Peregrine Parent

The nest is on about the 10th floor of a downtown bank building and we would be watching from the roof top of a nearby parking structure. Our job was to see if any of the teenagers took their first flight, and if they did, where they landed and if they were successful—meaning they didn’t crash and burn or land so far down that they couldn’t fly back up to the nest. If they did land on the ground or got hurt, our job was to call Gail and then do our best to rescue the bird or keep it safe until she arrived. A rescue would involve wrapping the bird gently in a towel, putting it in a ventilated covered box and waiting until Gail could return it to the nest on the side of the bank building. Access to the nest requires  going to the 10th floor of the bank building, accessing one of the offices, climbing through a window, and dropping into a deep window well.

Bringing home the bacon!
Feeding the kids

Not surprisingly, Mel and I brought our cameras to this falcon watch assignment. My favorite shots on the first day (although they weren’t the best shots in terms of sharpness) were of the young falcon who was captivated by a carpenter bee zooming all around him. It reminded me of a small child who was totally distracted from the task at hand!

Young falcon distracted by a carpenter bee!

By the very end of my very first watch day, none of the birds had fledged. So I went again the next day, but not early enough! One of the birds had taken flight by 7:30 a.m. and I didn’t get there until 11:00!

After the peregrine took off, it was unclear where he had landed and the folks who had been keeping an eye on him, spent a long time trying to find him. Fortunately, one of the ‘falcon watchers’ lives in the condo unit adjacent to the bank where the nest is located. He tracked down the maintenance worker for the building who readily provided access to the roof where they spotted our young flyer!

By the time I arrived, flyer number one was perched on the edge of a building overlooking one of the busiest and nosiest streets in Kalamazoo– which made us all worry even more that he might take flight again and land in the road. Gail was keeping an eye on him from down on the street while I was keeping watch from the parking garage to see if either of the remaining birds decided to fly. Nobody did.

Parent flying high

Then I went down to the street with Gail and watched the bird on the ledge while someone else watched the other two birds from the parking garage. After an hour or two, I traded places with the person on the parking garage and the bird on the ledge decided to fly! Darn! I missed it! He had flown from his street side perch to a metal tower closer to the parking garage– but I never saw him fly in! Double darn! I did however get a few pictures of him once he landed.

The first falcon out of the nest lands on a metal tower

By 7:00 p.m. of the third day, I was reluctant to leave because I had really, really wanted a picture of one of the juveniles in flight. It was not to be! Oh well, it was a fun watch (albeit tedious at times) and I got an inordinate number of falcon pictures in the process!

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