Mike Girone reports:
An update on Peregrine activity along DeKorte’s Saw Mill Creek trail from the last few outings.
An unbanded juvenile male falcon seems to have laid claim to the trail, and has been present the last few times I checked the area out (October 14, 18 & 26). Could also be the same falcon from the dramatic duck attack back on October 5.
On October 14 (Columbus Day), his activity along the trail included chasing down an Osprey with a freshly caught fish. Upon return to the trail, he perched low enough on a tower to offer outstanding close-up viewing. He took off a little while later, briefly hunting over the 1-E landfill before heading east towards the Turnpike.
October 18 featured lots of flying action from this young hunter. A number of hunting attempts were seen, starting near the Carillon and ending up at the south end of Saw Mill Creek trail, across from the 1-E landfill. Each of the hunting forays flushed large numbers of ducks and gulls, but resulted in no captures.
His hunting continued well past sunset, with the falcon only visible in the strip of fading twilight just above the horizon. A spectacular moonrise capped off the eventful day.
October 26th was yet another exciting day on Saw Mill Creek trail. To start, a Gray Ghost (male Northern Harrier) was seen gliding south pretty high, coming from the Kingsland landfill and heading towards Harrier Meadow. At least 3 other Harriers (adult female, 2 juveniles) were seen working the Kingsland landfill, as well as crossing low over the trail, coming from DeKorte and heading for Harrier Meadow.
The unbanded young male Peregrine showed up with a full crop mid-way along the trail. After a while, he took flight, cutting into the strong southwesterly winds (gusting 25-30 mph frequently) and passing fairly close to me. He made a brief attack on a gull, then landed low on the next set of towers down the trail.
After a brief rest, he took flight once more. The strong wind slowed him down a bit on take-off, and he drifted low overhead before powering down the trail to the next set of towers.
This time he landed higher up on the tower, and tucked in against the frame, probably to block at least some of the wind from buffeting him. He stayed there over an hour, preening and probably sleeping off his lunch.
When he stirred, he jumped out on one of the tower’s “arms.” He started to do a wing stretch, and a strong gust caught him and actually pushed him backwards off the tower arm! He floated down and held himself aloft in the sustained strong wind. He made 2 attempts to grab the side of the tower, then drifted back and forth between the towers over the trail, plotting his next move.
After a failed attempt, he finally landed on the top of the tower next to the one he was resting on. His stay was brief, however, and he was on the wing again (intentionally this time). He headed out across the Saw Mill Creek tidal flat, only a few feet above the whitecaps, and chased down a Double-crested Cormorant. He only made one pass though, and headed over the 1-E landfill.
He briefly returned to the trail a little while later, then headed off again, this time going to the Kingsland landfill along Disposal Road. A Merlin came out of nowhere and began divebombing him, and a second Peregrine joined in! This Peregrine was too distant to age.
While walking back towards the Carillon, a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk passed low across the trail, coming from the direction of Harrier Meadow and heading across Disposal Road to the Kingsland landfill. An adult male American Kestrel made a brief appearance on the first set of towers near the Carillon, before heading off to Harrier Meadow. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks was working the area, and an Osprey was also seen, heading south.
While I was walking on the trail next to the Carillon, a Merlin suddenly appeared in a bare tree near the water. It flew past me at close range, hunting the songbirds in the small pine trees next to the bell tower, then headed to Harrier Meadow. The sun had set by this time, but the unbanded male Peregrine had returned to the mid-point of Saw Mill Creek trail, doing more after-hours hunting. He dove twice at the ducks and gulls in the Teal Pool, then shifted down the trail. In the last bit of light, I watched him head off towards Harrier Meadow, and saw a large number of gulls and ducks go airborne. It was too dark to see additional action afterwards.
Flickr gallery for October 14 & 18 (including the moonrise on the 18th):
Flickr gallery for a blustery October 26: