Saturday, February 27, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Fem peregrine takes a pigeon

Sorry, no video this time. When my camera comes back from the shop this week, you can expect a deluge of visual media.

Some very fine folks from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory visited the island on Thursday, investigating reports of the peregrine falcon pair in our midst.

Their excursion began fruitfully enough, as they spotted the female (which I had wrongly taken to be the male) perched in her familiar cypress tree just across from the main entrance to the cellhouse basement. The male, however, was nowhere to be found.

BourbonHawk and I were able to shirk customer service duties for a bit to show the visiting birders each of the island's falcon haunts. Sadly, after forcing our guests to hike high and low around the entire island, dragging their heavy birding equipment behind them, the male failed to appear. Then, as we returned to the female falcon's perch, the male landed on the water tower, issuing forth vocalizations that our visiting birders called wailing.

The female watched the male without apparent interest.

After getting a look at the male, the experts concluded that it is a juvenile, perhaps a peale's falcon, putting Alcatraz well outside its normal breeding range. The female is a typical anatum.

Yes, you read that correctly. She's a cradle robbing cougar with a taste for the exotic! It's unknown whether or not the male will be able to breed with her, or whether the extent of their cooperation is limited to hunting and defense against the island's resident gulls and ravens.

As the clock turned to four, it was time for us to pack up and leave Alcatraz for the day. On the way down the hill, we noticed that the female had joined the male on the water tower. BourbonHawk took a picture:
Our two falcons

Fifteen minutes later, as we boarded the boat, a small mob of gulls chased the falcon pair over the boat's boarding ramp. The female had a recently dispatched pigeon in tow. I'm not envying the island's pigeons, pigeon guillemots and starlings right now.

Here's a shot from the MAGANRORD archives.

Odds, ends:

We observed a great blue heron on Alcatraz. It had been months since we'd seen one.

Undeterred by the presence of the peregrines, the ravens defiantly carried nesting materials to their familiar tree on the north side of the island. The falcons prefer the north side and that may be why the ravens now spend considerably less time there.


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