Monday, March 8, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Falcons? Yeah, we've got that

We fretted too soon. And then we did it again. Details and pictures to come.

The female and her boy companion had given us absolutely regular observations for months on end. Failing to observe them for a few days seemed like a good indication that they had moved on, but it might not be so.

Yesterday, we spotted the male perching on the water tower, though he disappeared before either of us could snap a picture. It was good to know Alcatraz still had a rad new apex predator to observe, even if we were hoping for a pair.

A few of the raptor experts from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory have very generously shared their considerable knowledge and insights with us. Based on what they've told us, the falcons may both leave or our cougar female may fly north to mate, leaving her immature ally to brave Alcatraz all on his own. It may also be possible for him to mate with her just where she is. Nesting season will tell.

If she has left, it would explain why the falcons have become far less visible of late, especially as she was always much easier to observe than he was. The vast majority of Alcatraz falcon photos in the MAGANRORD archive feature her but it's been at least a week since we've seen her hopping around in her preferred cypress tree.

But she may not be gone yet.

Today, we had more birders from GGRO visiting us and they made some curious observations. Most importantly, they observed two falcons perching on the water tower, vocalizing to each other and then engaging in aerobatic falcon flirting, in which the male and female take to the air to dive, dart and fly in tight spirals in close proximity with each other and at great speeds.

Oddly, they reported that both birds displayed juvenile plumage. This Alcatraz falcon does not.

Now we're forced to consider a set of strange scenarios. Perhaps the adult female has moved on and a juvenile has joined him. It would explain the observations of the visiting GGRO birders and it would explain why the falcons have become so much harder to observe over the last week or so.

A less demanding explanation might just be that a trick of light or an unfortunately placed shadow interfered with the ability of our visiting birders to see the female clearly. Through the unfortunate light/shadow/haze/lack of contrast, her slate blue features may have appeared brown.

At any rate, I didn't see the female today. But I did see this guy:

Brown. Very heavily marked chest. More pictures of him in all sizes are up on my flickr.

More investigation is required here. We'll post anything we find.

Odds, ends:

The ravens have been especially visible over the last couple of days as they soared all over the island. I saw them over and over again on every single outing.

Here's Lucky the WEGU, incurring more adult gull wrath with her begging.

She's still going strong.

Also, MAGANRORD is in clear danger of becoming a falcon blog. As such, you can expect some posts on our raven pair in the near future. We're interested in who they are, how they go about their lives on Alcatraz and we'll even be taking a quick look at the park's policy of attempting to oil (destroy) the ravens' eggs each season.


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