Sunday, March 21, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Tiercel remains elusive, except to a few unfortunate WEGUs

It was a big ol' day for birding on Alcatraz. Heavily attended bird docent training and new natural resources folks. Lots of chatter here and there about falcons and snowy egrets. WEGU love and WEGU war. Crows and ravens interacting over BourbonHawk's salty commentary. The usual.

So here we go. After not witnessing a falcon all day, I quietly admitted to myself that our avian celebrities had grown tired of the birder paparazzi corps hounding their every move, ceaselessly poking their crops with spotting scopes and camera lenses. Their issues with gulls and ravens and the adult female being perhaps less than enamored with her male associate's juvenile brown plumage may have also been factors.

Due to a scheduling mixup, BourbonHawk and I were on the hook to work an eleven hour day. Though it wasn't ideal, it did give us the opportunity to roam the island freely for the hour between the end of the day tour on Alcatraz and the beginning of our acclaimed night program.

Our "inbetween hour" is great for birding because there is literally no one around to bother the birds or to pollute your apprehension of the vocalizations around you.

I decided to scope out the extreme north end of the island, near the power plant and the model industries building. BourbonHawk reasoned that if a falcon did try to establish itself on Alcatraz, especially if it was solitary, it would choose to live away from the large concentration of gulls on the south end and the hulking and aggressive raven pair that resides in the cypress trees adjacent to the cell house.

It wasn't long before that logic was rewarded.

None of our pictures were great (as will happen when you're messing with 80x zoom and an animal soaring too high to be close enough to photograph or moving way too fast to yield clear shots when it's close) but this one of an oblivious gull and our peregrine lurking in the background captures the character of his adventure this evening.

He was out to screw with some western gulls and they hated it. In previous encounters, the gulls seemed lively and aggressive, apparently outmatching the falcons with their numbers and their persistence. Today, the tiercel, which seemed to be perhaps half the size of the gulls it was chasing, had the mob on the defensive.

He dove and attacked, spiraled downward and extended his talons. He made solid contact with a gull which survived unscathed but not without making an awful, wrenching gull vocalization that I'd never once heard before.

I'll probably be guilty of anthropomorphizing the young tiercel, as he attacked these gulls that must have seemed monstrous to him and drove them down in irregular spirals, but he really appeared to be enjoying himself. Harassing relative giants with impunity looks like a fun thing to do.

And it was a lot of fun to see. It's also good to know we've got at least one falcon making use of Alcatraz island.

Odds, ends:

A crow was seen harassing one of our ravens in a tree on the agave trail. We took video. BourbonHawk forwards an apology for the salty sailor language in her narration.

WEGU love. Very safe for work and appropriate for all children under 8 years of age. Note the human giggles in the background.

Snowy egrets are back! Best vocalizations on Alcatraz, hands down! Audio/video in the coming days.


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