Thursday, October 20, 2016

Once In A Lifetime Experience

Sharing my experiences at Texas parks, other outdoor spaces and the animals I've seen is something I enjoy.  It is what spurred my interest in photography and gave me a hobby I don't see ever tiring of. My wildlife posts have been filled with photos of deer families passing through my yard, butterflies and bees gathering nectar from my Vitex tree, and birds of every kind and color.  Some posts got wilder with pictures of bobcats, wild hogs, and snakes.  Lots of snakes.  (see Cold Blooded Beauties)  But this post is a little more wild than that.  Okay.  A lot more.  It's also very raw, pun intended, so be forewarned.  I won't be offended if you chose not to go any further.  That all said, let's get to it.
Cooper's Hawks are sometimes called Flying Cross
There is a large hawk migration that takes place every year from mid September to mid October.  Broad-winged Hawks,  Cooper's Hawks, and Mississippi Kites to name a few, make the move from the north to winter as far south as South America.  

Osprey can have a wingspan of 71 inches
The upper Texas coast sees many of them passover head in the thousands.  One day in September a location near Houston counted over 4100 in one day and the numbers can go even higher.  

Red-Tailed Hawk habitats includes deserts and grasslands,  coniferous and deciduous forests,
agricultural fields and cities throughout Canada, the US, and Mexico
I was lucky this year, able to see and photography many of these migrants.  There were three on my wish list and I got them all a few weeks ago:  Merlin, American Kestrel, and the Peregrin Falcon.  I worked the hardest for the Peregrin finding one hiding in the shade of an electrical pole.

I thought he would be the only one I saw and regretted not getting a better picture in a more natural setting.  Don't get me wrong, I was happy to get any photo at all, but I prefer a bird on a branch or in flight over a bird on a wire any day.  I got my wish this week on a trip back to the coast and came across a juvenile male that had just made a kill.

Peregrins dive at 200 mph 
Though I missed the dive from above, I was able to begin shooting shortly after he brought down an American Avocet.  I had approached into the sun so I moved around to get better light.

The process he went through was fascinating beginning with plucking the chest feathers.  The breeze was coming off the gulf and scattered them on the beach.

This falcon probably flew from the Arctic and will end up in South America for the winter.  
He did this with quick jerking motions pulling several out at a time.

Peregrins mate for life
 After the feathers had been removed he opened the chest and separated the ribs.

The average life span of a Peregrin is 17 years
Peregrines were removed from the endangered list in 1999
 I was completely captivated by the scene and the efficiency with which he approached his meal.  After opening the chest he began to eat the organs filled with nutrient rich calories.

Peregrines catch their prey mid air 
 I took 420 pictures.

Females are larger than the males
It took 7 minutes.

The Peregrin Falcons name means Wandering Falcon in latin
In the end he left very little waste.  I still can't believe that I was so lucky to have come upon the event and that he was not stressed allowing me to get so close to document with my camera.  I'm not sure why the pictures are appearing blurry in the post, but I assure you that they are crystal clear on my computer.  I was able to get with in 25 feet of him with a powerful lens and can see every feather and talon.

And just a note about the American Avocet.  There was a large flock 50 yards down the beach from where I found the falcon.  Probably the same flock that his kill had come from.  They numbered in the hundreds.  A beautiful bird to be sure, but also a part of the circle of life and the reality of nature.