The peregrine sees and remembers patterns we do not know exist: the neat squares of orchard and woodland, the endlessly varying quadrilateral shapes of fields. He finds his way across the land by a succession of remembered symmetries. J. A. Baker THE PEREGRINE
Usually after spring migration birding slows down a bit. We always have the Red-tailed Hawk pair and their fledglings to look forward to around Memorial Day at Mount Auburn Cemetery and a couple of other possibilities in the area but the pace after the zaniness of spring migration is less frantic. This year’s post-migration, however, has been fantastically busy. We’ve had the ongoing drama of the Peregrine Falcons in Woburn to enjoy. As we watched the Peregrine pair mating in March and April we wondered if the female Peregrine was ready to breed. The female is banded and we were able to discover that she was hatched in May of 2015. A female Peregrine breeding at not even a year old was a long shot. Possible, but unlikely. We were all rooting for her wanting, of course, to have fledglings to watch in late spring and through part of the summer. The long shot came through. We stopped seeing the female flying around and could see her in their lair on the rocky ledge. She exhibited all of the signs of a female sitting on eggs. We weren’t 100% sure, but it looked like that was what was going on. And even if she was indeed sitting, there was no way to know if the egg(s?) were fertile and would result in young. Tom Luongo, Karen Burton and Jill Maroni-Flemming, all from Woburn, reported the first sighting of the chick from a vantage point above the nest on May 27. Houston, we had a chick! I had my first glimpse of the chick on Monday, June 13. The little white fluffball popped up for a few seconds for me.
Peregrine chick, Monday, June 13, 2016. Photo by John Harrison.
Peregrine chick and mother, Friday, June 24, 2016. Photo by John Harrison.
It was something to celebrate. As the weeks have gone by we were seeing more and more of this little one and we quickly knew that there was only one chick. We’re proud of that young female bringing one Peregrine into the world against the odds. After watching these falcons since the hatchling first showed itself, we were delighted to hear that on July 6th at about 2pm the nestling became a fledgling. Photographer Craig Gibson, who has been reporting on this Peregrine family regularly, stopped by early that morning for a look.
Mother Peregrine Falcon incubating egg, Saturday, April 16, 2016 Photo by Craig Gibson.
Mother Peregrine Falcon feeding chick, Friday June 03, 2016. Photo by Craig Gibson.
Craig agreed that the little one was aching to fly. I, too, was there early that morning and the bird was flapping its wings furiously and jumping around and helicoptering. It was ready for its leap of faith. A few hours later it did just that. Devoted birder Jill Maroni-Flemming, who has been watching and photographing this Peregrine pair for a year, even to the point of keeping a journal of her discoveries, was fortunate to be on hand at the moment the nestling (that she calls Charlotte) fledged. It is fitting that Jill would be the one to witness this event. She has ‘paid her dues’ this year at that site, as has photographer Tom Luongo, who is also at the site daily. For all of us rooting for that little one, this was exciting news. Here is Jill’s journal entry when Charlotte fledged on July 6th: I am so overcome with excitement that I can hardly type! I’m sitting here at the quarry. It’s 2:00. I was looking straight at Charlotte sitting in the shade of the nest. When all of a sudden, her shrill teenaged call rang out sustaining for about a minute. Kate showed up and then flew off and then Charlotte leaped from the cliff ! OMG!!!!!!!! WOW!!!! I couldn’t believe it! She awkwardly crashed into the lower left triangle area of the cliff and perched there for a minute or two. Regaining her breath , she then flew off over my head. Freedom! What a sight to behold!!!
The new Peregrine fledgling. Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
The new Peregrine fledgling. Photo by Jim Renault.
The next morning I was back at the site at 6am hoping to see the fledgling on its first full day in its new world. Also present were Ursula (President of the Eastern Mass Hawk Watch) and Dave Goodine and photographer Jim Renault. The adult Peregrines were present but we couldn’t find the fledgling. After a couple of hours I decided to leave and told Jim Renault that if the fledgling showed up to please call me. I then went to the nearby Dunkin Donuts. Had to have an iced coffee. It was 8am. I no sooner parked than my cell phone rang. It was Jim Renault. “Get back here,” he said. “The fledgling is perched on the rocks really close.” (Thanks Jim!!!). I was back and parked in seven minutes. The striking young Peregrine was proudly perched on the giant boulder that had years ago fallen from the rock face (crushing a vehicle below). It was flapping its wings and moving around for us, putting on quite a show. It was a photographer’s bonanza. I had been on my cell a couple of times with photographer Mimi Bix-Hylan, who was on her way to the site with her daughter Mari, whose favorite bird is the Peregrine Falcon. Mari, at 6 years of age, is already a keen birder. I knew little Mari was going to love this close look at her totem bird. Soon after that photographer Tom Luongo appeared. Like Jill, he has been following the Peregrines at this site for a long time. He was just in time for this exhilarating show. As were Mimi and Mari, who also arrived in time to see the fledgling, that Mari named Philip, on the rock. It didn’t take long for the audience to grow. As we’ve learned about young birds of prey, they’re very trusting. The bird was unperturbed by the presence of an audience of photographers and watchers. It stayed on that rock for about a half hour then slowly flew in short hops higher and higher until it was eventually at the top of the mountain. Sometime later the mother Peregrine flew in and dropped food for the young one. It hid behind brush there at the top and ate the prey. Photographer Sandy Selesky eventually arrived at the site and watched the fledgling’s progress for most of the afternoon. After being cooped up in that rocky little cave for about a month, the fledgling must have felt freed (and perhaps a bit frightened) being out and flying around. I hope we get to see more of it for a while. As it gets stronger and does more flying, it will show itself less and less. We were lucky to have the first post-fledge morning experience. Here’s a video look at the Peregrine fledgling, Charlotte/Philip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCADT5hZEfQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN_vFgCuEO0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qQ_1adEW9U
The naming confusion should be addressed. Jill Maroni-Flemming and Tom Luongo and other long-time watchers had dubbed the male Peregrine Waldo (because it was often so hard to find, blending in so well with the gray quarry cliffs where he has resided for several years…..Where’s Waldo?). The female was named Wesley Kate at her banding site in May of 2015 at 55 Water St., Manhattan, NY. Considering the fascination with British royalty, Jill named the fledgling Charlotte George after Kate Middleton’s daughter. Six-year old Mari, the youngest and biggest fan of the musical HAMILTON, named the adult male Hamilton, of course, and his mate, Eliza (after Alexander Hamilton’s wife) and the fledgling Philip (after Alexander Hamilton’s son). Since Charlotte/Philip’s mother was born in Manhattan, the New York-Hamilton connection was obvious. Though most fans of this trio will know them as Waldo, Kate and Charlotte, for a few of us it will be Hamilton, Eliza and Philip. I don’t think this wonderful family of Peregrines, that has taught us so much and given us such joy, will really mind that they each have two names.
Early in June we were able to watch a Barred Owl family in Winchester.
Three Barred Owlets in Winchester. Photo by Jim Renault.
Barred Owl mother, Winchester. Photo by Jim Renault.
Barred Owlet out of tree cavity about ready to fledge. Photo by John Harrison.
There were four owlets in this family but by the time I found out about it, two had fledged. We were able to watch and photograph the two remaining owlets before they fledged. They were on a good tree for video, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdAhFD_TqtA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvcM2kVLNSw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aECHUNG8k7Q https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0fCQajmbiI
Barred Owlet and mother. Photo by John Harrison.
Also in early June Al Parker of Mount Auburn Cemetery discovered a Hummingbird nest near Auburn Lake. We monitored it for a couple of weeks but the nest ultimately failed, unfortunately.
Red-tailed Hawk fledgling, Mount Auburn Cemetery. Photo by John Harrison.
But at least we were able to see a Hummingbird nest in the wild. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Hummingbird on nest, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Sat. June 04, 2016. Photo by John Harrison.
We also continued watching the Eastern Kingbird nest at the Mystic Lakes, where three chicks hatched and fledged.
Eastern Kingbird mother feeds chick, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison.
Eastern Kingbird mother, Mystic Lakes. Photo by Kim Nagy.
And on a trek to Plum Island’s Sandy Point in late June there were Piping Plover chicks pecking around on the beach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8QS2Uj6rTE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA-hHTzN0AU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8qa9ys_x4o
Piping Plover mother, Sandy Point, Plum Island. Photo by John Harrison.
Piping Plover chicks, Sandy Point, Plum Island. Photo by John Harrison.
The Tufts Park, South Medford, American Kestrels are back. The pair that wowed us with three chicks last summer brought four chicks into the world this year. We’ve been having a grand time watching these fledglings as they fly from light pole to light pole. We have been able to watch the parents drop food off for the kids and we’ve seen siblings taking food from each other and all manor of Kestrel behavior. I can’t imagine a better venue to watch this species.
American Kestrel with prey, Tufts Park, Medford, MA. Photo by John Harrison.
American Kestrels with prey, Tufts Park, Medford. Photo by John Harrison.
American Kestrel in flight with prey. Photo by John Harrison.
Medford’s raptor guru, Paul Roberts, could be seen at the park most mornings chronicling the life and times of the Tufts Park Kestrels. Video of a Kestrel with prey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdoyuu9N6d4
The Mystic Lakes has been especially busy this season with Ospreys, Great Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons. Sitting on the banks of the lakes day after day we could count fifteen or twenty or twenty-five Great Blue Herons every time. It’s as if the Great Blue Heron Society decided to hold their annual convention at the Mystic Lakes.
Black-crowned Night Heron, Mystic Lakes. Photo by Kim Nagy.
Great Blue Heron and swans, Mystic Lakes. Photo by Kim Nagy.
Great Blue Heron with fish, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison.
And if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we had a couple of Ospreys show up several times a day and they would fly around and often dive for fish. An Osprey dive is one of the most exhilarating wildlife events to witness. To catch this activity in our own back yard has been wondrous.
Osprey emerges from dive, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison.
Osprey takes off with fish after dive, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison.
On Tuesday, July 5th, I went to Mount Auburn Cemetery to see if the Red-tail chicks had fledged. I assumed they had but I hadn’t been there in a few days so I wasn’t sure. I began walking a grid from the nest tree and found the two fledglings about fifteen minutes later, with an assist from Mount Auburn staffer Al Parker.
Red-tailed Hawk fledgling, Mount Auburn Cemetery. Photo by John Harrison.
Both hawks were on the grass, one eating a squirrel that was dropped off by one of its parents while the other sibling was stretched out on the grass, the sun warming its wings. Here’s video of the Red-tail fledglings at Mount Auburn Cemetery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-dcN_SVj3w
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMwctlkPMpQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkDnAUopupY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkDnAUopupY
As all of these stories have unfolded, photographer Kim Nagy and I also had some fun mornings at Ipswich River Audubon. Though the beavers have been in a quiet mode lately, we have seen a great deal of a muskrat family at the pond and our favorite mink, Harry, has made quite a few appearances, often trotting right by us.
Muskrat, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by Kim Nagy.
“Harry” the mink, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by John Harrison.
“Harry” the mink with fish, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by John Harrison.
On the tree close to where we sit on the boardwalk, a young Pileated Woodpecker landed and posed for Kim last week.
Pileated Woodpecker, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by Kim Nagy.
Pileated Woodpecker, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by Kim Nagy.
Nuthatch eating from Kim’s hand, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by John Harrison.
We’re used to this with Chickadees but the Nuthatches were a special treat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-LcZw_nWjg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeHS0bAkQwY The mulberry tree in the reserve parking lot is now laden with fruit so the Cedar Waxwings and Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been regular visitors.
Red-bellied Woodpecker on mulberry tree, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by Kim Nagy.
Cedwar Waxwings on mulberry tree, Ipswich River Audubon. Photo by Kim Nagy.
The pace should slow now. The Osprey nest in Lynn should really be the last hurrah of the season. But, of course, ‘surprise happens!’ In mid-July the three Osprey chicks should be bouncing around in the nest and there should be plenty of action. That will take us into August, which is pretty much the dog days of birding. But we won’t have much idle time. September isn’t far away and then fall migration begins. We never have to wait too long before the next adventures! Thanks for the exciting moments. Charlotte/Philip, Peregrine Falcon fledgling, July 06, 2016, 2:00.
Peregrine Falcon fledgling, first morning, July 07, 2016. Photo by John Harrison.