Friday, August 13, 2010

Peregrine Falcon Release

I've volunteered at Raptor Rehab of Kentucky, Inc. for a little over a year now. This is the first time I've attended a release, and it was a real thrill. This is Pe Fa 113 (Pe Fa is short for Peregrine Falcon, of course.) She was found near a restaurant on the Ohio River in June, and brought to us for rehabilitation. The same pair of Falcons have nested on the Big Four Bridge across the river for quite a few years. If a bird falls out of the nest, there is nothing beneath but water. We treated her, and put her in a flight cage to build up her wing strength. She even got live pigeons for food sometime so we were sure she knew how to catch her prey. Now she is on the way to the Kenneth Coleman Station - a Big Rivers Electric power station near Hawesville, KY, about an hour and a half downstream from Louisville. Kate Heyden, Avian Biologist for the Ky. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, will be there to band the bird, and complete the release. Fish and Wildlife is placing nesting boxes in various locations around the state to either attract wild birds, or place Falcons from rehabilitation. Since this is a juvenile Falcon, she doesn't have a territory of her own to return to, making her a prime candidate for this new box.
I was pleased to see the interest shown by the plant employees. Many of them joined us for the banding, and then followed us out into the blistering heat to watch what she did when released. She is a high energy bird, and wanted to fly off as soon as John Wicker (RROKI co-director) removed her from the travel crate.
Kate explained the banding process. This Falcon's information will be entered in a database, accessible should she be caught in the future.
John held the bird firmly while Kate applied loose bands on both legs....
...but she let us know in no uncertain terms what she thought about it.
John took her around for all the plant personnel to see up close. Believe me, I was not the only person clicking away in that room! This will be "their" falcon, and everyone wanted to take a good look.
In order to keep her calm while she was transferred to the box, Kate put a falconer's hood on her....
...but she wiggled out of it in no time at all, then turned to glare up and bite Kate's Visitor's tag to express her displeasure.
When you look at some of the Falcon cams, you find nesting boxes installed on the roof of a tall building. This time, the nest box is installed in the side of a tall building, to re-produce the cliff ambiance, safe from both above and below, accessible only by wing. Of course, there is a door inside the building to the box, so future banders don't have to ride up in a crane to band chicks born there. Luckily, we did not have to climb up several stories with Kate, and moved around to the other side for a better view.
Here is the building from where we stood...not close at all, but at least we found a spot in some shade! Look at the top of the blue building, on the right side and you can see a small something sticking out of the wall. That is the entrance to the box, with perches for convenience. We waited, and sweated, and tried to keep focused on that small box, waay up there. Be ready, we said. When that door opens, she'll shoot out of there so fast, there will only be one chance for a photo.
Well, the door opened, and she came out to sit on the perch, looking around to see what's going on. Anything above? She seemed very interested in the sky, but did not see the Kestrel flying on the other side of the same building.
OK, the wings are stretching. Get ready now!
Here it comes! She's going to fly! Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you can see the bands on her legs. But after a good stretch, she remembered that Kate left a nice fat quail in the box, and decided to go back in for lunch. We stood there for a while, and finally decided it was time for our lunch too. While we were a little disappointed not to see her flying, it was a good sign that she felt comfortable enough to eat. I'm sure she took an aerial tour of the plant after a little after lunch nap! Good Luck to you, Pe Fa 113.


Mary Beth said...

beautiful photos as always mom. Glad to see that 113 was released. Hope she does well.

If you want to make copies of your photos. 8x10's are only .99 on wend the 18th in store at walgreens as are the 8x10 collages. Wend only. Sorry work plug on your blog. Great photos though.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

WOW, I would so have loved to have witnessed this as well, just beautiful. That is where I went to view the Peregrines, but they had already left about a week before. They said I could return next season. I am so green-eyed over this kind of thing. Glad you are able to do it though. Great job~