Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An eerie sense of cautious quiet

On a recent (unexpected) trip to Amherst-Hadley, I stopped in at the Honeypot, a great birding area with wide open fields, river, wooded edges, and plenty of habitat for winter birds. It’s a beautiful place:



On this February day, the fields were strangely quiet, though reports by local birders had been pretty good lately. I did see a few crows over the trees, and I found a flock of American Tree Sparrows in the hedgerow that borders the river, but that was about it, and even they were lying pretty low.

What was going on? As I headed out of the back field, a little disappointed, I decided to venture down a dead-end road that I hadn’t explored before. (Public, but dead-end, and pretty muddy. OK, that’s what four-wheel drive is for.)

All of a sudden, I spotted the reason – that is, the reasons – for the dearth of birds:

See those two dark lumps on the ground? Here's a photo taken from a different angle, and a little closer:

Now it should be evident ... Those are Peregrine Falcons, adult birds, probably a mated pair, with the female (larger) on the left, and a male (smaller) on the right. 

The female:


And the male:

Peregrines are pretty much at the top of the avian food chain in the region; every bird except the largest and heaviest will try to stay out of sight when they are around. They are swift and deadly, elegant in their flight and attack. Perfect birds.

I watched them for a while, just loving this opportunity to see these stunning birds at pretty close range, all by myself. (Those who know me best – D and K – know how I feel about Peregrines.)

After a while the male flew up into a nearby tree; a few minutes later, the female followed, but headed out over the river and the East Meadows. Soon the male went the same way.


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