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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Found and lost

This will be tricky, but can you tell what's going on in this picture?  (Apologies for the blurriness, but things were happening very quickly.  The first four pictures below were taken within four seconds of each other.)

You probably noticed the splash in the water...and the larger bird in the center of the image...and perhaps the smaller birds in the water below the splash?

Here's the next photo in the sequence:

And the next, which is the best one, at least for identifying the prey:

This is a Peregrine Falcon that has just grabbed a duck off the water.  Michelle and I were standing near the edge of the salt marsh on the inside of Doran Beach when this falcon appeared out of nowhere and dove on the ducks in the creek.

We had been looking at waterfowl at the time, which turns out to be helpful when trying to narrow down the choices for the falcon's prey.  For small ducks, we know there were Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, and Ruddy Ducks in the area.

Look closely at the picture above to see the wing pattern on the duck.  You can see a dark speculum and a narrow golden or buffy bar above the speculum (the speculum is on the secondary feathers it's a rectangular patch close to the base of the wing and along the trailing edge).  This wing pattern should help distinguish the species of duck.  Can you guess which species it is?

Buffleheads would have a white wing patch, and Ruddy Ducks would have all dark wings.  The prey is a Green-winged Teal.

The next thing that happened was a little surprising:

The falcon dropped the teal!  Its grip must have been loose, and the teal fell into the marsh.  (As far as we know, the duck didn't survive the strike; it didn't emerge from the marsh vegetation, and note the blood on the falcon in the next picture.)

The falcon started circling right away, apparently searching for the duck.  


It spent at least one minute doing so, but then (to our disappointment), it gave up and flew off to the south.

I'm not sure how often falcons drop their prey, but I can't help thinking that it must be frustrating for them to lose prey that they've almost secured.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WHOA!!!!! What a sight to see. Beautiful light too. -AH