Today was the last official day of Peregrine Watch 2009, though we'll be keeping our eyes and ears open when downtown. The adult birds will still need to deliver food to the youngsters for a few more weeks, and they'll all be in town until fall when all except the mother will likely migrate. She sticks around to eat chilly pigeon all winter long.
Thursday we saw the most spectacular flight display we've seen in the four years the program has been going on as two of the youngsters chased each other on and off for about a half hour barely over our heads. They swerved and hung in the air, dove at each other, made a racket the entire time. One grabbed at treetops as he flew past them. At one point they were about 5 feet off the ground and 10 feet away from me, and I let out an involuntary Wow!
We haven't seen all four young birds at once in a week and on that same day we were able to identify the three birds we were seeing. By band color we first learned that there were two females and one male, and then later were able to see the number on the male bird's band. The missing falcon is Zinger, the first to fledge and the one I was babysitting during the banding last month.
It's certainly not on the level of losing a pet who you've shared years with but after you've been lucky enough to touch a falcon nestling, you want to imagine him out there soaring for years to come and hope that you might learn someday that someone has spotted his band number at a falcon nest. So I had hoped that Zinger would at least make it out of town or that, if he didn't, I at least wouldn't know about it--we're never really sure who leaves since they obviously don't check with us on the way out of town and we lose track of them before then, but we do sometimes know someone's missing before they leave and one year one of that year's fledglings was found dead in town. And we know the fact that most birds don't survive their first year.
It's not impossible that he's OK and hanging out by himself away from the others--we don't know where the adults are at all times so we try to convince ourselves Zinger might be getting food deliveries elsewhere. But we don't really think it's likely, and it gets less likely with each passing day we don't see him.
On the morning before this year's banding a great horned owl was downtown being harassed by falcons, crows, gulls, and every other bird in the area. An owl certainly could have picked off Zinger in the night. And the idea of a human killing an animal for fun can never be ruled out--someone here put an arrow through a cat a few weeks ago. More likely it was his own enthusiasm and concentrated focus combined with his too new flying skills which did him in and he crashed into something. No one has yet reported his body, but he could well be on a roof. So, knowing we may never know, we wait for word of Zinger, missing one falcon.
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