Raptorous Encounters

A pair of Bald Eagles at the Portage

It never fails, when I have no expectations of seeing anything unusual, something unexpected occurs. It began last Saturday morning when I decided to visit the Portage. I was on my way out the last leg of the trail when I encountered a perched Bald Eagle. And then a moment or two later, his mate appeared. I took way too many pictures, never having an unobstructed angle, and the birds were distant, but their immense size made up for the lack of proximity.

It also seems no matter how hard I try, I can’t manage a timely blog post. But before I belabor that point, I promise this will be short.

There’s always a bit of a let-down in the fall with the shorter days and colder weather, but the colder months bring a whole new perspective to birding and once you figure out how to stay warm enough, it’s the perfect cure for cabin fever.

When the eagles finally took off they flew north toward Ottawa Trail. I suspect they have a nesting spot somewhere or were shopping for one. I hope to see one or both of them again soon.

Also at the Portage when I first arrived, were two Red-Tailed Hawks, ushered in by Ten Crows. I have never seen so many crows at the Portage. Likely the hawks got their attention and drew them in. But I didn’t even know there were Ten Crows in the vicinity. A Mini Murder.

Ten Crows at the Portage

As it turned out, only one hawk remained to soar around for quite a while, at a reasonable distance for a few photographs. The light was poor but the flight was skillful.

On Sunday morning I went downtown to visit the Lakefront Crows and had a couple raptorous moments there too. Like this juvenile Cooper’s Hawk…and then a Peregrine Falcon.

I will return with a full report on the Lakefront Crows and other recent avian encounters. The pressure of fall passerine migration has been replaced by encroaching holiday commitments. We always seem to be in a hurry. As we rush toward the end of the year… I hope you are finding some moments of peace.

The Falcon Returns – Life and Death on the 46th Floor

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Whatever post I had been envisioning to be cobbled from birding the last two weekends or downtown forays during the week has been usurped by Mbres360, the young Peregrine Falcon from my last post.

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This morning began very birdy up on the 46th floor. My coworkers drew my attention to a female Golden-Shafted Flicker that had apparently struck the building. She was lying right outside the window on the balcony or ledge down the hall from my office. She looked perfect, except that she was dead. I don’t have it in me to photograph a dead bird; it seems somehow disrespectful. Yet I would volunteer to get her to the Field Museum, where she might be gutted and stuffed. They would do so respectfully, and keep track of her death in their records. If there was a way to get the building maintenance to open the window, I wanted to deliver the Flicker to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and the Field Museum. I ran back to my office and that’s when Kim called to me and said, “Lisa, he’s back.”

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Mbres360 was indeed back. The closer pictures are shot unfortunately through blinds, but still it was easy to see his bands and confirm his identity. He seems to have taken a liking to our rookery-like tower. And he looks bigger and more ferocious than last week.

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After I took these pictures, the Flicker Drama was continuing. I ran back to the other balcony where the maintenance guys had just removed the Flicker into a black plastic bag and it seemed inevitable they would throw it in the trash. Leslie, our office manager, put in a call to the management office to ask them to hold the Flicker until a collision monitor could pick it up. I called Bird Collision Monitors and asked them to introduce themselves to building security; and then the Flicker should be turned over to them. I never heard back, so all I can hope is that they were able to rescue the Flicker from a dumpster burial.

When I went back to Kim’s office the falcon was gone, but Kim said he was after a smaller bird that had also disappeared. Mbres360 has probably figured out he can get an easy meal by looking for stunned birds colliding with our building. He would not be interested in a dead bird, however. Personally I wish him luck, because it seemed way too much trouble to remove the Flicker for an uncertain outcome. I shudder to think what it would have been like to try to rescue a bird that was still alive under those circumstances. Not that I wouldn’t try…

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Falcon on the 46th Floor

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Meet “Mbres360.” I’m not sure how to pronounce his name or what it stands for, but he paid the office a visit yesterday afternoon by landing on the ledge outside the conference room, and I am still savoring the opportunity, seeing one of these birds up close.

I did not want to startle him by going through the conference room doors. Luckily Kim was in her office which also has a view of the ledge, and when I told her the bird was right outside her window, she invited me in to take pictures. I ran to get the camera, afraid I might miss the opportunity because I had put it away, but I guess the bird was as curious as we were, because he waited for me to get my act together and I took a few shots.

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Then I went looking on the Internet for where to report him and see if maybe he could be identified. In less than a minute I found Stephanie Ware’s wonderful Chicago Peregrine Falcon Blog. I followed her instructions and sent her pictures and a closeup of the bands which I read as Red N and Green 53.

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Stephanie graciously wrote me back to tell me the bird was was a male chick “from this year’s river nest” and then she identified him by name.

I’m always looking out the windows to see who is flying by, which is probably why I’ll never get an office with a window. I have seen Peregrines on several occasions, but I never dreamed one would visit like this. Considering the Chicago Peregrines are born and raised in an urban environment, with nests on top of skyscrapers, I guess it’s not that unlikely. But this felt very special. The sighting made my week, for sure. And led me to Stephanie’s wonderful blog, so I can learn more about these beautiful birds.

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After I had taken maybe five pictures, he decided he’d had enough and with a little shriek, he literally disappeared into thin air. I guess that is the magic of the entire encounter. Once these birds fledge they start honing their incredible speed which makes them such formidable predators. It’s hard to think of Mbres360 as a tough guy just yet.