[TN-Bird] A Very Vain Falcon

  • From: "Chris Sloan" <chris.sloan@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Oct 2007 22:10:06 -0500

Today I did my usual route for the Nashville area fall count, which includes
a visit to the Gallatin Steam Plant in Sumner County.  Over the last 15
years or so, this location hasn't been terribly productive.  But, about one
out of five trips, it reveals something exciting, as if to say "Don't give
up on this place yet!"  Today was that fifth trip.

Shortly after walking in, I found a couple of MARSH WRENS in the phragmites
along the edge of the settling pond.  I walked further around the pond, and
did a quick binocular scan.  My pulse quickened when I saw a large dark bird
with bright orange legs running around in the shallow water off in the
distance.  With thoughts of a Ruff dancing through my head, I quickly set up
the scope.  Much to my surprise, it wasn't a Ruff, or even a shorebird - it
was a gorgeous adult PEREGRINE FALCON.  As I watched, she would periodically
take a sip of water, but then she started testing the water with her beak as
if she might be wanting to bathe.  Even though I was behind on my route
schedule, I decided that I couldn't miss this, so I just picked a spot and
sat and watched the Peregrine.  She was apparently very particular about
finding a spot to bathe; she repeatedly would test a spot with a small
splash of her bill, and then she would half-run through the water (about an
inch and a half deep) a few feet to another spot and test again.  She did
this for well over an HOUR, never finding a spot, and never once taking
flight.

During this time, I would periodically check the small flock of shorebirds,
only finding two Lesser Yellowlegs among the Killdeer - that is, until my
last scan, when two peeps magically appeared in front of me - juvenile
BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS!  At this point, I noticed an increase in activity from
the falcon; she had apparently finally found a spot, so I went back to my
falcon-watching, and thoroughly enjoyed the 15 minute bathing show, after
which she finally flew a short distance to a dead tree for preening.  She
alternated between "traditional" head dunk & splash techniques and just
squatting down in the water and shaking her wings and tail, with preening in
between.  It was quite spectacular to watch.  I was sorry no one was there
to enjoy it with me, but still a special moment for me.

Regards,

Chris Sloan
Nashville, TN

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