Wednesday, May 11

Wings of the fallen

Summer time on campus usual means less schoolwork and more time for guided bird walks.  This year, summer falls at the tail end of the new school year, but we still got to fit in 3 bird walks at the and of March until mid-April!

At this time of the year,a  bird walk yields a very active resident bird population: long-tailed shrikes, collared kingfishers, black-naped orioles, barred rails, Philippine magpie-robins, Philippine pied fantails, pied trillers, coppersmith barbets, lowland white-eyes, golden-bellied gerygones, white-breasted woodswallows, yellow-vented bulbuls and zebra doves are part of the typical bird list. An overstaying brown shrike or two give a great example of a common migrant.

Strangely though, the highlight of the recent bird walks is not the flash of blue as a kingfisher flies by, or a pair of bright yellow orioles calling loudly from an acacia tree.  It isn't even a pair of hard-working shrikes feeding their young on a nest in the parking lot.

The highlight comes towards the end of the walk. And it isn't exactly a pretty sight. Or even a live bird. 

(Pretty gruesome sight is more like it!) On our first walk we discovered that the back of the observatory was littered with rock (racing) pigeon wings!

The students ran around counting more than 15 pairs of wings on the ground!  Some with the tail still attached, or part of the breastbone.

We knew at once of course what these were: the remains of the prey of our annual visitor: Peregrine falcon food!

It was amazing to see how much he had caught. He must be a pretty efficient hunter! I had actually spotted him in the middle of March hovering over the parking lot with a pigeon (almost as big as him!) gripped in his talons.

One of the students even found a one and only pigeon head:

When we looked up at the tower, we saw more carcasses on the platform.  This was one big time hunter!

Unfortunately, it was only the first group of the three who had the privilege of actually seeing the falcon.  He was up on the tower, being mobbed by the woodswallows. 

Still, even in his absence, the last two groups were able to appreciate the presence of a raptor on campus.  

The prey he left behind spoke on his behalf.