Saturday, May 6

The pigeon hunter

For the 6th straight year, we have observed that the grounds of the Ateneo was home to a magnificent hunter: a migrant Peregrine Falcon!

During the migratory season, I look forward to Abby F's announcement that the groundskeepers have spotted the falcon and that he has started his annual pigeon hunt.

In February, Adri and I dropped by the communications towers which serve as his resting, lookout and eating area.  Rock pigeon carcasses littered the ground!  There were also several remains caught up in the beams and platforms of the communications towers.

A few of several pigeon carcasses on the ground - mostly just the wings left behind.

Several more pigeon carcasses caught in the communications tower (including a head!)

On one of the small trees under the tower hung a pair of wings that belonged to a racing pigeon.  On its legs was a green numbered band - a sure sign that some human owner had lost a prized possession to nature's swiftest hunter.

And a few caught in the trees below the tower.

I hope that the falcon's taste for pigeon flesh will not put it in a bad light with pigeon fanciers. This is not an exclusively local problem, and I hope it will not escalate to a point that these beautiful raptors will be put in danger. 

That afternoon though, despite the clear evidence of its arrival, we failed to see the falcon.  He (it could be a she) was probably off chasing pigeons... literally.

After having secured permission from the administration to regularly check on that particular field to document the falcon, Adri and I decided to try one Saturday morning.

Adri quickly spotted him on one of the towers.  As a pair of security personnel passed beneath, the falcon flew to another tower on the further edge of the field.  At first we had a difficult time finding a good angle to observe him. He was wisely staying close to the network of beams and cables, which not only hid him from sight, but also shaded him from the bright morning sun.

Sometimes awake...
We watched him for over an hour, hoping he would come out and hunt.  But no, all he did was preen and nap!

Once in a while a single or flock of pigeons would fly overhead, getting Adri and I excited in anticipation of some action.  But all Mr. Falcon would do was gaze at the passing pigeons as they flew by, and go back to sleep!

But mostly asleep! 

We thought that he probably already had his fill, and hunted during the cooler hours of dusk and dawn. They have even been reported to hunt in the evening!

The groundskeepers and gardeners were all familiar with the falcon,
but Adri's scope gave them close-up views!

He was also woken up by a pair of resident White-breasted Woodswallows who couldn't help but check him out with a close flyby.  They probably were getting ready for their annual tower nesting - maybe not a good idea with a migrant raptor still hanging around!

Resident White-breasted Woodswallows sharing their field.

Whether it was the pesky woodswallows or the moving sunlight, the Peregrine finally moved out of the shadows of the steel maze and gave us a clearer view.

A beautiful digiscoped photo of a beautiful raptor.

What a handsome bird!

After a couple of hours, it still looked that he had no plans of moving and so we packed up our optics and bid the raptor goodbye.

See you again next season Mr. Falcon! May the University grounds provide you with a safe haven every year!

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