Falcons all Fledged!
It has been very rainy here in Nor Cal the last few weeks, today we are expecting 2″ of rain – very unusual for this time of year. Typically the rain is a distant memory by now and would only return in late October or November. I love wandering or running in the rain, but today it makes it a little easier to be in front of a computer in my own dry cozy nest. With few dry days I’ve only been able to take snaps at the nest infrequently this week, but on Thursday I was privileged to spend some time at the Fruitvale bridge to see the two remaining female fledglings who are now flying quite well.
All three nestlings fledged within the last 10 days, sadly the only male nestling disappeared after fledging on Saturday – it is presumed that he fell into the water under the bridge and drowned after he took his first flight and landed on a railing just above the water. I was informed that falcons are capable of swimming, but there is no point of exit by the bridge footings for a bird to be able to crawl out. This is one of the risks of using a bridge for a nest site. Regardless, that first flight is a brave and monumental rite of passage but can have the gravest of consequences – and the next year will hold many more challenges but much growing and excitement for the remaining two females. Here they are playing with some dinner left-overs on top of the bridge span …
The fledglings are vocal, and the one was calling (begging) for quite a while on the Alameda tower as the one adult seemed oblivious across over on the Oakland side. Finally she was moved to take-off while still crying (see pic to the right) – she is amazingly beautiful and a good flyer already. I was so excited to get to see a mid-air food exchange between the adult male (named Hiko by his fan-base – he was actually a nestling from the nest in downtown San Jose a few years ago) and the older female fledgling (know as Marina – the other is Fern). Sadly my snap of the action came out blurry, but it’s still worth posting because it was just so awesome. It’s a good perspective also to see how much bigger the fledgling female is than the male (generally female raptors are larger than males). And she’s larger than her sister as well, a big falcon!
Soon after, the adults put on a display of aerial acrobatics that was thrilling to witness. At first I thought a third adult falcon had intruded into their air space and prompted an aerial battle, but I think it was the adults playing and frolicking together in the warm late day sun. Perhaps they were giving a lesson for the fledglings to show what they will soon be able to do with their newly found flying capability.
They can move so incredibly fast through the air, and as they swoop towards each other one will flip on its back with talons stretched out as if doing back stroke in the clouds. Rolling, tumbling, soaring, diving, turning abruptly as if on an invisible track in the sky.
It is good to be a falcon, their dance says.
It’s difficult to choose just a few snaps to display here, there is incredible beauty in everything they do. Such a gift to witness and be able to share this.
Just as I was about to leave that evening, I saw a falcon in the distance to the West just above the river. As I watched, it made an impressive effort at striking a cormorant that was sitting on top of the water, just missing it and then alighting on a building rooftop nearby. I figured it was one of the adults looking for one last meal of the day to feed their hungry fledglings, but as I saw the bird move to a rounded skylight on the roof, then comically and awkwardly slide down each time it tried to walk up to the top of the skylight, I realized it was Miranda, the big female fledgling. She was the first to fledge and it seems her hunting instincts are good. It was a so special to see her in action and on her own, it gave my heart great joy to be able to share that moment with her. With the light dying, she flew directly over me and returned to the bridge as I made my way back to my car.