Peregrin Falcon chicks

Watching the progress of the babies grow into fledglings.

Lots of pictures! Scroll through quickly if you wish but don’t quit midway – the best is at the end of the post!

May 11th, over the Connecticut River at the boat ramp in Chicopee, MA. What could be cuter than these little fluff balls? Five seems to me to be a lot of mouths to feed!

I got back to the nest on May 19th. No more fluffy babies. These falcons were now almost as big as the adults and hungry. I stayed about 1.5 hours. An adult came in three times but never with food. It looked like the babies had arranged themselves into two groups. One of the chicks was always reticent to join the others and another one spent much of the time with that timid bird but also went out to the front now and then. The babies were clearly hungry and one of them was particularly demanding and aggressive when the adult flew in empty-handed. It looked like the chick chased the adult away, but it circled around for another drop in, seeming to push that aggressive bird back in with the others, before leaving for quite a while. From these shots you will get a sense of the ambience around the birds’ nesting site at this stage.

I returned 8 days later. It was drizzling and overcast so I was the only one there for most of the afternoon. I thought they might already have fledged and, indeed, two of them had. There were only 3 left. One kept trying to get his courage up to take off but, although I stayed for about 3-4 hours – till nearly dark – I didn’t get to watch his initial flight. Here is the brave one who hopped about with short flights for about 45 minutes while the other two had their backs turned to him.

This time I thought he would really take the jump – but no, on went the brakes at the very end.

A parent dropped by, maybe just to encourage them to practice their take-offs and landings!

Apparently it worked because after that visit all 3 were rather active and their interactions with one another were fun to watch. For quite a while they reminded me of standing on the dock with my siblings daring and each other to jump into the lake. There was a definite “I’ll go if you will” vibe at the precipice.

Finally a parent arrived but, again, just briefly. There always seemed to be a parent sitting somewhere along the bridge keeping an eye on things.

A scrap over a bit of food and then another couple of false take-offs. (And an un-cropped perspective with the 560mm lens.)

Nap time and then finally an adult brought them a bird for dinner. Much activity! I can see why the parent dropped the food off and then beat it! After all the commotion, a calm conclusion with beak cleaning and schmoozing!

Meanwhile, and this is all part of the story, a groundhog had been wandering around for at least an hour very close to where I was standing, eating grass and weeds. Check out those teeth. It seems like they would get in the way of chewing!

I heard a falcon screech off and on. It seemed quite near but looking all around I saw nothing. Finally I located it just at the end of the parking lot on a large stump. After staring at the far away nesting site for so long, it was amazing to see this fledgling right up close. It just sat there looking around and calling loudly. (Finally I got some decent bird photos!)

This fledgling didn’t seem to be going anywhere so I returned to watching the ones up above, still hoping to see one of them take off. I spotted a dark bird coming towards me from down the river and, not even knowing what it was. I took these shots. It turned out to be one of the babies, probably the first one out, who certainly seemed to have the hang of flying now. I sure thought it was trying to land on the wire but then it pulled up the landing gear at the last moment and headed on to the high-wire post. It looked like he/she had it under control but, umph! not the easiest landing!

After a while, the ground hog took off at a ground hog type of gallop towards the stump. These pictures need no explanation! Suffice it to say, the young bird could fly well enough to get to the other end of the parking lot. And it soon became apparent why the ground hog chased him off. I lost track of the 5th fledgling after that.

And my last picture of the day was this young ground hog.

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