Peregrine fans, does this photo remind you of someone?
This scene is from Baringo Cliffs, Kenya where a lanner falcon attacked a Verreaux’s eagle and forced it to flip upside down to defend itself.
Lanners are about the size of peregrines and they hate eagles just as much as our peregrines do.
The photographer, Steve Garvie, describes it this way:
“A pair of Lanner Falcons were nesting at one end of the cliffs and this massive female Verreaux’s Eagle drifted into their airspace. The female Lanner took to the air and quickly gained height then she flapped twice twisted onto her side then plunged in a deep stoop striking the circling eagle on the back of the head. The female eagle got a sore one and as the Lanner approached again she flipped upside down and clearly indicated there would be no second chance!”
Half a world away on June 6, 2012, Pitt’s famous peregrine Dorothy saw a bald eagle approach her “cliff” at the Cathedral of Learning. She too flapped a couple of times and then attacked. The bald eagle flipped upside down but it didn’t matter. Dorothy won.
Eagles, whether Verreaux’s or Bald, can’t fly upside down for long. Though Garvie doesn’t say it, I’m sure the lanner drove the eagle away just as Dorothy did at Pitt.
As winter approaches our local wildlife looks for safe, dry places to take shelter from the cold. Eastern screech-owls use hollow trees, dense foliage and holes in upright structures.
Last year Bill Powers of PixController set up an eastern screech-owl roosting study with five owl boxes in a dry wetland in Westmoreland County. Each box is equipped with a small infrared video camera and small microphone wired back to a server that detects motion and streams video.
The program begins in familiar territory, a farm in Wisconsin where two young snowies hunt the winter fields. Meanwhile their parents are back home in perpetual darkness. The show’s excellent footage of the arctic night gives a real taste of life in the dark.
In spring the camera crew searches for nesting owls, eventually finding a pair alone. Their solitude might not be a good sign. Will there be enough to eat? Will their young survive to adulthood?
Peregrine nestcam fans will love watching close-ups of Mother Owl with her cute babies. The saga of Father Owl’s hunt for food will sound familiar, but the dangers of polar bears and the plague of mosquitoes will not.
And there isn’t enough food. Eventually the parents have to move their entire family to the coast even though the babies can’t fly yet. The young have to walk and swim(!) to get there.
The family’s endurance is amazing. The snowy owls are almost magical.
Don’t miss Magic of the Snowy Owl on Wednesday October 24 at 8:00pm on WQED. Check local PBS listings if you’re outside WQED’s viewing area.
(photos of snowy owls in the arctic from PBS NATURE)
p.s. If you like to identify birds by ear, you’ll enjoy the soundtrack of the arctic summer.
Last evening as I left work I heard a scrabbling on the edge of this huge satellite dish behind WQED. It sounded like claws scratching metal — almost as unpleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard. The noise attracted the attention of everyone nearby.
The sound was made by a red-tailed hawk who had landed on the dish to hunt rabbits in the weeds below. Not a good move! He slid down to the seam and stood lopsided, one foot higher than the other, gripping the edge.
Since he didn’t care that I was watching I took his picture with my cellphone. (He’s in the exact center of the photo.)
Fortunately it doesn’t matter if he hurts this dish as we haven’t used it for years. Trees have grown up around it and mossy dirt stains the inside. Like many defunct structures it’s too expensive to take down, so it’s slowly surrounded by urban wildlife.
Bald eagles are majestic but opportunistic. Sometimes they use their power to steal from others.
I once saw an osprey plunge feet first into a bay, grasp a fish in his talons, and flap like crazy to pull up. As soon as he gained some altitude he shook off the water, just like a dog, and arranged the fish head first for aerodynamic flight. Then he was on his way…
… or so he thought. A bald eagle was watching and decided to steal the fish.
Eagles are fast, powerful fliers on the straight-away and this one knew he had the advantage. He gained on the osprey so quickly I was certain he’d hit him and take the fish.
But the osprey had experience with eagles. He turned and ducked, backtracked and swerved. Sometimes he flew up, sometimes down. The eagle kept up with him but was slower to make the turns. There were moments when the eagle was breathing down his neck but the osprey always escaped.
The osprey knew something I did not. The eagle was getting tired.
Suddenly, to my surprise, the eagle turned and rapidly flew away from the osprey. Through binoculars I could see the eagle’s beak was open. He was panting!