Peregrination (noun): a journey, especially a long and meandering one. Almost any migratory bird could be said to go on peregrination but only one is specifically named after its extensive travels: the Peregrine Falcon! A magnificent bird on its own, its migrations is also astonishing. For example, a bird named Hazel was tracked from her breeding ground in Greenland all the way to the Pampas in Argentina and back exactly to the same Arctic cliffs. Here at Cabot Head, we were delighted by not one but two Peregrine Falcons on September 25. The first one was an adult, which spent part of the morning hunting over the bay. I watched it at one point flying out and gaining height before turning around and diving toward a small bird. With no vegetation to hide in, the unfortunate bird could only try to escape by dropping down toward the water. It is by no means an easy task to capture a bird in full flight and so I watched the Peregrine Falcon dive and miss and dive and miss and dive and miss. It would climb back upward after each missed strike before folding its wings along its body and plunging head first again. On its ninth unsuccessful dive, a Merlin suddenly appeared and grabbed the small bird away! The much smaller falcon at once went from predator to prey as the Peregrine gave instant chase. Flying for its life, the Merlin dropped its quarry, likely in an attempt to be faster. Both falcons disappeared behind the trees but the Peregrine came back shortly after to perch in a tree. It likely quit the chase when the Merlin made it to the treeline. The Peregrine Falcon rapidly resumed its hunting, this time attacking a nuthatch flying low over the water, which it snatched on the second dive.
Not long after, another Peregrine Falcon arrived from the bay, a young one, quite distinctive in its brown plumage and heavily streaked underparts. After some flying around, it perched on a spruce top near some nets, offering up-close and unobstructed views. We watched it mesmerized for over 20 minutes until it took off to continue its peregrinations.
On September 27, we caught three species of Catharus thrushes. We banded one Gray-cheeked and two Swainson’s Thrushes, both on their way to South America, and five Hermit Thrushes, with final destinations more modest, somewhere in the eastern United-States. It is almost the end of migration for the first two species at Cabot Head as no Gray-cheeked has ever been captured in October, while a small percentage of Swainson’s Thrush are now detected in October (like the one banded on October 2 this year). Migration of Hermit Thrush, on the other hand, is just beginning.
Orange-crowned Warbler is another late migrant. This fall, we detected the first bird on September 30, with a few more the following days, including 3 banded on October 1. Few species of warblers are still around in October but with luck and perseverance, one can still see the last “forest gems” before they vanish until next spring.This year there were 5 warbler species on October 1 (Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Nashville Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, and American Redstart) and 6 species on October 2 (adding Tennessee and Blackpoll to the list).
It is also now the time when the little green fluffballs also known as kinglets arrive in chattering harmless hordes. Kinglets make daily banding totals jump, as they love to travel in tight flocks. About half the banding totals of October 1 and 2 were Golden-crowned Kinglets, with 26 and 21 birds, respectively. It will be kinglet-palooza for the next two weeks now.