Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dinnertime For A Peregrine Falcon, Long Beach, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

I have said before that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good - this was one of those times. In a lifetime of making pictures, I have never seen anything like this event.

I didn't see the exact moment of death.  There was an aerial flurry of movement in my peripheral vision as this Peregrine Falcon successfully launched his airborne high speed attack on a gull.  I think his eyes were bigger than his stomach, or said another way, his eyes were bigger than what his wings could lift. 

Try as he might, he could not sustain flight while carrying this large gull. And he wasn't ready to abandon it yet.

So he lands, he stands regally on his prey, he evaluates his options - should he stay here and eat? - should he abandon his prey and fly off? - is the human watching him too close for comfort? - will the human steal his hard-won prey? - can he make the human go away by staring at him with his huge and somewhat intimidating eye?

Survival and hunger must have won out - he decided to stay and eat - always keeping one of his piercing eyes on me.

According to my son, who happens to be an expert wildlife ecologist and ornithologist - (and yes, that is parental pride oozing out of the sentence), this was likely a once in a lifetime close encounter with a dining peregrine. If humans are nearby, they will seldom enjoy their catch on site but rather carry their prey to a more private setting. This time though, the sheer weight of his prey prevented him from carrying it away as demonstrated by his futile efforts to stay airborne with such a heavy load.

Although the American Peregrine Falcon is no longer included on the endangered species listing, I tried to stay as far away as practical. I especially didn't want to scare him into flying away.

A lucky combination of the heavy prey, the breeze from the southeast, and the low setting sun gave me a perfect photographic lighting and positioning opportunity - once in a lifetime, indeed! Too bad I only had my point-and-shoot camera. If ever there was a time I wish I carried heavy and bulky DSLR equipment with a faster and sharper lens and a bigger camera sensor, this was it.

And as the sun sets and the light fades, freshly plucked gull feathers litter the beach like sea foam.

In addition to this experience showing nature at its most basic live-or-die level, I think this encounter is a good demonstration of the widespread human attraction to photography. The god-like ability to stop time - to freeze a moment to examine it in more detail at both leisure and pleasure - photography empowers that and it is a pretty special capability.  

And speaking of more detail, my son was also able to photograph part of this event.  He has a REAL camera and a REAL lens and knows how to use them both. You might check his Flickr website at this link to see if he has posted his images yet - I would bet they will be razor sharp and even more awe-inspiring - just like his many other bird images! If you want to see and hear about more of his birding adventures, check out his blog, "Birding Across the World," for write-ups of some of his trips - Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Panama, Mexico, and Alaska to name a few.


  1. Joe this is such a great series. It feels like I am on the beach watching it happen as well! LOVE this! Great photography and story telling! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Louise!

    2. I had a similar bird land near my Wollaston area Quincy , seed , suet , tray , feeders . My gratitude for your grand capture of grace and power , and those timeless struggles with the final judge , gravity .
      I wanted to post my grainy through a window with a screen image but could figure it out .