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Posts Tagged ‘falcon’

What is the fastest animal on earth? My mind immediately thinks of the cheetah, which can run in short bursts at speeds up to 75 miles per hour (121 km/h). Indeed the cheetah is the fastest land animal. However, the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the fastest member of the animal kingdom, can reach speeds up to 242 miles per hour (389 km/h) when in a dive.

I was thrilled last week to spot this Peregrine Falcon perched at the top of a distant tree while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The bird was hard to see on an overcast day, but the muscular way that it was perched caused me to conclude that it was a bird of prey. I took this shot with my macro lens in order to document my sighting. As I was pulling out my camera with a longer zoom lens, the falcon flew off into the air. It flew away too fast for me to get a shot

When I read about the top speed of the Peregrine Falcon, I wondered how in the world that speed was determined. I came across this fascinating National Geographic film clip that documents one effort to measure the speed of a Peregrine Falcon. It is a short video that is well worth watching and includes a trained falcon and sky-diving scientists.

I love watching birds of all shapes and sizes, but there is something really special about seeing a powerful raptor like this Peregrine Falcon.

 

Peregrine Falcon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday morning I was thrilled to see this American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I had never before seen this little falcon, but its coloration and markings are awfully distinctive, so I had a pretty good idea what it was.

I was really struck by the small size of this bird, as compared with the Bald Eagles and vultures that I had seen earlier in the day. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the American Kestrel is about the size and shape of a mourning dove and is the smallest falcon in North America.

As you can tell from the background, it was heavily overcast when I took this shot, so the colors do not pop as much as they would in bright sunlight. One of my viewers on Facebook also noted that this is a female and, as is the case with most bird species, the colors of a female American Kestrel are more muted than those of her male counterpart.

I remember well the location of the tree in which the kestrel was perched, so I will add that location to my already long list of places to check when I visit this wildlife refuge, which has proven to have a pretty amazing variety of species to observe.

American Kestrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first looked at this bird through my telephoto lens this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was struck by its incredible eyes. After marveling for a moment at those spectacular eyes,  I suddenly realized that I had never seen a bird like this before and was not sure of its identification.

It turns out that this is a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), one of the fastest creatures on the earth. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a Peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of 69 miles per hour (112 kn/h) in flight and when diving from high in the air a Peregrine Falcon  may reach speeds of 200 mph (320 km/h) as it drops toward its prey.

Peregrine Falcon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I finally saw the merlin (Falco columbarius) that has been hanging out at Huntley Meadows Park the last month or so. Merlins are really cool-looking small falcons that generally are in our area only during periods of migration.

The merlin was perched at the very top of a slender dead tree. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website notes that merlins spend long periods perched in open areas scanning for prey and I suspect that is what this bird was doing when I spotted it.

I was able to get relatively close to the tree, thanks to an adjacent path in the woods, but shooting upwards at such a steep angle handheld was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately the lighting was pretty good so I was able to get some decent shots, though they did requite quite a bit of cropping. You may also notice that I shot from several different angles as I tried to capture some images of this small, but powerful bird.

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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