Falcon migration

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Peregrine falcons were migrating south along the beach a couple of days ago.

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I saw a post on the Audubon of Martin County Facebook page about a pair of birders counting 40 or 50 of them on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 4 near the House of Refuge. I was heading out to Hutchinson Island anyway in the early afternoon so I stopped by for 10 or 15 minutes.

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One after another, peregrine falcons were coming along the beach. Flap, flap, flap, glide. They were faced into the fierce onshore wind, both battling and using the gusts.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Powerful and fast-flying, the Peregrine Falcon hunts medium-sized birds, dropping down on them from high above in a spectacular stoop. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century. After significant recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcons have made an incredible rebound and are now regularly seen in many large cities and coastal areas.

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Also saw a few Frigatebirds. There have been more around lately, with our easterly winds.

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Such a distinctive shape,

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Next stop was a little further north on the island to Florida Oceanographic Society where I joined a workshop on Seagrass Collecting.

The F.O.S.T.E.R. program relies on community-based restoration efforts to restore seagrass habitat. With a growing volunteer base, F.O.S.T.E.R. restores seagrass by collecting and growing seagrass fragments in nurseries, constructing seagrass planting units, and transplanting living seagrass into the estuary.

We headed out to Stuart Beach to collect, in strong winds.

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We saw more falcons while we were there. Weirdly exciting!

Audubon.org:

One of the world’s fastest birds; in power-diving from great heights to strike prey, the Peregrine may possibly reach 200 miles per hour. Regarded by falconers and biologists alike as one of the noblest and most spectacular of all birds of prey.

Raptors at TCWC

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Members of Audubon of Martin County visited the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center to learn about raptors yesterday, out in the wilds of Palm City, Florida.

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Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

Injured birds and other animals are rehabilitated and released, when possible.

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Crested Caracara is a “falconized vulture,” we learned, and a clever bird.

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Pelicans had their own swimming pool.

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Gracie the Bald Eagle has lived at the center for many years. She is missing part of a wing and will never fly. She fell or was pushed from her nest when she was barely a fledgling and a local rancher found her.

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This falcon is probably a hybrid between a Peregrine and a Tundra Falcon and was probably being used for unofficial falconry when rescued from someone’s garage, according to center director Tim Brown.

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This bird does not seem to mind being handled and seems tuned in to Tim.

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Nice tattoo. I think he likes raptors.

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Beautiful feathers.

The visit was a good chance to get close to some amazing birds, though a little sad too to see them tethered or caged instead of flying free and healthy.

“Most of the birds are here because they got a little too close to humans,” said Tim, “so we think it’s right for humans to try to help them.”

A rapture of raptors

I didn’t expect to go birdwatching at the ArtsFest in downtown Stuart yesterday, but Treasure Coast Wildlife Center brought some rescued raptors to a pavilion in Memorial Park. And what birds to watch they were!

Here are some closeup “portraits” with my Canon SX60.

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Barn Owl is (charmingly) nocturnal.

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Great Horned Owl wins the staring contest.

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This Peregrine Falcon is retired from falconry, I learned.

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Red-shouldered Hawk is a forest hunter. They look a lot like Broad-winged Hawks and the Florida native version is lighter in color. I wonder if I am confusing my local hawks, since Broad-winged are rarer around here.

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Crested Caracara is wicked cool. A new bird for me.

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Red-tailed Hawk is fiercely beautiful.