Monday, November 10, 2008

Peregrine Falcon at Dyke Marsh

Peregrine Falcons are not uncommon in Northern Virginia. A pair successfully raised two young earlier this year on the American Legion Bridge, and in 2006, another pair produced young on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Sadly, the latter nesting ended in failure before the eyas could fledge. There are regular reports of a Peregrine in the Bailey's Crossroads area and only today, one was seen in the Ballston area of Arlington.

Still, seeing a Peregrine is always a thrill, if for no other reason than realizing that only 40 years ago the species had disappeared as a breeder from most of the eastern U.S. and parts of Europe. Its reproduction was harmed by the persistence in the environment of DDT and other chemical pesticides. The species made a strong recovery after the chemicals were banned and wildlife managers worked to restore the birds throughout their earlier range.

Yesterday, a Peregrine was seen from the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh by participants in the weekly Sunday morning walk. The Dyke Marsh wildlife preserve is located along the George Washington Parkway, just south of Alexandria. I thought the chances were slim that the bird would still be around today, but I don't need much motivation to take a stroll down Haul Road into the marsh. The bird was still there on a leafless tree on an island east of the boardwalk and remained there as long as I did, about 10 minutes. It was out of range of the 400 mm lens of my DSLR, but I had my digiscoping camera along and I popped it on my spotting scope and took a few shots. It didn't appear that the bird had been sitting right there ever since yesterday, as its very full crop indicated it had left to grab a bite to eat not long before I arrived.

In the middle of my shooting session, a jogger came bounding along, lost in his own thoughts and totally unconcerned about the excessive vibration he was producing. Vibration is magnified through the legs of a tripod and anyone observing nature with a spotting scope or using a camera on a tripod must stop and wait to accommodate a jogger. This particular jogger passed me and my digiscoping rig as if I was part of the scenery. Jogging on the boardwalk at nearby Huntley Meadows Park is prohibited and good signage makes that clear. What a shame that Dyke Marsh, a fragile wetland habitat, has no such regulation. Only a few yards to the west is the Mt. Vernon trail, ideal for jogging. The requirement that dogs be kept on leashes is regularly ignored and not enforced, so any ban on jogging would be similarly ineffective, I would think. A person with an unleashed dog soon followed the jogger onto the boardwalk. What else is new?

A view to the south from the boardwalk evoked the winter, soon to come, with geese, Green-winged Teal, and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes feeding.

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

Would it be unusual to have seen one in Warrenton? My son is obsessed with them and swears he saw one today. I tried to get a good picture of it but could not. It certainly looked like one to me, and we have studied them a lot. What are your thoughts?