Peregrine Falcon with prey on frosty grass – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/400, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
I wanted to look for and photograph birds at Farmington Bay yesterday and I was on I-15 headed there but I could see heavy ground fog and there were clouds overhead so it didn’t look like it was going to clear up early like it had my last trip to the WMA. It wasn’t worth going with those kind of conditions so back to Salt Lake City it was. I was disappointed but sometimes the call has to be made, especially when your plate is already full to overflowing.
On the way home I spotted what I thought was a rock at first, then it moved and I knew it wasn’t a rock, I focused more keenly on it and for less than a split second I thought “Cooper’s Hawk” before my brain caught up and I realized it was a Peregrine Falcon. In the city, on frost-covered grass with some kind of prey near the bird’s talons.
Peregrine Falcon tearing into a frozen American Coot – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/400, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
I could see that there was heavy frost on the prey, that the prey appeared to be in a small depression in the ground but at this point I couldn’t tell the ID of what the falcon had in its grasp. I could see that the prey had feathers so I surmised that it could have been a dark domestic mallard, a coot or another species of dark duck. The falcon and the prey were in a shadow and I was more concerned about getting sharp images of the falcon than what the prey was.
Peregrine Falcon consuming prey – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
The falcon only seemed concerned with consuming the prey even though there was traffic nearby. It was cold enough to make my fingers numb and I didn’t have to stay out in it overnight like the falcon had and I am certain the bird needed the calories the prey provided.
Peregrine Falcon giving me the stink eye – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/250, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
It was wonderful to photograph the Peregrine at ground level even though the exposure was tricky because of the contrast between the heavily frosted grass and the dark plumage of the falcon.
Peregrine Falcon with coot feathers flying – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/250, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
It was also fun to photograph the flying feathers as the falcon ripped them out of the prey. By this point I knew that the prey was an American Coot because I’d seen one of the lobed feet sticking up.
Peregrine Falcon with a coot under tail covert feather in its bill – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/400, ISO 800, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
And then I also saw that the Peregrine had torn out one of the coot’s pure, white under tail coverts and had it grasped in its beak.
Peregrine Falcon and an American Coot – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
Then better light fell on the falcon and the prey as the sun rose higher. In this photo the lobed foot of the American Coot is clearly visible.
Peregrine Falcon on prey – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
The Peregrine continued to consume the coot until it appeared to have its fill.
Peregrine Falcon post poop pose – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light, not baited
Then it pooped and a few frames later and took off to digest its breakfast high on top of a wooden pole for a bit before it flew away to the east.
Finding and photographing the surprise Peregrine Falcon with prey was one of the brightest spots of my day.
Life is good. Birds are awesome.
I noticed that the falcon has some retained juvenile feathers on the wing coverts while I was writing this post, I suspect this is a second winter bird.