Surprise Peregrine Falcon With Prey On A Brisk Winter Morning

/, Peregrine Falcons, Salt Lake County, Utah/Surprise Peregrine Falcon With Prey On A Brisk Winter Morning

Peregrine Falcon with prey on frosty grassPeregrine 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 CootPeregrine 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 preyPeregrine 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 eyePeregrine 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 flyingPeregrine 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 billPeregrine 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 CootPeregrine 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 preyPeregrine 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 posePeregrine 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.

Mia

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.

12 Comments

  1. Pepe Forte January 7, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    What a truly stunning set of images! The detail of the Peregrine contrasted against the muted winter background…is just wonderful. Thanks Mia.

  2. suzanne Mcdougal January 6, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Gorgeous contrast and amazeballs find. Peregrines are like four leaf clovers:)

  3. medfair January 5, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Beautiful bird, excellent pics. Chapeau!

  4. Elephants Child January 5, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    What a turn-around for your day.
    A truly beautiful bird – and captures.

  5. Ken Schneider January 5, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Great luck, and those photos are tack sharp!

  6. Laura Culley January 5, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Exquisite!

  7. April Olson January 5, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Beautiful photos, wonderful find. I hope you see her again.

  8. Glen A. Fox January 5, 2018 at 9:37 am

    A great series Mia. Its nice to have the bird against a light-coloured background. Beautiful bird and from many angles. Thank you for sharing this!
    Happy New Year. Glen Fox up in very cold Canada

  9. Patty Chadwick one of my favorite birds January 5, 2018 at 8:42 am

    This is quite the series!!! Amazing detail!!! That grass is incredibly frosty…makes me cold just to look at it…
    You must have frozen your fingers getting those shots…I think you ‘ve got to be NUTS!!!!

  10. Kim January 5, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Stunning images!

  11. Marie Read January 5, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Very cool!

  12. Ian Holland January 5, 2018 at 7:25 am

    Fantastic captures! If only I was half as good as you…

Comments are closed.