Any excuse to go to Duluth is good, but peregrine banding is my favorite! This year, Elizabeth, Rebekah, and Isaac joined Bob, Jeremy, and myself at Greysolon Plaza and Minnesota Power and Light's ML Hibbard plant.
We started at Greysolon Plaza, where Julie O'Conner and Crew from Hawk Ridge had spotted three babies in the box. A crew from Venture North had showed up to film the event, so we decided to band the babies inside the Greysolon Building. Bob, Jeremy, myself, Miriam, and photographer Michael Furtman went up to the roof, while everyone else stayed downstairs. This was a good thing, since Amy the falcon was in fine form. She started strafing runs almost as soon as we got up on the roof.
Bob, Jeremy, and I got the window washing rig (all the tires had air!) and pushed it over by the nestbox. Rigging up to go over a wall is a little different than rigging to go over a cliff, especially when Amy is on the attack. In this case, the anchor is set around two eyebolts attached to the rig. The rope goes straight up the middle, through a gap designed to allow it to pass. So, you set the anchor, pull the rope through, climb to the top of the rig, and attach to it to your grigri while ducking the falcon. These photographs are from Michael Furtman's excellent website. I'm going to be buying some prints.
I got all that done, and went over the wall. I'm used to having a rope bag attached to my leg, but in this case, the forward and tag ends of the rope are both going back down - one to the anchor and one to the bag, which sits on the roof. It is very, very important to make sure you have your hand on the tag end of the rope, not the anchor end. Normally, this isn't something you have to think about, since the rope bag makes it real easy to remember, and you usually have a chance to get good and on the gear before going down, and a falcon isn't attacking you while you rig. But you do have to take care here.
I position to the side of the nestbox and whap, Amy hits me. Head down and whap, Amy hits me. Quick look up to see where she is. Ah, circling back for another run. I reach in the box and grab baby one - maybe 17 to 19 days old, the perfect age for banding. Into the box she goes. Whap! Amy hits me. It's a good thing I shop at Target, since she ripped up the left shoulder on my tshirt - possibly just seconds after this photograph was taken. I love this falcon!
We also had a very nice surprise - there were four babies in the nestbox this year! After last year's experience, when all the babies but one died from Frounce, this was a great thing to see. I got all of them into our sky kennel, Jeremy and Bob pulled it up, and we took them down into the building. We were in a hurry, so Bob banded.
It was hot and we didn't want to put the babies back in the kennel, so we had some volunteers sit, with their legs in a big circle, and mind the babies. I'm not sure who the adult is. The children are Isaac and Elizabeth. Rebekah also minded a falcon, whom she nicknamed 'Screech'. Screech was the vocal one of the group. Elizabeth, my oldest, announced afterwards that she wants to begin coming with and helping. I'm glad she had fun - I'm glad everyone had fun! It was wonderful to see these healthy young peregrines. Make sure to visit Julie O'Conner at PeregrineWatch on the Lake Walk in Duluth - watching these guys learn to fly will be quite a treat!
After Greysolon, we headed for the Hibbard Plant. The kids had to stay in my van here, since this is a working power plant - not a good place for children! I parked where they could watch the action, if they liked, and we headed up. Bob's shoulder was sore from Maiden Rock, so he asked Jeremy and I to go up and band. It's maybe a 75-foot ladder climb here - not too bad - on the outside of the stack. The plant provides harnesses and fall protection, which you clip into with a dynamic lanyard. However, the drop would be roughly 8 - 10 feet on the lanyard, so I have to say that I would not want to put it to the test.
The female here is the same as last year, *Y/6. She is downright polite when compared to Amy. Jeremy got the three babies one at a time and I banded them. There were two males and one female. We did not draw blood - I've drawn twice this year (successfully, both times!) - but it was windy and I was nervous. I'm going to get a bag of needles and practice on oranges over the winter. That's how they do it in nursing school.
We got back down and that was the end of it. Total: 7 baby peregrines banded in Duluth, 1 ripped shirt, and 1 very, very good day.
Is it just me, or is it funny that the word verification to post this blog was preen.