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Fri, Feb. 21

Peregrine falcon appears in Prescott

I recently had an amazing experience with nature right here at Jay's Bird Barn. I arrived at the store one morning around 7 a.m. and as I approached the storefront, I heard an unusual sound coming from behind me.

Turning around to locate the source of the sound, I saw a large bird sitting on top of the Bank of America building. Using my ever-present binoculars, I quickly discovered that what I was hearing and seeing was an adult Peregrine falcon.

I hurried into the store and grabbed a spotting scope and tripod that we have on display, and hustled across the parking lot so I could get a closer look. I walked to a point where I was perpendicular to where the falcon was sitting on the roof of the bank, and set up my gear.

With a 30-power scope, I could see every detail of this incredible bird. What added to the enjoyment of the experience was that the falcon was eating a pigeon. I watched as he plucked clusters of feathers from the pigeon, and shook his head with each mouthful to get rid of the feathers. After removing several mouthfuls of feathers, he would strip meat from his prey, before needing to remove more feathers to expose meat.

After the falcon had eaten a fair amount of the pigeon, he suddenly picked it up and took off, flying with strong, rapid wing beats headed in the direction of Thumb Butte. With my binoculars, I watched him fly away until he finally disappeared out of sight.

The whole experience left me awestruck - to think that I had just witnessed a Peregrine falcon right in the Safeway/Kmart shopping center parking lot. It was a thrilling event - it was one of those experiences that reaffirms why I enjoy the hobby of studying and watching birds so much.

I remember the first time I saw a Peregrine falcon. I was living in Tucson, and it was in the winter of 1983. I was birding in an area between the Rillito River and Interstate 10 where I had worked on a cotton farm as a teenager years earlier. The fields were now abandoned and overgrown with weeds from years of neglect.

Out of nowhere, a Peregrine falcon came barreling in, scaring up flocks of mourning doves. It was an exciting moment to see for the first time a species for which I had been searching for many years.

Reflecting on my recent experience with the Peregrine falcon here in the parking lot, I feel glad that I still get excited about seeing an uncommon bird and that I still possess the same passion and excitement for bird watching that I had when I was younger.

In the year-and-a-half that our store has been located here in the Safeway/Kmart shopping center, I have seen several different birds of prey species including red-tailed hawk, zone-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk and kestrel hawk.

It amazes me how even in a suburbanized, developed area, there are opportunities to watch and enjoy nature. It just goes to show that if you are observant, and looking for nature, chances are, you will find it.

I hope you have some of your own choice experiences with nature this week, whether it be baby quail in the yard, lesse rgoldfinches on your Russian sage, or hummingbirds at your feeders. Happy Birding!

If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301 or log onto www.jaysbirdbarn.com and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, a backyard wild bird store located in the Safeway/Kmart shopping center on Willow Creek Road. He has been an avid birder for over 40 years.

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