Readers’ wildlife photos

Well, the paucity of submissions means that I’ll have to eliminate the feature of this site unless some readers start coughing up photos. It’s sad, as this feature has been going some time. I don’t ask for dosh, but can I ask for photos?

As we wend down to nothingness, we at least have a good series of photos today, some peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) from reader Tom Carrolan, whose notes are indented:

While I have handled a few and seen thousand of these birds during migration, imagining them in flight is difficult. I have seen a hundred Peregrines in a day on many occasions; two hundred a few times; and three hundred once—all in Fall migration.

Here’s one in hand at a Cape May NJ banding station. At first the banders thought they have captured the site’s first adult bird. But close inspection shows many juvenile feathers retained. Head on we see what looks like an adult bird, revealed in hand and flight by the full facemask, dark forehead and white breast. In flight, and even high up, the adults show this peeled ‘ear of corn’ white breast look. [Cape May NJ 1991; from 35mm transparency]
But from the flip side, we see a mix of tail feathers. The blue ones are adult feather types, while the brown ones are young feathers. On our hawks as with this parrot relative, the central feathers are the first to drop as a new one pushes out. The adult back back and wing feathers are the same blue as the tail. Here we see some blue and some brown flight feathers and a lot of brown on the back. Maybe next Summer. [Cape May NJ 1991; from 35mm transparency]
Here’s an adult Peregrine — two images of the same bird. On the left we see the classic facial sideburns and a continuing dark helmet along the crown. We see the adult ‘ear of corn’ look of the white upper chest, set off by the adult barred plumage of the rest of the breast and belly. We have three common Falcon species in the Northeast — American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine — all are seen at hawk migration sites and giving beginning and intermediate observers fits at a distance and/or high up. From the wrist to the wingtip — the hand of the bird — Peregrine hands are very long… and a key ID point on distant/high birds. On the right we see that impossibly long hand and get a better look at the black markings behind the eye out onto the neck. [Lake Ontario Spring migration, 13 May 2011]
 Here’s a Peregrine Falcon being pursued by a Cooper’s Hawk. Both are young birds. Both species are IDd by experienced observers by their long hands (primary feathers beyond the wrist). The young Coop also shows a long tail and nice head extension.[Lake Ontario Spring migration, 2 April 2018]
Here’s a close view of a juvenile Peregrine. Also a low bird… not that common a flightline. The body is dark including the breast and throat… so no ‘ear of corn’ look. While the facial sideburn is present, it doesn’t show a black area behind the eye: we see a checkered pattern. Likely hatched the previous Summer, this dark a bird is possibly an offspring of the old Peregrine reintroduction efforts of the 70s. As those birds were of the western North America bloodlines. Arctic Peregrine juveniles are paler than this bird. [Lake Ontario Spring migration, 30 May 2018]
Here’s a test Peregrine. Quite high, but notice the very long hand — primary feather set. Also notice that the body and the tail appear as one piece. It is sometimes said that Peregrines and Northern Goshawks have a stovepipe tail shape… as wide as the base of the body. [Lake Ontario Fall migration, 16 September 2013]


  1. CAS
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Sorry about not sending in photos, since I like these posts. I have some photos of the heaviest of all water birds (Trumpeter Swans) that I’ll send in the next few days. I finally got some shots of cygnets which normally are kept well out of sight. These swans are very aggressive in protection of their young and have been known to kill raccoons and foxes.

  2. Terry Sheldon
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Fascinating photos and data. Thanks!

  3. Posted October 25, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Some of us are intimidated by the high quality fo the photos that you do show…

    • Christopher
      Posted October 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Yep, that goes for me too. I only have an iPhone and I never go anywhere interesting so I’ve stopped even attempting sending in my pics. Sorry.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted October 25, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      That is my problem too. I have a couple of sets that I will send in the next few days, and take the risk of rejection for rubbish quality.

  4. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Marvelous pictures! And the documentation about Perigrines was very interesting.

  5. Orange G
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    How best to submit?

    • SnowyOwl
      Posted October 25, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Email to Jerry Coyne… he says, if you search you will find it!?

      • Orange G
        Posted October 25, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. Pretty sure I have his email. While I’m here, I’ll just say I’m a big fan of this feature and many of the regular contributors, in particular Stephen Barnard.

  6. Joe Dickinson
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps you can continue this as an intermittent feature if not daily. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to share some of my photos with a larger audience than my family and Facebook friends. Meanwhile, I’ll go again to my “archives” and see if there are some worthwhile photos not yet submitted.

  7. Steven Hill
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I have lots of photos from a safari in South Africa ten years ago but I won’t be able to identify many of the species.

    To JAC: What is your preferred resolution? I can save you the trouble of downsizing the photos.

  8. Diane G
    Posted October 29, 2018 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Great pics & notes, Tom–thanks! Saving this to my bird ID file. First I’d heard of the long hand and the “ear of corn”. 🙂

  9. Posted November 3, 2018 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous tail!

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