After reading Frank’s account of finding the two kestrel nests I thought your readers would be interested in a remarkable observation I made in the Yorkshire Dales this year while cycling off road. The incident took place at the end of April when together with my cousin we had taken our mountain bikes over remote moorland in the Dales.
Image by: Alan Procter
At first riding our bikes was not too difficult because much of the heather had been replaced in many areas by grass and we were able to ride along sheep tracks as we went along. Towards lunchtime we came across a stream which we decided to follow which appeared to enter a narrow gully at the top of the moor. We were eventually forced to dismount as we entered a narrow gully with a rocky outcrop on our left side and an almost vertical grassy bank on our right. As we carefully made our way along the right hand side of the stream passing below the rocks on our left we heard an unusual muffled noise close by which made my cousin and I jump in fright. At first we could see nothing unusual, nor could we make out where the source of the noise had originated.
Coming quickly to my senses I looked up the gully and was astonished to see just 10 yards in front of me a peregrine falcon sat on the grass just a few feet from the edge of the stream. The bird made no sound and just sat on the grass as shocked as we were staring at both of us with its beak wide open. We realised the bird was a peregrine falcon and must have flapped off the rocky outcrop to our left and down the face of the rocks before landing with a heavy thud on the ground just in front of us.. The sound we had heard must have been made by the bird’s wing feathers hitting the rocks as it plummeted to the ground as it attempted to steady itself.
The first thing that entered my mind was perhaps the peregrine was injured and could not fly. After placing our cycles down I moved slowly (camera in hand) forward towards the falcon to see if I could catch it. As soon as I moved the falcon ran and flapped further up the gully with first one then the other wing touching the ground attempting, I thought, to steady itself as it gained some speed. After this performance had been repeated several times it became clear after the falcon had taken flight it had not been injured at all.
What my cousin and I had both witnessing was astonishing; the peregrine had simply adopted behaviour used by other breeding birds to lure predators away from their nest. Within seconds of flying out of the gully the single falcon had been joined by a second smaller falcon over head. By this time both perergines were now calling loudly in the sky watching our every move. Realising our unwanted presence close to a possible active peregrine nest was causing distress, we decided it would be wise to reverse our journey as quickly as possible out of the narrow gully and back over the moor leaving both falcons to get on with their life.
Throughout this cat and mouse chase I succeeded in taking a quick single photograph of the perched falcon in front of me using 40 mm lens. Anyone who is knowledgeable with cameras and the focal length of any lens they use will realise the falcon was very close, very close indeed.
A chance in a lifetime encounter, an experience we will not forget. Thanks Raptor Politics for this chance to share our wonderful experience with others.
Alan Procter & Bill Jackson