Millennium Park Male
When late spring comes around, it’s not unusual for Whirl to invite me along on a peregrine falcon banding. I don’t work for the Field Museum. To be perfectly honest, I don’t work in science. But that being said, I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to tag along and experience what she does with the falcons firsthand. Today she took me to the Millennium Park site. The birds have nested several hundred feet up on the penthouse deck of a 30-story member of the historic Michigan Avenue street wall. The site has a commanding view of the city and Millennium and Grant Parks. Also of interest, the lobby of the building is trimmed in solid cast and green Italian bronze, with solid bronze doorways. This pair has an eye for luxury accommodations.

Whirl and I met up with Matt and Mary in the early morning and headed up to the penthouse apartment where Neal was waiting for us with his two children, Ethan and Olivia. Neal had brought his kids into the city the night before and had a sleep-over especially so they could be here to attend the banding. So after introductions and setting up the banding table, Matt, Mary and Whirl suited up in heavy clothing and helmets, armed themselves with brooms and headed out onto the deck to retrieve the chicks. Ethan and Olivia, still dressed in pajamas, stayed back with Neal and me to observe.

Pivot Dive I got on the camera and tried my hand at combat photography from the doorway as both adults immediately set upon the trio of scientists outside. Screaming, diving, strafing– the two birds seemed to be everywhere at once. Whirl makes this look easy. I assure you it is not. Fortunately, it just takes some time to get in the rhythm of what is happening and the patience to just keep shooting. As I like to joke in the era of digital photography, “film is cheap these days.”

So I kept shooting and pretty soon the team returned with four chicks, two males and two females. The banding went very well. In short order the chicks were fitted with their new jewelry, blood drawn, feather samples taken. Olivia produced an iPhone and shot some of her own stills and video of the chicks squawking inside the house.

Both kids were quite taken with the birds. They reacted with intense curiosity and a long list of very smart questions. They also helped Whirl find prey remains that were littered across the deck. From a certain point of view, aspects of studying predators can be a bit gruesome. The kids weren’t put off by any of it and stayed with us the whole time. Olivia wants to name one of the chicks, “Fluffy”. Ethan hasn’t quite decided on a name for the other one, yet.

Before too long, the team completed with the chicks and returned them outside to the scrape. The adults squawked a few more times and settled down with food for the chicks shortly after their return. They’ll be fledging before too much longer, and set out on their own lives. And then we’ll see what happens next.

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