2019 Memory Lane Countdown, #6: Falcon Carson Came Back!

It was a tough year at Great Spirit Bluff. A great horned owl killed falcon Kira on June 9 and a blackfly swarm drove falcon Carson from the nest on June 11. Our camera operators quickly found his spunky screeing self in the brush below the nest. We verified he was alright and settled down to watch as Mom Michelle and Dad Newman dropped a veritable buffet of bird parts on his head and chased away the potential predators that Carson’s dinner attracted – especially raccoons, who were probably drawn in by the smell.

Male peregrine falcons usually fledge between 38 and 40 days of age, so we expected to see Carson on or around June 21. Instead, the bluff fell silent. Where was Carson? For that matter, where was Michelle? She had tirelessly defended him after he jumped and now we weren’t seeing her at all. Was Carson okay? Was he alive? I can’t tell you how happy we were when he showed up on June 27, clinging to Great Spirit Bluff like a birdy Spiderman! We think he started his fledge from the trees below the bluff and moved downriver, with Michelle following him as he went. Where ever he had been, we were happy to have him back!

Over the next few weeks, watchers loved seeing Carson take to the skies: flying, chasing, eating, and even dancing in the rain! He dispersed in mid-August, a healthy young falcon ready for whatever life had to offer. We hope to see him again someday!


6/11/19: Carson falls from the nestboxhttps://youtu.be/-3zi2W_BR3A. It’s hard to see the blackflies here, but you can see Michelle shaking his head and twitching as they bite the exposed skin on her face. Newman flies in (no bands, pale marks on the back of his head) but is unable to help once Carson gets out of the box.

6/11/19: Raccoon checking on Carsonhttps://youtu.be/xs622ulvSrA. This was my biggest ‘No’ moment after the drop. Raccoon have been documented eating nestling peregrine falcons and Carson was so young! It’s hard to see, but here is what’s happening: at about 35 seconds, a raccoon starts checking Carson out. Carson is facing the raccoon with his back to a tangle of grapevine and greenbriar. The raccoon leaves at about 1:03, apparently deciding Carson wasn’t worth the trouble.

The tangle helped save Carson’s life. Young peregrine falcons are very light, but he didn’t have much in the way of flight feathers and would have died had he fallen on rock. Instead, he plunged into a tangle of sumac (the light green frondy plant), grapevine, honeysuckle (at left, 34 seconds), and greenbriar (lower right, 34 seconds). This saved his life and the tangle – especially the greenbriar, which is nasty stuff – may have helped deter predators. It certainly deters me!

6/13/19: Michelle Makes A Food Drophttps://youtu.be/3vssFOdApBA. We see her at 2:51 and 3:18, although you need to slow down the video to really see it! It’s an excellent look at how skillfully peregrine falcons fly – and of course we can hear Carson begging for food even from the top of the bluff.

6/15/19: Great Spirit Bluff Raccoonhttps://youtu.be/CnzFHd5cn7E. Oh no you don’t! Watch the whole video or go straight to 4:08 to see the beginning of the raccoon sequence. The falcons are diving too fast to see well even in slow motion.

6/27/19: Welcome home, Carson! https://youtu.be/VuxL-S68g9s. Falcon Carson is back!

Thanks so much to Cam Op Spish and Eaglespirit for this memory!