Meeting Tim Cunningham and St. Michael’s Church

St. Michael's ChurchSean and I got home very late on last night, so I didn’t go over to check things out at the MCC. I got a quick note from Dan saying three chicks were still on the ledge and that he hadn’t seen the male. I bet the little guy is just fine.

Mary came to get me as soon as I walked into my office. “One of the St. Michael’s Church chicks grounded this morning. Want to come with me?”

Quickly, I packed my things up and followed her out the door. St. Michael’s Church is in Old Town, in the north part of the city. I’d never seen this particular area – very beautiful. A woman who watches the St. Michael’s birds had rescued the downed chick and had it at her house. We picked the chick up and after peeking into the carrier quickly, felt sure it was just fine.

Peregrine Perching on St. MichaelMary told the woman that we’d take it over to the zoo vet just to make sure, but thought we’d be back pretty soon to re-release it. And that is precisely what happened. Within a half hour, we pulled into the parking lot of St. Michael’s Church – beautiful.

The priest took us up to the top floor of the Rectory, which stood across the street from the church. He produced a ladder and Mary climbed up through a trapdoor in the ceiling, pushing another open as she got into the attic. I followed, lifting the pet carrier up through the small space to her. She dumped the chick out onto the roof and closed the trap door quickly, so it wouldn’t accidentally fall back in.

Nap on St. MikeBack out in the parking lot, we stood and talked to the falcon rescuer, Dawn. She was a very, very nice woman who had been watching this particular nest for years. I snapped a few pictures of the parents. The nest is behind the main statue of St. Michael, so often, the falcons perch on his head. I thought that was sort of neat.

After I got back, I had some meetings and then spent a lot of time on the phone, then answering email and then generally catching up after being away. I had two notable phone calls. One was from a man who works on the 15th floor of the Monadnock named Tim Cunningham. He had seen me out on the garage top watching something through a scope and then taking pictures and finally gotten curious enough to investigate. He met the falcons and fell in love.

Noticing my field museum gear, he called here and they patched him through to Mary who patched him through to me. We had a very nice chat and promised to meet in person soon – either I could come up to his office or he’d come down sometime when he saw me down there. I’m looking forward to that!

Peregrine Falcon on St. Michael's ChurchThe other call was to a man named Jim Robison, who is the gentleman responsible for putting the nesting box up on Peoria’s Associated Bank. Jim is an artist and his stuff is amazing. He is also a falconer. He told me all about this years Peoria Peregrines. Turns out, birders spotted the peregrines in the winter of 2005. A juvenile female began hunting from a 6th floor window ledge on the Caterpillar building. Every evening, she would go to the top of the Associated Bank Building to roost. Jim and friends then began seeing an adult male in the same area. Jim made friends with the Associated Bank building people and they generously allowed him to put a nest box on the top floor’s ledge. He put it out on the ledge in May on the side facing the river. Very soon after, both peregrines started sitting on top of the box regularly. Sadly, the female left a week after they started perching there and within days, the male was also gone.

In early June, another pair discovered the box. They regularly went in and out of the box, but left after awhile. There was no sign of eggshells in the box but they had made a scrape (a peregrine nest made of small pebbles). I asked him about leg bands and he said that he hadn’t gotten a clear look. He thought the right leg of the male was silver and the left was purple over green. It is likely that it is black over green and the black has just faded a bit. Anyway, we can all hope that they come back next year and nest. We’ll certainly keep in contact with Mr. Robison!

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~ by Steph on June 15, 2006.