The Long Walk

(probably) Hercules takes flightA few weeks ago, Sean and I went down to Peoria to help his grandfather set up a new home computer network. After grandpa used it for a week, Sean and I realized there were a few more little things that needed fixing, so we decided another trip was needed. Generally, I would have gone with him, but there was little that I could actually do to help him AND peregrine season is in full swing.

Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed very early, which wasn’t so easy since I’d been up until three in the morning on Friday playing a video game. Good to know I still haven’t grown out of that. I packed all the camera gear, my binocs and some water after checking out the window to see a gloriously beautiful day dawning.

I decided to start at the top of Michigan Avenue and work my way down through the loop. I had three pairs of birds as a goal – the River Birds, The Wacker Birds and the Jail Birds.

I got off the bus at the Drake Hotel and spent some time checking the skies around the area – no peregrines. Since it was very, very early, I didn’t run into the usual throng of shoppers and tourists as I started down the avenue. To be honest, I found it sort of odd to see Michigan so deserted, but at least I wasn’t running people down constantly. That’s the risk you take when 98% of your attention is focussed way, way up.

(probably) Hercules banksAlthough I carefully scanned the skies, it wasn’t until I reached Wacker that I caught my first glimpse of a peregrine. It perched maybe 40 stories up, on top of a tower on the Prudential building. I could barely see the bird through my binoculars, so I didn’t even both taking the camera out. As I watched, it dove off the tower and veered east, disappearing behind the buildings. I spent the next hour or so wandering around the area, trying to see where it had gone. I saw it a few times, mostly sailing way up high in the sky, but didn’t get a fix on where it might be nesting, nor did I see another bird.

By this point, my neck began burning with pain, so I stopped into a small cafe for a bit of coffee and a danish. Refreshed, I reshouldered my pack and shuffled east on Wacker. At about Randolph, I saw a peregrine high in the sky. It’s proximity to the south Wacker nest led me to believe it was one of those birds, so I hurried to follow it. I got to the Sears Tower, somewhat winded, and saw it float off to the southeast. For the next hour, I followed its progress until I realized that I’d taken a rather circuitous route all the way down to the Whole Foods at Canal and Roosevelt. Pity that.

I decided to head to the MCC and walked the mile back at a slightly less jaunty pace. I have a feeling the falcons were enjoying the weather as much as me, because they all seemed oot and aboot, cruising way up in the bright blue morning sky. Nearing the MCC, I noted two birds in the airspace above and began tracking them. Upon seeing one in descent, I hurried towards the MCC. I walked the perimeter, but didn’t see a thing, so I sighed and decided to pony up the bills to buy access to the LaSalle brown line stop – the only viewing platform that allows me to see the western facing niches of the MCC.

No birds sat on the MCC ledges, but I did see one cruising up above. I watched for awhile and finally it decided to land – of course on the corner of the Monadnock building, right across from my usual viewing point on the garage top. I hurried down the stairs and across the street, but when I arrived at the garage, I found that all of the elevators were temporarily closed for inspection. Jeez.

I thought about abandoning ship and going home, but instead decided to climb up to the roof. Twelve floors couldn’t be all that bad. At about the sixth, I felt something funny happen to my right calf – it went *TWANG*.

“AAaaaaugh!” I screamed, instantly dropping to my knees. I rolled onto my back, heedless of my pack full of equipment. “Man DOWN! Man DOWN!” I cried, waving my hands and arms wildly. “Medic! Medic! Man Down!!”

I haven’t had a cramp in my calf that bad since a brutal field work season on a mountainside clearcut in the Oregon wilderness. The cramp felt like a baseball under my skin and I clawed and punched at it while writhing in agony. At last it started to diminish in size and I rolled back onto my stomach and heaved myself to my feet. I took the rest of the stairs at a snail’s pace, stopping to massage the knot at every landing.

I finally made it to the garage top and, of course, whichever jail bird had been perched on the Monadnock was long gone. I finally spotted it about three buildings away to the east and got a couple of pictures of it swooping down before I had to return home. Of course, the elevators were operating again for my ride back down.

I had a poker game scheduled to start at 3pm, so I quickly downloaded my shots in hopes that I’d have something to show for the day. Mostly, I got a lot of pictures of tiny dark specks high in the blue sky. However, I did manage to get a few of the jail bird that showed black over red on the leg band. It’s a start.

I managed to do a little more work Sunday morning, but with little to show for it. After staying up until 3am playing a video game on Friday night, I stayed up until 3am again playing poker. However, I did get 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes for my tournaments, so I made a little cashola for the ole’ lens fund.

At about 10pm, Sean returned home and even though we’d only been away from one another for the weekend, we were so excited to see each other we stayed up again, though thankfully only until about 11:30pm. As I write this on my lunch break today (Monday), I can barely stay awake.


In the immortal words of Lethal Weapon’s Murtaugh, “Sometimes I think I’m getting too old for this sh*#.”


~ by Steph on April 7, 2008.

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