A Perfect Mother’s Day Weekend

Mom at the Rhododendron TreeThe year Sean and I got married, so this would be 1998, our mom’s decided to make the trip from Colorado to Chicago together to spend Mother’s Day with their offspring.

Sean and I are very, very lucky as far as parents/inlaws go. Not only are we very close to our own parents, but we both also genuinely love our inlaws – and vice versa. To top it all off, our parents also really get along with each other. Having lived on this earth now for 40 years, I have heard many horrific tales regarding inlaws from countless friends, family members and various other associates. Believe me, Sean and I know how lucky we are.

This year, mom and Suzy decided to make the trip again. It had been WAY too long. On top of general Mother’s Day celebrating, we had Suzy’s birthday to celebrate and my mom’s retirement after 30 some-odd years as an engineer for the phone company. Big stuff.

Spotting StephanieThey both live in Colorado, so they flew here together. Sadly, a few days before the trip, Sean’s mom tweaked her back, so we had to cut a few activities from the agenda to compensate. However, we did manage to spend a wonderful day at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, eat out a number of times and watch a bunch of good movies. All in all, we again had a blast and I look forward to doing it again, maybe even next year.

Suzy left on Monday to go to Peoria to see her parents for a week. Mom wasn’t due to leave until Tuesday, so I opted to take the day off for some mother-daughter time. What mother-daughter time would be complete without tracking predators of the sky, I say!

Fortunately, my mom was hip to this way of thinking. My mom is so cool.

I got some orders from Mary and this morning, mom and I were up early to begin our big day. First stop, a check on the River Birds. We got to the building at 8:30am sharp and met with the building engineer’s assistant, who took us up to the 20th floor.

I was a bit nervous about this site as we’d had some pretty heavy rains. We opened the window to the ledge and I swung my leg over the sill, expecting to be greeted by the shrill warning cries of the parents. Silence.

That’s when I saw the first egg laying, broken, in a pile of mud and goo underneath one of the downspouts. Foo. Not far from the first egg, I spotted the fragments of a second. Then, the whole, but cold remains of a third. The fourth egg was gone. I walked the ledge for awhile, carefully collecting what I could. My mom, good woman that she is, acted as egg holder, cupping the somewhat smelly remains of the eggs in her tiny hands, since I had completely spaced bringing any sort of bag. The adults were nowhere to be found, having abandoned the nest after the eggs were lost.

We made a quick trip to the museum to hand the eggs over to Mary. Like me, she wasn’t too surprised the nest had failed. The ledge, although nice and protected from wind, acted as sort of a balcony/gutter for the building. This was not the first time the River Birds had chosen a particularly wet location for the nest – not the first eggs lost to storms either.

Loyola Juvenile PreeningMom and I stopped for some breakfast and then got on the el, bound for Roger’s Park and Loyola Campus. For a couple of years, we’ve received reports of peregrine sightings on the Loyola Campus. This year, one of the museum employees (Kevin) who lives in that area called Mary to say he’d seen two peregrines up there.

He called me to give me all the info as well and so I had a nice idea where mom and I should begin looking. Kevin also told me to keep my eyes open for a family of red foxes that had a den near the lake shore. Okay!

It didn’t take us long to find one of the peregrines. It looked to be a young one right in the middle of its molt from juvenile to adult plumage.

“My goodness, it looks sort of ratty. Is it ok?” my mom asked, worried.

“Yep, just growing up!” I said.

As we watched it preened, and preened …. and preeeeened. Big fluffs of feathers and debris rained down. About an hour in, I decided to go into the building across from the ledge and see if there was a window that would allow a better view. There was, sort of. I could see the bird had black over green leg bands, but couldn’t get a vantage point close enough to read them.

Loyola Adult SoaringThe day was crystal clear, bright blue sky, full sun but DANG it was cold! When I got back to my mom, the poor woman was freezing, so we decided to walk a bit to warm up. As we came around the last building on the lake, we were met by an icy wind. An adult peregrine soared above on the currents. Ok! Two peregrines! We watched the adult land on a large admin building PERFECT for an eyrie.

For the next hour, it hunted from that spot, diving off to stoop on prey several times. Using binoculars, we could still spot the younger peregrine and could see he/she was paying absolutely no attention to the adult, nor was the adult paying any attention at all to the younger bird.

InterestedWe heard a noise behind us and turned to see two red fox kits coming up out of the rocks on the lake shore, not 15 feet behind us.

“Wow!” my mom breathed. “I guess I had no IDEA there was this much wildlife here. It never crossed my mind you’d have anything but rats and pigeons in a big urban environment like this.”

The kits watched my mom and I warily, so we slowly backed off, giving them room to roam. One of the kits went back into the den in the rocks, but the other stayed out for awhile. I got a couple of pictures, but the click of the shutter seemed to disturb the little guy, so I decided to just appreciate him with my eyes, for the most part – they almost never click.

When the second kit went back into the den, mom and I returned to falcon watching. Over the next couple of hours, we saw both birds a number of times, but there wasn’t any indication they were actually nesting anywhere. We’ll have to keep a watch – maybe next year!

By the time we headed towards home, we both felt like popsicles, but agreed the day had been PERFECT. We made a quick stop off to see Herc and Max before going home to change into our warmest sweats and drink a ton of hot tea. That sure was some memorable time with my mom and I’m glad I got the chance to share part of my job with her.

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~ by Steph on May 14, 2008.