St. Mary’s Hospital Banding
Boy, we are on a banding streak! Today was St. Mary’s Hospital. Met with the great group of people there, including our main contact Carmelo, who I like a great deal. As Mary and Matt were setting up the banding gear, I was getting my camera gear ready so I could stay out and ID the adults while they banded.
Pretty soon we were out on the roof heading for the box in the corner. I was lead broom with Mary in the middle and Matt on bass broom. As usual, the St. Mary’s female, who the hospital calls “Mary”, was attacking from every which way. She’s one of those that will go to ground on you and take on your ankles if she can get to them. This makes her pretty unpredictable. So, as she came in low for an attack when we got halfway to the box, I happened to look to my right and ‘lo! Two chicks were cuddled in a little niche. I pointed them out quickly and Mary plucked them up and put them in the box. “Mary” (lot’s of Mary’s in this story!) laid 5 eggs this year (a cue that I’m talking about the peregrine, not my team leader), so we weren’t sure how many chicks had hatched. We thought maybe four. As we hit the next low wall, we found another chick. When we got to the box, no chick but one unhatched egg. Mary (team leader) asked Matt and I to quickly check the rest of the room in case there was one more chick. We did a thorough circuit, but the count stayed at three.
The adult male’s bands at St. Mary’s drive me crazy. The bottom red band has some sort of schmutz or corrosion or something all the way around, so the sideways “W” is impossible to read. This year, I decided to try to concentrate on the USFW band, which is virtually impossible to read unless you have the bird in hand, are about 5 feet away or have one of those extraordinarily long lenses that cost a bajillion dollars. None of these conditions existed for me when we went to band at St. Mary’s.
Unlike his mate, Neal doesn’t come close unless he is actually swooping at your head. The only time Neal gets a chance to swoop at my head is when the team is going out to the nest box and I cannot take my camera when we go to the nest because I couldn’t snap photos and man the broom to protect the team. I am just not that coordinated.
So, while Matt and Mary banded the three chicks, I stayed out on the roof to get the adult IDs. I was stuck with hundreds of far off flight shots for Neal. I did manage to get one USFW number in a flight shot. But, at some point, I was so bloody hot, I decided to go back inside for a minute to cool off. When I came back out, I noticed Neal had landed while I was gone, but didn’t catch him down.
I decided to play jack-in-the-box with Neal. I’d go inside for 5 minutes, ready myself with the camera and then pop out the door and hit the shutter button on high speed motor drive with the camera pointed in the general vicinity of where I thought he might land. I got lucky that Neal is a little OCD and landed in the same spot every time. That spot was still pretty far away, but at least I had both his legs visible for a few seconds.
Using the four shots, we were able to absolutely identify Neal as Neal.