Outdoors blog: Duluth's falcons unite disparate visitors
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Peregrine falcon wrap-up in downtown Duluth
Here's the end of the season wrap-up on Duluth's peregrine falcon family. Two adults raised four young (and lost one) on a nesting box atop the Greysolon Plaza building. Julie O'Connor with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory coordinated Peregrine Watch again this summer. This is her final report:
Thanks to the generous contributions from supporters, we were able to provide another season of Peregrine Watch to passers-by in downtown Duluth. This year, funding issues forced us to cut the program by 75%, but even so, we were able to share the falcons with nearly 2,000 people. The response that people give when they look through the scope and see a falcon chick being fed by its mother is priceless!! These birds are like a jewel in the crown of Duluth, and once people take note, they can’t believe the beauty and magnificence the birds possess.
The Greysolon Plaza nestbox has produced 28 young since 2003. This year we had four chicks again. All four chicks fledged, but one didn't survive his first day away from the nest; he flew into a building and died. It’s easy to forget that these birds face the harsh struggles of being a wild animal! Though they don’t have the same struggles as birds nesting on cliffs along the North Shore of Lake Superior, or the Mississippi River bluffs in SE Minnesota, they are still animals living on the edge of survival. We hate to see them perish, but it’s better for us to know when, where and how they meet their demise than to have no information at all.
Peregrine Watch is an inspirational program for us. We often have a mix of people at our scopes that would never come together otherwise -- stock brokers and street musicians; bankers and pre-schoolers; tourists and hooligans. It’s a thrill to see them interacting about the falcons and sharing a moment of joy as the young birds practice their flight skills directly over our heads.
Peregrine Watch is described as an educational program, but it’s more than that. I get handwritten poetry handed to me about the birds; we’ve had songs sung to us about the natural beauty of Duluth; I have a falcon made from a piece of driftwood that someone shaped for me… people are connecting to these birds in ways that we can’t define! It's difficult to quantify the benefits of a program like Peregrine Watch, but we get reports, e-mails and calls from people who first encountered falcons through our program but have pursued more information on their own. We see that people DO become more aware of issues impacting nature as a result of their visit to us.
While Peregrine Watch provides education and inspiration, we have also seen a sense of dread dawn on visitors as they realize that ‘our’ birds, ALL of ‘our’ birds, in Minnesota are going to be migrating toward the Gulf of Mexico. The awful horror of the oil spill DOES affect us here in Duluth, and we've been able to help people recognize that we do have a stake in environmental issues in distant places. I hope that through Peregrine Watch, we have encouraged people to help in the cleanup effort in any way they can.
We, and 'our' falcons, are ambassadors for the natural world. We have the opportunity to tune people in and turn them on to one little piece of the magnificent puzzle that makes up 'nature'. The Greysolon Falcons have made an impact on thousands of people over the past 5 years, and I hope to someday hear that someone, somewhere, is changing the world because of the way these birds grabbed their attention.
See you in the park,