Over the last couple of years some folks have realized that Peregrine Falcons are returning to the high cliffs of Devil’s Lake State Park. Pretty Amazing! Of course that means that rock climbers & hikers should be keeping an eye out for them and reporting any birds or nests they may discover on the high cliffs.
Amazingly we made our first discovery of the Peregrine this year while simply out hiking on top of Devil’s Lake’s east bluff. I looked over toward a dead tree that I know is a favorite turkey vulture roost and realized that the bird on the tree was not a vulture. So of course you run through the local inventory; “Vulture? No? Red-Tailed Hawk? Rough-legged Hawk, Osprey? Eagle?”, etc. Wouldn’t you know it, that this was one of those rare times when all I had on me was my iPhone. The zoom wasn’t much help. Still that white chest, dark head and a blueish hue, had us wondering and leaning toward Peregrine.
Returning to the same area a couple of days later (With a better camera and lens!), we were rewarded with another encounter. It was pretty amazing to find the falcon sitting up in a tree again. Normally you would expect to find peregrine sitting in the rocky cliffs where they nest… and that’s where the note to our climbers comes in.
Peregrine Falcons are listed as Endangered in Wisconsin and for the most part are nesting in tall buildings where they have been re-introduced. We should consider ourselves pretty lucky that a Peregrine has re-discovered the cliffs of Devil’s Lake State Park. However, human disturbance within the territory of a breeding pair may result in nest abandonment and/or death of any young. Also falcons are very territorial and will make full use of their razor-sharp talons in defense of their home, including attacks on humans. If rock climbers or hikers encounter any peregrines within the park, please report the sighting and the site as accurately as possible to the park’s naturalist.
By the way, the Wisconsin DNR says, “Continuing education is essential to the success of the peregrine falcon recovery effort, both through periodic program updates, public talks, and newspaper outlets.” We may want to keep this in mind as the state government debates cutting many DNR scientists & educators…