It’s not every day that you get to see a wild Peregrine Falcon sitting just six metres away. But that was exactly what life had in store for me just a few weeks ago!
Last month I wrote about the family of Peregrines living in the Avon Gorge on the edge of Bristol, but the action died down not long afterwards. Instead of frequent breathtaking flybys, you could now spend several hours in exactly the same spot and see nothing but a distant bird in a tree. Apparently this happens every year.
And as the Peregrines become less active, so do the resident photographers. On a sunny Saturday morning in July, you might expect to easily have a couple of dozen eager people watching and waiting. The birds don’t really seem to care when they’re flying around, but any that land nearby tend to move on pretty quickly.
Fast forward a few weeks, and the crowds disappear, chit-chat replaced with peaceful birdsong. I could never begrudge spending time sitting in the sun, watching the world go by, but I certainly didn’t see many Peregrines and I wasn’t getting any good photos at all. But persistence often pays off, and one fine summer morning, I got very lucky indeed.
Every time I’ve visited this viewpoint, I’ve always walked over to investigate a known favourite perching tree, but I never found any of the Peregrines resting there. If one did land, several men running over and pointing long lenses in its direction would inevitably scare it off before long. But on this occasion, with no one else around, one of the juvenile Peregrines was willing to tolerate my presence.
I had time to play with a few different angles and managed to find a gap through the foliage to get the pleasing green blur in the shot above. In between taking each photo, I’d duck down behind a hedge to minimise any disturbance I was causing. As a result, the Peregrine stuck around for a while. When I finally walked away, the Peregrine was still scanning for prey with those intense, penetrating eyes, apparently unconcerned.
This has to rank as one of my best ever wildlife experiences. To be so close to such an impressive wild predator – one of nature’s most spectacular marvels of evolution – is a huge privilege, and something that I’m sure will stay with me for a very long time.