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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Tiercel Attack Fri 14th Mar 08

Female Peregrine in the oak tree's above the quarry face.

tiercel on the wing (Above) The mist covered wooded slopes of the gorge (below)

On Friday I picked up Joe from school, I had taken the majority of the day off anyway . Walking back Joe asked if we could go and see the peregrines at plym-bridge. We usually take a trip or three! every year to see how they are getting on and its a really easy place to watch them from. A few years ago now, the pair that were resident were poisoned. So the National trust who own the land provided a watch point, surveillance camera's were put in and linked to a web site .This has been well publicised since and every year a host of volunteers watch the site and talk to the public about the peregrines. The weather wasn't great most of the day but seemed to have lifted and we still had a few hours of light on our side. With this unexpected request my pace quickened and Joe was home, changed,gear was packed, food supplied and we were off. I am loving this interest Joe has at the moment in everything Birds! and Drawing, I am just waiting for the bubble to pop. For now though it is great to see his enthusiasm for it all. I probably went a little overboard on the equipment side of things . Two camera's, two scopes, sketchpads, pencils , tripod and ergo rest for the other scope. oh and my bino's. I probably looked like a Marine with a huge back pack dragging his son on a yomp! Joe had his little ruck sack of food supplies so I didn't burden him with any extra. Don't know what time we got to the viewing platform but the national trust guy was leaving and there was only one other person there watching the quarry. One lady on the way up informed us that the tiercel was in the valley one side and the female on the quarry face. We soon had scopes out and bino's scanning the face of the cliff for her. I was too slow with the camera when the tiercel passed low over us and headed into the quarry and settled onto one of the many oaks that grow around the edges of the quarry. I did get some shots eventually of the female using my digiscoping set up but its real fiddly and I don't practice enough with it. The distance from the viaduct to the face is considerable too so results will never be great, but enough for me. The biggest problem was light, it was damp misty and cloudy but we were here now and I made the best of a bad situation. My main concern was keeping Joe interested by making sure the scope was trained on the falcons at various times. The tiercel disappeared for a time and I never saw him slip away and we had a long wait being frustrated by the multitude of wood pigeons that look remarkably like a tiercel when they come whizzing in to roost amongst the trees in the gorge. To Joe's credit he saw the little chap return and we watched him swing back up into the quarry but empty handed food wise. He then left the face again flying towards and above us I again didn't have the camera ready in time and as he passed above us heading down river he flipped over and went into a pumping stoop straight at us!! My first thought was he was pissed at our presence but soon realized his intent when he shot passed us within feet . I could have reached out and touched him. He hurtled on down into the gorge below aiming for the river below, as I started to lose sight of him against the mist covered river below he shot out of the gloom upwards and started to climb passing us on our left. I then heard the agitated chattering of ducks below from where he pulled out of his stoop. He must have clocked them flying upstream and used the viaduct and his height as a blind to launch an attack from. It was a fantastic experience to have him shoot past pumping his wings all the way down his stoop only closing up occasionally into the classic teardrop. whoow that was class!!! I said to Joe , in typical fashion Joe just said yeah pretty cool . I think he was impressed really as he said can we come tomorrow dad?My sketches from memory of the experience , The images will be etched forever in my memory too such experiences are what life should be about.

A photo below by Dave Scott which shows our location on the viaduct this photo was taken in the Autumn. I have added diagrams to show trajectory of the tiercel in relation to our position. I managed to get a couple of shots of the tiercel as he came in one last time to the rock face but with the light deteriorating fast and Joe starting to get cold I decided we should move off home. The only one of us to get some drawing done in the field was Joe, while I fiddled around trying to get the other scope set up with the digital camera he sat there quietly sketching peregrines! I wondered to myself who was the real artist here? ! Joe looked cold so I took off my hoody and made him put it on, it absolutely drowned him and he looked like a jouwa one of those little creature that collect scrap on the star wars movies! But he never moaned so he must of been cold. He bombarded me with questions all the way back to the truck so he must have been ok. The next day I like to think I have redeemed my lack of field work by drawing what I saw from memory . Such a close encounter can burn onto your memory permanently!I think we might be back here real soon. Joe's drawings below some of which were done on location.


On-firecrest said...

Thanks for posting that Andy, that's an inspiring write up and some fantastic sketches! It must've been really exciting for Joe!

Andy Ellis said...

Steve, thankyou for your comment. Joe did say to me the day after
how he loved it when the peregrine
dived at us! so I think yes he did
enjoy it. We will be going back real soon.

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