Being in the right place at the right time is getting easier to do at the NJ Meadowlands. While peering over the boardwalk railing to look at a group of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (one of the Sanderlings), the birds suddenly spooked and scattered. I looked up to see the dark shape of a Peregrine Falcon arrowing through the flock. It missed its target but swooped around for another pass. From the opposite direction, a second Peregrine zoomed in to challenge the first and I found myself in the middle of the Falcon Wars! There was no time to grab the camera; I just stood there with my mouth hanging open and watched these miniature fighter jets battle over territory.
A few hours later, I had called it a day and was putting my gear away when Rob Fanning, famous in these here parts for his extraordinary birding skills, strode past my car and said, “There’s a Wilson’s Phalarope by the pavilion! I’m on my way back there now!”
There was nothing else to do but pull my gear out again, sling it over my shoulders and trot after Rob.
This bird (left of top photo) is in winter plumage but distinguishable from its companion yellowlegs (right side of top photo). It is about 7.5 inches long with a thin, straight bill much longer than its head. Breast and belly are snow white. Its distinctive hunting habit involves spinning in tight circles to draw food into the vortex. Fascinating to watch and amazing how the species evolved to figure this out (can the manipulation of water be considered using a tool)?
This bird’s home is the prairie wetlands of the northern US or southern Canada. It is on its way to its winter quarters in southern South America so the mudflats that can be found in the NJ Meadowlands are crucial feeding stops to fuel its incredible journey. I wish them good hunting, and safe home. Watch out for hungry falcons.