Earlier this year, my stock agent gave some suggestions of BLM lands that might be productive. My favorite spot along the Oregon Coast, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, was on this list. Thus, when I saw an article in the Statesman Journal about how there was a pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting right along the parking lot for the visitors’ center, I knew I had to get out there right away.
When I got there, it turned out the falcons had already fledged. This made the photography a little more difficult as it made the location of the falcons a little less predictable. However, it was early after fledging, so the youngsters were still entirely dependent on the adults for food. The fledglings would rest on the cliffs in the vicinity of the visitors’ center and the adults would periodically bring in gulls for them to eat.
In fact upon our arrival, within minutes we found an adult eating on a nearby cliff. He did leave within minutes, but I decided to wait around in the exact location for a little while. In under a half an hour we saw some fledglings and an adult flyby a few times. Then while watching a gull soar on the obstruction currents off the cliff we saw another bird quickly dive in and hit the gull. This contact lasted only briefly and I missed it, but prepared myself for another opportunity. The faster bird wheeled around and dove in again on the gull. Everything was happening so fast, that I wasn’t sure what was going on, or if this faster bird was a Peregrine. However, given the situation with the fledglings needing so much food and the family not venturing far from this location, I thought it was a good bet that this was one of the adult falcons trying to catch a meal. Thus, I swung my 400mm f/2.8 with a 2x extender on it around, focused on whatever it was that was going on, and held the shutter release down at my 1dMkIII’s highest frame rate.
It was only after it was all over and I did some chimping on the view screen that I saw that this was indeed a death struggle between an adult Peregrine Falcon and a fledgling Western Gull. The falcon had the gull by the neck but the gull was still conscious and struggling trying to bite the falcon. The falcon for its part was trying to bite the gull near the brain stem.
This first experience of the shoot was the most exciting, but the next two days were all good.