Peregrine Falcon Shuffling the Deck

Yesterday, Ingrid and I visited Morse Mt (Seawall Beach), a nature preserve owned and managed by Bates College . . . my beloved alma mater.  When I was in college, a bunch of my friends were geology majors.  While I was writing 100 page papers and arguing the finer points of Federalist #10 . . . the geo majors were playing with rocks, taking hedonistic van trips to Arizona and hanging out at the Morse Mountain Beach . . . which in those days had a reputation for clothing optional sun bathing.

While the nudist beach is long gone, and my geologist friends are approaching retirement from mining, drilling and academia . . . Morse Mt remains pristine . . . and is a wonderful place to look for migrating shorebirds in the fall.

Yesterday we saw 300+ Sanderlings working the surf line . . .

. . .  and found a handful of other species of Sandpipers and Plovers scattered around the secluded beach (a two mile hike in and a two mile hike out).

White-rumped Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
Western Sandpiper

The highlight of the visit (since there were no naked women) was a Peregrine Falcon that kept strafing the shorebirds looking for a light snack.  The fastest animal on the planet, a diving Peregrine can hit 240 mph.

We watched this ruthless predator dive repeatedly on the flocks of feeding Sanderlings, which would spur all the birds into the air.  To avoid becoming prey, shorebirds fly synchronized and packed together . . . making it difficult for the Falcon to pick a target.

Birders refer to these repeated attacks from the air, followed by the shorebird escapes as “Shuffling the Deck.”


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