Tuesday, April 19, 2005

20 June 2002, in memoriam, Bess

(originally posted 12 April 2005)

It was sunny and windy, as it always is at Redwood Shores in this
season. I'd come to Oracle to see how the young peregrines were doing. Arthur, Amelia and Bess, this season's eyases from Sadie and Jimbo, were beginning to fledge. When I arrived, Glenn Stewart of Santa Cruz Predatory Birds Research Group told me that Bess had flown her way (or fluttered, more like) into the garage. In this dark and unnaturally confined area she could easily get confused or even hit by a car. Fortunately he was able to catch her and place her in a pet carrier to bring her back up to the roof of the building where the nest box was located.

I begged to come along, and we took the elevator up, then a set of stairs to access the roof. This led into a room with some grating, and I could see Sadie flying circles around it, screaming at the
intruders. We tried to do it as quickly as possible: opened the door to the roof a crack, opened the door to the pet carrier. As soon as Bess bounced out, we closed the door and hustled out. Got into the elevator, feeling good that she was back up where she belonged.

When the elevators opened on the first floor, we sensed something was wrong. Everyone was looking at the floor. Someone took Glen's elbow, and he told me to wait where I was. After a half a minute I went outside to the side of the building where Glen had gone. He had gathered Bess's body in a towel and stood mutely for a moment, looking incredibly sad. In those moments while we were in the elevator, Bess had hopped to the edge of the building, and was caught by a gust.
Flipping over and putting her wings out was a reaction of a bird experienced with flight – but this, she was not. Witnesses said she tried to grab the building with her feet. I felt awful, like my
presence had somehow jinxed the situation.

Bess's brother Arthur fledged successfully, and this morning, two new eyases have hatched on the PG&E building. But the thought of Bess tumbling off the building is going to stay with me a long time, as it has as I write this today, almost three years later.

link to falconcam of George, Gracie and four eyases on the PG&E building in San Francisco:

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