Peregrine Falcon Express - Audubon Magazine 2010 Winner
After several years of observing this adult female Pergrine Falcon and just 20 minutes prior to capturing this image, I was totally enthralled as I watched her knock this Willet out of the sky with her intelligence, speed, power and coordination. The Willet fell into the ocean 100m offshore from my observation post. It was obviously stunned but still alive and unable to take flight from the surf. I immediately started to record time intervals with the camera to suppliment my written documentation of the Peregrine Falcons dives, and relentless pursuit of her downed prey.
Being completely in the moment through my binoculars and camera made my heart race. I was watching something that not many people get to see, and yet over the years I had seen this magnificent Peregrine refine her over-the-ocean prey capture technique.
On this day the surf was very big but it did not deter Her. She dove down continuously trying to retrieve the Willet. She made at least 30 attempts in between the sets of large waves, each time the Willet was able to duck under the surface of the ocean. Finally, she tired and flew to the bluff overlooking the beach and took a rest. I watched as she focused her gaze on the incoming waves and caught her breath. Then, in a flash, she launched with great purpose and intent over my shoulder to the surfline. Immediately I turned and saw the Willet, heads-up in about 4 inches of water. The surf had done it's job and brought it in to shore. Now, screaming on dry sand, the Willet was no longer able to duck the retrieval efforts of the Falcon. I captured this image just after she snatched her prize off the sand.
First Place, Audubon Magazine-Natures Best Photography 2010 photo contest. Published in the Jan/Feb issue of both Magazines. I have posted the entire sequence of this action on my website, www.sharpeyesonline.com