Friday, August 14, 2009

Fading Light

About a month ago, Early and Lexi were chasing each other and Early made an error and flew right into one of the windows of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. It scared everyone and it was loud. He fell into the scallops below the window but was up and flying shortly and seem to recover just fine. Several evenings over the next few weeks, the watchers said you could see the 'smudge' from where he hit the window just as the sun set and the light hit that pane of glass. I wasn't there to see it but last night I spent one last evening to hang out and hope for a glimpse of the kids and adults on Temple Square. It was cloudy but with some breaks of sun. I waited for that magic hour to see if I could get a shot of the smudge as the sun set. Nope. Couldn't catch a thing - from outside.

So I decided to go up to that floor of the building and get some photos of the grounds to show you; give you a flavor of the gardens, fountains and buildings. I walked to the observation area and took a couple photos. I then tried to figure out where that pane of glass might be with Early's smudge. Forgive me please, I couldn't resist. I entered an area that was off limits to the public. Really just a conference room. And there it was. What was to be my last photo of this season and a fitting goodbye to Early and Lexi.

Early's Smudge

Come dance with the west wind,
And touch all the mountain tops,
Sail o'er the canyons, and up to the stars,
And reach for the heavens,
and hope for the future,
And all that we can be, not what we are.
— John Denver

Northeast view from JSMB (really I am just above and right of the nest box). Both Early and Lexi made their first flight out of the nest box down to the gardens just below.

Some Final Thoughts
Bob Walters (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources) and I sat together last night watching one last time in hopes of seeing Early and Lexi. Around 9:00 we saw an adult fly off the COB going south. It then returned and seem to 'put in' for the night on the west shoulder. Soon after, Bob spotted another adult on the north face of the building up next to one of the copper window frames. No kids sighted anywhere. As the sky darkened we chatted about this season of watching the young-of-the-year. I was a little sad actually. I've enjoyed the time sitting in the beautiful gardens feeling the warm breezes and watching the skies for flights. I told Bob I was feeling sad it was over.

Bob responded that he is just grateful this year turned out so well. Some years he's seen birds break a wing or a neck flying into a building. There have been years that eggs didn't hatch or the horrible disaster of 2008 when all the eyases died a few days after hatching. We should be very happy with this year's outcome - it is, afterall, the best we can hope for he said. "It's really not our show - it's theirs."

'See' you all next Spring.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


August 5 - I received this note:

I went down to the square last night, around 8:55PM

We observed an adult on the office building, south eastern-most corner on the low shoulder, which seems to be a typical roost for the mother falcon. She disappeared shortly thereafter.

We walked into the square from the east, and then observed an adult falcon in the Low corner, south facing west side shoulder of the office building, which is where the adult tercel has been seen many times at dusk.

We then circled around the office building to north temple, and walked east on the north side of the road, and did observe the two kids sitting in the breezeways on the north face of the office building, both on the west side of the north face, one at 4 slots down, the other at 13 slots down, both in exactly the same spot (lower left hand corner of the slot).

We did not see any flying or crying, but saw at least 3 of the birds on the office building at one time.


Then this note from Bob Walters:

I found both adults on the evening of Friday, August 7 on the "shoulder" of the eastface of the tall COB and a short time later one of the pair on the "shoulder" on thesoutheast corner of the tall COB ... but no young-of-the-year.

August 11
Karl Wall reported that he searched in the usual places in the downtown area today(<4:26>Note: I will be spending Thursday night at the Temple grounds. If I don't see anything, I will write my final post on Friday and share some observations from the year of being a Towel person watching the falcons.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

July 31

When I leave for work each morning, I am weighted down with not only my purse and my gym bag, I now drag along clothes and my camera bag so that I can stay after work and watch the falcons. Its ridiculous how much stuff I carry around. So on Friday I had no plan to stay after work and left my camera behind to lighten my load. Big mistake. As I was driving home, I spotted a falcon on the ledge of the Utah One building right where that leftover meal from earlier in the week was still sitting.

My curiosity got the better of me, so I parked and walked over the the Walker building and took the elevator up to my perch on the 9th floor to get a better look. Sure enough, there was an adult picking at the carcass and just as I pulled out my binoculars the carcass fell off the ledge. It fell about 15 stories and landed on the sidewalk just missing a woman walking in her cute summer outfit and her high heels. Wow, I wished I had my camera. She stopped about 10 feet a way, looked at the dead bird, looked up in the sky, then looked at the bird again, then walked by. Woo wee. I raced down to the sidewalk and across the street to take a look. A headless, bodyless, pigeon as best I could tell. Kind of smelled bad too. I went back to my car, got a plastic bag, and picked up the remains and threw it in the nearest trash can (at the Carl's Jr.) Fun times in the life of a falcon 'watcher'.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Tonight I drove back south the few blocks to the One Utah Center building. I was sure I had seen adults on the building earlier in the day when I drove to work. There was a music fest going on at Gallivan Plaza. Rather loud and metallic. But I spotted both parents perched on the two skyscrapers in the right of this photo. Dad on the far blue building, Mom on the near tan building.

I rode the elevator up in the building just across. I was able to get just to the 9th floor but got a fairly good shot of this bird which I believe is the adult female.

Cropped a little closer. I also spotted another adult just one skyscraper south.

Fairly sure this is the adult male. You can click on any of these photos to get a larger image.
Another shot of the female. Quite fluffy.

I then drove up closer to where the kids were. Susan said they were putting on a great show on the north side of the church office building (28 story). Lexi is perched on the very top corner under the lamp. Early under.

Cropped a little closer.

In this shot, Early is perched on the crack just below Lexi.

Starting with this image, I am uploading the full size photos. When you click on these you should get a really large image and more detail.

Susan said Early was trying repeatedly to get Lexi to fly with him. He made several great flights around and around the building, coming back to land just below Lexi.

Lexi, then moved over a bit but didn't fly. Early keeps up the pestering.

And then Lexi joins in.

Be sure to click on the photos.

A very fast stoop. Then the light got too dim. Be back Monday.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 29 - Is Lexi Really a Female?

Before I post any pictures from my visit on the 28th, here are a couple more shots from a week ago. Here is Lexi sitting atop the building on the southwest corner of Main and South Temple.

As I was going back through my photos, I found this one. I believe this is Early (top), Lexi and then an adult in the distance. This was just before the food handoff. I could be wrong - possibly a pigeon in the distance?

On Tuesday night, 28th, I arrived about 5:30 pm and was unable to spot any of the falcons. Lunchtime of the same day, same thing - no sightings. Bob arrived about 5:45 and said he spotted Lexi up on the Temple but he was tucked back. Bob left for a meeting but before he could get off the Temple grounds, Lexi took off heading south and then west. Within a few minutes Lexi was back with Early. Lately, Early seems to be nowhere and then suddenly appears after Lexi flies off. We have no clue where Early is hanging out during the day but seems to return to the home grounds at dinnertime. We also had not been seeing parents together. Mostly we had been seeing the adult male coming in to drop off food.

After Bob left, Karl arrived to help watch. He told that the parents had been spotted Monday night sitting on a building that is a few blocks south of the Temple grounds, called One Utah Center. There was confirmation that while they were spotted there, the two kids were flying around near the Church Office Building. I determined to visit One Utah Center soon so I could try to get some photos of the adults. Karl also said that kids could be seen flying south, maybe to that building, then returning very soon after (also on Monday night).

A few other watchers arrived and very soon after there was a fly in by both adults, a meal handoff and a lot of sqwauking (presumably because Lexi didn't want to share her meal with Early and was warning him off). There has been growning suspicion that Lexi, who was thought to be a female while she was still in the nest, (then was identified as a male upon tagging) is actually a female after all. I was told that she/he is displaying plumage that is more identifiable as a female, like the dark bars showing in the second picture below.

Here are some shots of Lexi in the spot where she ate her meal.

This is Lexi, I believe, just about 9:15 when I was getting ready to leave for the night. Early was not seen much during that hour or so while Lexi was eating. Parents disappeared too. As I was driving off, Karl radioed that the two kids were put on a spectacular flying show just over their heads. Sorry I missed it.

July 30, last night, I headed down to park closer to One Utah Center in hopes of seeing the parents and maybe kids flying around their new spot. I parked my car 2 blocks away and walked over, finding an office building across from One Utah, then took the elevator as high as I could get (10th floor). I had seen something along a ledge that I thought might be one of the kids resting. As I got closer and zoomed in, it appeared to be something dead, I pressume a pigeon, and maybe its a meal that was left there for later?

Sorry, kind of gross. Looks like intestines hanging down.

I have a whole string of flying pictures that I will post later today. They are from a last week but they are so great, I just have to put more of them up. I am on duty tonight as well, so there should be more pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Last night I spent a few hours at Falcon Central. The photo above is for those of you who have never been to Temple Square (the grounds where the headquarters (COB), Tabernacle, Temple, Joseph Smith Memorial Building (JSMB) and Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) is located. Its a huge area with business skyscrapers to the south and homes and apartments to the north. This view may give you a bit of an idea of height and buildings where the falcons are nesting and flying. The building on the left is the JSMB and looking south you can see the Zions Bank building just behind it and to the right is the Key Bank building. You can also see a large oval reflecting pool at the bottom of the picture. The Temple, where the kids have spent much time, is just to the right in this photo.

(Note: you can click on any picture to enlarge it)
I found June sitting in a shady spot on the grass and she said that she hadn't seen much of the birds since she arrived. It seemed odd not to find any of them on the JSMB or Temple. I walked down to the south end of the reflecting pool to see if I could see them on the south side of the Temple or on the skyscrapers. Sure enough I saw Lexi atop the Key Bank building and soon after Early flew by. The two of them took to the skies just above the Key Bank and flew large circles together over and over and over.

They were putting on such a great show and I was able to get fairly clear pictures. Which means, I am going to post ALOT of photos today. Who knows how many more opportunities I will get since they seem to be straying a little bit farther from their normal hangouts.

Here's a closeup of the photo above. In most photos you can see a darker and lighter bird. Lexi is darker than Early. So in this photo, Lexi on the left, Early on the right.

The show finally ended with Lexi landing on the Key Bank and Early on the Zions Bank buildings.

Sometime around 7pm, a parent flew into view because Early left Zions Bank and flew over to the COB to accept a dinner handoff (we believe). He screamed and sqwauked as he flew there which seems to happen whenever a parent is in sight. They still depend on the parents for food. He took the meal back to the Zions Bank building and soon after Lexi joined him. This photo combined with the photo of the buildings in the distance gives you an idea of how far they were from us.

Here's a closer view. They just finished eating. They sat up there for another hour before making way over to the Temple.

Lexi on left, Early on right - Lexi with the darker cap.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thursday, July 16
Its been very hot this past week and the watch group has taken to coming to the grounds early in the morning or after 6pm to avoid some of the heat. But even at 6pm it feels like a furnace. The high on Thursday was 96 and the temp was expected to mount to 99 Friday and 104 Saturday. With these hot temps, falcon flights are lower especially in the mid day. I arrived on Thursday night to loud sqwauking that could be heard clear across the grounds to State Street. Both kids were hanging out on the east side of the Temple calling for dinner, avoiding the sun. Parents were no where to be seen.

A few short flights over to the JSMB and a few high fliers to the COB but it was fairly quiet. Dad landed on the SE corner of the COB about 7pm and then stayed there until I could no longer see because of dark, around 9:45p. Mom appeared with dinner and attempted a hand off to Early, but he dropped the prey (which later we confirmed flew away!).

Here is Early sitting in the sun hoping for dinner.

Lexi made a great landing on this Temple 'pineapple' where he stayed for a good 30 minutes.

After the failed attempt at the prey handoff, the kids found another carcass, we assume was from a meal the day before, and spent time sharing that. They stay on the Administration building until about 9:30, when they finally moved over to the JSMB to most likely stay the night.

Friday, July 17
Our group of watchers is dwindling more and more each day. I haven't been there much since Thursday. I attended a Tabernacle Choir concert on Friday night which took me to the grounds around 6:30. There were some flights but the best show was after the concert. We were walking on North Temple, just north of the grounds where the kids mostly fly. It was close to 9:30p and Early and Lexi were swooping just above the heads of the crowd exiting the concert. I saw them playing a great game of tag, looking very agile.

Monday, July 20
I took some time to walk over to the grounds at lunch and saw one of the kids sitting on the JSMB. I am assuming it was Lexi and Early was off somewhere. No sign of him on the grounds. Lexi seems to have recovered somewhat from his encounter with the antenna but still seems to stick close to 'home'. I will try to spend time tomorrow night and report in on Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15

I have been gone a whole week and worried that all the Falcons would have left the area. I dropped by Falcon Central about 1:30 and found no watchers and no falcons. I felt very sad. Like I missed the show.

I stopped again after work and heard the familiar screeching of Early and Lexi from the Temple. Sure enough they were both sitting on the center granite tower, I am sure demanding their dinner. I saw no parents around. I called Bob Walters on his phone. I was going to report what I was seeing because I was under the impression that no watchers were coming anymore. But Bob and June were on the grounds and when I caught up with them they related a story of a possible injury to Lexi on Monday night. Apparently Lexi tried to land on the antenna on the to9p of the church office building and apparently bumped it or fell off. But there was much worry over the last two days that Lexi was injured. Up to that point there was a lot of soaring high over the buildings, playing together. But after Monday night it seemed that both were sticking close to the JSMB and Temple buildings.

As we watched tonight, though, both birds took off from the Temple and again began soaring high, both landing up on the observation deck of the COB. Apparntly Lexi is feeling better. When I left, Early had flown east and Lexi still sat atop the COB. I will be back tomorrow night for a full njight of watching. Hoping to have pictures for you then.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 7

Life is interupting my visits to Falcon Central. But I did make it there on Tuesday evening. There was much excitement as Early and Lexi made a grand effort to fly to the top of the 28 story Church Office Building (COB) about 8 pm. When I arrived both kids were making small flights from the JSMB to the Temple. It was very hot still, probably 90 degrees, kids were in the shade but were vocalizing, calling for dinner, as they hadn't eaten anything all day, according to Bob Walters.

The parents perched themselves on the two south corners of the COB and stayed there. The kids were getting nowhere with their requests for food. It seemed to us humans, that the parents were trying to get them to fly up to the top of the building. Why else would they sit up there for so long and let the kids suffer!

(Click picture to enlarge. Here is Early on the rail after he made his landing)

Well if that was the intent it worked. Both Early and Lexi began high soaring flights together over the area of the gardens with each circle getting higher and higher. We were amazed to watch as Early made it to the top and landed on the rail. I thought Bob Walters was going to cry. He was so proud. Lexi on the other hand didn't make it though he made a gallant effort, just touching the top level and then sort of dropping off, he flew back down to the JSMB and sat rather dejected while the Mom, Dad and brother sat up at the top of the COB. But alas, Early didn't get dinner up there and both parents left almost immediately and flew to the Temple. Poor Early. He then gave up and did a racing descent that had us all hold our breath and landed rather hard on the Temple. Dinner was soon delivered to Early and Lexi flew over immediately/frantically to share in the meal.

After eating they flew a bit and landed on the JSMB where it seemed they would spend the night.

Note: I will be enjoying some time with my daughter, who is visiting from Chicago, over the next few days and won't be posting. But I understand that the kids will still be around for another week or more, so I will try to add some notes as I can get updates from the rest of the watchers. I will be back on watch next Tuesday.