The Peregrine and the Gull


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I was paddling my kayak through the Giacomini Wetlands, and I was watching two juvenile Northern Harriers (Marsh Hawk, Circus cyaneus) as they dove and swooped upon each other in the skies above. I lost them for a few moments, as I wove my kayak around some of the pickleweed that had begun springing up. When I looked back up…

I saw this in the upper right hand corner. What I thought were the two Harriers locked in mortal combat

I had enough time for several photos, but in most of them the birds were lost against the forested ridge and too hard to make out. When they were out of sight, I zoomed in on the back of my camera to see what I might have captured

It was blurry, but looked a little something like a bird with four wings. I wasn't really sure what it was that I was seeing

It looked like whatever it was, two Harriers tumbling to earth while locked in combat or something else had descended to a point half a kilometer or so away. I began paddling towards where I thought they may have ended up, when I decided that I had better circle wide around them so that I would have the sun on my back for when I came across “it.” I wanted to make sure that I had the best lighting for any photographs that I might end up being able to take. I was in the wetlands documenting the different species of plants and birds that had moved in since the Point Reyes National Seashore had restored them a year or two earlier. This seemed like something that needed documenting (isn’t it great when you can come up with an easy excuse to take photos?)

What I came across was this-

A juvenile Peregrine Falcon devouring what looked like a large juvenile gull

I hadn’t seen two Marsh Hawks tumbling from the sky. It was a Peregrine descending to earth with a large Western Gull that she had killed hundreds of meters up in the air. She was greedily devouring the gull, tearing off fluff and swallowing chunks of flesh.

Happily tearing off chunks of steaming gull meat

I had beached my kayak and crawled through marsh plants and grasses to where I had a good vantage of the falcon eating its late breakfast, while remaining mostly hidden by the sparse vegetation of the wetlands, and a small rise.The peregrine was sitting in the open, so was constantly looking around for predators or other raptors looking to steal its kill.

One nice thing about the falcon looking around is that it made it seem to be looking at me

After a while it took wing, and began circling on the updrafts, either to digest what it ate, or to hunt some more… although I don’t think it was too hungry after eating most of a Western Gull.

Look at that bulging crop. Not much space there for more food for a while

This Peregrine is likely of the Tundrius race, judging from both its size (large enough to take out a very large gull and descend to earth with it), and because of its darker coloration. Either way, it was a beautiful bird, and I feel lucky to have seen it plummeting to earth from on hi with its feathered morsel.

A beautiful bird the Peregrine Falcon

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in falcons, kayak photography, My favorite Parks, nature photography, Photo Essay, photography, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Peregrine and the Gull

  1. Wow – an amazing series of photos and interesting eyewitness account!

  2. All great shots, but I love the ending as you see him soaring away. It’s amazing that it didn’t fly away when you got out of your kayak. You must have been stealth!

  3. Mark Goodwin says:

    Brilliant! Excellent observation Galen and well captured.
    Thanks for sharing with us.


  4. Vicki says:

    Loved this blog, great shots, I love how he looks right at you…what’s with the feathers around the head of the peregrine in the first shot where he’s munching?

    • Thanks. The feathers around the Peregrine’s head are ones that it plucked off the gull while devouring it. The shots where the falcon appears to be looking at me are actually just images I captured while it was looking around, scanning for predators and competitors, I just imbed the photos so that it was looking in my general direction

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