For the past 14 years, an annual count has taken place in the environs of The GMT Reserve. We've been counting raptors; specifically, we've been counting peregrine falcons. Organizing volunteer Diane explained yesterday that the peregrines are quite unmistakable in flight. Their rapid ascents and dives are breathtaking, and unlike even the visually-similar raptors also abundant at The Reserve, including ospreys and eagles. With a brisk easterly wind lifting them, they seemed to swirl in the air all around visitors to The Reserve this weekend. In fact, their movement, once identified, truly IS unmistakable, and also quite difficult to capture on camera. Unless, of course, you're as expert with your camera as Craig O'Neal, whose photos are generously shared in this post.
We're delighted to report numbers almost as breathtaking as the flight patterns themselves. On Saturday, the count was more than 360 individual birds. On Sunday, at last report, the numbers were well over 300, as well, meaning that the count is trending to be the highest ever recorded, in a count that dates back to 1997. And we're not done yet: the count goes on for another 3 days. If you're interested, you can find the team, perched as high as they can get, at the top of the GTM NERR North Beach Parking Lot tower. And if you're really fortunate, you'll see what the team saw yesterday (and Craig's photo shows): a pair of frigatebirds, sometimes seen in southwestern Florida but extremely rarely sighted in our local waters.
Get out there!
All photos in this post (C) Craig O'Neal. All rights reserved. Stealing is bad for your karma.