A while back, I was helping to interview a young man for a job along with the woman who would be his manager. After we concluded the interview and the applicant had left, I asked her, “So, what do you think?”
“Hmm, I’m not sure.” she wondered aloud. “He seems like the kind of guy who would wear shorts way too early.”
An odd thing to say for sure, but I knew exactly what she meant.
In the Northeast, it usually happens in late February or early March. You’re rushing around on your errands in your down parka, wool cap, and flannel-lined denim when suddenly someone comes strolling by you, not a care in the world, wearing shorts. You are stunned. These are the first bare legs belonging to a stranger you’ve seen in months. Suddenly you worry you might be overdressed.
But then you remember, you’re an adult. You checked the forecast. And so you know that even though that morning’s temps were the warmest in weeks and are giving a vague whiff of springs past and springs to come, the arctic wind will come roaring out of the Northwest in about an hour, dropping the temps by about 10 degrees. 20 if you count windchill. So, hopefully, our new friend’s shorts are running shorts. Because they will soon need to run right home and dress more appropriately.
“Chief” Kathy Clark of New Jersey Fish & Wildlife was out running her favorite errand the other morning (dressed appropriately, we can assume. She’s a pro.)
She was out checking on New Jersey’s amazing cliff-nesting Peregrines in the Palisades. Then, on the long drive home, Kathy decided to stop by the Ocean Gate falcon tower just for a quick peek. That’s when my phone rang.
“You won’t believe what I’m looking at Ocean Gate. Mom is feeding three or four chicks.”
“And they’re big. They look to be about five to seven days old.”
It’s astonishing. Most of New Jersey’s falcons have only just laid eggs, and many are still laying now. Even the “early” pairs aren’t hatching any time soon. This pair would have had to lay in early March, right in the middle of the too-early-shorts-wearing season.
So what gives?
There are undoubtedly various reasons why people wear shorts way too early. My bias is that those people are impulsive. They need to plan better or think things through. But then again, maybe some people run hot. Who am I to judge?
There is evidence that Peregrine pairs nesting inland tend to lay significantly earlier than Peregrine pairs nesting along the coast. One theory is that the migration of abundant shorebirds cues coastal Peregrine pairs, so they hold up a bit, waiting for the flow of these vulnerable birds to pick up steam. It’s an interesting theory. Thanks to the decades of Peregrine data we now have in NestStory and the prey cameras we have at multiple coastal nests, we hope to look at this in detail later this fall.
But none of that applies here, as Ocean Gate is a coastal tower. So by that theory, the pair should be laying later, not earlier! Instead, these babies will fledge before Memorial Day, when the banding season is only just beginning.
Needless to say, Kathy needs to urgently deploy a new Little Egg Prey Cam to the site, stat! Their diet could explain something about why they chose to lay so early. Perhaps, despite being coastal nesting falcons, their prey is from another source nearby. We also hope to install a live camera to watch the courtship next winter for clues as to how and why this pair times the nest. If you want to help us with this fascinating project, please consider a donation to The Little Egg Foundation. We need gear, and we can’t do it without your support!
If nothing else, perhaps we’ll get a photo of a Peregrine wearing shorts. Just way, too, early.
So let’s give three, no four, cheers for New Jersey’s first Peregrine babies of 2023.
And in case you’re wondering, that applicant eventually got the job. He turned out to be an excellent co-worker and remains a dear friend to this very day. But she was right. We would learn later that year that he did, in fact, wear shorts way too early!
Such good news. Thanks. Welcome falcons!Mes
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