Introduction
Animal- North American Peregrine Falcon
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checklist no.1
Location:
Southern Atlantic cost, pacific coast, Mexican gulf coast, southern Alaska, Eastern Rocky Mountain region
Adjectives:
  1. Crow-sized
  2. Blue-black-winged
  3. Burnt-gold-bellied
  4. Curve-beaked
  5. Hollow-nosed
  6. Long-legged
  7. Yellow-white-under-winged
  8. Streamline
  9. Hook-beaked
  10. Grey-legged


WHY THIS ANIMAL?

I chose the Peregrine Falcon because I really liked birds as a young kid and still do now. once I found out that the fastest animal on earth was a bird, I just HAD to find out what species of bird it was. Once I found out that the bird was the Peregrine Falcon, I really wanted to know how it was able to the whopping speed of 200 mph. After some research and some programs of Nature, I found out that this bird attains its enormous speed by flying up really high, folding its wings, and diving nose-first out of the sky. They then gain momentum at an extraordinary rate and gain speed as they come down, then swoop up and level out before they kill themselves. knowing this, and being fascinated by fast things at a young-ish age, the Peregrine Falcon soon rose to my favorite species of animal. But even this knowledge is not enough for me. Why do they bother to fly so fast? Do they do it to catch prey? If so, are there other methods of catching prey that they use? What kinds of animals do they eat? Do they ever eat fruits or plants? Are there different specifications of Peregrine Falcons? Where do they live? These are some of the questions that I hope to answer with my research. This is why I chose the Peregrine Falcon.


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Mojave Desert Research

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One area that the American Peregrine Falcon lives is the Mojave Desert. It spans from Southeastern California to Southern Nevada and Northwestern Arizona. At a height of 2,000-5,000 feet above sea level, it is the highest desert in North America. It receives a meager 13 inches of rain a year. During the summer, temperatures range from 120-130 degrees F and in the winter temperatures can range from 0-20 degrees F. Nearly all of the rainfall in the Mojave is regulated by Pacific storm systems moving in from the west. these climate conditions are thought to harbor nearly 2,000 different species of plants. Each plant and animal has come up with its own way of conserving water, staying cool during the boiling days and staying warm during the bone-chilling nights. Most of the reptiles and mammals that call the Mojave home live most of their lives in burrows where the earth keeps the temperature about the same all year, but still come out for food. Other animals, like the Desert Chipmunk, find a big rock and actually sprawl out on their bellies in the shade (picture below). Some animals, like the Elf Owl, stay nocturnal during the day to conserve their energy then do their hunting at night when it is cold. The flapping they do produces heat to keep them warm. Other animals, like the Desert Tortoise, do a kind of all-year hibernation. They dig a burrow and when it rains, water flows into the burrows and alerts the tortoise to wake up. They come out to mate and eat. Then, they go back into their burrows and sleep through the grueling heat in the nice cool earth. Large birds, like my Peregrine Falcon, fly up high where the air is cooler than on the hot sand, and literally fly over the heat. The Peregrine has also taken this tactic to its advantage. Using its superior eyesight, it waits for a target to come out in the open then it tucks its wings and drops out of the sky. It accelerates to more than 200 mph and picks medium-sized birds, insects, and the occasional mammal right out of the air and gets an easy meal on the go! One last animal's cooling tactic is the Jackrabbit's giant ears. They work like an elephant's, except for they are stationary. Where an elephant needs to flap its ears, the Jackrabbit lets the wind do the flapping for it. All of the Mojave's extreme conditions have pressured its animals to adapt, but they all find their own way to cope.
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Peregrine Falcon Mojave Desert Food Web

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Research Technique
I will use a combination of a GPS collar and a Nest-Cam to monitor my Pair of Peregrine Falcons. The GPS collar will allow me to see where the Peregrine falcon is without the need to set up towers as in Radio Telementary. The Nest Cam allows me to see how the Peregrines interact with each other and their young as in feeding, protection, etc. The set-up and usage of these techniques is seen in Journal Entries #2 and 3. an example of each is seen below.

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT5oN48rZPx261Z0sNiKWlvWAvAAQBPpGFyff64V8Bp0_91PyRq9bSmo0CO Nest-Cam example

peregrine_GPS.png Peregrine GPS coordinate screen. The dot moves as it is tracked. the circle is to outline the dot for usage as a picture.


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Fellow Researcher
I have chosen the Falcon Research Group (FRG) for my fellow researchers. They were founded in 1985 by Bud Anderson. They are researching urban falcons in Washington state. They moniter the falcons to try to conserve birds of prey. They feel the best way to do that is by learning all they can about them and their behaviors. They also study raptor breeding, migration, wintering, and genetic studies. One way they study the raptor population is, like my study, the Nest-Cam, but they also have cameras at street-level to observe their social and hunting behaviors and compare them to those of falcons in the wild to see how urban life affects their behaviors. They also place nest-boxes on high buildings so that the Peregrines don't have to risk nesting on the edge of a window where a strong wind can blow the nests off and they also conceal the small chicks behind the ridges of the nest from potential predators. These nests also allow the researchers to observe the Peregrines straight from a window vs a Nest-Cam. They also use GPS tags, like me, to track their daily route through the city as well as their migration routes. They also use the traditional wing tag to see what Peregrines survive the migration route and which ones don't. They can record the physical aspects of the surviving falcons to see what aspects help them survive the long migration route. In the Mojave, where I am studying, migration tags are obsolete because the falcons that live from Southern Colorado to Southern Central America don't migrate. I thought that comparing how scientists study falcons in northern areas where they migrate to central areas where they don't would be an intriguing learning experience. Also, comparing how the falcons are studied in urban areas compared to in the wild would be interesting also. This is why I chose the Falcon Research Group for my fellow researchers.

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Journal Entry #1
Who would have thought that just two hours ago I was on a plane heading for an outpost about twenty miles from Las Vegas in the middle of the Mojave Desert and now, here I am, sitting in a dead tree looking for a bird that seems driven to do all that it can to elude me. I feel rejected by the desert before I have even been able to lay my eyes on anything that is alive. Seeing that this tactic is obviously not working, I try a new strategy. I head across to a cliff base, set up a kind of lean-to tent on the boiling rocks out of a sand-yellow sheet, some dead sticks, and some rocks laying around. I decide to sleep for a few hours and attempt observing this elusive raptor once more.

I am alerted by a scuffling of claws on rocks near my tent. I look outside and see a desert chipmunk sprawled out on the now-cool rocks in the shadow of my shabby shelter. It looks very relieved as if it has been chased for a long distance by some unknown predator. Its tail and hind legs are sprawled straight out behind its small skinny body. Then all of a sudden it tenses. Its legs shoot up under its body ready to run at a second's notice. Its tail jerks up. In the reflection of its eyes, I see a faint dot move across the sky. I look up but see nothing. I whip out my binoculars and scan the ocean of gold-blue above me. I see nothing, but then hear the definite shriek that I have so longed to hear and see the outline of the shape I have so longed to see: A PEREGRINE FALCON!

I whip out my camera and zoom in on the area where the Falcon was just s second ago, but it has vanished. No, not vanished, camouflaged into the sky. the speckled abdomen of this bird makes it near-impossible to see. I snap pictures like a madman. After I feel I have sufficient footage, I record my position on a map, pack up my tent, and head back to camp.

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSor9JZaMSR93zB5wkFcrn_40hhzleiOugyeLquEFDQWzlibVXd Air Camouflage Peregrine Pic


Journal Entry #2
I am back at home. It is morning. My dog is over at my bed, licking my hand. A smile cracks my tired face. I reach over to pat his head, but he unleashes a short deluge of water over my face. Startled, I bolt upright in my cot. I reach for my glasses and am startled to see that I am not home, but still in the Mojave. There is no dog, only a flooded tent. dismissing that home scene as a dream, I lay back down. My eyes bolt open again: A FLOODED TENT?!?! I fly out of bed and stand ankle-deep in sand-tainted rainwater. Peering out of my tent, the scene before me is shocking: an all-out deluge in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I look out through the down-pour to my little sanctuary from yesterday- what was a cliff-base is now a small lake of mud. I look out and see that the entire desert is coated in little sub-lakes. No bird in its right mind would come out in this weather.

Finding my day of research ruined, I head back to the safety of the tent and prepare a little concoction for tomorrow.I take out a dead Jackrabbit that I found on my way back to the camp yesterday and set to work lacing it with enough sedatives to knock out a Peregrine for a few hours. I then prepare a GPS collar to track the falcon.

Finishing that little preparation, I pack up my stuff for tomorrow.

Journal Entry #3
For the past 5 days, it has rained non-stop, but I have finally gotten my golden ticket opportunity. I set up my rabbit at the base of a dead tree. Sure enough, my falcon comes in, eats the rabbit, and is knocked out. I rush in, attach the collar to the bird's leg, sync it up to my computer, and wait for it to wake up. It flies off, and I begin getting readings. I track the bird to its nest and set up a camera there to monitor the eggs inside. The lack of another parent bird surprises me, but I see it coming in the distance. I hurry up and get out of there. Using the computer, I follow the readings on foot. The falcon is out of my visible range, but I know he is almost right above me. I think of how nice if must feel to be flying up higher where the air is cooler than down here. I look at a near-by tree and see a Mourning Dove flutter out in the seething air. I notice a shape hurtling down to earth: The falcon has spotted the dove. The falcon comes down like a mortar shell, wings tucked, legs straight, reducing drag. It picks the dove out of the air with exact precision.

I track the falcon back to the nest where it shares the small meal with the other parent. I recognize this as a mutualistic relationship. One parent guards the nest, protecting the eggs or young falcons, while the other hunts to feed both itself, the other parent, and the baby after it hatches. They alternate this behavior over and over.

As the sun sets, I watch the nest cam and realize another behavior- the Peregrine build their nests on high cliffs to protect their young from predators and to be able to observe the whole valley below them for potential prey with their terrific vision.



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Using the Research (limiting Factors)
Zoobook



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Bibliography

"Peregrine Falcon." National Geographic. National Geographic. Web. 19 Jan. 2012. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/peregrine-falcon/.

"Mojave Desert." Digital-Desert. Walter Feller. Web. 19 Jan. 2012. http://digital-desert.com/ecosections/322a.htm.

"Peregrine Falcon." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 Jan. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peregrine_Falcon.

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Bye!