I'm home. The drive back was quick and painless, and I had plenty of time to reflect on my weekend of solitude and birding. I went into the trip with a few "soft" goals, and I met them all.
Goal number one was to exceed the 150 species mark on my Big Year list. As of this evening, the number stands at a respectable 162 species identified. I'm happy with that number, and I expect it will climb a bit higher as migration continues throughout the area.
Goal number two was to see AN owl in the field. I saw 4 this weekend, 3 Eastern Screech Owls and one Great Horned Owl. The look at the Great Horned wasn't great, but nonetheless I saw it. The Screech Owl might just be the cutest bird in existence.
And goal number three was to see all three of the falcons prevalent in the United States. This one looked like it might not materialize, as my stop at the Hawk Watch platform was on the windiest day of the weekend, and the numbers were way down. I managed to see numerous American Kestrels and Merlins, but the final falcon remained an enigma. My Eleanor, if you will.
Then, this morning, as we were making our way back to the parking lot after a 3-hour hike at Wise Point, a medium-sized raptor unlike any we were accustomed to seeing came overhead. Four of us looked and looked as it soared on a thermal, all unable to ID the bird. Then, as if it had sensed our discouragement and just felt sorry for us, it dove down to near tree-top level to give us a better look. Long, pointed wings? Check. Pushes its wings forward when diving? Check. Large, unmistakable black "mustache"? Check. Ahh!! Peregrine Falcon! I called it first, everyone else immediately agreed, and I had done it . . all three goals had been achieved! The Peregrine Falcon is one of the most amazing animals in the world, capable of achieving speeds in flight of over 160 miles per hour, and to see one at that moment added a marvelous exclamation point to the end of my otherwise exhilarating (and slightly exhausting) weekend.