Red-footed Falcons  great memories

Some species make a birders heart beat faster than others, simply because they are stunning. For me, one of those species is Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus – a migratory falcon breeding from eastern Europe into Asia. My first sighting was on 23 May 1992, when Richard Joosten, my brother Marcel and I observed five males and a female near Zandvoort. They were part of a large influx; the total number of individuals in the Netherlands that spring was estimated at 1500-2000 (Hagemeijer 1994). A few years later, I saw another (small) group. I am quite sure I wrote down notes on this sighting too, but it seems I have lost them. Here is what I remember.

During my college years, study grants came with a public transport student card, which gave me free access to public transportation on week days. On this particular day, I travelled c 150 km to Heeze by train. From here I walked to a heathland called Strabrechtse Heide, where the falcons were staying. Finding the birds was easy, as they were foraging on insects in a relatively small area. At a certain point, I got caught in a downpour. Instead of walking (or running) to the nearest edge of wood, I chose to stay with the falcons. I found shelter underneath a small tree next to the path. Much to my surprise, the falcons came up with the same idea and landed on a branch right above my head. I will never forget sitting there motionless in heavy rain face to face with Red-footed Falcons! Apparently, the birds had no problem with my presence at all. They completely ignored me. Once the sun had come out again, they started to preen, showing no hurry at all to take to the sky.

I don
t remember how many Red-footed Falcons were there, nor their age and sex. I am not sure exactly when I saw them and I don’t recall being soaked or not. But looking back on this tremendous encounter still gives me goosebumps, even after all those years. I understand that it might seem a little strange to a non-birder. But believe me, I am very grateful to have such great memories. 

Red-footed Falcon intobirding.com

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Published 30 March 2018