species make a birder’s 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
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
1500-2000 (Hagemeijer 1994). A few years later, I saw another (small)
am quite sure I wrote down notes on this sighting too, but it seems I
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
transportation on week days. On this particular day, I travelled c 150
km to Heeze by train. From here I walked to a
called Strabrechtse Heide, where the falcons were staying. Finding the
was easy, as they were foraging on insects in a relatively small area.
certain point, I got caught in a downpour. Instead of walking (or
the nearest edge of wood, I chose to stay with the falcons. I found
underneath a small tree next to the path. Much to my surprise, the
up with the same idea and landed on a branch right above my head. I
forget sitting there motionless in heavy rain face to face with
Falcons! Apparently, the birds had no problem with my presence at all.
completely ignored me. Once the sun had come out again, they started to
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
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
it might seem a little strange to a non-birder. But believe me, I am very grateful
to have such great memories.