Rock City falcon likes to roam

Rock City falcon likes to roam

August 8th, 2011 in News

Chatty, a 6-week-old peregrine falcon, is outfitted with radio and satellite tracking gear at Rock City before being released.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Lookout, the fledgling Rock City peregrine falcon, is just what his name says: He's a wanderer.

Satellite telemetry already has tracked Lookout in a clockwise loop through four states, said falconer and ornithologist John Stokes. He raised Lookout and his brother Chatty in a hacking box on a bluff in Bill Chapin's Rock City backyard. The falcons made their first flights from that box July 11.

After hanging around the hacking box for a few days, Lookout struck out looking for adventure and a bit of good hunting.

"He went to Cloudland Canyon, then he turned to the north and went to Lawrence and Dickson, Tenn.," Stokes said. "He stayed a night near Cookeville, then he circled back to the hacking box and then took off toward Dalton and Rome, Ga.

"Then he flew to Gadsden in Alabama and then into Mississippi. The last report we had he was in Grenada Lake in Mississippi. We first thought he was headed for the Gulf Coast, but Grenada Lake seems to be occupying him right now," Stokes said.

John Stokes, co-director of SOAR (Save Our American Raptors), uses a radio receiver to try and locate two Peregrine Falcons that were released from a hacking station on the bluff behind Bill Chapin's residence, CEO of See Rock City INC., on Lookout Mountain early Monday morning.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Grenada Lake is about halfway between Memphis and Jackson, Miss.

Less is known about the wanderings of Chatty and another falcon brother, Bruce, who was released a week earlier than his siblings from the roof of the First Tennessee building downtown.

Both birds were wearing regular radio transmitter tracking devices glued to their tail feathers. And both made short work of those 'Big Brother' tattles -- they plucked out the trailing wires, tail feather and all.

Stokes said some reported sightings indicate Chatty is hanging around Rock City, but Bruce hasn't been seen for a while.

"I found Bruce's transmitter and tail feather on the roof of one of the BlueCross buildings," Stokes said. "I think that tells us that next time, even for the radio transmitters, we might use a backpack like Lookout has. That seems to be working fine."

Lookout's backpack holds a solar satellite transmitter equipped with GPS. The gear cost about $4,000 and weighs only 22 grams, considerably less than a tenth of a pound.

Stokes' wife, Dale Kernahan, is tracking Lookout.

"This will be the first time this solar tracking has been applied to a peregrine falcon in the South," Kernahan has said. "Up in the Arctic these birds are known to travel all the way down to Colombia, but there's never been a study done before on a Southern peregrine falcon."

John Stokes, left, and Dale Kernahan, co-directors of SOAR (Save Our American Raptors), watch with Katie Kasch, right, as two Peregrine Falcons prepare to fly while being released from a hacking station on the bluff behind Bill Chapin's residence, CEO of See Rock City INC., on Lookout Mountain early Monday morning.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

The falcon's track is being added to Rock City's website so the public can keep up with Lookout.

Stokes and Kernahan operate a nonprofit birding organization known as Save Our American Raptors-South, SOAR South for short. They blog regularly on the SOAR South website, updating Lookout's track and sightings on the other falcons.

Last week the two obtained a breeding male peregrine, hoping that next year they may be able to provide peregrine falcon eggs and fledglings.

Stokes and Kernahan already have a breeding female, Bonnie, who cannot be released to the wild because she has only one eye.

"Maybe next spring we'll have some eggs," Stokes said.

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