Fourscore years ago, Rock City was created. 80 years later, in honor of their anniversary, Rock City held a naming contest for a rescued Peregrine Falcon recuperating on their property. The winning name was Fourscore.
Fourscore was the offspring of a mom who wasn’t mature enough to take motherhood seriously. His more mature father took over incubating the eggs and doing the feeding. But, as the two brothers grew, the father couldn’t keep up with their eating needs without the help of the mother.
One of the chicks died before a human intervened. The other, Fourscore, survived, but he was too weak from underfeeding to survive on his own. Fortunately for Fourscore, his rescuer turned him over to S.O.A.R. and Rock City for rehab.
Kept safe inside a box perched high on Lookout Mountain, the little guy gained in strength until he was well prepared to fledge for real.
Pat and I were invited to Fourscore’s launch. It meant getting up at 4:30 AM to have time to take care of the dogs before driving up to the top of Lookout Mountain, but we were game. I, of course, packed my backpack full of camera gear. I wanted my 100-400mm lens to get a good shot of the falcon launching, but they were opening the box at 6:00AM–the light would be low. Since my 70-200mm lens is faster, I figured I would have a better chance of getting something usable with the extra speed than with the extra length.
As the Eastern horizon started to show the first signs of dawn, I crouched behind a shrub while John and Dale lowered the front of the box, creating a shelf that the falcon could step out on. I sat with my face pressed against my viewfinder, resting the lens on my knee in an attempt to hold still while we waited. Nothing happened.
John had warned us that sometimes it can take a couple of hours for a bird to fly when released after being rehabbed. We waited.
I realized I could not possibly keep my face pressed up against my camera for two hours. I was getting a cramp in the muscles I use to close my left eye. I pulled back and started to relax my arms, which were also cramping. Then I realized we’d only been waiting about 3 minutes.
This was not the first time I questioned my desire to shoot wildlife.
Then, just as I was about to stretch my wrists, there was a noise. I got back into position as quickly as I could, but I missed. I managed to catch a dark silhouette against the sky when Fourscore circled back around and flew for the woods. Not exactly what I was hoping for.
We spent the next half hour with John wielding an antenna to track a radio transmitter on Fourscore. As we were about to leave, we saw him being chased by a group of swallows. He looked like he was having a ball.