'Redtail', I thought to myself, snapping a few more frames of the big brown raptor that I'd finally noticed was the cause of the magpie agitation that'd gotten my attention in the first place. 'Hope I get a good frame of it...'
Fast forward over a week and there I am, going through the month for pics to print soon, and I find the magpie and its nemesis...but wait...that's no redtail! Redtails don't have a black eye, a short and rounded two-tone beak, a barred belly, tear-marks on the face, or a tail that disappears under the tips of folded wings! As this bad boy was well over twice the mass of the magpie, that pretty much narrows it down to peregrine (most likely) or prairie falcon; my Birds of Montana lists no falcons for the state bigger than the kestrel, but my old Golden Birds of North America has us as summer range for both prairie and peregrine. My money's on juvenile or young adult peregrine...any experts to confirm my theory or blow it outta the water?
It says a lot about learning to live with an overdose of the surreal that I find it funny that we (neighbor and I) drove 750 miles to a known nesting ground (Cape Meares, OR) last summer and saw not a feather of a peregrine, and now I photograph one literally in my own back yard...
Magpies will mess with ya any chance they get (I now have a witness), but it pays to listen to the little overdressed punks! ;)