Peregrine at Harvard

Moving from rural Pennsylvania to college in the city was a big transition for me. Part of this had to do with the birds. My yard list back home is up to 187 species, whereas my list here in Harvard Yard stands at a measly 28 species. This list does include some interesting birds: a Wild Turkey seen trotting down Harvard Street, a Common Raven spotted circling over my dorm, and a Savannah Sparrow that I heard as it gave a flight call high above Widener Library. Fall migration did not bring the large groups of warblers I am used to seeing in September oaks and no sparrows hid in the gardens here on campus.

The winter has been extremely slow for birding–not even an occasional flock of chickadees has found its way to Tercentenary Theatre. Much of my campus “birding” consists of watching House Sparrows hop around on the sidewalk, so it was a bit of a surprise when fellow freshman birder Eamon Corbett posted on Facebook about a Peregrine Falcon on Memorial Hall. The ledges and gargoyles on this fascinating and strange building are a common perch for the resident Red-tailed Hawk pair, but I did not expect a Peregrine!

I was just going into class when I found out, but as soon as I was free, I headed to the top of the science center, which provides an excellent view of Cambridge.

The view from Harvard's science center

The view from Harvard’s science center (Photo by Corey Husic)

Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall (Photo by Corey Husic)

Almost immediately, I spotted the falcon perched on the nearest gargoyle. The bird then took a short flight, but returned promptly, this time perching on another part of the building. Eamon, who originally spotted the bird, met me on the deck and we observed this bird as it watched over the Yard.

Peregrine Falcon on Memorial Hall

Peregrine Falcon on Memorial Hall (Photo by Eamon Corbett)

Before long, the falcon took to the air and headed west. Without the slightest hesitation, it disappeared into the sinking sun somewhere over Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

Eamon was able to show this bird to a few members of the newly created Harvard College Naturalist Club, making this the first species on the club’s list. Since then, the club has had a few small field trips, but it’s nice to be able to find a bird as awesome as the Peregrine Falcon right here on campus. If the bird sticks around, we have plans to set up a scope on the plaza to show this incredible bird to the Harvard community and hopefully encourage other students to join the club!