|Peregrine Omen for Jenny S.
It was only fitting that on the last leg of a coastal journey that began in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the legendary peregrine falcon escorted Chesapeake Bay Foundation's newest education vessel, Jenny S, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The deadrise and falcon effortlessly cut water and air in beautiful symmetrical unison.
The crew for the shakedown cruise, led by Paul Willey, Willy Agee and Lonnie Moore, featured Chuck Foster, Bo Hoppin, Jamie Baxter and Steve Linhard. Each crewman brought not only competent seamanship to the trip but an equally impressive Chesapeake spirit, which by the trip's end seemed to fill the boat from stem to stern. (The crew's other talents and exploits, however, are better left for another story).
Once on the brink of extinction, peregrine populations have made a modest comeback, particularly in parts of the Northeast United States. Its populations suffered the same fate as eagles, ospreys and herons as a result of eating fish laden with poisonous DDT.
In the wild, peregrines hunt close to waterways, spotting their prey from the tops of cliffs and other structures, including skyscrapers. With populations on every continent except Antarctica, the peregrine uses its powerful claws and keen eyes to dive-bomb prey.
Once the hunting companion of kings, the peregrine falcon is a formidable hunter and one of the fastest birds in the world, reaching speeds of more than 120 miles an hour. It circles high in the azure, flying behind its prey, then drives at enormous speed to kill with the impact of its talons. Its hunting success is impressive: one kill in every three tries on average.
Adult peregrines are about the size of a crow, slate colored on the back with distinct pointed wings and hooked beak. Peregrines prefer to hunt birds, preying upon ducks, songbirds, sea birds and shore birds in the wild. City-dwelling falcons target pigeons and migrating birds.
For me, the sight of the peregrine falcon was an excellent omen for us and Jenny S, which will spend her years helping tens of thousands of students and adults discover the marvels of the Bay watershed. It was another sign encouraging us to work harder to restore the Bay to a level of health that befits the majesty of the peregrine.
Fish are Biting
Each week, a little more daylight is lost, which doesn't go unnoticed by the Bay's fishes or fishermen. Shortened photoperiod signals seasonal change, and fish like croaker and spot are already stirring to exit the Bay. Fortunately, the action is just starting to heat up for other species, like sea trout, bluefish and rockfish. In fact, Spanish mackerel, flashing through the air in acrobatic leaps, have been reported as far north as Baltimore Light off the Magothy River. Brian from Bunky's Charters in Solomons says that trout and rockfish are active at Gas Docks, Gooses, and the mouth of the Choptank. Over at buoys 74 and 76, there are still some flounder to be taken. The outflow of the power plant at Calvert Cliffs has excellent action for fly rodders and light tackle specialists.
Rob Jepson of Angler's in Annapolis intertwined his usual stellar fishing report with an update on dove hunting season, which opened September 1. The dove action has been excellent to fair in the first few weeks, and the fishing is steady as well. He says that there are still some flounder holding on the edges off Bloody Point and inside Eastern Bay. The trout action gets better every day at the Bay Bridge pilings and the Pipeline off Kent Island. There are plenty of fat white perch all over the shell bars and deep water holes in the tributaries and main stem of the Bay.