A television newsman watching Peggy Falcon as she crouched over her newly hatched chick remarked that he'd hate to be a bird, because it looks like boring duty.
Well, if you think this is bad, replied Bob Walters, non-game biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, you should have been here the past 32 days, when she was incubating. Compared with that long wait, this is the peak of excitement.The dedicated Walters and a few reporters were in a nearly empty room on the 10th floor of the Hotel Utah Wednesday, checking on the latest addition to the endangered peregrine falcon species, a chick that apparently hatched Tuesday. A second chick hatched Wednesday evening.
The falcons are nesting in a box that the DWR put high on the facade of the former hotel.
Although marbleized-linoleum columns still stand in the ornate lobby and ads for prime rib dinners remain posted in the elevators, falcons have been the hotel's only residents since it closed nearly two years ago.
The falcon box could be seen by video camera image or through scopes set up behind a narrow opening in the drapery. When a reporter moved the drape slightly, Peggy's head swiveled quickly toward him.
The chick showed up 32 days after the appearance of the third egg - exactly on time, Walters said. The family usually begins incubating with the laying of the third egg, although the male started in on egg-sitting with the second one this year.
On a black-and-white TV monitor in the darkened room, reporters could see the female falcon - dubbed Peggy Peregrine - snap at a fly, following it with her piercing eyes, moving her head as it circled.
Walters had set up a donated video camera on a tripod behind a narrow opening in the drapery. He had the VCR on the carpet, taping all of the movements in the nesting box. Cables crossed the floor, and reporters, a security officer and Walters stood around or sat against the walls.
This is the eighth peregrine to hatch in Salt Lake City since the falcons took up residence here. Six were males, one females, and "I don't know what this one is, this eighth."
The first showed up here in 1984, a male called Pete that did not return from winter vacation in 1986. The female has been raising families with or without Perry, her second mate, every year since 1986.
On the monitor, Peggy just sat in the nesting box, sometimes moving around to adjust the eggs and chick beneath her.
Walters knows the adults so well that he can easily tell them apart. The white cheek patches on the male look more smudged, and he's more vividly colored and smaller.
At last, action: Peggy Peregrine raised a little to cool the chick and everybody could see it on the monitor. It was a large clump of white fluff, possibly with a tiny bill. She moved it with her curved beak.
When the reporters left, Walters was in the room alone with his video equipment, munching on a sandwich that he'd brought in a paper bag.