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WINGS FOR MY FLIGHT by Marcy Cottrell Houle

WINGS FOR MY FLIGHT

: The Peregrine Falcons of Chimney Rock

By Marcy Cottrell Houle

Pub Date: April 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-201-57706-2
Publisher: Addison-Wesley

 A charmingly personal account of biologist Houle's work with peregrine falcons. Because of its speed, power, and docility, the peregrine falcon has for centuries been favored by sporting falconers. The black market for peregrines (one can bring as much as $10,000) in combination with encroachments on the species' habitat, and the deadliness of DDT throughout the food chain, brought near- extinction by the 1970's. Sponsored by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Houle's Chimney Rock study, begun in 1985, was designed to document the ``habitat requirements'' of nesting peregrines: primarily, the number of square miles essential for hunting the prey necessary to survival. Though ``Jenny,'' female half of only one of seven surviving pairs in the Rockies, inexplicably disappears, and three of the five nestlings have died, Houle and her teammate, Alex, using radios and a Forest Service garbage truck to track, learn that ``King Arthur,'' Jenny's mate, ranges up to 10 miles from the nest and hunts a 20-square-mile area to provide enough food for his two sons, ``Bold Leopold'' and ``Albert.'' The two fledglings take on distinct personalities as Houle describes their growth, initial ventures away from the nest, and spectacular if often clumsy flying lessons. Their first attempts at ``stooping,'' or diving, are both comical and harrowing. All is not tranquil, however, as Houle finds herself the target of irate residents who favor the tourism-hungry US Forest Service and developers who plan to build cabins, lookout stations, and a tramway to draw visitors to the area. In addition, the site is covered with Anasazi Indian ruins. The controversy culminates in harassment from some of the residents and construction workers and, finally, the destruction and theft of Houle's equipment and personal belongings. Loosely organized and occasionally sparse on detail, but an enlightening cautionary take nonetheless.