Most of us spend our working hours in offices or cubicles, sitting next to co-workers, managers, and friends. We all chat, catch up on work happenings or interesting tidbits about life. But what if your closest office neighbor was a bird? A peregrine falcon no less! How different might your day be?
This is the case for Anthony Scotta, a juvenile court referee for the Macomb County court system. And in today’s MMYH blog, he describes his office on the 11th floor of the old Macomb County building; a space adjacent to a peregrine falcon perch.
When I took my position on the 11th floor of the old Macomb County building last June, I had been warned of my new officemate’s quirks. He likes his privacy, isn’t much for conversation and gets defensive if you look at him too much. On the plus side, I was told he’s out of the office most of the day and likes to take a long lunch, usually on the other side of the building, where he’s said to leave some of his scraps. Peregrine falcons are not known for their table manners.
Up until I began my new position here last year as a juvenile court referee, I had never seen a peregrine falcon in person and knew next to nothing about them. These days I’m inundated with expert opinions, gadfly facts and questions about their rituals, as well as street conversation about whether my falcon – I didn’t realize I was assigned – was still perching outside my window. And more importantly, does he have a girlfriend?
Recent weeks have brought a lot of attention to my office window, which overlooks a roughly 5’x6’ roof patch that juts out from the building like a small partially-enclosed patio. There, EarthCam officials have placed a video camera in hopes my bird and one of his female friends (I apologize for not knowing the true nature of his commitment), will return for a romantic getaway. Or at the very least agree to lay their eggs.
I was not here to witness the magic of years past, but apparently, peregrine falcons have been laying eggs on this building for some time, and as recently as a few years ago, did so outside my window on the rock covered patio area which I’ve attempted to describe. I’ve also been told that in year’s past, some former referees have covered my window entirely with dark paper so as to provide additional privacy for the birds, particularly once the eggs were laid. Others have abandoned their office almost entirely during mating season and have typed orders from their courtroom so as to not disturb them.
I decided last summer to attempt to co-exist with the birds, and since it's my only window that allows in light, I removed the window covering. At first, my male friend squawked at me regularly when I assume he heard I was in-office on my computer. I peered around and he gave me the death stare. He can fly 200 miles per hour, I am told, and was not at all worried about a challenge from this guy.
Over a few months’ time, I found the male bird would usually come in for a morning squawk before leaving for most of the day. I would look at him, he’d size me up and then I’d leave him alone. Once in a while, when I got an eerie feeling, I’d look around the corner and usually he was there, ready to stare me down. And sometimes, as summer rolled in, he often returned late in the afternoon accompanied by what I assume was a female mate.
With time, my male friend seemed to get used to the ritual of the 10-second stare down and possibly looked forward to it before his morning breakfast. He’d usually return around 3 or 4 p.m. to repeat the ritual, and since most of the day I am in the courtroom, I cannot attest to the rest of his daily routine.
This spring, I must admit however, has me be a bit amused. My officemate – if you can call him that – has been around more sporadically, and appears to be playing mind games with our bird-watching friends. This has led to a barrage of questions on my end. When was the last time you saw your bird? Were there two birds? Do you have pictures of the birds? Are you sure it’s the same bird as last year? Did you know that girl birds only live to be about 13 and we think his last partner would be about 17 now so we’re unsure whether he has a mate?
Complicating matters is the fact that the bird or birds seem to be taking to similar patio areas located on all four sides of the building, although I’m told I have the “favored spot,” which is why crews decided to place the camera and a specially made rock nest for them outside my window.
Whether the cannon-sized camera overlooking the love nest will kill the ambiance remains to be seen.
In early April, Macomb County officials launched an EarthCam on Anthony’s 11th floor ledge with the hope of witnessing the peregrine falcons mate and lay eggs. Unfortunately, the birds chose a more private space on the other side of the building. Reports say that eggs have been laid, but they are out of view for now.
If you’re interested in watching peregrine falcons nest, a successful camera on a GM building in Warren is currently documenting a mother and father peregrine and their new hatchlings. Click here to access that camera. In closing, a word of advice from Anthony: “You’ll never win a stare down with a peregrine. Happy watching!”
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist with Macomb County Planning and Economic Development