On a recent camping trip, I sat idly in a morning stupor, sucking the first sips of coffee from a plastic cup, waiting for a caffeine lift to start the day. The first bashful rays of daylight caressed a canyon wall above the camp. As I contemplated my own breakfast, a tiny bat flitted about overhead, apparently attempting to nab a few more bugs before retiring to a roost to pass the day. He was a straggler. The several dozen of his kind that danced in the night sky the previous evening had already punched out from their nightshift of bug patrol.
Suddenly, two dark thunderbolts descended from the sky overhead. Shrill shrieks of deadly intent accompanied their bolt from the blue. In less than an eye-blink, my consciousness slammed from half-asleep to wide-awake.
A pair of peregrine falcons had targeted the errant bat. The dive of the first falcon clipped its prey, sending the bat into a momentary tumble. As it regained its equilibrium the second bird dropped in, the speed of its stoop astonishing. It too narrowly missed its prey, pulling up into a perfect loop to take a second swipe at the bat.
The chaotic scene lasted but seconds, two feathered assassins shrieking and swooping, one intended victim desperately attempting to elude their talons. The bat disappeared behind a breach in the canyon wall, the peregrines lifted to perch on a stony precipice above.
It was an experience I will never forget. The hunting dive (stoop) of a peregrine may reach speeds of 200 mph. I’m not sure what a bat’s capacity for learning encompasses, but I’m guessing there’s one that will no longer linger in search of breakfast.