Last week, my assistant and I travelled back to Chicago for another go at creating images in the Field Museum’s ornithological collection. The trip yielded another batch of successful plates- both on ruby glass and metal- which join the collection of images I’ve been building.
In an effort to accumulate a strong body of work for this project, my inspiration has grown from solely grassland passerines to include the Peregrine Falcon. My interest was initially sparked by my Field Museum contact, Mary Hennen, assistant collections manager in the bird division of the museum and director of the Chicago Peregrine Program.
DDT, an organochlorine insecticide, is widely acknowledged to be linked to the thinning of eggshells of birds such as Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, which heightened the eggs’ fragility, making them more vulnerable to being accidentally crushed. This put a pressure on Peregrine populations, and as a result they were wiped out in the Midwest. But unlike many extirpated species, the Peregrines are making a comeback- due in part to the hard work of the folks running recovery programs like the Chicago Peregrine Project (https://www.facebook.com/IllinoisPeregrines).
Holding in my hands the study skins of three individuals who once were part of Chicago’s Peregrine population, the uniqueness of their plumage struck me. One was transitioning between his juvenile and adult plumage, the striking result was a mixture of mature and immature calico coloration. I marvel at their beauty and their story of resurgence.
Be sure to check out the Chicago Peregrine Program’s website…there’s a great map feature that pinpoints actual Peregrine territories! (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/science/special-projects/illinois-peregrines).