While visiting the scenic drop-offs and wide open sky of the Bempton Cliffs in the United Kingdom, an amateur birder and photographer saw a peregrine falcon.
One of nature’s most effective killers, peregrine falcons rank among the world’s fastest hunters, reaching speeds of more than 200 miles per hour in targeted dive-bombs, according to Forbes.
On May 18, the photographer, Dan Howe, saw nature’s assassin at work.
Howe captured the dramatic moment the peregrine falcon shot down out of the sky and grabbed a puffin in its talons, sharing the photo on Twitter.
An absolutely astonishing occurrence this afternoon @Bempton_Cliffs with the regular first summer female peregrine snatching a puffin from mid air!! @RSPBEngland @FlamboroughBird @RareBirdAlertUK @BirdGuides @looknorthbbc @CanonUKandIE @yorkshirepost @MailOnline @NatGeo pic.twitter.com/8NWtw6WCyc
— Dan Howe (@camoucarper) May 18, 2023
“I was taking pictures from the Jubilee Corner viewpoint at Bempton Cliffs and had noticed the peregrine falcon perched (on) a small ledge on the cliff face,” Howe told the Bridlington Echo. “Moments later I was tracking a puffin with my camera when the peregrine falcon swooped on the puffin.”
Michael Atkinson, another photographer and volunteer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at Bempton Cliffs, shared images taken after the puffin was in the falcon’s grasp and being carried away.
“Absolutely nuts,” Howe commented on the tweet.
Taking it back to the cliffs. pic.twitter.com/2PPd2hXddI
— Michael Atkinson (@m_r_atkinson) May 18, 2023
“It’s a cruel world we live in, but this story doesn’t end there,” Howe told the BBC. “After catching the puffin [the peregrine falcon] then seemed to lose it by the time she went to perch again.”
The falcons primarily eat smaller birds, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told the BBC, including pigeons and some small mammals. They hunt by catching the birds mid-flight.
Peregrine falcons are widely found across the world, but puffins stick to the coasts of France, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland, the Northeast United States, Eastern Canada and Northern Russia, according to the National Audubon Society.
Bempton Cliffs is located on the eastern coast of England, 240 miles north of London.