Atlantic City is known for gambling. Atlantic City is known for its boardwalk. Atlantic City is now known for Peregrine Falcons.

Wait, what? Why?

This past week I was in Atlantic City for the better part of three days for my union’s biennial convention. It was a great time and we got tons accomplished. But what it even better – for me, at least – was the Peregrine Falcons. You see, on my ride down from New York on Wednesday I gave myself enough time to do a quick loop of Brigantine, the rightfully famous National Wildlife Refuge that sits just north and west of Atlantic City. There I was rewarded with the bird you see below.

The bird was at long range but my digiscoping rig cares not for great distances and I am pretty pleased with the shots I got. What amazed me is how little other birds seemed to care for the fact that an apex avian predator was in their midst. Perhaps the sheer volume of birds at Brigantine meant that flushing whenever a peregrine went past actually was a worse strategy than just ignoring them because the odds of an individual bird’s number coming up was lower than the odds on the table games in Atlantic City? I don’t know. But I do know that if I was a small bird and saw claws like the ones below coming I would be very scared regardless of the likelihood of being singled out of the crowd.

I would have loved to have spent more time at Brigantine but I did have a convention to attend so I reluctantly made my way to the Trump Taj Mahal and checked in to my room which was allegedly on the 80th floor but because they count the floors on one tower first and then the floors on the other tower I think I was more likely up about 20 stories. A coworker met up with me and we will killing time before the first event we had to be at when he said, “Hey, is that a falcon?”

And yes, yes it was.

This, of course, necessitated getting out my binoculars and camera and we spent the next half-hour being thrilled by Peregrine Falcons play-fighting in the skies over Atlantic City, buzzing hotel rooms, and just generally being awesome.

Though I was shooting through the thick glass of the hotel’s windows I was pretty pleased with the results of the pictures, especially when the birds came close. But, honestly, just watching the show of numerous peregrines in the air – the most we had at one time was five – was awesome. Pictures were just the icing on the delicious peregrine cake. Or something.

Watching the birds interact with each other and with the wind whipping through the insane skyscape of Atlantic City was simply amazing. Thrilling. Exciting. Better than gambling, that’s for sure! Even when the bird wasn’t immediately visible, like in the shot of the Showboat above, just seeing its shadow racing across the building was neat.

And when the birds were visible within a few yards of the thick windows of the hotel room…

 If you are ever in Atlantic City remember that there is more to do than gamble and more to see than showgirls.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.