Peregrine falcons zoomed and screeched at the rappeller who dangled beneath an overhang on a rugged cliff. A scene from one of southern Utah's wildest deserts? Guess again - it was in Salt Lake City.

It happened Sunday morning near Victory Road, two miles north of the intersection of South Temple and Main streets.The climber, Alan Erdahl of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department search and rescue team, was scratched on his arm by falcon chicks he took from their aerie so they could be banded by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

"There were two of them," said Bob Walters, special projects coordinator for the DWR. "One is definitely a female; the other we think is a female, and we banded it as such."

The sex is determined by checking the diameter of the tarsus (ankle region) and by making other measurements. "One had larger feet than the other, which is a clue to a female. Both of them were real robust and large-headed."

While Erdhal climbed into the aerie, other members of the search and rescue team helped anchor the ropes.

This is the second year that the Salt Lake falcons have nested in their cliff-side aerie, rather than on downtown buildings. "We think it's the same pair as last year," Walters said.

With at least two different pairs of the endangered birds nesting in Salt Lake City since reintroduction efforts began in 1986, the latest chicks are the 15th and 16th young birds they have produced. Of the 14 in previous years, a dozen fledged successfully.

Two males didn't make it over the years. A wind sheer slammed one into a hotel balcony, while the other was hit by a car when it came down in traffic.

Walters said the new location is a better place for young birds learning to fly, although it's not as good for members of the public, who used to watch falcons careering around the city's man-made cliffs. "We don't have all the problems of (the fledglings) running into glass," he said.

Erdhal noticed that the falcons were larger than the chicks retrieved last year. Walters said they were a little more than 4 weeks old, a bit older than usual for banding.

In a week to nine days, they should begin to fly. Volunteers will watch them like hawks, ready to dash after any young bird that gets into a jam when she tries her wings.

Erdahl put the young birds back in a basket and edged over the high cliff's overhang.

Erdahl "swung back and forth so he could get a hold on a rock and climb in," he said. "He went out of sight almost (into the cliff recess) . . . You could see his feet when he put the birds back."