Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hawk Gazing West

Last week, one day when the weather was mild, I sat on the deck and concentrated on the birdsongs. Our lives are so frantic and self-involved sometimes that it is easy to miss something so integral to nature, so utterly rich and beautiful as the sounds that different birds make.

I had not realised how many diverse songs one could hear from the upper deck of an urban row house. The delicate songs are overpowered easily by the grinding of gears, the screech of brakes and the shouts of irate neighbours and strangers, as well as the noise emanating from automobile stereos en passant.

This afternoon, it is bitterly cold and one cannot sit out on the deck but through the window, I heard a piercing high-pitched cry that reminded me a little of the cry of a newborn kitten. It was not a kitten, however. After a moment, I realised it had to be the cry of a bird.

I looked out towards the huge tree northeast of the deck that always appears to draw birds of all kinds as a magnet to its lofty branches. In the distance, I saw two large birds and one smaller one perched some distance above them. The two appeared to be squabbling over something or simply vying for supremacy on the branch.

I heard a different cry now from one of the large birds, and this one sounded vaguely familiar. I ran for my camera, hoping that what couldl not be seen with the naked eye could be captured by the lens. By the time I returned, only one bird remained. Its stance, however indistinct in the distance, made me suspect it was a bird of prey.

Indeed, it was a hawk. I believe it to be a Peregrine in fact. There was a time when a city organisation attempted to persuade a pair of Peregrines to roost in the tallest building. They did so for a couple of years but have not been seen in recent years. I do not know whether the government or the birds themselves terminated the project but I have missed them. As there is a view of that building from the deck, I could watch them ride the thermals sometimes, or circle the building near sunset.

In any event, there is an irony in my great admiration and love of birds of prey, as any kitten in the wilds undoubtedly would be threatened by their presence and I am a cat lover above all else.

The Goddess Freya was reputed to have a hawk cloak that allowed her to assume the form of a bird of prey. Thinking about that, I realised that I always visualised her as retaining human size even in avian form, but falcons are fairly small. The virtue of assuming the form of a hawk would be the bird's vision and speed in flight, not its size or power. Why would a goddess with the ability to shapeshift change the natural size of the creature whose form she took? Far better to blend with the natural landscape...

I do not feel at home in this alien city, nor shall I ever love it as a native might, but I am grateful for the amazing diversity of wild life that manages to brave the urban blight, maintaining a bridge between the destruction and filth developed by human city dwellers and Nature's own indomitable power. The birds continue to use the same flight paths on their journey south that they have used for centuries and until all the trees have been chopped down, they may stop here again and again.

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