The falcon returns

This morning my old friend appeared in the garden – the peregrine falcon that has used the place as a source of fast food. The food I put out in the garden attracts all kinds of small birds, sparrows, various finches, tits, and others. And these of course become easy prey. However, I hadn’t seen the peregrine this winter at all – possibly because it’s not cold enough. But this morning, it was back – perched on the fence, scrutinizing everything in the whole garden as well as me eating my breakfast. It stayed for ten minutes, before gliding away, unsuccessful in its hunt for food.

A few years ago, one colder winter, the peregrine was an almost daily visitor. Of course I can’t be sure it was the same bird. One morning I was standing right against the window watching the birds eating, when suddenly there was a tremendous bang on the glass right in front of my face. I leapt out of my skin! I saw two birds crash to the ground – the peregrine, which shook itself and hopped around a bit towards the frozen grass, somewhat disoriented momentarily, and what looked like the body of a great tit, killed instantly against the glass. I remained still. The peregrine edged forward, seized the carcass, and then carried it off to the corner of the shed a few metres away.

Feather by feather, the peregrine plucked its prey, taking its time, scouring the landscape for human movement. I watched fascinated, not daring to move lest I scare it away. The feathers fluttered down to the ground, and gradually the falcon devoured all the bird, bones and all. Ten minutes work, I guess, fifteen minutes tops. Then, after scratching its beak – as if wiping it clean – the peregrine shook itself, adjusting its feathers as it drew itself to its full height to resume its magnificence, and flew away. For the next meal.

I went out to see if there was anything left of the great tit. Nothing, no bones, just hundreds of feathers. Back inside I looked up the peregrine on Google, and found spectacular pictures. I then thought I should look up its victim, and innocently typed in ‘great tit’ …

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