I have a Peregrine painting in my sitting room, I got it at last years Hen Harrier Day and it’s beautiful. I gaze at it and wonder what it would be like to be able to see a Peregrine, just posing on a rock, stately and impressively imposing. Not a quick glance but a long suspended moment. On Saturday, it wasn’t quite like that but it was still absolutely incredible and otherworldly. I wrote a little short essay about my experience.
The afternoon was sweltering, we had driven for over two hours to catch sight of some very special birds. Chicks. Pergerine Falcon Chicks. As we emerged from the car, the sea air washed against my face and the scent and sight of what looked like Sea Radish (?) was a joyful carpet of buzzing and humming.
The song of the Whitethroat and Redstart had me running up a lane, before I realised where I was going. I heard it first as it swirled above, powerful and graceful as it swooped over our heads. It was the most beautiful thing I could hope to see. I tracked the quarry face, concentrated, focused. Nothing else existed and there they were; three small falcon shapes camouflaged by the chalk quarry, emerged from my lens. They were tinged with salmon red, hunched over like teenagers in the morning. Already beautiful, wild and primal. I felt like the air had been sucked out of my lungs and I was overwhelmed by these precious birds, who would grow up to be the fastest animal on earth. I wanted to fly up, to see them closer, I wanted every other thing in the world to fade out. Just me, and them. I think I must’ve held my breath because I started to feel dizzy and a bit faint or maybe it was just the wonder of being there, maybe it was the heat and the smell. It felt spellbinding. To witness a new generation of soaring beauty. The sun was hot on my back and even though the nettles stung, I was transfixed to the spot. I felt what almost felt like heart pain, an urge to disappear into the moment for an eternity. Human voices tripped up my thoughts and I was brought unwillingly back to earth. Bláthnaid had nettle stings, tears, broken musings and a tattered spell. She, the watchful mother, soared again, high above. I watched as she sailed achingly too far away from me.
My ears atuned again to the song of the Whitethroat, Blackbird and Black Headed Gull; the ordinary. We walked a little more but I wasn’t there, I was high in the sky with the Peregrine, her cry echoing in my ears. A sound and a sight I will never forget. It was unforgettable, suspended in my memory. I wanted a feather, a memento but I would have to rely on the lucid smells, sounds and sight to bring me back there. It was spectacular. May the chicks soar the skies for years to come, they certainly looked like they were about to fly off when were there. Imagine that, imagine witnessing the first flight. Now that would have been something!
I missed the morning Peregrine watch with the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group but I really want to say thank you to Ian, Marc and Eimear for the amazing work they do to combat bird crime and bring education to the forefront. Thanks to their amazing work and that of volunteers, these birds and other raptor chicks will hopefully flourish and thrive.
Thanks for reading