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Encounter

June 4, 2017

There is a buzzard living close by. I call it a falcon, but the Dutch names for these birds of prey are different than the English, and evidently the bird that I see around here is not native to the US. Here he is, buteo buteo, native to the UK and other parts of Europe.

Well, I’m in love with this bird. In the early spring I’d be walking the dog, crashing rather thoughtlessly through the grass and bushes and suddenly this huge span of wings would lift out of nowhere and circle away. Once I became aware of coming into his territory, I became more careful and I also started bringing the binoculars. He still took off when I was many meters away, but gradually, I began to approach that area of trees more cautiously. And I would be rewarded with him staying where he was and watching me as I passed by.  I began to recognise his and his sort’s cries as well. And would look up and see one or two of them circling high in the sky. My relationship to these birds has enriched my life so much.

So when I heard that in a nearby town there would be a bird-of-prey demonstration, I made sure I was there. To my delight there was a chance to actually have the birds perch on one’s arm with a falconer’s glove. At first he had a blinder on because of the crowds and noise, but then the hood was taken off and wow, there he was! I was gobsmacked, he didn’t regard me with one eye like many birds do, but turned to face me fully, with both eyes fastened on my face. I could hardly breathe from the power of that stare, and I must admit that it wasn’t comfortable. Those eyes are unblinking and black without a glint of light in them. No warmth at all.  I ‘got’ that you never really tame these animal- they remain predators who kill, or sometimes eat their prey alive. They are certainly not pets or pettable.

falcon 1a

But looking into those eyes and having that magnificent creature on my arm was so amazing. It was like seeing some gorgeous natural phenomenon with just a hint of potential violence, like a thundering waterfall, or a mountain, or sun flares. It was truly awesome.

falcon 2