Twenty Minutes Beneath a Raptor

Driving home from work yesterday, I saw a Brown Falcon. It was almost 5 o’clock and the sun seemed impatient to set.

I slowed the car, pulling over at the side of the road. Stopped about 20 metres from the power pole where the bird sat; I watched through the windscreen. It watched back, curious.

An adult dark morph, the falcon was cold. Feathers fluffed out to the max, it looked like a bear up there. The bird books say these common predators are found on farmland or roadsides. We were on a road with farms either side.

I often see raptors along here. Nankeen Kestrels, Black Falcons, even Black-shouldered Kites. These birds enjoy the high view from the crossbars, unimpeded by the foliage of trees.

Parked nearby, I try to get photos, but the birds mostly fly off. They don’t like being seen; not wanting to feel like the prey that they constantly prey upon.

I’ve followed falcons from pole to pole for almost a km. Seat belt on, seat belt off. Start, stop, ambling as if I’m in a city traffic jam. The birds usually fly off as soon as I creep out of the car with the camera.

I take my time this evening. The sunlight is dwindling while I wait. It will be too dark, too overcast for decent photos, but I want to experience this creature in the moment more than anything. Though I hardly ever get falcon pictures, I see them a couple of times a week. Usually on my way to work, when I can’t stop or look for long.

All author images taken on NW NSW farmland 3rd and 4th of June.

When raptors swoop, their talons extended, to catch some tiny creature too small for me to see, it never fails to take my breath away. It’s so good; like something we only see on TV.

I wait almost ten minutes before sliding out, camera settings ready.

The Brown Falcon keeps watch but stays. Making no sudden movements, I’m as stealthy as a ninja. It’s so dark it’s hard to focus on the bird, ruffled feathers wafting in the wind.

Almost used to me, the raptor closes it eyelids for a time. Perhaps 30 seconds go by when it rocks gently on its favoured viewing platform.

The falcon can see the new crops starting neat green rows in the black soil. With much better vision than humans, this bird can see all the way to the mountains; sensing movement in the dry tufts of plains grass.

I stay and it stays until the sun is almost gone and surrounding farm buildings, windmills, homesteads and sheds fade into silhouettes.

This glorious Brown Falcon

pulls up a claw,

resting it against its belly.

When it peers down,

those deep brown eyes

feel imperious.

Its stare has beauty

and power in it;

as if I’m bowing

before royalty.

Maybe I am.

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Therese Ralston

Writing about the real life, farm life, reading life, birdlife, wildlife, pet life and school life I have in my life. My blog: birdlifesaving.blogspot.com