3 Mar 2020 – noon GMT – 5°C Partly Cloudy – Co. Longford, Ireland
This morning I heard buzzard calls then saw three circling overhead as I chatted with glazers who had arrived to bring improved heat insulation to our home. Earlier, two Grey Herons had passed low over the house while I was discussing electrical earthing problems with a visiting electrician. There’s a plumber coming soon to review a drain pierced during the hunt for a suitable route for an earth rod to contact the granite just a couple of feet below.
The buzzard reminded me of a recent peregrine falcon sighting from our kitchen. A day when the plumber was here wrestling with a 1 inch gas main that needed to be run under the house. No, I’m not associating predators and tradesmen.
This does not mean that there was a peregrine here. My perception was that I heard the cry of a hunting peregrine.
Then I saw some jackdaws rising from a big pine in a fluttering group of five. And a couple of pigeons went flying by very quickly. The pigeons went from right to left across my field of vision. The jackdaws had lifted in the opposite direction, using the strong wind to support their take-off. The same lifting air flow gave the pigeons their escape speed.
So I continued to watch. Two pieces of evidence for the presence of a peregrine. The sound of a call. The unusual behaviour of the other birds. And a third circumstantial clue: there had been peregrines here a few years ago.
I went downstairs, still looking out the windows, and my patience was rewarded. A large and presumably female Peregrine stooped from over my head diagonally down, cutting across the plane of the flight paths of both pigeon and jackdaw. Two seconds viewing and I never saw her again. I presumed there had been a successful kill.
Two unproven presumptions: gender and success. But confirmation of the presence of a hunting peregrine.
There were breeding peregrines hereabouts a few years ago, poisoned by pigeon fanciers who presumably thought they were protecting large financial investments in racing pigeons. Remember the pigeon called Bolt sold in 2013 for over 250,000 Sterling. So, task one is to go to the Dalkey quarry and see if other twitchers are watching potential nest sites. And task two is to find out how we might protect any nest sites against the pigeon-keepers.
Then again, there’s the pierced drain before I go searching for falcons before I continue planning the walk to Rome.
Passing neighbours reminded me that that a stream once flowed where our drive drops down from the road. “Don’t you remember we used to play here”. Oddly, she was a neighbour then too, though we lived a kilometre from here when there was only one digit to our age. And yes, when ‘the pond’ was mentioned, 55 year old memories of dammed streams and sediment distribution experiments came back to me despite not having recalled it in the last 25 years living here. And the stream of surface water coming down our concrete drive is why we put in a French drain in the first place. I hadn’t realised until today that we ended up living in a development built in 1972 that utterly changed the look of where I used play in the period between Kennedy’s ‘because they are hard’ speech in Rice University and the engrossing broadcast moon walks.
Odd to think of the vagaries of our minds: perceptions yielding peregrines versus forgotten stream damming. Is eyewitness testimony accurate or reliable? Ask the blasphemers in Pakistan.
Blasphemy is a big issue in Pakistan. The extremists are free to use it to discredit their rivals. Death is the legal punishment. Clerics call for the death of blasphemers and openly ask that alleged blasphemer’s cooks or bodyguards or their drivers kill the accused. And sometimes it happens – the Punjab governor was murdered in this way. Of course, to defend a blasphemer is to insult The Prophet, a crime itself punishable by death. And some are on death row for defending alleged blasphemers. To call out a blasphemer is to honour The Prophet and many are thus incentivised because such an honour is recognised both in this life and eternally thereafter. And everyone knows that there’s no smoke without fire and besides, who would dishonour The Prophet by suggesting a witness to blasphemy was wrong.