Harsh cackling echoes from everywhere. Equal parts anger and anxiety, perfectly pitched to sow alarm and fear. Peregrines protesting as I approach their nest…
The intensity of the clamour undulates – thinner and quieter as the birds reach the zenith of their energy, loud and threatening as they pendulum heavily back towards me and rip past my head. The calls are viscerally wild, woven into the sonic fabric of rocks and mountains and wind and sea; feral even against the dissonant throb of industry and downtown traffic.
Sometimes warnings aren’t enough and the falcons resort to violence. Their strikes are shockingly powerful and savage. Glancing impacts trailed by raking claws describe the cringing contours of my scalp or back. Flight lines are smooth, flowing and concise, movements are controlled, exact and awesomely swift. Their bodies are heavily compact projectiles, with a profound symmetry, an electric vitality, and patterns and colours that are strikingly distinctive but beautifully blended with the earth: animals on the sharpest cutting edge of evolution.
My encounters with these fierce and courageous souls are generally short, loud and stressful for all concerned, but justified by the benefits of academic and conservation-driven research. The aftermath of brooding contempt eventually settles back to calm, as the Peregrines strike a pose on a favourite crag or course purposefully through the blue; proud, aloof and victorious. The privilege, the scars and the residual fear are all mine.