Sunday, February 22, 2009
A few summers ago, I receded into the curious minds of imprints. Quite unexpectedly, I ended up with a fourteen day old peregrine in my Glasgow flat. She was to stay with me for a while, before being tame-hacked and hunted. In no time, she became an excitable and moody half-feathered falcon, with an entertaining desire for exploration. Teetering on blue feet, her toes so long and thin they seemed a caricature - she raced across the ground. Often I would take her to a wide-open park, ensconced in the center of Glasgow, and lounge in the grass. After precarious sprints she would collapse near me and doze in the sunshine, a ball of fluff and pins.
Some of the very first articles I read on eagles in falconry detailed the experience of hand-raising young eyasses in the home. They left an impression on me, and I often thought of what it must be like to have an eaglet clamber about. What was their mentality really like? When a friend acquired a twenty-two ounce, two-week old male for hare hunting, I saw opportunity. I spent many, many hours with the young bird. Most of the time he would stretch out his feathered tarsi, curl his thick toes and drift in and out of contented sleep. Predatory eyes and a bright yellow cere shone from beneath a mantle of fluff. The feathers that soon peeked beneath the thick down were nearly jet black. The sun would lighten them before too long, but for now they created a fitting contrast. The downy eagle was a stoic bird. He possessed a reserved intelligence and seemed content to observe the world around him. Unlike the peregrine, who would quickly bound on unsteady feet, standing up was quite a calculating ordeal for the eagle in the beginning. Similarly, churning his wings in an evening breeze was only done after some consideration. To the astute - which I am far from - there is much insight into their mindset to be gleaned from the fuzz-bucket stage. As we get our first glimmers of spring – sharing those lazy summer days with an ever-growing eaglet is something I reflect fondly on.