A raven croaks his way along the tops, searching for possible f a dead sheep if he is lucky, or perhaps only the scanty remains hen-harrier’s kill.
Often I have been asked what it is that appeals to me in these dull, monotonous, empty tracts of land. To me, though they are none of these things. There is wild life everywhere, and if only hough, they are people would bother to use their eyes they would find more colour and beauty in the lichens on the rocks than in the holiday camps to which they flock. Perhaps it is just as well that they do not bother, or the hill would look like Brighton beach on a bank holiday.
The dogs are pointing again, one backing the other, honouring its partner as it should. The wind is too slight today to make y an difference to the falcon which way the grouse are flushed, so once we have got within a hundred yards or so of the dogs I unhood her and cast her off.
In spite of the sudden change from the darkness of her hood to the glare of full sunlight, she is able to adjust her sight at once. Watch her swing round, gaining height at each circle she completes, making full use of the unseen air currents. Against the sky she looks black, her wings shaped like a full-drawn bow. She has learned from experience that she must go high and when she has reached her pitch she glides, wings outstretched, her wingtips bending and whipping with the pressure, her head turned to look down at the dogs two or three hundred feet below her.
She doesn’t hang in the air hovering like a mousing kestrel, but turns easily in tight rings, waiting for me to send the dogs in to flush the grouse. She cannot see them at all, for they are hidden in the heather somewhere upwind of the pointers, but she knows as well as I do that they are there.
Watch very closely now, for this is the moment that all of us, falcon, dogs and falconer, have worked and waited for.
As the dogs go in at command the grouse spring like magic from the heather, where, a moment before, there was no sign of them. undersides of their wings, like the Coloured, but for the silvery heather and lichens among which they live, they speed away across the moor, flying low, following the contours.
In level flight they are nearly as fast as the falcon, and it would take her a mile or more to overhaul them. But from her pitch she has the advantage.
She sees them and turns suddenly, with effortless grace, stooping earthwards. Her wings nearly closed, she hurtles down, the gap between falcon and grouse closing with astonishing rapidity.
If you are close enough to hear it, the wind tears through her pinions, making a rushing sound so curious that once heard it is rarely forgotten. Her bells, pushed against her legs, cannot ring, but you can hear the air whining through the slots in them.
The grouse she has chosen is an old cock, full of the guile and cunning that life in such surroundings has given him and his kind. To my way of thinking he is far craftier than the hoodie crow or the raven, who have fewer enemies on the hill.
Doubtless he has met peregrines before and knows exactly what he must do, for, at the vital moment, he drops suddenly, diving into some long heather that he knew from the start was waiting to give him safety, and for which be has been making as fast as his wings could carry him. The falcon, a split second before she seems bound to destroy herself against the ground, shoots over his refuge and throws up without a wing beat, nearly to her original height. As she climbs she tunas her head and looks down over her back. Regaining her pitch once more, she waits on.
She has shown us what we wanted to see, her powers of flight full stretched. Her failure to kill is unimportant, for there are other grouse and other days.
For me there is an added pleasure, for nothing but the training she has received at my hands stops her from returning to the wild if she is so inclined. Without any assistance from man or dog she could now fend for herself. But her training, and — though many may scoff at this — also a certain affection for me, will bring her back. If this last were not so, then why should she come, at times from out of sight over the hill, and sit beside me, with no lure being shown to entice her ?

By Isan Lu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *