Cully 2


Joined January 2008

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My Childhood Falcon Watercolour. See also writing


Cully and I took long silent walks across the fields in the early morning when the air was crisp and winter trees etched fine black lines across a frosty blue sky. Lapwings would tape like some great dark Chinese Serpent across the top of the trees, screaming at the sight of us like a market full of fishwives. Poor, befuddled minds in perpetual blind panic.
He would sometimes watch them as they spiralled to a landing besides the lake. At other times he would, with almost disdainful eye, watch the herons. The prey of his more regal cousin, the Peregrine. The beautiful bird of the sudden stoop. Whereas Cully in pursuit of his prey was the hanger on the wind.
Hanging on the wind, waiting, perhaps the odd change in the angle of the tail, otherwise motionless. Waiting for something, anything, from a small mammal to a beetle. A cosmopolitan bird is tinnunculus. Then the sudden and unexpected dive from 40’ or so, a pause at 20’, a short hover, one sudden wing beat, a change in aerodynamic shape, a flick of the wings and the bird drives head first into the ground, turning up only at the last moment, talons extended.

The first time I saw him make a kill, it was totally unexpected. The Kestrel’s main prey is small rodents and the like. Certainly nothing suitable for the pot and so this commonest of all true Falcons is useless as a Falconers bird. Suitable only for the training of the inexperienced. I suppose looked at critically, the best thing that could be said about this haunter of the motorway edge is that they make quite good pets. They cannot be trained to hunt specifically for anything, not even a lowly vole.
So, to see Cully kill anything, even once, must I suppose be seen as a singular honour.
The only thing lower than a Kestrel on a Falconers list is a Buzzard. This is because, strangely for such a regal looking bird, they are branded cowards and carrion eaters to boot. There is always a danger in anthropomorphosizing animals. But the only thing a Buzzard can do is look regal and even that not very well. Look at the bird’s feet. Carrion bird’s feet are always small and featherless.


A kill.
So I became privy to this rather singular honour one day when Cully and I were walking through the small wood near to the house. We were passing rather laboriously through a stand of high bracken when suddenly Cully exploded from my wrist. Terrified of hurting him I let go the Jesses.
He flew rather clumsily down to the ground. I had read of the fits that hawks are prone to and my first conclusion was instant as he lay there wings caught in the broken stalks. I crept slowly towards him, suffering agonies every time I caused unexpected noise. Suddenly he raised himself and flew into the branches of a nearby Oak. Hell I thought, now I have lost him.
Then he was down. I caught sight of a brief brown flash between tree and ground. Ignoring noise and scratches now, I pushed through the undergrowth towards him.
Underneath every tree in the wood was a small clear area of verdant pasture. Cully was in the middle of one of these, under the Oak. He was clawing down a small shrew. It stared out, shocked into immobility. Little pin prick blackcurrant eyes. Almost as if in play, Cully mantled it instinctively with his wings and tore off its pointed twitching head.

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