We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.Henry Beston, The Outermost House, 1928
If you have not read Henry Beston’s book, The Outermost House. A Year of life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, you might want to check and see if your local library has a copy. Or, like me, you might want to check out the many on line used book shops unless, of course, you happen to live close to one. It is also very reasonably priced new at $17.99
Beston is entranced by his surroundings. His intent was to spend only a fortnight in the cabin on the windblown dunes but, as he became more and more enthralled with the seaside, the migrating birds, the blowing sand and the waves that surrounded him day in and day out, he could not leave. Beston spent a year living on the shore. He listened, observed, and began to understand the natural world. Beston would sit and write, often looking out a west window, observing the Terns and the Hawks. His descriptions of their lives is nothing short of vivid. You can almost reach out and hear the splash of the waves as a storm approaches or feel the warmth of the sun on a summer’s day or hear the birds.
As an art historian (at least in another life), I appreciate Beston spending some time reflecting on how the ancient Egyptians depicted the birds and animals in their art. He said, “The longer I live here and the more I see of birds and animals, the greater my admiration becomes for those artists who worked in Egypt so many long thousand years ago, drawing, painting, carving in the stifling quiet of the royal tombs.” Beston believed that the Egyptians were the only ones who were able to portray their true psyche. “A hawk of stone carved in hardest granite on a temple wall will have the soul of all hawks in his eyes. Moreover, there is nothing human about these Egyptian creatures. They are self-contained and aloof as becomes folk of a first and intenser world.”
Indeed, the Egyptians covered the inner chambers of their burial tombs with images of hawks, carved statues out of stone, painted their portraits on papyrus, and cast small amulets.
Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis. Osiris is the God of the Dead as well as the God of Resurrection. His partner, the goddess, Isis , helps the dead through the afterlife. Together with their son, Horus, who is depicted with a falcon head wearing a crown with a cobra, they are to Egyptians, the holy family.
The name Horus means ‘the one who is above’ or ‘the one who is distant’. The eye of Horus, the Wedjat, is depicted in many works of art. It is said that the god’s right eye held the sun while his left eye held the moon. They represented power and healing and appear on many works of art and amulets as protective devices.
The Eye of Horus, seen in the centre of the tomb painting above, became a powerful amulet in Old Egypt. The notion that Horus can protect a person continues today. Talismans of all types appear at the stalls in the old markets throughout Cairo and even on running shoes worn by teenagers.
Horus is a falcon. All one has to do is look at the profile of the peregrine falcons to see the similarity between the Egyptian representations of Horus. Peregrine Falcons are Apex Predators. That means that there are very few animals that will harm them – they are at the top of the food chain, so to speak. They are capable of flying at 390 kmh making them the fastest bird or animal on the planet. The falcons would have been known, of course, to the ancient Egyptians. There are written records of the falcons as early as 10,000 BCE in the Middle East.
There are many books on falcons. One that I particularly like was released in 1967. It is The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. There is a recent reprint with an excellent introduction by Robert MacFarlane, British nature writer and critic. If you are into falcons, I highly recommend it.
I have been thinking a lot about falcons. Yesterday when Diamond did not return to the scrape box at Orange for nearly ten hours, Xavier just stepped in and took care of their eyas. Just watching Yarruga or the 367 Collins Street Four in Melbourne gives me pause to contemplate Beston’s quote at the beginning of this blog. I can also ‘hear’ the falconer, Laura Culley, answering someone who asked if Big Red, the Red-tailed Hawk at Cornell, would know that one of her fledglings had died. Laura fired back, “And why wouldn’t she?!” One of the ways that we can move forward to find a balance between humans and the natural world is for us humans to stop thinking that we are superior. Beston is right – we aren’t. For so many people that I know, the birds continue to be the messengers of the gods giving us signals and warnings – if only we could recognize them.
Xavier did a top notch job of taking care of little Yarruga. This morning he brought in a Starling for Diamond to feed the little one. Diamond’s right wing was still a little droopy then.
Diamond gave the chick part of the bird and left with the remainder. A little later Xavier flew into the scrape box with a nice plump pigeon. He stuffed Yarruga til the wee one could hold no more.
Xavier is getting the hang of feeding Yarruga but he gets anxious the more Yarruga begs for food (or screams for it) as he finishes plucking the prey. So today, once again, Xavier fed Yarruga lots of feathers and, also, one of the legs of the pigeon. It had to have been larger than the one the other day. Yarruga struggled for awhile. Then bit the leg into two parts and Xavier then continued to feed her pigeon.
Yarruga’s crop was getting bigger and bigger. Xavier is doing a fantastic job feeding his chick. Do you remember all those days Xavier wanted to feed the newly hatched Yarruga and Diamond wouldn’t let him? Oh, he is making up for that desire to care for his baby now.
At the end, he is still wanting to make sure that Yarruga is no longer hungry. Diamond would be proud.
Diamond rested herself in one of her spots – possibly a nearby tree or on top of the water tower. Her shoulder or wing might just be bruised or sore. However, by the early afternoon, her wing was looking better and was back in place. You can see that in the image below.
The 367 Collins Street Four are losing down and losing down. They now look like Peregrine Falcons instead of fluffy little samurai warriors running up and down the gutter.
Here they were a few days ago:
Here they are today:
They have really changed. Just look at the one in the background standing on the ledge outside the scrape. What beautiful juvenile plumage.
All of the falcons seem to be just fine – including Diamond. She just needed to rest. With only one chick in the scrape and not four, Diamond can let Xavier be more active in both hunting and feeding. Having one is certainly less stress. It is, however, such a relief to have Diamond and her wing back to normal.
The following is an update on WBSE 27:
Thank you so much for joining me. Falcons are wonderful birds. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Take care everyone. See you soon.
Thank you to the following for their streaming cam where I took my screen captures: the 367 Collins Street Falcon Cam by Mirvac and Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam at Orange and Cilla Kinross. I would also like to than the Sea Eagle Cam FB Page for the update on WBSE 27 which I have cut and pasted here.
Please note: The blog for Monday, 1 November may not appear until late evening. I hope the weather is not too bad so that I can get out and catch up on the ducks and geese and there is, apparently, an influx of Robins in our City.
Oh I’m so glad to see the photo and hear the good news about SE27! He/she looks very beautiful! Glad the X-rays were good and hopefully will be released soon. ❤️🙏
The falcons look good and so does little Yurruga. So glad to see he/she moving around and Dad helping with the feeding! 💕
Thanks for all the info on the Egyptian birds and the book sounds very interesting as well!
Have a grand day and take care!