It’s been a bright day today, and I wandered out of the back gate and headed up the track towards the farm. There are two horse chestnut trees halfway up, and it’s a favourite resting spot for Carrion Crows, Magpies, Wood Pigeons and thrushes. I noticed a bird fly up from the ground at the base of one of the trees with black and white feathers dangling below it. It came to rest on the ground and – joy of joys I had my binoculars – saw that it was a Peregrine Falcon, plucking its prize in the stubble. I heard another falcon call, and it swooped in and landed in an ash on the edge of the copse. I wondered if it was its mate as I have seen a pair hunt these fields a couple of times a year since I moved here. They normally catch pigeons but there was a large brood of eight Magpies that have been loafing around the farm and my cottage.
The bird with the prey took off to the other side of the field when it saw the other falcon, so I presume it wasn’t prepared to share, whatever the relationship. The perched bird sat looking bored and lugubrious in the way that resting raptors do, and seemed unperturbed by my dog tearing along the footpath after his tennis ball. I called Ned and went to see if we could find any Magpie remains, as I know that they sometimes just take the head and the breast meat and discard the rest. No sign so I went back to the place where the falcon had been initially, and sure enough, a shroud of feathers.
It is so tricky taking photos through binocs but I did my best, as well as taking plenty of time to just enjoy the encounter and study the birds.
This, of course, was the perfect subject for a page in my Nature Notebook. I used my memorised mental images and photos as reference with a few birds books to get the plumage right on the painting. Something I have learnt to do since the field sketching is to take a mental ‘snapshot’ of the bird and with practise I have found it to be an effective way to remember what I have seen enough to get something down on the page.
The lettering is inspired by a font called Austere. I really hope the Peregrines become regulars here at my local patch as it’s such a treat to see these phenomenal birds.
Here is my oil of a Peregrine that I painted a few years ago: