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Thursday, 29 July 2010




Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): photo by Andreas Trepte, 2010

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, pride, plume, here...-- G. M. Hopkins

The poet who reveled in the stooping of the raptor among reaches and crags
upon the wing of the wind

embraced the will in the scream of the plummeting Peregrine, the Greater Will,
the whim
of a beloved brutal and violent predator God --

praised out of silence lord dauphin chevalier and master,
sang flight terror
in the Merlin's glide, saw Christ in the dip of the Kestrel, knew love

in the Gyrfalcon's Sturzkampfflugzeug swoop and

wild updraft soaring out of stony nested shade
over tarn and lake -- sensed startled cry of prey, felt hearts
race, heard
sharp fear music from faroff in the instant of speechless prayer

before the inevitable Kill -- and then the fade

back to mere word language my heart in hiding
stirred --
from bird augury and violence in the realm
of the parahuman
the gods have always been made.

File:Gyrfalcon (falco rusticolus) in flight.jpg

Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) in flight, west of Hastings, Minnesota: photo by Derek Bakken, 2006

File:Falco columbarius pair Auburn NY 2.jpg

Merlin (Falco columbarius) pair fighting over prey, Auburn, New York
: photo by Bear Golden Retriever, 2010

File:Falco columbarius pair Auburn NY 3.jpg

Merlin (Falco columbarius) pair fighting over prey, Auburn, New York: photo by Bear Golden Retriever, 2010

Merlin (Falco columbrius columbarius) hunting a Northern Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata bromia), Mount Auburn Cemetery,
: photo by John Harrison, 2008

File:Falco biarmicus dive.jpg

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) in a dive: photo by Steve-B, 2006

File:Peregrine Falcon in flight.jpg

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) in flight, Morro Bay, California: photo by Kevin Cole, 2008




Great photos (!) "my heart stirred" (Johnny's too, "is the Peregrine falcon the fastest bird?") and all I hear here is (again) song sparrow . . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

presence of field, analogous
to dimension of surface

equal to its mass, suspended
system, inertia of that

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
wingspan of tern circling up across it

TC said...

Dear Johnny,

"The bird that is considered to be the fastest flier in the world is the Peregrine Falcon.

"Bearing the scientific name Falco peregrinus, this bird is indeed the fastest living being alive, faster than even the cheetah. It reaches speeds of over 124 miles per hour when flying on an even plane. When it gets into a swooping steepling dive, it can reach speeds close to 170 miles per hour ( the official number given is 168 miles per hour)! The swooping dive is evident in exhibitions of individual territoriality or during a hunt for prey..."

Curtis Roberts said...

Wow. These -- the poem Windhover, the images and the birds themselves -- are really and truly beyond the pale. And although it's only Thursday,"sturzkampfflugzeug" wins the Word of the Week prize.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

The 4th photo is absolutely unbelievable in its content and composition ... thanks.

"dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon," indeed.

Your close, so salient:

"from bird augury and violence in the realm
of the parahuman
the gods have always been made."


Dear Tom,

Thank you for your note on the peregrine falcon. My dad told me he once saw one over on the cliffs near Muir Beach. We once saw a program on Channel 9 about the world's fastest animals -- cheetah, barracuda (fastest ocean animal) and the peregrine falcons fastest of all. A man measures its speed in a dive by jumping out of a balloon at 10,000 (?) feet with something that the falcon liked to hunt, and once he was going as fast as possible they released the falcon, who went into its dive and soon caught up with the man. . . . You can see this on YouTube at


ps. here's something from my dad --


light coming into fog against invisible
top of ridge, blue jay calling in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

paintings being nevertheless
physical stages, period

for example, “anything” flat,
area of its limit forms

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
whiteness of gull gliding toward ridge

womanimal said...

Stunning pictures, and your poem homage to Hopkins inspires the same awe I feel when watching a bird. Just lovely. Thank you.

TC said...

Thank you Curtis, Steve, Johnny, Don and womanimal. (And welcome womanimal!)

Curtis, glad you liked


The comparison with a dive bomber (acronym: Stuka) might seem hyperbolic, but in fact I believe a stooping Falcon may reach even higher speeds than did the diving Stuka.

Steve and Johnny, I thought that BBC reporter might have been privately considering a change of professions, for a moment there, during the pre-dive play with the falcon's fluffytoy.

The aerodynamics are astonishing. Here's an alternative view, sans human intervention: A Peregrine Stoops.

Don, that fourth photo holds the key to the

dom of daylight's dauphin

in mid-air.

I should say that the post began as a presentation of the great Hopkins poem, and to be fair I should put the text here.

It's a very kinetic poem, and to give it its due, the intended effect (of course) is not to celebrate killing but to send the soul soaring toward God.

What steered me away from posting the poem, in the end, was its implicit (symbolic) identification of the Falcon with God/Christ, which, when given a bit of thought, seemed/seems somewhat problematic.

The Falcon is what it is and does what it does. It is not responsible for the universe, only for itself.

Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Windhover (writ 1877, published 1918)

To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird -- the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Curtis Roberts said...

So that's where Stuka comes from. If I ever knew, I'd forgotten. Along with "windhover", it's still the word of the week.



Thanks for latest view of peregrine stoop, I'll show Johnny when he gets back on Wednesday. And yes, that BBC announcer maybe DID think about a career change up there in that balloon (looking 10,000 feet down from platform he was on, a moment before the jump. . . .


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, blackness of pine branch in left
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

space for lines, the initial
contrast between ground

to be, approaching beginning,
what is toward thinking

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
wingspan of cormorant flapping over it

Elmo St. Rose said...


"The falcon cannot hear the

days when you can read the birds
and the clouds

or is it a delusion or a fiction
as in Carlos Castenada and the

Anonymous said...


TC said...

Curtis, Steve, Elmo and Lucy,

Good to be with you on the wind and in the clouds.

Majesty is never pedestrian.

SarahA said...

The beauty in the power. The power of being free.
'speechless prayer' and there, is the beauty and freedom.

TC said...

Oh, yes.

With this kind of power and beauty, speech would be redundant, a tiresome afterthought... (spake he).