Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Did your mother have scary eyes and sharp claws?
I was looking out of the window at the black clouds racing from the West just now, and I noticed the pigeons flying about like show-offs in the fierce wind. A Peregrine Falcon must be looking for its breakfast, I thought, and I was right.
I spent a few minutes waiting for it to come into my limited field of view and there it was, flapping about in an almost ungainly fashion so as to wrong-foot the pigeons.
The best thing for the pigeons to have done would have been to settle down on a stone ledge, but the second best thing was to turn somersaults in the air, suddenly change direction, and generally do what fighter pilots do when expecting a heat-seeking missile to come slamming into their arse.
I don't know how many generations of feral pigeons it has taken to understand that Peregrine Falcons pose a serious risk to life and limb, but in the fifteen years I have been observing them take no notice of Peregrines flying over their heads, it is only during this last one that I have seen them panic or take any evasive action at all.
The Falcons also seem to have learnt that their preferred technique of diving downward onto the pigeons at 200 MPH is not always suited to town hunting, and they - more often than not - use the Sparrow Hawk's method of simply flying into a group unannounced, scattering them, and quickly accelerating on a single, vulnerable bird.
At well over 100 MPH, pigeons are the fastest birds on the flat, but Peregrines are experts at acceleration, tucking their huge, sickle-shaped, fast-beating wings in for just enough time to keep up the speed gained in even a very shallow dive. From 40 to 200 in three seconds is easy for one of them, and their talon-to-eye coordination is only equalled by an owl's, but in the owl's case, it is talon-to-ear coordination.
I have also just learnt that the Peregrine's nostrils have unique baffles in them, to stop the air-pressure from bursting their heads in a dive. They copied this design for jet fighter engines.
I feel the same sense of exhilarating pride by proxy - annealed by envy - when I see a Peregrine batting along overhead as I do when I see a Spitfire, and I stand as much chance of flying in a single-seater Spitfire as I do of being a Peregrine.
If only I had joined the RAF when I was 16, and if only I had be born from an egg.