Published on: 01/10/2022

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Photo title: Peregrine Falcon


Photo Credits: Vikram Nanjappa

Meandering through the backwaters of the Kabini reservoir, our eyes were set firmly on the banks where, we believed, our chances of sighting a wild animal was on firm ground and not entirely based on wild luck. The skies seemed empty, the old and withered treetops rising out of the water surface seemed barren, even the abandoned cormorant nests that waited for new pairs to come back the next season. Even if there were a chance to spot “big game” of the bird world, (funny how we use that phrase for ducks and not raptors in the bird world, but top predators like tigers on terra firma are fair game), they must be far away, you tell yourself, and stare away as far as your eyes take you. Watching how the mind speculates and throws shots in the dark while in the jungle is a fascinating exercise.


When in the jungle, it’s easy to give in the cynicism of Murphy’s law. If you take the boat, the jeeps are sure to see a leopard. If you take the jeep, there’s bound to be a tiger on the riverbank that the boats had the good fortune to ogle at.


If you search for movement far away, you miss something that’s absolutely still, so close, watching and waiting for you to go away. Like the falcon on a tree stump. Now, it’s not poor spotting skills or bad eyesight that’s at fault. Over the years, I have come to believe that birds like hawks and eagles have an intuitive ability to position themselves against the sun no matter which direction you approach them from, so that any attempt at looking at them, will only blind you, even if for a moment; enough time for them to fly away without a sound, leaving an empty perch like they were never there.


The peregrine falcon was watching us until our boat came too close for comfort. But it stood its ground. I can only attribute this confidence to its knowledge that the sun had its back. When you see the silhouette of the bird through a strained squint, you see a faint blur in a dazzle of an aura. It is little surprise that some of the ancient civilisations associated hawks and specifically the falcon with solar deities. Ra, the sun god of the Egyptians has a falcon head. Circe, the sorceress of the Greek mythology, whose name translates to falcon, was the daughter of Helios.


Its dominance of the skies is legendary too; Freya of the Norse myth, wears a cape of falcon feathers that allows her to travel wherever she wants – a power that gives the bird the first part of its name: peregrine, the word that shares its origin with another kind of traveler, the pilgrim – one who travels far and crosses realms, both physical and spiritual. Loki borrowed the suit from her once, when he went to rescue Idun, the goddess of youth, held captive at Jotunheim by Thiazi who could take the form of an eagle at will. The falcon’s speed was no match even for the mighty eagle, as he swept the goddess away back to Asgard even with the eagle close on his tail.

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Photo title: Peregrine Falcon


Photo Credits: Gowri Subramanya

It’s hard to believe this comparison, considering the size and power of the eagle but it shouldn’t be surprising. Smaller though the falcon is, with its lightning bolt dive from the upper skies at a speed unsurpassed by any other living creature, it kills its prey, most of the time, with the blunt impact of its speed alone.

Some poor little bird had its living daylights knocked out of it that day. When we found the falcon, a couple of down feathers – all that was left of the meal — ruffled in the breeze close to the curved talons of the raptor. Perhaps a full tummy was another reason the peregrine tolerated our close scrutiny longer than usual. Our boatman kept a safe distance as he evasively circled around the stump, while the passengers watched completely awestruck at a sighting so rare. Murphy’s law had turned on its head and nosedived into the water.

gowri blog kabini

Gowri Subramanya

Gowri Subramanya is an editor and learning consultant based in Bengaluru, India. Writing and photography are her chosen tools of creative expression and the wilderness is her muse. A keen observer of the interaction between nature and culture, she loves to explore the history as well as the natural history of new places during her travels. With a soft spot for bird songs and a weakness for flowers, she indulges in a healthy dose of tree gazing every morning.


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