It's snowing again. Last time I posted an entry about snow, the power went out half an hour later, and it didn't come back on again for more than 12 hours. Better luck this time?
A pair of kestrels
is sitting in a cottonwood tree behind the house. This is the first time I've ever had a good look at a kestrel. Back in high school (actually an English grammar school), we spent way too much time studying a book about a boy and his pet kestrel; it was strangely frustrating, because all I knew was that kestrels were vaguely hawk-like. I always felt like I was missing the significance of the key word in the book.
A few years ago, I got into the habit of trying to identify the birds I see. I learned that kestrels are small falcons, which I'd be able to recognize easily enough if I could ever see one clearly. Today at last, I know I could go back to that high school reading assignment, and not be troubled at all by wondering what a "kestrel" is. But the characters would still spend most of their time bullying poor Billy (in Yorkshire dialect, no less), so I think I'll pass.
Better stories about falcons have come my way since high school. My favorite was told by Anglo-Danish archaeologist Geoffrey Bibby
, in his book Looking for Dilmun
. I'm sad to learn, as I write this, that Bibby died two months ago. His book -- a marvelous blend of history, travel, and science -- is one of the most memorable I've ever read.
Bibby and his co-workers used to excavate in Bahrain for part of each year. As I recall, his colleague came into possession of a white Greenland falcon during one of the off-seasons. Falconry being a popular and prestigious sport in Arabian lands, they decided the bird would be an exotic and ideal gift for the sheikh whose hospitality they relied on. En route
to Bahrain, the falcon showed no ill effects from travelling in the baggage compartment during the European leg of the journey. Upon changing to an Arab airline for the last leg of the flight, the travellers were told that the bird would under no circumstances be allowed to travel as baggage. Nothing less than First Class seating was suitable for such a distinguished guest.
I believe Bibby and his colleague were allowed to move into the First Class section, too.