Late last Friday night in Lady B’s library, having wrapped up my exhaustive research on Saturday’s History of Man Chest Art post, I settled into a comfy leather chair near the fireplace, a steaming cup of tea on the piecrust table by my elbow and my favorite book upon my lap. I barely had time to open to my bookmark at Plate #313 when Albert swooped in through the open door and alighted upon the arm of the chair opposite.
The following is a transcript of our conversation.
ALBERT: <squawk!> Whatcha doin’?
ME: It is perfectly obvious, Albert, that I’m reading.
ALBERT: (jerking his beak forward) <squawk!> Picture book.
ME: Oh those are just the plates. (flipping to the back of the book) It has text too. See here on page 419: (reading from my Field Guide to North American Birds) Osprey, Pandion haliaetus. Description: 21-24”. Wingspan 4’6”-6’. A large, long-winged—
ALBERT: <squawk> Not that long.
ME: Four-and-a-half to six feet isn’t long for a bird’s wingspan? Come on, Albert. What’s wrong? Are you jealous?
ALBERT: Eats fish. <squawk!>
ME: Yes, sea hawks do subsist mostly on fish. But, uh… does lobster patty ring a bell to you?
ALBERT: (sticking his beak into the air, looking decidedly askance) <squawk!> Hunts.
ME: (settling back again in my chair) Precisely. Hawks hunt… to survive.
Obviously feeling surly, Albert pokes his beak under his wing and fluffs his feathers.
ME: Oh, dear. Come now, Albert. Just because I’ve given several of the members of my Falcon Club code names that are birds of prey doesn’t mean I don’t love you anymore. It’s just that…
Albert keeps his head turned to pretend he’s not listening, but I see him lean in a bit.
ME: Well, it’s just that raptors are so intriguing. I mean, first of all they’re loners, and I adore loner heroes. Also, raptors have remarkably sharp senses, incredible speed, thorough command of the sky, and some, like the osprey, have command of the sea as well. And like you said, they hunt to survive. Since hunting to survive is in a sense what the members of my Falcon Club do, I couldn’t resist giving a few of them raptor code names.
ALBERT: <squawk!> Eagle, Sea Hawk, Peregrine… <squawk> Raven and Sparrow?
ME: You’re right. Ravens and sparrows aren’t raptors. But Wyn Yale and Constance Read bear those code names for good reasons. Just like Leam Blackwood is Eagle because of his high noble title and Jin Seton is Sea Hawk because he is a ship captain.
ALBERT: <squawk> Peregrine?
ME: The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest bird in the sky, Albert. Incredibly fast. And deadly like his hawk relatives.
ALBERT: <squawk> I smell backstory!
ME: (chuckling) Yes, sir. Colin Gray has some pretty serious backstory, just like his fellow Falcon Club members. Just the way I like my heroes and heroines best.
ALBERT: (hops from his chair to mine and taps the tip of his beak to the Field Guide) <squawk> Parrot?
ME: None native to North America, I’m afraid. (I tickle him under the beak) But who wants to roam wild and completely unattached to anyone and hunt to survive anyway, right?
I keep my voice light for his sake, but I’m looking past his colorful feathers at the picture of the osprey. Starkly dark and white. A loner. A predator searching out his prey upon the ocean, determined to subdue it at all cost.
And I smile.
My poor Sea Hawk doesn’t have any idea what he’s in for…
When I was a girl my father and I used to go bird watching, and since then I’ve been enthralled by the dangerous, loner ways of birds of prey. On the flip side of animal traits, I love dogs and horses, and I have a dolphin tattoo. Do you have a favorite animal–wild, domestic, or both? What qualities do you most admire about it?