River Wissey Lovell Fuller


June 2011

Ivor watches the Peregrine Falcon on Northwold Church Tower

From the top of Northwold church tower you could see for miles around. Immediately below lay the sleepy village disguised by numerous trees and green. A patchwork of fields and meadows encompassed the few houses and demonstrated its isolation from the rest of the world. In the distance the faithful river Wissey showed black and weaved in and out ressembling a giant snake. On the north east corner of the tower perched a very large bird of prey dressed in grey and barred with black. He surveyed the surroundings and elected this to be his new territory.

Our friend the bird was definitely alien to our district. He had arrived a day or so ago and the church tower was proving to be an excellent home for he could find shelter within the belfry and all the comfort he needed. In fact the church tower was probably the best refuge he had ever found. Thus he was in no hurry to leave and although other birds resided at the same address most choose to avoid him because of his size and nature.

It was a dull and windy day. The wind was strong and had been persistent for weeks. Without any signal the bird launched itself from the turret and was immediately swept higher and still higher by a fierce wind pocket. For certain no effort was required to perform aerobatics in such conditions. He soared away and soon became a mere speck only to quickly return low over the meadows searching the ground cover for any movement. Patience was his password as backwards and forwards he glided and then round and round. Perhaps the wind was to blame but for whatever the reason nothing was spotted. Thus our friend returned to the height of the church tower.

His watchfulness continued. He was totally alert. From the comfort of his high perch surveilance was easy and something had already caught his interest. Below and above the doorway of the church a family of sparrows performed their daily duties. Their need of worms and grubs and scraps was nearby and forever plentiful. The sparrows flitted constantly from the guttering to the ground and back. They would disappear into the bushes to immediately return to examine this and that. Activity was feverish for they were always busy being busy! The wind did not bother them and no doubt they were enjoying a good life!

The overcast day was soon to end. The dim was changing to dark. The bats who also lived in the confines of the church were now awaking. They had not yet taken to flight but their high pitched squeaks had already commenced and they were beginning to fidget. A few more minutes and the first would be off whereupon the entire night shift would follow.

Likewise the large occupant on top of the tower was becoming restless. He had last eaten two days ago. From his position he watched the many sparrows beneath him. The time had arrived and down he dived at speed. The neighbourhood starlings had been fractious for days and fully aware of a new threat but the sparrows knew nothing. Perhaps they have little brain and ignorance is sometimes heaven. However in a mere second the fattest member of the sparrow family had been seized in mid-air by huge yellow talons. Death was instant and the inert body fell to the ground and was collected without wait.

Afterwards our friend (although perhaps we should no longer call the culprit such) preened himself and using a convienient puddle on the lead roof had a long splash wash. When all was to his satisfaction and the surface of the water became still again he looked at his reflection. He saw a full size peregrine falcon staring back! He felt good. Now you may well be surprised that such a feathered person can be found within our gentle surroundings but rest assured this visitor has definitely been seen of late and within our very own village!!

Ivor Hook

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