Thursday September 24th 2009, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS,Wildlife

Two things today. The first: I realized just as I hit the freeway that I’d forgotten my camera. I nearly took the next exit home to get it, but I didn’t have time and I didn’t know if it would be allowed anyway.

Glenn Stewart of SCPBRG gave a talk in the downtown San Jose library about the rescuing and recovering of the peregrine falcon population. I knew there’d only been two nesting pairs left in California in the 70’s; I had not realized they were extinct by then on the East Coast.

DDT accumulations had decimated the populations by thinning the shells, he said; that, I already knew. I didn’t know they were shot on sight in Europe during WWII so they wouldn’t intercept the carrier pigeons delivering wartime messages.

When he and his group started their efforts to rescue the peregrines, they were told it could not be done, it was a waste of time and resources–those birds were simply gone.

But how could they not try?  I got to watch a man showing the story of his life as well as theirs, the passion that had changed everything.  He showed slides of rappelling down cliffsides to retrieve falcon eggs to replace them with dummy ones in the nest. The living eggs were taken back to UC Santa Cruz, hatched where momma wouldn’t sit on them and break the shells, fed for a short while via injured/recuperating falcons on hand that were willing to adopt them, then the rappelling was done again, the babies put back in the nest, and the dummy eggs were taken away.

There are now about 250 breeding pairs in California, and the peregrines are making a comeback elsewhere as well.

Because a few people decided that if a difference could be made, if it were at all possible, it was imperative that they try to bring those birds back into life.

And they did it.

While he spoke, he had a marvelous distraction going on to his left: on a portable perch with a drop cloth of about four feet around it stood Sophie.

When there is a peregrine too ill or injured to be released into the wild, Glenn takes care of it: Sophie was certainly well enough to travel now. She would allow Glenn to hold her and take care of her, I was told, but no one else.

Well, yes.  I would definitely expect that.

But Sophie didn’t mind having about 15 strangers nearby as she preened, stretched, scratched herself with that enormous yellow foot, napped, stood on the other foot to show how relaxed she was, and generally kept us entertained very thoroughly.  Glenn reached into her space at the end, picked a downy underfeather off the drop cloth, and handed it to a thoroughly pleased listener.

What I hadn’t expected was what followed: he pulled out the most curious contraption and I was trying to figure out what it was. First he put it on his ear, and I thought, okay, to protect his ear, as he put on his leather gauntlet–but it was on the wrong side.  He got her set up on the gauntlet, then he reached for that–thing.  And then he put it over her head.

It looked like she was wearing a WWII ace fighter pilot leather helmet, except that it covered her eyes (which I’m sure was the point.) But: it had black rubber deely-boppers, two each to each side, going out far from her head.

I tried to wrap my brain around that one. I guess it’s for a visual announcement of her personal space so people won’t try to pet her as he walks by?

It was 1:00 pm, and with San Jose State University in the same city block and school in session, the library was jammed with people.  Walking behind Glenn and one  of the moderators of the peregrine group as they left, I got to watch heads turn and feet stop, over and over and over.

There was an inner set of doors, an atrium, and then the outer doors; in the atrium stood three young men suddenly stunned at a falcon with deelyboppers going right past them. They started asking each other, and of course none of them knew a thing, so I stopped and told them that Glenn Stewart of the peregrine rescue and recovery group had just given a lecture.

“Will he give another one!?”

Google his name and UCSC. Okay; they asked about the lecture, and when I talked about those slides of rappelling down the cliffs to save the species, their eyes got big and clearly, this was something that appealed to 20-something young men.

Maybe Glenn will find his next set of helpers soon.

Now, thing the second today.

I was at Purlescence Knit Night tonight when their phone rang (and if the woman wants to add anything here, I would love it, but till then I’m keeping her name private.)  A few minutes later Nathania came over to me and quietly told me who had called: one of my readers had gone over to deliver a shawl to a friend who had Stage 3 breast cancer. It was what she could do about it.

Nathania knew and I knew as she relayed this message that when a person has been made suddenly acutely aware of how finite the minutes of one’s life are, having someone bring them hours and hours of their time, a gift of life as well as any stitches or fiber involved…there are no words.  But the caller wanted us to know the depth of the joy she had found in that giving.

She had welcomed her friend back into life in that moment.  How could she not try.  For every minute there might be of it, for however long, she was wrapping her friend in love.

Glenn would understand, too.

15 Comments so far
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Isn’t it amazing what even one person with a dream and persistance can do?

Comment by Ruth 09.24.09 @ 11:48 pm

I am tearing.

Comment by StellaMM 09.25.09 @ 2:43 am

Very interesting and beautiful post, Alison. I hung on to every word.

Comment by Joansie 09.25.09 @ 4:58 am

I hope your friend’s friend enjoys her wrap as much (and longer) as my auntie enjoyed hers last year, for a few days…

Comment by Channon 09.25.09 @ 5:51 am

What a wonderful experiences (falcon and shawl).

I believe that falcon lecture would be one lecture you shouldn’t knit through. After all, if a kitten is attracted by knitting needles, just think what the keen eyes of a peregrine would make of it!

Comment by Barbara-Kay 09.25.09 @ 5:51 am

How inspiring, on both counts!

I am glad you got to attend the event. I bet you were still smiling in your sleep. 😉

Comment by Suzanne in Mtl 09.25.09 @ 6:08 am

Alison – Both stories are making me cry. Thanks for touching my heart today…Debra

Comment by Debra 09.25.09 @ 6:21 am

Thanks Alison, as usual, your blog starts my day off right.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 09.25.09 @ 7:37 am

Both were very moving stories. Thank you for sharing. Hugs & prayers to the friend of a friend.

Comment by TripletMom 09.25.09 @ 8:11 am

Do I spoil your funny description of the hood a bit?

The things sticking out are the cords used to loosen and tighten the hood around the falcon’s neck. Because it’s possible that a solo handler will need to be doing these actions while at the same time holding a bird, there are beads on the ends to allow easier gripping (in one’s teeth, for example).

Hooded hawks are relaxed hawks. There is nothing funnier than an enormous red tail with her eyes covered (the females are much larger) and her head lolling on her chest because she’s fallen asleep!

Comment by Deb 09.25.09 @ 8:20 am

Great stories, Alison. You have warmed my heart once again. And on a morning when I needed reminding of what a wonderful world we live in. We are bombarded by bad news and doomsday scenarios from every direction, it seems. Your blog puts things into perspective, narrows things down to the small things that mean so much, how simple acts of kindness can make big changes even if only in one person’s life. Thank you!

Comment by Julie 09.25.09 @ 8:40 am

What a fabulous lecture! I’m so glad that you were able to attend. The comeback of peregrines has been one of those hope-inspiring stories that lives in the back of my mind for years. 🙂

Comment by Jocelyn 09.25.09 @ 9:21 am

I guess the moral to both stories is: Never say die! Both most inspiring. Thank you so much for keeping us pointed in the right direction.

And fun:

My dietician says I should eat lots of seafood. Every time I see food I eat it.
Jackie Gleason. 

A penny saved is…………NOT MUCH
Jack Benny.

Comment by Don Meyer 09.25.09 @ 9:37 am

We have a pair of peregrins nesting on the bridge below our home in Western PA. It’s always a thrill to see them in flight.

And every year we can follow ‘from egg to chick to bird’ on the Gulf Building in Pgh via a video cam. (they mate in private!)

Comment by Cathy 09.25.09 @ 12:53 pm

Once again, thank you Alison. I just realized all the time you always give us by writing down all these wonderful stories.

Comment by karin maag-tanchak 09.25.09 @ 7:21 pm

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