I've tried doing real, actual work today. But the old noddle simply isn't quite 100% enough to deal with conjecture or snipe-shooting. So posting old photos on the web is about as much as I can manage. What larks, though! Here's the first one, which is not a photo, but a card. I am sure you agree with my brother (who sent it) that there can be no finer card for a falconer or hunter than this:
The next photo shows a young gyrfalcon sliding down through crosswinds and autumnal rain to land on a grassy knoll near the road. It's Lake Myvatn, in north Iceland, she's flying over, a long, long time ago. My family were in a rented car entirely unsuited to the terrain, breathlessly viewing her through fogging-up binoculars. She sat there for about ten minutes, occasionally raising her wings to lift a few feet into the air before landing again. Such a baby, she played grab-the-grass-stems with her big blue feet like a kitten. She was the colour of dry slate, a rich grey with creamy darts and spots and arrows, a fluffy beard under her beak (sign of inordinate good humour, in a hawk) and a pair of dark eyes that even as far away as the car, were utterly transfixing. I was ten years old and this was sort of a religious experience for me. My parents were pretty impressed too.
Hawking on Newmarket Heath, a few years back. Such an incredibly leisured and nineteenth-century composition that it's hard to believe it's a photo at all. It was a glorious day. Warm sun, springy turf dotted with toadflax flowers, good company, and some really good merlins. This year was horrible. It poured viciously. It was cold. I had a cold. And worst of all, my merlin was mugged by some nasty crows. Boo. Tucker and I tracked the little mite to where she was hiding, soaked, thin as a pencil with fright, on a wall behind some houses. She was so freaked out it took her a while to collect herself enough to fly back to the fist. "Should I fly her again?" I asked Tucker, really not thinking. "She buggered off, she's soaked to the skin, and she didn't want to come back to you" he said, drily. "Yes, why not."
Me, ages and ages ago, in a falcon shop in Sharjah, UAE.
And here's my dear friend Erin, eating Waitrose sushi in Newmarket
Two nearly-fledged imprint falcons lounging on a windowsill. Here's a female barbary falcon with (behind) near-legendary new zealand falcon x peregrine hybrid, Spitfire. (The name wasn't our idea. We wanted to call him Scaramanga, but no dice).
See? Baby falcons are cute! Someone sent me this picture. It's an eight-day old baby merlin. Nothing like a kitten.