UPDATE: Katie, known as bogbumper on social media asked me for more information about the ringed Peregrine in my photos. Unfortunately, I had none. But, she investigated further and discovered that the ringed bird I snapped over King’s College Chapel had come to Cambridge from Belgium, where it was originally ringed at a nesting site in May 2017. Details can be found on the BTO site, this isn’t the only Belgian Peregrine to reach our shores, as you can see. My photo will now be assimilated into the BTO database for the entry on this bird. #CitizenScience.
When (if) you ever stop to chat with the people on a city’s streets, the homeless, the buskers, you will often hear sorry tales of woe, but also great joy. Give someone the time of day and they will tell their tale and you will feel the richer for having listened and for having heard it.
Paul is one such character walking the streets of Cambridge in his brown leather porkpie hat, waterproof jacket, Xmas jumper, and baggy grey pantaloons. He pulls along behind his bicycle a metal trailer the contents of which you might be surprised to learn are a sitar, a music stand, and a perch for his Saker Peregrine falcon hybrid, Daffy. So named because she makes a quacking sound, the facially hirsute Paul told me.
Mrs Sciencebase had spotted Paul with his Peregrine on a previous visit to Cambridge, but it was just by chance that I saw him in between my loafing around outside shop doorways while Christmas shopping was being done. I spoke to Paul and inquired about the raptor. Apparently, the bird is 20 years old, is well trained and jessed up, and Paul used to use Daffy in his job in pest-bird control on a waste dump for 22 years. Until redundancy made him and Daffy…well…redundant. He presumably had another bird before that or was just confused about the chronology. Never mind.
He was very much into his music and took to busking with Daffy alongside to try and pay his way. I don’t imagine there was much of a golden handshake from the dump when he was laid-off. He seemed not in the slightest bit bitter, although when I asked him whether the police ever bothered him, he was quick to point out that they’re simply a corporate entity beholden to the state. They apparently have no real power over him or anyone and the individual officers themselves are also entirely unaware of the smoke and mirrors by which our nation operates without its populace ever understanding.
At this point, a chill wind had picked up around the Monsoon shop corner and Paul was worried that Daffy’s feathers would be somewhat rustled by the breeze. So, I never did get to hear the end of his conspiracy theory nor hear him play his homage to Ravi Shankar.
So, as Paul trundled away up Market Street to find a more sheltered spot, I myself headed up Sidney Street and then back along St John’s Street to King’s Parade on the off-chance that the wild pair of Cambridge Peregrines were at one of their favourite haunts: King’s College Chapel.
Peering skyward as I reached the corner at Great St Mary’s Church, I could see that something was spooking the local stock doves and feral pigeons, they were swooping around the rooftops. A high-pitched squeal, not a quack, could be heard, there was a raptor around. Quickly spotted a female ducking and diving among the Chapel spires and scattering the pigeons and then a second raptor also in and out the turrets until both came to rest, argumentatively on one tower.
They departed heading south to their nearby nesting site and leaving a Magpie who had been hiding in the tall tree in front of the Chapel to nip in and out to the tower and nick scraps from the food cache the Peregrines had presumably made there. I alluded to how all birds had evolved from dinosaurs to Tanya and James who witnessed this and were selling Jehovah to passersby, they were interested to know more about the birds, and admitted to a belief of sorts in evolution…an intriguing nature documentary on the city streets and then back to the Christmas shopping.