Thursday, May 17, 2007

city hall falcons

Paul’s note: I’ve just returned from a great trip to Italy that has inspired a half-dozen post ideas. However, today, Scott sent in a report about new residents in San Jose that I think you will enjoy. Scott writes:

I sit in my office and watch a majestic bird, nesting not many miles from my cramped cubicle. It is a simple act, heightened by technology. One that reminds me how innately calming it is to witness nature at work.

She is with her babies now, three peregrine falcon chicks, born Sunday April 29. They sleep while she in turn keeps watch, then nods off. Dad will return soon, a fresh pigeon in his talons. He picks it apart like a hyena takes to a gazelle. It is not a pretty sight – to us – but it is a beautiful thing to his hungry wards. They gobble it up in amazing quantities, given their size. Afterwards they often struggle with the awkwardness of a feather clogged in their little beaks.

The family nests on San Jose City Hall. The webcam is courtesy of the UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group. Over the weeks, hordes of online viewers have witnessed first the chicks’ birth, then their growth. Their progress has been followed by local papers, and discussed in several forums. My two daughters want to see the cute babies at morning and night, fearful that the littlest isn’t going to make it.

Why is it so fascinating to watch these creatures? Perhaps it is their stately nature. Perhaps it is natural voyeurism. I think it has something to do with the fact that, when you strip away our complexities, you can see a likeness in kind. How do the family dynamics work? Does she sleep on the babies while Dad carouses on the town at night? What are the most basic needs? Food, security, protection from the elements. How are their parenting skills? It certainly seems like little Runty gets half the food of the favorite son.

It is basic drama. It is occasionally boring. It is life. It is a window into a simple world without errands, politics, traffic and deadlines, but – yes – with the wonders of the Internet.