In the past six months I’ve been very lucky to twice get up close to a bird doing some hunting.
What I have discovered from these experiences is just how little detail your eye/mind sometimes take in when witnessing an event.
Now the first close-ish encounter with a raptor, was it flying low over my head and I only noted the shape, that its feathers were pale and there was distinctive dark bar on the end of the tail. Trust me when I say that is not enough information to safely identify a bird.
The first of the really up-close encounters, the raptor took a bird out of the air by swooping down from the roof of my house. Honestly about the only detail I remember of that was the relative sizes of the bird and its prey.
Second up-close encounter was much better for detail as I got to watch the bird hunting rodents for quite a while and was close enough to really note the shape and the absence of strong markings on the wings and around the beak and eye.
So, in trying to identify what I’d seen I consulted a range of books (thanks mum!) and a video. Do I know what I saw? No.
All I have determined so far is that the one with the dark bar on its tail is definitely not the bird that I watched hunt rodents. Which ironically came from the smallest observation – that one soared and the other hovered when hunting.
I have a new respect for bird watchers.
It got me thinking from a writer’s perspective about how we treat memory, in that we often give our characters near perfect recall of things they’ve witnessed. Also, thinking about books that describe wildlife like birds it strikes me writers often do this without regard for the fact feathers change according to sex, age and time of year.
Personally, I’m just hoping to see the raptors again. Preferably up close.