Raptors and raptness… | travel, travails and heck…

Raptors, despite their preoccupation with death, are seldom disparaged… a captivation since prehistoric times, mutual respect between hunters, in awe of the acrobatics in the air, that lethal stare with a focus and intent beyond human ability… no other avifauna has been able to capture human imagination for so long… entrenched in petroglyphs and adorning flags, birds of prey carry have carried the burden of cultural significance through many centuries…

Yet it hasn’t always been smooth sailing… their stealth turned them into bad omens, their physical prowess made people crave their magical flesh… their fondness for small game pitted them against hunters and livestock farmers… from clearing out pests to inadvertently partaking in a feast of pesticides and antibiotics … a friend of the smallholder farmer became a foe of his mechanized counterpart…

Conservation status apart though, one wonders on the inspiring yet rather distant nature of existence of raptors… what are they but merchants of death to the rest in the food chain, their physique and reflexes designed for the sole purpose of cold, calculated slaughters… is the evolutionary burden of being executioners in ecological canvasses undertaken voluntarily, for with that come powers and abilities that one would surely aspire to, or is it a mariner’s curse

’Tis a solitary existence, one on high perches and higher skies… it is lonely at the top after all… every sound, every movement to be acknowledged, senses so acute that they refuse to relax… there is hardly any song to their calls, just an assemblage of sharp, shrill notes to convey the point sans any ornamentation…

Unlike mammalian carnivores, raptors don’t really pose much of a physical threat to us, maybe that is why we’ve had the leeway to be patronizing towards them rather than antipathetic… there was a period of romance when they were believed to be tamed but then it turned out be a casual fling after all… from thereon came the age of hunting but then industrial revolution took over and there were a hundred other ways to exterminate… the lines are drawn today, and even though the paths and habitats may overlap, that distance is maintained…

But if one were to try to pinpoint what keeps us enamoured to raptors despite their reticence, it would be the eyes… that cold, unflinching stare… deprecating sometimes, making its dislike at the infringement clearly known, and sometimes aloof, concerned more with what’s foraging on the ground rather than expendable birdwatchers… there is no wistfulness here but the straightforward demeanour of the blacksmith… those eyes can’t, and won’t, move… it is a rather definitive repudiation, turning the head away instead of the eyes, but perhaps that is what lends them our rapt attention, a fascination with this unwavering focus, like a never-ending meditation…

Musings on birds of prey…

Originally published at https://www.traveltravailsandheck.com on June 28, 2020.

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Parth Joshi

Parth Joshi

Development professional | Mountain lover ⛰️ | Hiker 🥾 | Runner 🏃‍♂️ | Cyclist 🚴 | Photographer 📷 | Blogger 👨‍💻