A peregrine falcon swooped down from a low-lying spruce at the ferry docks on Toronto Island. She caught a sparrow in her grip and returned with it to the abandoned branch.
I watched from my own perch on a weathered beach log, shifting my glance away from a pair of pruning geese and a gimpy grey-speckled seagull pecking the dirt for crumbs.
Trailing ferries, the falcon might have fled the city to find her next meal. I was transfixed by this tidy gift of capture and death.
“That could be the one I watched them band last month,” said Heather, craning her neck as well. She works in an office at King and Yonge, a popular nesting place for Peregrines. Each spring she is invited to a banding ritual organized by the Peregrine Falcon Foundation. Later, she nods to the volunteers on the sidewalk who prepare to rescue tumbling fledglings.
And together on this July morning, a few hours past dawn, we watched a death duet between famished falcon and bite-sized songbird on the citified shores of Lake Ontario.
The falcon broke tiny bones and tore off wings. Maybe first it cracked the birds neck with a shake. Interesting to receive violence as a gift, as I certainly did from this bird. But I admit it: my eyes were closed until the sparrow’s squealing stopped.
Then we turned our attention back to the shore where the 8:30 ferry slid into its catch. A few minutes later, I strolled back to our temporary island home and wrote about death.
From our vantage point on Ward’s Island, Toronto is not always beautiful and certainly not during a heat wave with temperatures up around 40 and vying to break records.
Earlier, I had commented to Heather about the thick, shadow of smog that smacked the city across the harbour. An ominous backdrop and yet another thing out of reach and vaguely threatening. But unlike the falcon, entirely bereft of beauty.