As I walked with my dog toward the ancient, blood-stained West Woods, shortly after doggie rush hour, he drew the hostile yelps of the straggling pups along the way, and the big fenced in guard dog on the south side of the road. Per his routine, he deigned only to find an interesting tree to sniff, then leisurely let loose a torrent of advertising, before walking away with his tail wagging enough to display his proudly unsevered balls.

So we reach the woods, which once held guerillas. Crows own the place now, and they make it known. Me 'n the dog are playing a bit of stick when I notice a marked spike in the squack level. I look up to see a good dozen of the jet-feathered creatures scattering. Into a tree about 30 meters from me soared the source of the disturbance, a peregrine falcon. At first I can't be sure - after all it is almost the new year and the ol' wanderer should know not to be this far north. The spots on her belly were right though (but what if it was a trick of the unclouded sun?). The beak was right (but your eyes are going). And why did all the (other) crows scatter (...)?

So back to the stick, says dog. We do, and as soon as it's thrown the bird takes off. She glides, it seems to me, directly toward the stick's line of flight, and lands on a tree near where it fell. I get a much better look at the wings this time, and the spots are definitely right (on Boston Common once I was 3 meters from a perry lounging on the grass, so i know whereof I speak, 26²F and 12/28 or not). Without taking my eyes from this magnificent bird of prey, I throw the stick again. Naturally, it goes in the direction I'm looking, and the perry's small, hooked beak goes u-up...doowwn, in perfect sync with the stick. She does the same thing on each toss, and I'm starting to wonder if she's gonna try to eat it.

It's the longest conversation I've ever had with a bird, but eventually I have to realize that I'm tired and my legs ache from working all night. We leave walking towards the chicken hawk, so I don't have to take my eyes off my soon-lost infatuation. I get almost to the base of the tree she rests in, she's just a few branches over my head, and there is no shred of doubt in my mind anymore what she is. She circles the area between my dog and me once, twice and then a third time -for good luck I tell myself- and heads ahead east to rustle the crows even from their exile.