Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Peregrine Falcon Portrait & The Look of Eagles

This portrait of the Peregrine Falcon is the fourth in a series of paintings that I have completed over the years for the annual Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research fund raisers.  Tri-State's 2009 fund raiser, Victorian Benefit for the Birds, will be held on Saturday, November 14 in Wilmington, Delaware. This year's event will be held at the Carriage House at Rockwood Park, with a theme in keeping with the 19th century country estate setting. This is the third raptor that I have painted in the Tri-State series, last year's painting was a Golden Eagle, the year before that was a Red-Tailed Hawk and the first in the series was a portrait of a Cardinal.

This year, I had started out with the idea to paint a songbird but I just couldn't find a photo that pleased me. As soon as I started looking for another raptor image, I was immediately drawn to the Peregrine Falcon. I do like to paint images that I have a connection with, such as there is a nesting pair of Peregrines in downtown Wilmington, DE that I have seen, but I think that there is a deeper connection for me because terriers are so much like those birds of prey.

I have spent my life with terriers and they are definitely "dogs of prey" and their demeanor can be very fierce, like a raptor. They are bred to pursue game, especially vermin. In fact, in the show ring, they want Airedales to have the "look of eagles." They most certainly do have that look! The Golden Eagle portrait from 2008 was named "Serendipity Eagle's Wings" after a famous Airedale of that name - aka Peter. Whether they are in the show ring or in the pursuit of prey, Airedales can be a fiery lot! That intense gaze and laser-like focus is what I see everyday when I look into Mako's eyes.

Another connection that I have with the Golden Eagle in particular and raptors in general, was  described  an entry from last year in my old blog and I think that it's worth repeating...

An eagle, a hawk and death in a Blue Bird Sky
Monday, August 11, 2008

When I was out yesterday with the dogs, I heard a screeching sound in the air above us. I stepped out from under the trees as I looked up at the sky. There was a screaming Red-Shouldered Hawk (like the image below), a large Golden Eagle (example above) and a small songbird type swirling in the air directly overhead. The hawk was after the eagle and the eagle was after the songbird. Before I could identify what type of songbird it was, the eagle struck with one of its talons. I didn’t think that it had touched the little bird but instantly, the tiny creature plummeted from the sky. It appeared to drop in front of my house, possibly in the driveway, with the eagle in swift pursuit. I didn’t actually realize that it was an eagle until I saw it landing - it had the feathered legs of an eagle! I never though that I’d see one in the suburbs.

The hawk followed the eagle to the front of my house, as I started to open the gate and venture around the front to have a look, the hawk turned and flew to the rooftop of the house next door. That stopped me in my tracks. That hawk was big! It looked as big as Punch! It was still screaming. This was its territory and it wanted the world to know it! We both got a good, long look at each other. I could see its tongue moving in rhythm with its calls. Its eyes were gleaming in the noonday sun. The dogs and I stood motionless - that was a rather intimidating sight - at least I felt that way. It remained on its rooftop perch even after the eagle flew off with its tiny prey.

With a startling flap of the wings, the hawk was airborne. It caught a thermal that lifted it so it hovered above my driveway. Then, the hawk gradually gained altitude as it circled above our yard - calling all the while. It eventually started looping into larger and larger circles as it rose toward the clouds.  Even as it diminished in size, I could still hear its sharp sounding voice.

Then, in a blaze of sunlight, the hawk vanished with a silent cry.

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