Bless the Lord, all the birds of the air;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever!
I have been taking regular walks in various areas of Duluth. My purpose is several-fold. It allows me to get to know the city better, to discover its beauty, and to exercise (especially given the steep hills – you Quebecers can picture the Côte Gilmore, Montrealers can picture climbing up Mount Royal.) It also provides the occasional surprise! And it always afford me the opportunity to experience God’s grace in one form or another.
I enjoy the Lake Walk and the Rose Garden, and various parks, but last week I decided to walk downtown. I had heard that there were peregrine falcons nesting somewhere downtown (as in “the bottom of the hill.”) So I parked at the hospital (cheap and convenient) and walked down, down, looking up, up, and around. There it is! No, that’s a big crow. Ah, but peregrines look very much like crows it turns out (at a distance, anyway.) I continued walking down. Aha, there they are! No, those are seagulls. Hmmm.
I made it down to Lake Place, which is below the downtown area and above the Lake Walk proper. It is a beautiful park with a large terrace overlooking Lake Superior, sheltered with trees and bushes, including an amazingly large and beautiful rose bush. The park sort of meanders around, and as I turned a corner, there I saw them. Not the peregrines, but two women with humongous telescopes aimed toward one of the downtown buildings.
I learned about peregrines. They come back year after year to nest in a box set on the side of the Greyselon Building. This year only one of the eggs hatched (out of four.) The fledgling learns to fly by jumping from the nest to a bar set a little further out from the nest, and back again to the nest. This causes major distress to the observers, and probably to the peregrine mom and dad too! Every once in a while a fledgling misses the mark and glides down to the sidewalk and is stranded there, unable to take flight. Store owners call the “falcon people” who come over and take the poor thing back up to the nest, to the safety of mama and papa. Peregrines hunt birds in flight. They dive-bomb them and kill them with their claws bunched up into fists; they basically punch their prey and they fly back and catch them as they are falling to take them back somewhere to eat. Impressive!
I was lucky enough to observe the gorgeous male (papa) and the baby, and to take pictures of them from the bottom of the building as I walked back downtown after chatting with the “falcon people.” (The mama was out somewhere hunting.) I also realized I could get closer to the baby by going to the top floor of a nearby parkade. When I got there, I observed the baby fluffing his wings and flipping his tail up and down. I wasn’t too sure what he was up to until he jumped off the roof!
Apparently he had just been making sure everything was still in working order and that he remembered how it all worked before he took off for another trial flight! He flew across part of the town to a clock tower not too far away. Although he flies some distance, his mama still feeds him. This explains why either the mama or papa is nearby at all times, keeping an eye on him. I was told he should be self-sufficient in the next couple of weeks.
It just goes to show that God’s grace is everywhere if we are only willing to look around and see. I have been walking around these streets and never really looked up. And even though I was looking this time, I would not have found the peregrines without the help of the “profession falcon people.” I wonder how many people are walking around downtown and even working there, who have no idea of the miracle which is going on just a few feet above their heads?
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau is a novice at Saint Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from Quebec, Canada, she lived in the Southeastern United States for 16 years before coming to Duluth. She did research in the field of exercise physiology for over years, and more recently completed a graduate degree in theology, while volunteering in parishes, giving workshops and retreats.