Having been out with Karen Stead-Dexter and her magical birds for a one to one experience, I was very keen to undertake the homework she set on bird medicine.

Just a couple of days after her first Zoom talk, and before I had had the chance to actually read the homework, I had my ’medicine’  bird encounter. This encounter was NOT dowsed for as suggested by Karen BUT did seem to throw up several related references as she had suggested would happen.

I was up very early (for me), about 6am, to make coffee and on my way to the kitchen I blearily glanced through the front door to see a sparrow hawk sitting on a fence only about 5 metres away. As we looked at each other he/she proceeded to tuck one leg up in his chest feathers and perched there. This exchange lasted for about 5 minutes before he launched himself backwards and away.

Jo has lived here for twenty years and never seen one. She did see what we assume is the same one the next day (near our new wildlife pond) but then he disappeared and neither of us has seen him again since.

Two hours later the same morning, whilst listening to Radio Three, we heard an ad for ‘Private Passions’ whose guest that week was Helen MacDonald. Her bestselling book is called ‘H is for Hawk’ and is about her personal experience of training a goshawk called Mabel, as a way of coping with the grief of her father’s sudden death.

The next day whilst listening to ‘Sounds of the Seventies’ there were at least two references to Hawkwind.

Some days later I listened to Helen MacDonald’s story on ‘Private Passions’ on BBC Sounds when she talked about ‘Mabel’ and a pet parrot.

Almost a week after the encounter I thought I would see what the village store had to offer in the way of bottled beers. Looking down the list I came upon ‘Seahawk’, Old Buzzard and Avocet, so purchased a bottle of each!

So how did Karen interpret this encounter and its links? She said that the sparrow hawk cuts right though stuff and goes right to the point. As he was standing on one leg, and therefore fairly relaxed’, indicates grounding. Not sure how all this directly affects me though. Maybe I am not understanding this clearly enough? Is this the message I am missing?

Helen is a writer, poet, historian, illustrator and naturalist. She’s worked as a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, as a professional falconer, and in raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia. She is an affiliate of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.


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