In the middle of the city

An eight year old girl was going through a stack of magazines with her mother, looking for photographs of animals for a school project.

“What kind of animals?” I asked.

“Birds,” said the girl, smiling.

Her mother looked at a sheet of paper that looked like a homework assignment. “Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and, uh….” She looked over the paper to see if she had missed anything.

“Do you like birds?” I asked the girl.

“Yes,” she said smiling.

“I do too,” I said. “I’m a bird watcher.” Then I told her about how I saw American Oystercatchers down on Palmer’s Island in the middle of New Bedford harbor, and how they have long orange bills that they use to eat shellfish. The mother kept looking through the magazines, and she had that glazed look that people usually get when I talk about birds; but the girl seemed vaguely interested.

Five minutes later, I was walking down Market Street, right in the middle of the city, when a flock of pigeons burst up into the sky in front of me and flew madly away, and out of the corner of my eye I saw this big bird, as big as a seagull but dark gray-brown, sweeping along to my right about ten feet in the air with a long tail and I could just catch a glimpse of its sharp hooked bill as it flew into the late afternoon sun behind me and disappeared:– a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, out hunting pigeons. It flew within thirty feet of me. Right in the middle of the city.

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