شگفت انگیز به مدرسه شاهین ها می رود

مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: کوهستانِ شگفت انگیز / فصل 2

شگفت انگیز به مدرسه شاهین ها می رود

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  • زمان مطالعه 19 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH Frightful Goes to Falcon School

Chup led Frightful higher and higher, to the misty ‘bottom of a fair-weather cumulus cloud. Frightful left him. The füzziness of clouds, even thin clouds, was distracting to her. She liked clear air.

Soaring back toward the escarpment, she scanned twenty miles in all directions for the one mountain where the one gigantic tree grew. She did not see the mountain. From out of nowhere bulleted the female goshawk. Frightful shot up into the protection of Chup’s cloud. The goshawk turned back.

“Chup!” The tiercel appeared in the mist, flew close to her, then dove earthward at a steep angle. Again his “chup” touched some deep peregrine memory in her, and she followed the daring tiercel.

Seconds later he thrust out his feet and landed on a cliff ledge. Frightful thrust out her feet and came down not far from him. She was on a stony rampart above the Schoharie River. The cliff and the river spoke to her of her first home and her parents. She held her wings to her body and stacked her tail feathers. She was agitated. The scene was familiar and unfamiliar.

Chup walked toward her, lowering his head in deference to the greater size and power of the female peregrine. “Cree,” she responded, and relaxed.

But for size and Frightful’s almost black head and cheek straps, Frightful and Chup looked alike. Both had large black-brown eyes, set deeply under flat foreheads. Their beaks were ebony black with saffron-yellow nares. White throats and cheek patches shimmered above pale breast feathers stippled with black flecks. Their wings were long and graceful instruments of speed. They sat erect. They held their heads high. Their beings were lit with an inner flame and, at the same time, the cold stillness of ice. They were the royalty of birds.

Frightful quickly took in her situation. The cliff was about sixty feet high and set back from the river. The land below was bottomland, where red maples, trees of the wetlands, grew. Geese and ducks paddled among cattails and sedges that lined the river’s edge. Bank swallows popped in and out of nest holes on the far riverbank. Directly below the aerie was a pine tree where two blue jays had built a stick nest. In it were four scrawny nestlings. Chup let them live. They were part of his aerie community, like the flowers and the huckleberries.

Frightful had arrived in perfect peregrine habitat. She was only vaguely aware of this. Almost her whole life had been spent with Sam on a mountain. Sam and his forest and abandoned meadow were her habitat.

She looked at Chup. He bowed his head to her. His respect awoke Frightful to action. She stretched her neck high. She lifted her feathers to look larger and therefore more beautiful to the tiercel. With this feather talk she told Chup she was bonding with him. She felt a closeness to this pleasant member of her species.

Then a slight movement provoked her to peer behind Chup.

Three young peregrine falcons stared at her. The eyases sat on their bums, legs stretched out in front of them. They were very young, no more than a week old. Their plump bodies were covered with white down; their beaks and feet were gray like the rocks. They were huddled on bare earth in the middle of a garden of pink blazing-star flowers.

“Psee psee,” each one cried. “Feed me.” The sound stirred a new feeling in Frightful. She leaned down as if to pluck food, then, not knowing what came next, she stared at Chup.

Chup picked up a half-eaten duck and delicately snipped off a small bite. Folding his talons under his toes, he walked to an eyas and placed the morsel in her open mouth. He pulled off another bite and then another, feeding the chick until she was quiet. When the other two called “psee,” he fed them morsel by morsel, patiently, devotedly.

Frightful watched, her own terrible hunger mounting.

When the wobbly eyases stopped eating, Chup broke off a bite of duck and offered it to Frightful. She swallowed ravenously and waited. She was back in her pattern with Sam. When Sam fed her she waited to see if he was going to give her just a bite and take her hunting again, or carry her home to feast and rest. Chup was not part of this routine. He offered no more bites, nor did he take her hunting. Instead he left. He flew off to do as the peregrine tiercel must do—hunt for his mate and young, until the chicks were well feathered and could keep themselves warm without being brooded. When that happened, the female mate would join in the hunt.

Not Frightful. She looked at the duck Chup had left. According to Sam’s training, it was hers. Gingerly at first, then ravenously, she fed herself. Death by starvation comes quickly to a bird of prey, and strength returns as quickly. With each bite her eyes began to glisten with energy, and, like a flame, she soon flickered and stood tall.

Vitality restored, she lifted one wing and stretched it as far as it would reach. Then she stretched the other, wiped her beak, and sat contentedly.

Two days ago Chup’s first mate, mother of the chicks, had flown out to stretch and exercise after days of inactivity. She had not come back. When several hours had passed and the chicks were screaming, Chup knew she had been killed. That afternoon he searched for another mate. The eyases must live. He called the love song over cliff and river. No female appeared.

That night he brooded the eyases. He fed them in the morning. He hunted at noon when the air was slightly warmer and he could leave them unattended. As he hunted, he looked for a mate.

High above the escarpment he saw Frightful hovering above Sam Gribley. He called her, but she paid him no heed. When, however, she rode a rising thermal and passed near, he rolled and danced for her. He flew upside down for her, touched her feet. When she began to notice him, he lured her toward his motherless young, but she was not easily won. Once more she turned and flew away. On the third attempt he succeeded.

With Frightful at the aerie, Chup’s world was right again. His chicks had a mother.

But all was not perfect.

Frightful, who for most of her life had been raised by Sam—not by peregrine falcons—had much to learn.

She did not know what to do with three eyases that looked like wobbly birds, not like Sam. When Chup left, she stared at them curiously. They stared back. The smallest one, a tiercel, shivered. His chilled wings beat the earth like a drummer’s stick. Frightful tilted her head, the better to see Drum’s movements. They were telling her something.

“Psee,” he cried in peregrine baby talk. The sound reached down into Frightful’s early memories of her mother. She drooped her wings. Drum cried again. Instinctively she turned under her piercingly sharp talons, and stepped over the shivering eyas. He trembled. She raised her feathers and sat down. Drum wiggled into her warmth. Feeling his little body against her brought her into the brooding mode of the birds. When the other two nestlings crept into her feathers, she went into a trance. A goshawk flew overhead; a rock fell off the cliff and bounced past the blazing-star flowers. Frightful did not move.

“Psee,” Drum called. After he had been brooded and warmed for an hour, he was suddenly voraciously hungry. He looked up at Frightful and screamed for food. With a start she came out of her trance, stood up, and shook her feathers. “Pseeee, pseeee.” Drum screamed louder. His open beak was bright red and rimmed with yellow. It was a bull’s-eye that guided a parent to the mouth. Frightful saw the target and was inspired to tear off a small bite of duck. She held it in her beak, not knowing what to do next. Drum was too young to reach up and take it, and she did not lean down to put it into his mouth. She held the food in her beak above him. He did not take it, and after a short time she swallowed it.

“Psee, psee, psee.” Now all the chicks were calling. They pressed up against her, their red and yellow mouths wide open, their wings fluttering. Frightful was overwhelmed by demands she did not understand. The one hemlock tree among millions came to mind, and she lifted her wings to fly.

Chup appeared in the distance. She recognized him a mile and a half away, although a mere speck. He grew larger and larger until he landed, full size, with a soft rustle beside her. In his feet was another duck. He presented it to Frightful and waited for her to do what came next—take it to a plucking perch away from the aerie, defeather it, then feed it to the eyases; the loudest, most aggressive first.

But Frightful did not carry it to a plucking perch or pluck it. In her past, Sam had prepared the food.

She did sense from Chup’s stare that she should do something. So she preened her flight feathers, wiped her cheek on her shoulder, and walked under an overhanging rock. She hid from the screaming chicks. Chup waited patiently for her to do her part. She put her head in her shoulder feathers and closed her eyes. The eyases screamed. Chup could wait no longer. He carried the bird to his own plucking roost and prepared it.

“Psee, psee, psee.” the chicks screamed as he returned with the food and dropped it at Frightful’s feet. He must hunt. She must do the feeding.

Frightful did not. She looked at the duck and then away. The eyases cried relentlessly, their eyes wide, their necks trembling from hunger.

That message reached Chup. He leaned down and snipped off a tender morsel. Lady, the largest of the two female chicks, bolted to him, stepping on Drum in her rush. She opened her mouth, and Chup fed her bite after bite. Then her sister, Duchess, pushed her aside and begged for food. Chup fed Duchess, too.

When the little females were satisfied, Drum reached up to Chup. At that moment a movement in the valley caught Chup’s attention, and, good provider that he was, he left the aerie to catch a pigeon. Feeding was not on his agenda anymore.

Frightful saw Chup capture the bird in midair. She was interested, but when another pigeon flew by, she did not go after it. Sam had trained her to hunt the rabbits and pheasants that lived in the abandoned fields on their mountain. She turned her back and ate duck. Drum screamed and screamed.

Frightful knew she should do something. She held food for the tiercel again. Drum opened his mouth and reached up. Brooding the fuzzy, white eyas had calmed him down once. She opened her feathers to him and sat down. He nestled up against her and stopped screaming.

Frightful felt his warmth against her body like a messenger of love. Ill-equipped as she was to be a mother, she called softly, “Cree.” I love you.

Hours later she got to her feet and walked to the duck. Drum hobbled behind her. When she stopped and leaned over the food, he wedged himself under her. She tore off a morsel. Her head was low and he snatched the bite from her. She did not mind. Frightful plucked another bite for herself. Drum took that bite and the next until he was satisfied. Then she ate.

For the next week Chup fed Lady and Duchess and hunted for the whole family. Drum had learned to get food from his strange mother.

The eyases grew their second, heavier coat of natal down when they were about fourteen days old. With that development they could regulate their temperatures. That was the signal for Frightful to go hunting. She did not. She kept brooding the chicks and letting Drum take food from her. Chup fed Duchess and Lady.

Despite their unorthodox lifestyle, all five peregrines prospered.

The chicks grew rapidly. As their flight feathers appeared, their white down disappeared. By the time they were four weeks old, they were almost full-grown and testing their wings. They needed food, lots of it, and Chup could not fulfill their demands. The eyases screamed and yelled constantly. It was time for Frightful to hunt.

On a late June day when the cliff side was green and yellow with chickweed, Chup caught a passing starling on the wing. Frightful was excited by his victory and flew out to get the bird. Chup winged above her and dropped it. She turned upside down and caught it in her talons.

The feat awoke a deep instinct in Frightful. She carried the bird back to the aerie and plucked it. But she did not feed the chicks, nor did she eat it. Not being hungry herself, she left it at the scrape and flew to a rock ledge above the aerie.

Drum ran to the bird. He tore it open and ate. His sisters ate. Despite their new mother, the timetable of peregrine development was taking care of them. The young peregrines were old enough to feed themselves—and to attack their parents.

Frightful moved out of the aerie to a pine stub. Left alone, the eyases explored the flowers, the rocks, and the crevasses in the cliff. Lady picked up a feather in her beak. Duchess took it from her. Lady rocked back on her rump and threw up her feet. Duchess threw up her feet. They locked talons and pulled. Drum jumped on a moving feather and tossed it into the air. As it spiraled downward, he rolled to his back and snagged it in his talons. Frightful watched them curiously. They were playing peregrine falcon games she had never learned. High on her stub, the young fed, Frightful pulled one foot up into her feathers and sat quietly.

From a distance Chup saw that Frightful was not going to hunt. He flew back and called her. His voice was insistent. Frightful flew to him.

Chup led her out over the valley, saw a duck, and plunged. Frightful sensed she should hunt ducks, but could not. Chup was gone. She rode a strong wind eastward, her wings outstretched, her feet pressed against her tail, the sun shining through her feathers.

She was over the escarpment and waterfall. Recalling the goshawks, she changed her direction. As she flew over the woods, she saw the young goshawks with their parents.

They were chasing crows and adroitly maneuvering among the tree branches. Their broad, short wings were designed to speed them in and around trees and branches. Frightful was a bird of the open sky. She climbed high above them.

The landscape passed swiftly under her, and in mere moments she was above the pine forest where she had been a captive of the two strange men and where Alice had set her free. Frightful searched the macadam road for the girl and was over the abandoned field.

Mole slid out of the culvert and sniffed his way along a small mammal trail. Frightful flew above him and waited on. This dog, like Sam, scared up game.

Mole wove through the grasses. A rabbit leaped up, and within seconds Frightful was on the ground, game in her talons. But Mole was there, too. The falcon and the dog looked at each other. Mole dropped down on his belly and snarled. Frightful covered the food with her wings.

Mole lunged for Frightful. In a flash, game in her talons, Frightful and the rabbit were in the air. She flew several hundred feet before coming down. Mole, keeping low and out of sight of the farmer’s gun, sneaked up on her. Again he lunged. Frightful took off, hit a strong updraft, and was lifted over the field and barn.

She heard Mole barking irritably as his food went flying away.

She did not see the farmer come out of his house with a shotgun, nor did she see Mole dash into the culvert. Frightful was over the goshawk nest, and she was flying hard.

Frightful set her wings and glided above the waterfall and cliff to the Schoharie Valley. She descended gracefully to her aerie with food for the eyases.

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