We are heading to Exeter when I mention how much I’ve always wanted to see the Exeter Peregrines to my son. “They nest in the church over there”, I gesture, as we drive past.
“Why don’t we park nearby and go and see them?” he says. “We’ve got half an hour.”
We park and walk. I can’t remember the name of the church but it dominates the skyline and I know it’s the one. We stand at the foot of the spire and look up. “Can you see anything?”
We can’t. We walk around it, straining our necks. We look on every architectural feature for a perching bird, but there are none to be seen. “They have a webcam”, I say. A quick search for Exeter Peregrines comes back with St Michael and All Angels church and a webcam of the peregrine’s nest. We stare at my phone’s tiny screen and can see two curly white chicks with vicious beaks huddled in the corner. Fantastic. They are up there. It’s live, broadcast for everyone to see from high above our heads.
“Okay”, I say, “They’re behind a trefoil window.”
We wander around all four sides of the spire looking for the right size window.
Then the realisation dawns. “Hold on. One of them’s in the picture”, I say. I get my phone out again and sure enough, it is. I thought it was a piece of stone and part of the architecture but it’s actually a parent bird.
“All right. Let’s look for the bird in the trefoil window.”
And there it is. The word sentinel is such a great one to describe this Peregrine. The opening line of one of my favourite poems, ‘A Woman’s Love’ by Colonel John Hay, from his 1871 collection Pike County Ballads, has the opening line, “Sentinel angel sitting high in glory.” It’s the perfect description of this Peregrine.
Maybe next time I’ll bring my proper camera.