Raptor Rapture

Last weekend I had the incredible privilege of holding in my hand, an American Kestrel; one of the “Ambassador Animals” at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  Stryker, as this beautiful bird has been named, lives at the Museum, having been saved from a near-fatal injury which left it with a partially amputated right wing.

I have begun training to work with the Museum’s injured and rescued animals as a volunteer in its public education programming. I shared one experience a few weeks ago – my first encounter with Webster, the gorgeous corn snake.   And I am looking forward to learning more about all the “Ambassadors” at the Museum and sharing what I learn.

There is so much I could tell you already about this tiny falcon, this amazing avian predator; how its vision sees beyond our chromatic spectrum to pick up the ultraviolet urine trails of field mice,  or how it can hover – hang suspended in the air like the military’s Harrier jet – waiting for its prey to reveal itself.   But for now, I’ll just share this:


Let me tell you how
the heart leaps breath holds,
as this small creature dances,
talons pricking delicately now,
but (imagine) at another time
with fatal fierceness.

Settling, it grips a finger
and surveys the room.
The bright hard onyx of its eye,
seeing more and differently,
it becomes the ancient alien,
the wondrous other
of our weightless dreams,
our relentless, harrying fears.

© Kathleen Cerveny, 2018   



  1. This post is such a delight to read Kathleen…and your poem a beautiful tribute to these exceptional powerhouse predators. “The bright hard onyx of its eye,
    seeing more and differently” / “ancient alien,
    the wondrous other”.

    As I drive the winter landscape on the way to and from the farm I survey the wires parallel to the road. Seldom, but sometimes, I’ll receive the prize: a Kestrel perched and scanning the edges of the field. For me they are a stunning sight.

    Once upon a time, I was a guest on the Morning Exchange with Fred Griffith. Also on that show was Dave Bittner, a head naturalist at the CMNH…he brought the ‘Ambassador’ Kestrel that lived at the museum at that time to share with the TV audience. I was already in love with these small jewels of the raptor family but seeing one up close perched on his hand inspired me to also volunteer. I swooned to be among the hawks, eagles, owls and other animals in the Live Animal room in the basement of the museum and outdoors in the Perkins enclosure. I had a grand flying squirrel encounter. I entered their enclosure to clean water bowls and add food…they were so excited to have ‘food company’ that suddenly I had soft furry bodies squeezing down my t-shirt neck and climbing into my pockets…so curious and sweet…so wanting a treat 😉

    • Yes. This is very special work and a great privilege. So grateful to these wild things willing to be tamed enough (but not completely!) to work with us. Today I get to hold a Barred owl. Last week also Tamarack, a Great Horned and a tiny Eastern Screech Owl named Napoleon. Next week I get started on mammals, although I’ve already begun a relationship with Lancelot, our porcupine. Strictly hands-off, though. :-).

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