Jimmy hadn't been able to believe his luck when he had been sitting waiting for his wife that morning. It had been too hot to sit in the car, so he had been standing by it, absent mindedly looking up at the clouds. The first time he had seen the shape he had to blink and shake his head. Surely not. When he looked again it was gone. He had almost given up hope when it flew over again. The shape, the elegance. There was no mistaking a peregrine falcon when you saw one. He watched it fly out towards the cliffs over the other side of the office block where his wife worked. It must be nesting out there, he thought.
Jimmy had loved to watch the birds when he had been a kid. His dad had bought him a book of English birds for his seventh birthday and he had ticketed them off as he had seen them all. The peregrine falcon had been the last one he had spotted. His dad bought him new night vision binoculars to celebrate having seen all the birds in the book.
When his wife finally returned to the car he had rushed her home and barricaded himself into the study checking out everything he needed to know.
'I'm off out,' he called to his wife as he left the study and stood in the hall getting his coat on.
'I thought we were having a quiet night in,' she replied as she stood in the lounge doorway holding a large glass of wine.
'Something's come up. I won't be long.' Jimmy smiled, rushed back to give her a kiss on the check, grabbed his car keys and headed out.
Jimmy parked at the back of the car park the walkers used half way up the cliffs, where the trail flatten out before the cliffs rose up again. There were one or two cars left but it was starting to get dark and they would soon be gone. He grabbed his night vision binoculars and carefully pulled the strap of his special satchel across his body. He might need to climb and he would need both hands free.
He walked to the top of the cliffs and stared long and hard. There a flicker of movement. Could that be her? Jimmy lay down on his stomach and using his night vision binoculars followed the flight of the falcon. He lost her just for a minute and then saw her fly out again. It was about half way up and the trail would take him to within about ten feet of the nest. He put his binoculars away and started to walk. When he estimated he was about where he had seen the falcon vanish he looked up. Nothing. Then he looked down. The trail was steeper than he remembered and he was actually about ten feet above the nest. He looked around but it was almost dark now and there was no one to be seen. He lowered himself onto his stomach and leaned over the edge. He needed his binoculars for there night vision not their magnification. Sitting in the nest,glinting in the moon light were three eggs. Three! Jimmy couldn't believe his luck. Looking up into the sky there was no sign of the falcon. He checked out the nest again and saw there was a small ledge just below the nest.
Jimmy twisted his body around and lowered his feet over the edge. He felt out with his toes but couldn't feel the ledge. He lowered himself further and was just hanging on by his finger tips but still he couldn't feel the ledge. He knew it was there and the falcon wouldn't be away long so he dropped. The ledge had only been another two feet below him and he landed safely. It was only about ten inches wide so Jimmy couldn't turn. He edged along with his face pushed into the cliff face. Before he knew it he was level with the nest. He opened the flap of his satchel and carefully parted the nest of hay inside. He then carefully lifted each of the three falcon eggs and placed them into the satchel. He replaced the hay over the top of the eggs and closed the satchel. Carefully he edged back along the cliff to where he had dropped down. He reached up but he couldn't reach high enough to lift himself back to the trail. Jimmy's breath started to increase. he had to get back but he couldn't go back the way he'd come. Jimmy started panting and looking around.
'Calm down old boy,' he said to himself. 'Think about this sensibly.'
Jimmy got his binoculars and looked along the cliff face. The opposite side of the nest there looked like there might be some holes in the cliff he could use as hand holds. Jimmy edged along the ledge again. As he slowly moved along, looking at his feet all the time he felt a thud on the top of his head. It must have been some gravel shook loose from above, he though to himself. The second thump was harder, as Jimmy looked up the third hit happened. It wasn't a gravel fall, it was the falcon. She glided in silently and her claws hit him straight in the face as he looked up. The razor sharp claws missed his eyes by millimetres. Jimmy lifted his hand to protect his face and started to lose his balance. The falcon was circling. Getting ready to come back for another hit. Jimmy grabbed for the cliff but there was nothing to hold. He petered in the air for what seemed like forever. He somehow managed to push himself flat against the cliff face. His balance was out of sync because of his heavy satchel. Maybe he could distract the bird while he got to safety. He took off the satchel and using the strap pendulum swung it, gathering momentum. As it reached the height of its swing he released the bag and it flew in the air, arcing over the cliff ledge and back to the trail above. Jimmy prayed at least one of them had survived. Even one was worth a lot of money.
Releasing the bag had upset Jimmy's own balance again and he grabbed at the cliff face with the finger tips of both hands just as the falcon made her next drive. She levelled out and battered her wings to hold her at the right height, all the time stabbing and scrapping her claws at his head and his eyes. Instinct took over and Jimmy lifted his arms. One over his eyes to protect them and the other flailing about to try and beat the bird off. Too late he realised he didn't have hold on the cliff. The falcon almost knowing, dived in for one last time. This time she grabbed at his jacket and with her beak and her claws pulled.
The next morning two rangers were walking along the trail.
'Bob can you see what I see?' the younger warden whispered to his colleague.
'Sure can Rich.' They both stopped and stared.
'We'll need to close the trail.'
'I'll go back down and let them know. You stay here and stop anyone going past.'
'Will do.' For a few minutes neither of them moved. They just stood and watched as the peregrine falcon sat on top of an open hessian satchel, protecting her three perfect eggs, in the middle of the walkers' trail.
'Amazing what they use to make nests isn't.'