Alien invasions and how I practice my falconry
A few nights ago I was expecting an alien invasion. I was driving home under clear dark skies. I turned off the highway onto my road, looked up, and saw a stratosphere full of unidentified flying objects.
Right above me was a line of white lights low in the sky, silent as the grave. I swear it looked like something out of a movie. Like a projection, almost. If you had told me there was a glass dome over my mountain and some whimsical small god was slowly dragging gigantic Christmas lights across it, I might have believed you. The lights were as big and close as airplanes, moving fast in an equally-spaced, single-file, row as if a conveyor belt of flying saucers were on parade. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
It only lasted a few minutes. I felt awe and fear. At that moment I was helpless to both comprehend and control what was happening. I didn’t actually think it was aliens. I thought maybe it was low-orbit satellites that might crash or a military exercise of synchronized night flying? Part of me was scared it was missiles launching (which seemed absurd in rural upstate New York) but who knows these days; the news is a constant hellscape of terror.
Since I couldn’t do anything, I didn’t. I pulled over and watched until the queu of orbs disappeared. Then I texted all my neighbors to see if they saw it, too. None of them had looked up.
Folks, always look up.
I soon found out it was Starlink satellites. I coincidently witnessed the flight path at the lucky passing moment they were visible. Had I not decided to visit a friend in Saratoga that afternoon—and not positioned myself at the bottom of my mountain at exactly 6PM—I would have never seen the spectacle. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, watching from my Subaru as magical lights marched past on a cold November night, barred owls hooting in the background.
I’ve been looking up a lot lately. I can’t help it, it’s second nature as a falconer. I can’t drive anywhere without glancing at the tops of telephone poles, my eyes scan tree-lines, I squint past low clouds. I’ve been trying to trap a juvenile red-tail for over two months. Which is why even in the dark my eyes can’t help glancing up. Hope is a hard habit to beat.
My falconry doesn’t impress a lot of people in the sport. I do not care. I didn’t get into training wild birds for the approval of others. I got into it because nothing on this planet gives me a bigger charge than working beside animals.
Now when I say “working” I don’t mean careers people have that involve animals like veterinarians, zookeepers, or farmers; I’m not talking about giving shots or raising livestock. I mean work. Endeavors like mushing a team of dogs and plowing fresh ground with horses in harness. I mean hiking mountains with pack goats, herding sheep with border collies, and bringing home a big ol’ rabbit dinner with my hawk. I want to physcially labor beside animals to achieve a common goal. That’s why I got into falconry. I’m in this for the partnership.
I think I’m defensive about my falconry because most people who are hunting with birds feel the longer you’re in the sport, the more experience you should have with different species and game. Progress to most falconers means flashier birds, more exciting quarry, traveling to meets or being active with your state club. They buy expensive telemetry gear and gps trackers for birds they spent thousands of dollars on. They plan vacations around big meets and know big names.
And for a lot of those people falconry is their main thing, the passion they dedicate most of their energy and time to. They care about their reputation as much as they care about their birds. And let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of that. That’s the sport! I’m the one on my own flight path, falling out of line. I’ll tell you this much for $8 a month; I’d make a shit satellite.
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