Though they be little, they be fierce!

(title apologies to Wm. Shakespeare)

Ryan Ford is the hero in my Nocturne Falls Universe paranormal novella, “The Falcon Finds His Mate. Oh. I should mention Ryan is a shape-shifting Peregrine falcon–one of the fastest birds on Earth.

Though the shape-shifters in my story are imaginary, falcons are real!

I’ve fallen in love with these creatures. Until I researched falcons for this story, I had no idea there were different members of this family.

In one scene, Ryan–in human form, is a contestant in a charity benefit for the local animal sanctuary and models with a North American Kestrel Falcon on his gloved hand.

Ryan chose the small and mighty Kestrel, because anything larger might frighten the unsuspecting humans in the audience. (Hey, it’s fiction–remember?)

Sometimes called a sparrow hawk, the adult Kestrel weighs between 5-6 ounces; the approximate size of a mourning dove or a robin. The female is slightly larger than the male.

Though their larger cousins like Ryan (the Peregrine Falcon shifter) are faster, these little ‘race cars of the sky’ hold their own. Long wings and tail allow them to maneuver and kite in the air, and fly at speeds of up to thirty-nine miles per hour.

This photo is an adult female. Note her rust-colored wings and back. Her tale bands are narrower than the male. Those distinctive ‘sideburns’ and ‘mustache’ are found in both the female and male. If you look closely at the nape of her neck, you’ll see two dark patches that resemble eyes. These are thought to be deterrents to a predator approaching from behind. These faux eyes appear on both the male and female. (Photo courtesy Chris Mayne)

Speaking of sight, the Kestrel has incredible vision. They see in the UV light range so they can track prey at night, though they do most of their hunting during the day.Their coloration is camouflage for their own survival and for confusing their prey. (Photo courtesy D. Allen Martin)

 

 

The adult male has slate-blue on the head and wings, but when perched, a black-spotted rusty mantle and scapulars predominate.

 

Depending on the gender, the adult wingspan can be up to 24 inches.  The photo to the right is a male. Note the large dark band at the tip of his tale feathers.

 

 

 

Though they can spot prey from a perch, Kestrels prefer to hunt by hovering over the ground then swooping down when they see a tasty target, moving so fast their prey doesn’t see them coming.

Ready for your quiz?

Male or Female?

#1

#2

#3

#1 = Female             #2  =  Female            #3  = Male

(The above six photos courtesy Gerald Friesen)

The Kestrel’s yummy gourmet menu includes lizards, insects, snakes, rodents and small birds.

And eat like a bird? I wish! Kestrels eat up to 21% of their body weight each day. If I did that I’d have to consume…well, you don’t need to know everything!

They store food they don’t need in crevices in trees, utility pole boxes, rocks; wherever they can.  Never know when you’ll need a quick bite when you’re out and about.

The bad news? The predator is also prey for larger hawks, crows, dogs and cats. The good news? This keeps the Kestrel on guard and alert. (Photo courtesy Linda Simmons)

Even though it’s small, the Kestrel is used in sport falconry, sometimes as the beginner bird. If captive for sport, the falconer must be mindful of the Kestrel’s weight as even a small weight loss (we’re talking ounces!) could be fatal.

 

During courting, the pair often gifts each other with food. The Kestrel mates for life and often returns to the same nesting site year after year.

 

 

By the way, the male chooses the nesting site, but the female has the final word before they move in. Umm…that sounds familiar, yes? (These two photos courtesy Chris Mayne)

Finally, all of us have a bad feather day now and again. But not everyone looks as darn cute as a Kestrel!!   (Photo courtesy Gerald Friesen)

Hope you enjoyed this mini-lesson and that I’ve piqued your interest in reading “The Falcon Finds His Mate.”

One more “shout out” to these awesome photographers for permission to use their photos:

Gerald Friesen

Linda Simmons (Thanks to Chris, too!)

Chris Mayne

D. Allen Martin

My references if you’d like to know more:

https://www.beautyofbirds.com/americankestrels.html

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Kestrel/id

http://kestrelfalconry.com/aboutkestrels.html

http://www.sky-hunters.org/American%20Kestrel1-06.pdf

Are ye bewitched?

How did a self-proclaimed God-fearing community condone hanging their citizens, based on the hysterical rantings and accusations of a gang of pre-teen and teenage girls?

No single reason.  No precipitating event.  No one tipping point.  Comprised of a hundred pieces, it’s a puzzle with common elements.

Fear. Superstition. Power struggles. Greed. Jealousy. Disenchantment.

The Puritan settlers’ strong belief system evolved from a complex evolution of theology and religious practice that ultimately caused their separation from the Anglican Church. Yet debate continues over whether religious persecution caused them to leave England. Could it have been the allure of a new land?  The promise of religious freedom?  Or something else?

Regardless, the Puritans were among the first settlers in the colonies but were unprepared for the harsh realities they faced in the new land: a bitter climate, smallpox, the Anglo-French War, the constant threat of attack by Native Americans.

Over time, the town elders began to lose their tight rein over the community. As some families prospered, others’ resentment grew. Neighbors feuded. Distrust and malcontent escalated as did the fear of outsiders.

Fuel for collective paranoia.

Then the new minister arrived—a man who had failed in business but felt the ‘calling’ to preach.

Ironically, as heated discussion ensued over Reverend Samuel Parris’ demands for a higher salary, so did his daughter and niece’s fits.

parris-1-204x300

Image of Rev. Samuel Parris from Danvers Archival Center–Peabody Institute Library

Mystified by the girls’ bizarre condition, the town physician attributed this to the only thing it could be—the work of the devil’s handmaidens. Witchcraft. With the stage set for disaster, an ugly chapter in American history unfolded.

What parallels do you see in modern history?

I am as clear as the child unborn

 

Rebecca Towne Nurse hanged as a witch on July 19, 1692

324 years ago a 71-year-old frail, nearly deaf, ‘God fearing’ Christian woman was hanged as a witch on Gallows Hill. Taken from her home, reportedly from her sickbed, she was imprisoned and repeatedly questioned by the local authorities from March through July. She was found guilty based on the testimony of a few deluded children and adults, despite a long list of character witnesses who spoke in her defense. Below is the transcript of her first “examination”.

Retrieved from  http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/swp?div_id=n94

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The examination of Rebekah Nurse at Salem Village  24. mar. 1691/2

Mr. Harthorn. What do you say (speaking to one afflicted) have you seen this Woman hurt you?

Yes, she beat me this morning

Abigial . Have you been hurt by this Woman?

Yes

Ann Putman in a grievous fit cryed out that she hurt her.

Goody Nurse , here are two An: Putman the child & Abigail Williams complains of your hurting them What do you say to it

N [Rebecca Nurse]. I can say before my Eternal father I am innocent, & God will clear my innocency

Here is never a one in the Assembly but desires it, but if you be guilty Pray God discover you.

Then Hen: Kenny rose up to speak

Goodm: Kenny what do you say

Then he entered his complaint & farther said that since this Nurse came into the house he was seizd twise with an amaz’d condition

Here are not only these but, here is the wife of Mr Tho: Putman who accuseth you by credible information & that both of tempting her to iniquity, & of greatly hurting her.

  1. I am innocent & clear & have not been able to get out of doors these 8. or 9. dayes.

Mr Putman: give in what you have to say

Then Mr Edward Putman gave in his relate

Is this true Goody Nurse

I never afflicted no child never in my life

You see these accuse you, is it true

No.

Are you an innocent person relating to this Witchcraft.

Continue reading

Gallows Hill Nineteen

 

Gallows Hill Nineteen

1692

“Why Salem is important today is because of acts of individual conscience and resistance to a government that was overreacting out of fear of a global enemy. It’s important to know today what happened there for the sake of us and American history.”  Benjamin Ray, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

No one really knows for sure what spurred the Salem witch hunt. Most theorize that the Puritans lived in fear of death by ‘savages’; death by starvation; death by exposure. The only common thread is fear.

The truth is this: 19 women of good intentions were accused, tried and hanged.

YouTube produced by University of Virginia, Retrieved June 4, 2016  https://youtu.be/v-KrexSNHVY

Over three hundred years later, using a variety of resources, experts agreed on the actual location where the hangings were conducted.

Top: Site of the actual witch hangings.  Middle: Gallows Hill   Bottom:  Map of the location

Figure 1

Figure 2

 

Figure 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top:  http://boston.cbslocal.com/2016/01/13/actual-site-of-salem-witch-hangings-discovered/

Middle:  http://w3.salemstate.edu/~ebaker/Gallows_Hill

Bottom:  https://news.virginia.edu/content/uvas-help-salem-finally-discovers-where-its-witches-were-executed

…on a horse with no name…

I subscribe to one of the major ancestry database vendors. At times it feels like I’m wandering through the desert on a horse with no name. I assure you, it is deliberate and meaningful research.

I’m a writer. We research, okay? It’s not wasting time nor is it procrastination. Let me repeat, it is r*e*s*e*a*r*c*h.   

I’ve discovered sixth generation half-siblings to the third wife of my 7th great-grand whatever. Who, by the way, have no blood relationship to me. Ummm….Maybe I get carried away with this.

Except for a few crazy drunk uncle tales, may their souls rest in peace, no family lore passed from one generation to the next. No who’s who. Nothing. The biggest mystery always has been my dad’s grandmother.

All I had was her first name and her married last name. First name: America. America WHO for crying out loud?!

One fine day, I was meandering down ‘deliberate and meaningful’ research avenue and voila! Someone had posted her first, middle, and maiden name.

Gold strike!

A whole new road to travel and this time, my horse has a name. Generation after generation.

Back to the 1600’s. Massachusetts? Really? Salem? Come on. You’re kidding, right?

My 9th great grandmother was…

Retrieved from:   http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people?group.num=all&mbio.num=mb21

 

Rebecca Town Nurse

B:   16 FEB 1621; Christened  21 FEB 1621 St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth, England

D:   19 JUL 1692 (HANGED) Gallows Hill, (Danvers) Salem, Massachusetts

The line from Great Grannie America to Way-back Great Grannie Rebecca is straight as an arrow. Alrighty, then. Now I’m a rabid consumer of all things witch-trial related. If you think these times are crazy, you haven’t seen anything.

Interested in learning more about the Salem Trials?

Incredible historical archive available online from the University of Virginia  http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people?group.num=all&mbio.num=mb21

Three excellent fictional novels set in this time.

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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

 

 

 

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The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

 

 

 

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Deliverance from Evil by Frances Hill

 

  

 

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Three Sovereigns for Sarah–A PBS 3-part video

Rebecca had two sisters. One fled after her trial and came back to tell the story.  This is a fictional account but based on archived documents.  Available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

All available from Amazon. 

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I’d love to hear where the journey down research avenue has taken you.

Please leave a comment!