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to peregrinate (v.)

April 20, 2009
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peregrine_falcon_psf3The Peregrine Falcon has been my favorite bird since I was about eight. Now that I’m a bonafide bird nerd I don’t know if I could choose a favorite, but the Peregrine earned the distinction by dramatically entering my life long before I thought of myself as a birdwatcher. While alone in my backyard one afternoon, I was shocked to see a bird of prey swoop overhead and perch in a tree only yards away. It sat very still for what felt like a very long time and I took the chance to study it closely. I like to think that the experience presaged my future as a naturalist and writer–I made a field sketch on the spot and later described the bird as “covered in apostrophes.” My identification may have been influenced more by My Side of the Mountain than any actual field marks, but I refuse to believe that it was wrong.

As time passed, my admiration for Peregrines only grew as I learned more about them. Their name refers to the long distances they migrate each year–“peregrine” means wanderer. They reach incredible speeds while stooping for prey (check out this video!). They are distinctive and widespread. And birds of prey are just plain cool.

But it wasn’t until a few days ago that I learned that “peregrinate” is a word, meaning “to journey or to travel from place to place, especially by foot.” I couldn’t have invented a more perfect word or come across it at a better time in my life. Just as the falcon in my backyard provided a formative experience back when I was a young nature lover, the word itself provides context now that I’m a nomadic recent grad. I’m not drifting or lost. I’m peregrinating.

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