As these years in the field have gone by, I have counted myself as one of the most fortunate to have been able to work with raptors. To watch a peregrine falcon swoop across the face of a rock bluff along the Mississippi River is to witness true grace and speed connected to the sacred beauty of a rock escarpment that has occupied this space for millions of years.
Listening to a pair of red-shouldered hawks call to each other from deep inside a forest along the Upper Mississippi River is listening to the sacred language of wildness. And to witness the reckless abandon of a goshawk darting full speed toward a pigeon in our autumn banding station is a new take on the work "sudden." Watching a pair of bald eagles building their nest and then watching as these birds add to and use this same nest and raise young eagles every year for the next twelve years makes me feel part of their story. All these and a thousand other episodes are treasured gifts that I received for choosing to study and live with raptors.
Raptors have shown a great strength and a marvelous ability to adapt and survive. At the same time the lessons in the use of DDT and the loss of habitat have shown that raptors can be totally vulnerable and acutely sensitive to negative influences in the environment. I hope future Iowans will always find the time in their busy lives to stop and watch and enjoy the beauty and grace of the spiral of perfection in a hawk when it soars. I also hope future Iowans will have the resolve, the ingenuity, and the consciousness to be totally aware of what is happening to raptor populations in their state. As Gladys Black used to say, "It is a matter of eternal vigilance."
From the essay by Jon W. Stravers in The Raptors of Iowa , paintings by James F. Landenberger