If you see one of Utica’s pair of peregrine falcons zipping through the sky, be grateful for the opportunity.

“In the U.S., the peregrine falcon’s close brush with extinction has made it emblematic of both the fragility of natural ecosystems and the ability of nature to bounce back when given the proper assistance and protection,” said Matthew Perry, conservation director and resident naturalist at Spring Farm CARES in Clinton and president/co-founder of the Utica Peregrine Falcon Project.

There are only an estimated 75 breeding pairs of peregrines in the state, he said. Astrid and Aries only live in the city and nest on the Adirondack Bank Building thanks to the work of local conservationists, he said.

They’re special, in part, because they are the world’s fastest birds, diving at speeds of up to 200 mph, and they’ve been used in the sport of falconry for more than two millennia, said Perry, who also sits on the board of Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife, and serves as Region 5 editor of The Kingbird, the New York State Ornithological Association’s quarterly journal.

What makes someone a naturalist? What do they do?

Most people forge a connection with nature at a very early age. Those of us who become naturalists retain into adulthood that sense of wonder and deep appreciation of the plants and animals that share our world.

Naturalists are constantly learning new things; they are patient and careful observers. They look at the world as an unending source of mysteries to be solved and experiences to be had.

The term “naturalist” is quite general and can be applied to a number of disciplines involving the study of plants, animals and natural ecosystems. The main thing that naturalists do is to study species and animal behavior and then draw conclusions based upon those observations.

What are the goals of your work at Spring Farm CARES?

Our main goal at Spring Farm CARES’ nature sanctuary is protecting and creating habitat for native plants and animals. We try to facilitate the reestablishment of interrelationships between species in an environment. Monitoring and documenting the behavior of wildlife is also a very important part of our work.

What draws you to wildlife? Why do you want to make a living in nature?

I have been interested in nature and wildlife for as long as I can remember. At age 7 I developed a particular interest in birds. What makes birds especially compelling is their ability to fly, their colorful plumage, their various complex behaviors and vocalizations, and also their intelligence.

Birds are an amazingly diverse crowd, exemplified by everything from hummingbirds to herons. And finally since birds are the only living direct descendants of dinosaurs, those of us (including me) that have always been captivated by T-Rex and the other enigmatic creatures of the Mesozoic era, can console ourselves with studying their equally awesome flying cousins.