In the blink of an eye the feathered cloud of flapping wings rose in synchrony and disappeared into the bushes. Gradually, one brave or extremely hungry spatzie (also known as a house sparrow, and maybe one who was told he had to be first!) would venture back to the feeders to peck at seeds. If the brave first bird did not become a hawk’s luncheon, the thirty-plus other spatzie’s would fly back, feistily fighting for space on the feeding perches.
This rapid departure for safe cover happened numerous times and I had just said, “I wonder if there is a hawk around. The spatzie’s are so skittish!” When suddenly there came into view in the blue sky, a hawk gliding straight for the feeders. The spatzie’s disappeared into the bushes in a flash.
The red-tailed hawk landed and sat high in a nearby tree for several minutes, waiting and watching. But the spatzies had buried themselves so deep in the bushes you could not see movement or even the silhouette of a bird.
Eventually the beautiful red-tailed hawk flew away looking for lunch at a different dining establishment. I could almost hear him say, “I’ll be back...”
When I lived in the northeast, I had chickens. On occasion, when I was out in the garden, I would let the chickens out of the pen to scratch in the yard. The chickens would spot a hawk soaring overhead before I and run with wings flapping and out-stretched necks back into their pen.
One day while inside painting, I heard a ruckus out in the chicken yard. I looked out to see a hawk in the pen with the chickens. The chickens, in their fear and automatic flight response, had skewered themselves in the chicken wire of the fence. If I had not run to the rescue, the goshawk would have dined leisurely and delightfully on chicken sushi. Shortly thereafter, I stretched chicken wire over the top of the pen. Couldn’t have my egg layers being stressed out!
Another hawk saga occurred recently. There was noise at the back door. It sounded strange. What was my dog doing? I looked out the back door and saw a huge hawk on the back porch. I wondered, “How did you get in here?” The hawk was flying against the screen and the dog, outside the porch, would run towards him. The hawk then flew back to the other side trying to push it’s way out of the screen, with the dog in close pursuit.
I slowly opened the back door and talked quietly to the hawk who was standing on a lawn chair. As I went out the door, the hawk fell off the chair and laid on its side on the floor. It seemed to have gone into shock. I could see the ominous hooked beak and long, sharp talons but the hawk looked so pitiful that I gently picked it up. It laid docilely in my hands. I had to tell my dog to “stay” or he would have attacked the hawk as I opened the screen door and lifted the hawk into the air.
The hawk flew away, not gaining altitude, but free and flying. It was a remarkably stunning animal. The tail was long, striped and full—not narrow. The chest had the most lovely light, russet brush strokes on white. The head was not dark, nor its back. I have had difficulty identifying what type of hawk it was. It was not a red-tail hawk and I don’t think it was a goshawk although I am not certain. It may have been a northern harrier due to the low hole damage I discovered in the screen. Northern harrier’s do eat smaller birds and fly low. Or, it could be an immature hawk and not easily identifiable. If you have any ideas, let me know.
Meanwhile, I am truly grateful for these hawk sagas. I can understand why people become enraptured with raptors. Charles Lindbergh gave my sentiments exactly, “I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”
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