A hawk in the flesh! I knew they were out there. I’d seen the signs.
Perfect circles of down will appear as if by magic on the lawn. Sometimes the sign is macabre — a decapitated dove body placed just so for anyone to stumble upon. No head in sight. Hawk-like shapes do hang from the sky. The image is usually too far away for me to identify the bird with certainty but when small birds disperse in a panic I am reasonably confident that a hawk and not a vulture draws near. The blue jay knows all about the hawk’s winged-death reputation. He sometimes satirizes the kee-rah call knowing it is a great way to clear away birdfeeder competition.
This hawk flew right past me and settled onto a nearby branch. Just as I was appreciating its sudden appearance another bird — a starling I think — took notice mid-flight. The starling had been aiming its way toward the same tree. As soon as it saw who was already perched there the starling veered sharply away. I almost laughed as I imagined its momentary terror. The hawk was above it all and didn’t seem perturbed or even interested. I wondered briefly if it ever feels lonely having everyone flee from you in terror.
A moment later the hawk bent low and pushed off with those powerful legs. Only a couple wing beats were needed to take it out of sight.
Of course I had to learn more. Red-shouldered hawks perform something called a sky dance when courting. Sky dance? What a beautiful phrase. Now I have to wonder: was it a hawk I saw the other day diving head first toward the pond, swooping out of the dive at the last moment and spiralling up and up? When I met my husband I felt that same kind of reckless love.
It can create a bond that lasts. I watched a video showing a female hawk laying her eggs. After the third and final egg she looked exhausted. Empty. But as she gathered her strength her partner flew by and offered a sprig of flowers. They might have been apple blossoms.
Nancy Willard wrote an amazing poem about a different kind of hawk. She is my favourite poet this week.
Thanks Tina for hosting Wildlife Wednesday each month.