Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Red-tailed Hawk

October 22, 2013

I'm thinking about birds today. I'm sure it has something to do with the Hitchcockian line-up of little brown sparrows perched on the telephone lines outside my office window. An old friend had a little green Quaker parrot named Calvin and he acted as if there was some sort of intelligence at work. I used to joke about this bird knowing he was descended from avian theropods. Perhaps the birds on the wire know it as well.

Seeing the birds outside led me to ponder the feathered situation at home. We have a Red-tailed hawk in the sky above our house, and for the first time in ten years my not-so-silly cat is very cautious when he ventures out to search for his own prey.

I'm not at all sure the hawk is big enough [yet] to take on a fifteen-pound cat, especially one which is all mountain-cat muscle. There's no city-cat flab on my kitty-precious. Nonetheless, the cat's instincts rule him in this and I'm fine with that.

As a girl, I helped my grandfather make bird feeders, and tossed sunflower seeds out the kitchen window with my grandmother for the Bob-whites on the ground. I'm sometimes surprised at what birds I remember and know by sight from their teachings. Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Nuthatch, Chickadee, blackbirds, crows, common sparrows, finches, wrens, titmouse, Juncos, jays, mockingbirds, catbirds and the occasional Ring-necked pheasant all visited the area outside my grandparent's kitchen windows. If you saw a hawk show up, it was like magic. "poof!" The little birds vanished.

These days the quail have disappeared, by what mechanism I don't know. I don't even hear them call in the distance much less see one. Instead we have wild turkeys, something I never saw until they made a resurgence in the mid-1990s. Now, with the hawk, I suspect I won't have many small birds to feed this winter. They, like the cat, know when to keep out of sight.

I suppose I could find it in me to be annoyed at the hawk, but I'm not. The old and the frail will fall to him and I view it as a quicker death than starvation or freezing on the first really cold night of the season. Maybe it's because I grew up understanding there is a natural order to everything - Nature does not waste life.

The hawk will eventually move on, following the small birds. The little ones will return to refill the vacuum. But in the meantime I will watch this young Red-tailed and admire his seemingly wise gaze as he perches on the old cherry stump. After all, he is the ranking dinosaur in the neighborhood.

KC Kendricks

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