Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy Hunting

There's something special about wildlife encounters. Every time I see a deer crossing the road or a bunny eating grass at twilight I get a little thrill. And then when it is a bigger more elusive animal, it's even more magical. I've seen a porcupine in a tree, a fox one morning before work, pheasants crossing the road, and even a wolf. And each time I stop whatever I'm doing and just watch. I like to say that spending time with wildlife and nature is the closest feelings I have to a religion. Bird, mammal, even insect encounters can feel like magic to me.

I've had two hawk encounters at home in the last couple months. The first was when I noticed a ground squirrel making an alarm call on the patio. The chipmunk alarm call is loud, loud enough that you have no idea how such a small creature makes such an intense, and irritating, noise. I went to the window to see the little guy sitting on top of my air conditioner, calling away. I was curious about what had alarmed him, until a hawk walked around the side of the air conditioner. Walked. It was already on the ground hunting the chipmunk. But sadly the little bugger had eluded him. We tried to get pictures of this huge (and beautiful) bird just standing on the patio but before we could snap a picture he noticed Jeff and was gone.

See how close I am       ^

The second encounter was just this past weekend. For anyone who's a Facebook friend you've already seen one of these pictures. On Saturday I'm sitting on the couch knitting when all of a sudden Jeff gasps. Then tells me, in a low whisper, to look to my right. Sitting on the patio fence is this beautiful hawk. He's alternating watching us and watching the mice that I keep unfortunately attracting to the feeder. There are several of them below him but he's taking his time to hunt. Jeff grabbed the camera and this bird was far more accomodating than the previous one. He sat for about 25 minutes, watching the mice, debating an attack. All the while we snapped photos and video. It was only when my neighbors left to go out that he flew away. I was less than 10 feet away from this bird. I was able to watch him at leisure. It was such a fantastic moment. I only wish he had managed to get one of the mice. Before they find their way in. Wildlife encounters are the wild. Not in the house.

[Edit: I forgot about Jeff's encounter in mid-summer with the bird below. He/she landed on the fence and mantled there. Then after a while it dropped to the ground to spread its wings further. I wonder if most of these encounters are the same bird. The stomach banding is the same. The bird below (the earlier one taken) has yellow eyes, but hawks eyes often darken as they age. I wonder if we are seeing our juvenile all grown up. 

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