"It’s About the Hawk"

People will sometimes either call or send me photos of birds they have spotted. What is it, they ask, knowing I won’t rest until I figure it out and tell them what blessing has visited their lives. Long time readers of Oak in the Seed may remember Nina, our local organic farmer and owner of Red Barn Farm. Nina has agreed to be our guest blogger today after she emailed me about a bird she, um…saw….

…so I was studying for a college math test when I heard the “uptown” girls make noise. I looked up and saw them running…well…like a bunch of chickens. I also noticed what looked like foam packing pellets on the ground. Momentarily I could not make sense of the hen ruckus or the litter on the ground. I went to the front door, by then the hens had taken cover. Standing amid the litter,which turned out to be feathers, was a raptor. Thank goodness for the pair of binoculars in the foyer.

It was evident from a distance the hen was dead. This raptor was such an exquisite sight that I thanked the unseen forces for bringing it to me. While I could do nothing for the hen it was imperative to make the most of this visit. Silly me, I feared the slightest hint of my presence would scare the raptor off. Not wanting to approach head on, with camera in tow I quietly slipped out of the basement door to approach the bird from the side. Dang, I still could not get a decent photo, my little digital just does not have the telephoto capabilities.

About an hour into raptors fresh chicken lunch it became evident it was not leaving. Emboldened, little pink Nikon and I went closer. Wanting a good picture that would best capture the scale of the bird I went into the pen. Each time the bird reached down to tear off more chicken I took a few more steps closer. I reached about 8′ from it and dropped to the ground. I’m not sure if it was abject fear of the bird or if I was kidding myself by thinking that if I appeared smaller I might seem less threatening.

I continued the belly crawl and got within 5′ of the bird when it turned around and just looked at me. While we occupy very different places in the animal kingdom, the message that bird gave me was unmistakable …back off !

I’ve spoken with two birders and the consensus is my visitor was an immature red tailed hawk…and yes, I took pictures of the birds back side. Birders are a curious bunch, when an untrained observer like myself tries to describe a bird to them they always have very specific questions about the tail feathers.

The hen’s death may have been swift but I harbor no anger towards the hawk. The bird stayed two hours and gave me the opportunity to observe a magnificent creature up close.

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8 Responses to "It’s About the Hawk"

  1. DrSteggy says:

    WOW. What a neat set of photos! How cool to be THAT close to a wild raptor being a wild raptor!

    I have some bird photos from MAui to share once I get them all organized, but here's the link to the best one (seen on the first day, natch!) One of a pair of nene.

    http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b65/drsteggy/2010 Maui/Haleakala Sunrise Oct 30 2010/?action=view&current=IMG_0826.jpg

    (you need to cut and paste that!)

    We saw frigate birds too, but I don't have great pix of those.

  2. Aw, the poor chicken. But I guess that's the circle of life. Beautiful hawk and great pictures.

  3. Chris Petrak says:

    A big meal for a young bird, but perhaps it will sustain him as he continues to hone his hunting and survival skills. And a great opportunity to observe the bird at close range.

  4. Poor chicken! But I do love to watch the hawks soaring over my backyard. In California, we used to go riding by a tree that had a nest of baby red tailed hawks – really fascinating. Hope you are having a great Thanksgiving!

  5. WOW, what a great series! I loved the mental picture of you army crawling to get closer, only to receive that cold stare-down. Must have been thrilling!

  6. Adrienne: This blog post as well as the incredible photographs of the Red-tailed Hawk were taken by Nina, of Red Barn Farm. Also my hero.

  7. Wendy says:

    Awesome guest post. Cool photos. Glad Nina wasn't upset about the chicken but thrilled in watching the hawk. How often does that happen?

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