jump to navigation

Another shock to the system. October 18, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,


Silence Dogood here. And no, I wasn’t watching Emeril. I was sitting here at my computer, writing a blog post about cobbler, when something hit the window next to me with the force of a fastball.

AAAHHHHHH!!!! There went the sixth of my nine lives.

Whirling around, all I saw was a little snowdrift of feathers floating down from the screen. Stumbling to the window, I saw Hawk’s Haven’s resident Cooper’s hawk, who’d apparently just pursued a hapless songbird to its doom. The poor little bird must have flown into the window in its attempt to escape, or else the hawk caught it and was unable to slow its flight before crashing into the window itself. (Hawks strike claws-first from the air, so they need to work up a fair amount of speed to stun their target when they strike.)

The Cooper’s hawk stood on its prey for several minutes, occasionally shifting position slightly, looking down as if to check on it from time to time but making no attempt to start eating. I’m not sure if this is typical—if the hawks wait until they’re sure the prey is dead, and thus unable to escape at the last moment—or if our particular hawk was just stunned from its encounter with the window screen, or was even concerned that I might rush through the wall and deprive it of its lunch. In that case, however, hawks typically “mantle” their prey, covering it with spread wings to keep other predators away, and the Cooper’s hawk wasn’t doing that.

Eventually, the hawk seemed to decide that the little bird was dead, or at least comatose, and took to the air with the poor soul hanging limp in its claws, doubtless heading back to its nest or to a convenient branch where it could enjoy its meal unobserved in a leisurely fashion. I returned to my desk and decided to save cobblers for tomorrow and post about the drama I’d just witnessed instead.

Here at Hawk’s Haven, we love our songbirds. But we also love our hawks. I feel sad that there’s one less delightful little songbird to brighten my days. But I feel privileged that a hawk has chosen to make its home with us. Now, if I could just persuade it to do its hunting farther afield. After all, I’m down to just three lives.

              ‘Til next time,



Hawk Watching September 26, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

This is the time of the great autumn migration, when hawks, eagles, falcons, and other birds (and monarch butterflies) migrate in their thousands over the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania on their long flight south for the winter. At Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, which is part of the Kittatinny Ridge, on a good day you can see an awe-inspiring number of thrilling birds of prey (collectively known as raptors), and it’s always exciting to see the monarchs drift past like flakes of living fire.

The reason the raptors and others follow the Kittatinny like an aerial road is that the ridge produces thermals, currents of warm air that can bear the birds and butterflies along almost effortlessly. They can glide on the thermals rather than having to constantly flap their wings, so by riding the thermals they save precious energy for the arduous flight.

To see a raptor swept up by a thermal is amazing. You’re watching a hawk, let’s say, flying along, when it suddenly shoots up into the air, in seconds becoming a mere speck in the sky before disappearing from view completely. Whoa! Where did it go?!!

Another thing about birds of prey: Like people, they have what are known as sighted brains, because for both, sight is the primary sense and it’s through sight that we receive most of our information. Sitting at North Lookout, the highest overview at Hawk Mountain, and looking way, way out at the patchwork of farms and forest spreading out below, our friend Ben can only imagine the scene from a hawk’s eye view.

One last thing before we get to the “art part” of this post: Much of the language used about raptors dates back to the days of falconry. When a falcon or other bird of prey drops down from the sky onto its prey, it’s said to “stoop.”

This poem commemorates a beloved relative who, in the autumn of the year, made the final migration that awaits us all.

(Once again, sorry about the spacing between lines. I don’t know why WordPress does this or how to fix it. Please bear with me!)

                       Hawk Watching

Through the sighted brain of a bird,

Movement or light, pressure of wind

Carries you to my boundaries.

Over ragged amaranth stalks

A Cooper’s hawk circles and stoops.

Now that the ground is conversational

And trees have lost all but the highest tones,

You’re brought to mind, stark Northern bird

Swept on the ridge and hurled

Up the warm air from this sighted world.

A good use for sycamores. March 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,

Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood may be the only people on earth who think sycamores are ugly. Their leprous trunks with weird bulges all over them make our friend Ben think that some mad scientist combined the genes of a silver maple and an Appaloosa, and the Appaloosa is still trying to get out.

But on Sunday, we finally found a great use for sycamores. We’d gone to a grocery that’s across the road from a huge corporation that has a line of enormous sycamores planted along the road in front of its corporate headquarters. Normally, we try not to look at them. (The rest of the landscape is actually lovely; lots of crabapples and other flowering trees.) But this time, as we waited for the light to change so we could head back home, our friend Ben spotted a Cooper’s hawk flying into the crown of one of the sycamores.

Sure enough, it flew to its nest and began feeding its nestlings. How exciting! Unfortunately, before we knew it, the light had changed and we had to move on. But as we passed the row of sycamores, we counted three more hawks’ nests. Hooray!!!

We’ve been hearing the young redtails screaming for food in the woods across from our rural cottage home, Hawk’s Haven. But to actually see a hawk at its nest was a real treat. It was almost enough to make me forgive the sycamores for looking so revolting. At least they made sturdy platforms for the nests!