Thursday, August 8, 2013

Like A Hawk

There is a hawk nest somewhere way back at the border of the woods and the high fields behind my house.  It's been there for years. I don't know exactly where it is but the hawks have always been there, raising their families.  Sometimes they come to visit me and treat me to occasional fly-overs.  One winter solstice, a hawk came and sat in the lilac tree right outside my sliding door and stayed there when I went out and admired him/her.  This summer the hawks have been very active back there, screaming and yelling at their kids and in general doing hawk things.

A few weeks ago a single hawk came to visit.  I was out in my yard and it came in low over the tree line, right above my head.  I assume it was a juvenile, as it wasn't very big and it didn't seem to know quite what it was doing.  Possibly it was making its first solo flight.  It was a gusty day, not really the best choice for a first flight, if that's what it was.  

The little hawk was in trouble; that was immediately obvious.  It was just above and almost into the trees and its feet were dangling.  It was having a hard time staying level.

"Gear up, little hawk!"  I called.  "Wheels up!  Get your feet up!"

The hawk tried to circle above me, having a terrible time of it.  It was losing altitude it didn't have to spare and the dangling feet didn't help. As I watched, it dropped just a little lower.

I could see what was going to happen, and it wasn't good.

"Don't do it!"  I said. "Do not pull up!  You don't have the air speed!  Level out, level out; do not pull up! No!"

Apparently, inexperienced hawks and stressed human pilots think the same way and make the same mistakes.   The hawk pulled up.  And it didn't have the air speed to do it.  The hawk stalled.

It flipped to its left, starting to tumble.  I just had time to start to think about where to find the phone number of the wildlife rehabilitator I know and to wonder what I had that would work for transporting an injured hawk.

Fortunately, none of that was necessary.  Hawks have an advantage that human pilots don't have: they can flap their wings.  The little hawk flapped, managed to right itself, pulled its feet up (finally!), gained a little altitude, sort of squeaked at me in a rather un-hawk like way, and headed for home.  So that was that.  Phew.

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, there were hawks screaming and yelling  right over my yard.  They were making an incredible ruckus.  I ran outside saying something along the lines of "What the!"

There were three, no four hawks in the air right outside my door.  There two large ones and two slightly smaller. Was one of them my earlier visitor? I wanted to think so.  

When they saw me they flew in formation and dipped toward me.  Then they rose, split into two groups and began the most incredible maneuvers. They were joined by a fifth hawk.  They wheeled, passed one another almost touching, dove and rose.  It was an incredible show.  When it was over, they circled again above my head. I couldn't contain myself.

"Woo hoo!" I yelled.  "Way to go!  Great show!"

The hawks turned and headed away back toward their nest.