The way out here

From flight to sight

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 2/2/22

Stark was the canvas upon which I stumbled.

The snow was a sheer white contrast to the sprawling chaos of feather and bone left scattered at the feet of the one who created the scene.

I …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
The way out here

From flight to sight

Posted

Stark was the canvas upon which I stumbled.

The snow was a sheer white contrast to the sprawling chaos of feather and bone left scattered at the feet of the one who created the scene.

I hadn’t expected my day to begin with such a view, but nevertheless, as I rounded the corner on my way to drop my son off at the babysitter, I bore witness to the carnage that was this particular nonchalant hawk’s breakfast.

As I drove by, I dared not stop at first, knowing from past experience that when you stop a vehicle suddenly beside animals like this, they typically flee or fly away. However, after dropping my son off and coming back the same way, I decided to risk it and attempt a picture, my camera at the ready, just in case.

I slowed on my approach and to my utter surprise, the hawk barely seemed to so much as bat an eye at my company. Clearly, I was not a concern for him.

His breakfast was nearly complete as I looked closer below him, all the while snapping photos from this rare intimate vantage point just a few feet away.

I’m sure if I were to take any further liberties that he would simply decide to leave and I would have been left with nothing but the less-fortunate bird.

Something like this rarely happens so close to the road and especially not within the amount of time it would take for me to pass by before the evidence had grown cold. Seeing it now, however, I was reminded of the ruthlessness even the most beautiful creatures in our area possess. The hawk in this case was not very big, but—without consulting any resources on the subject—looked to be a mature version of whatever type of hawk it was.

I later consulted the Google and tentatively determined it to be a sharp-shinned hawk. To me, it looked like a peregrine but there were a few fine details that made me doubt this assumption. My mother, the ornithologist, will certainly be consulted, although at the time I am writing this she is unavailable.

According to Google, sharp-shinned hawks are among the smallest hawks to be found, and I noted that my evaluation of this bird as a mature specimen was likely accurate, assuming I had identified it correctly.

In addition to identifying the hawk, however, I may have also accurately identified its meal as a starling. If I was correct on that front, then I hope we get a whole family of those hawks moving in, because the starlings have been an absolute nightmare. For those of you who don’t know, starlings are an invasive species. They were introduced from Europe many years ago in some sort of effort to balance an ecosystem somewhere—feel free to look up the whole history of their introduction to the U.S. via the Google—and when they arrived, their population exploded.

The problem with them is what they do at the agricultural level. Starlings have a nasty habit of pooping in water troughs and on any open feed for livestock, including but not limited to hay, grain and really any horizontal surface. They carry quite a bit of disease and of course, their feces ends up all over the place, not only making a mess but creating a health hazard. So when I saw Mr. Hawk that morning with a starling beneath his talons, I was quite pleased with the predator.

The way out here, everything has its place on the food chain. Sometimes we even get to witness exactly where on the chain some of those things are. One of our privileges at the top of the food chain is the chance to survey the interaction between predator and prey as it happens around us.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here