Friday, December 08, 2006

Country, Suburban, and Strip Mall Red-tails

I still haven't made it to Hoo's Woods but I'm hoping that it may happen tomorrow morning before I get on the plane.

Remember the cornfield hunting Red-tail, seen here in Wisconsin in the fall, sighting down the rows? She's still around; I saw her circling above the farm house at the end of her cornfield.

On the way to the Newark airport, I looked out the bus window and there on the skinniest four foot sapling one can imagine, smack dab in the middle of the median, waving in the wind, talons clutched as tight as they'd go around the scrawny branches sat a beautiful Red-tail in fine feather. I couldn't help but think, why in the world with all the mature trees around didn't she pick something with some height, like good Red-tails should?

Then I noticed a possible why. In New Jersey, many of the four lane roads have those little walls that run along the sides. Well, Sapling Red-tail, was perched on the only tree that was perfectly centered between the only two breaks in the wall for miles. Any little rodenty guys, vole, mouse, ground squirrels perhaps, who wanted to cross the road using the gap in the wall, must needs cross the road under her gaze. Now of course she could have hunted from a high branch but that would have meant a long swoop through traffic. This way, all she needs is patience, something Red-tails have in remarkable quantities, to wait until the prey, who can't climb the wall, makes a break for the other side through the gap. She waits, she waits, she waits, and BAM. She jumps on them from spare feet away. Snick, snack, down the little red lane, and she's back up waiting for another, without the danger of timing the intervals between speeding cars.

And then there is Arby the Hawk. Why Arby? Because above that store is where this Red-tail is most often seen. They must have one juicy group of rodentia coming to their dumpster for snacks. Today, getting on towards sunset, I pulled into the parking lot to watch and sure enough after a bit, Arby went for it and came up with what looked like a nice medium sized rat. As usual, in these cases, people went about there business walking, driving, ordering their roast beef sandwiches without a hint of what Arby was up to.

Sometimes I wonder if Red-tails have some sort of invisibility cloak number going, which only practice and focus allows one to see through. It has also occurred to me that the hawk is not only timing the prey, the attack, the grab, the cars, looking out for other hawks but perhaps is doing a little monitoring concerning where the people's eyes are around it. A bit far fetched, conceivably that's true, but then again how many times has a hawk moved that you were watching, only when your eyes flicked away for a split second?


And did I mention it's now minus 1 F. ? Though I hear there's to be a heat wave. It's supposed to get up all the way up to 12F. today.

Donegal Browne

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