Thursday, December 22, 2005

Food Chain Story

Thursday's stunning sky
Early Thursday morning the kingfisher arrived in our yard. The coyote walked along the fence. The hawk did its usual fly through. We thought if we were children's book authors we would write a tale about this odd backyard trio: Kingfisher, Coyote, and Hawk. We imagined something charming and uplifting like all children's books should be. But the coyote only stayed for a few minutes. It sat innocently outside the yard, scratched its ear, got up and walked to and fro a bit, then left. Kingfisher and hawk on the other hand, told us a story about predation.
We were surprised by the kingfisher's presence. We do have a very small pond with about ten fish in it. We wondered why a kingfisher would come to a yard not so well-suited to its behaviors or its favorite habitat? We are about 1/2 mile from the nearest creek. But there it was nonetheless. It spent almost the whole day flying from willow to plum to garage roof to the border conifers. We were intrigued by it and photographed it most of the day. I really like kingfishers. I even imagined stocking the pond with fish, if it wanted to stay and call our yard home.
By late afternoon it had finally grown bold enough to perch above the pond. I watched it from our sauna's exterior bench. It waited in intense concentration for the moment to strike. Part of me wanted to run for the camera, part of me wanted to just wait to see what it would do. It sang its fantastic song and flew straight down into the pond and then back into the tree. I was too far away to see if it had gotten one of the goldfish. Then, suddenly out of nowhere, there was another bird in the tree, and the kingfisher was shrieking. For a moment I thought another kingfisher had arrived and was arguing over territory, but I realized that a very large hawk had body slammed the kingfisher. They both had tumbled to the ground fluttering in a fight, and were flying towards the fence.

I was up and off the bench and running at them screaming. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I couldn't bear to watch the kingfisher be killed and eaten in the yard. I surprised them both. The kingfisher stumbled in the brambles and dried dead weeds, and then took off in a split second and headed out of the yard. I couldn't tell how badly it had been hurt. The hawk was up and flying straight after it. I was still chasing them. I think I may have been shouting for the hawk to get the hell out of the yard, and to leave the kingfisher alone. DPR stepped out of the sauna to see me running through the yard. Crazy woman.
I went into the house and cried. Maybe I'm not cut out for country life. On the other hand, this could be a children's book story that would really be about life.

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