Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Yard Tells a Story

We've been photographing the Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks for months now. They sweep through the yard regularly, sometimes two or three times a day. We often find them perched in the willow, on the branches of one of the alders, even on the bird-feeder in a brazen display. The other day I saw one standing on the rocks around one of our rose and flower beds. It was camouflaged by some weeds.

Then it was gone.

We have often remarked to each other how the hawks don't manage to find a meal here. It's been miss every time. Only once, months ago, did we find a pile of feathers right next to the fence on the eastern edge of our property. Just above we could see where the hawk had stood on the 4 x 4 fence post, to have its meal.

So the birds feed freely on the feeder and on the ground. The little ones wait their turn in the flower bed by the roses. They seem to have found a hierarchical harmony out there. The jays scatter the chickadees and finches; the quail scatter the jays. They all scatter to safety when the hawk shows. Yesterday, while I was kneading bread in that dreamy moment when the bread board has just enough flour, the dough in its perfect elasticity yields to the folding without sticking at all, the smell of yeast and honey on my hands and in the air, I looked up and glanced out the window.
Maybe it was the hawk that caught my attention and drew my eyes to the window. There it was in a flash it hit the frozen ground with its talons extended -- between the two rose bushes. It slammed hard and fast and was airborne again before I could even blink. It had scored a meal and was out of the yard with a stunning speed. If I didn't have flour all over and bread to set to rise, I might have gone to the far corner of the fence to look for a new pile of feathers.

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