Monday, February 14, 2011

Watched by the Hawk

We have a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks living in the woods across the street. My neighbor told me the nest was in one of her trees but I can't see it from my yard. I have been watching these hawks for three years, maybe four.

The hawks are not too afraid of us. From a falconer I learned they can get used to certain people they are around. Hawks can also learn their names if they are used by the humans around them on a regular basis. After I learned that I decided to call our hawk Swift. The only problem is unless I see the pair together I can't tell which is the male and which is the female so I could be calling each of them Swift. I'm no falconer but just to explain, you can train a hawk to come when called by name by rewarding them with food. I don't reward the hawks with food.

Usually when they see me they look at me then look away. When I make sounds or call them by name they look at me and watch me then look away and get back to looking at whatever it was they were looking at or for. I have done that repeatedly and can feel the hawk looking right into my eyes. I can sense that they are intelligent creatures. I can tell they are not really afraid of me the way they size me up and then choose to go back to what they were doing.

When I clap suddenly they usually fly away. I confess to doing this sometimes so I can photograph them flying. If I walk too close they usually will fly to another farther away tree or just leave.

I had a freaky experience last week. We had an ice storm. I was angry that no one was shoveling the front walk and it was iced up and a mess. I was also worried about finances and wondering about where we may wind up moving and if we'd have to leave this place and this house that I love so much. I went outside and started shoveling and hacking at the ice. I used the metal tip of the shovel to chop at the ice. It took multiple hacks to get the ice to break up. The shovel hitting ice or brick made so much noise, it was the only sound in my neighborhood. It echoed though the woods. I couldn't stand the sound, it was so loud. I worked so hard I was getting out of breath and my heart was pumping.

I decided I'd done a good job and would go inside. As I turned out of the corner of my eye I noticed something that didn't belong there: a bump in the white oak next to my bedroom window. I looked up and sure enough it was Swift, perched there in silence just staring at me and watching me. It was such a weird feeling that I got that startled feeling in my gut, an adrenaline rush to know I was being watched and had no clue. It was downright creepy to be honest. I realized the hawk must have been watching me for a while as if it has flown there while I was working I'd have spotted that in my peripheral vision.

(I have tried to explain to my husband and kids but they don't seem to understand me. If you get to know what the normal shape of trees are or are familiar with certain trees you see regularly, it is easy to spot a bird sitting on a branch as immediately the mind knows something is abnormal, even in peripheral vision. That is how I spot so many hawks and large birds while driving down the highway.)

Although you don't know my white oak, can you see the hawk?

I went inside and ran for the camera. I didn't take the time to get the 300mm zoom lens out so shot these using my 18-55mm lens only. I also peeked at it from my bedroom window but could only see its bottom which wasn't impressive in person or in a photo.

The hawk watched me as I took photos then would ignore me. It finally flew away just as I was walking back in the house to get my 300mm zoom lens.

It never ceases to amaze me how when the hawk takes off from the branch, it is silent. Only once was I able to detect the sound of the flapping of the wings. I caught that one on video with my point and shoot digital camera.

After this exchange with the hawk and taking the photos I felt calm and happy. All my anger and worry was gone and I felt at peace.

(Double click to enlarge any photo.)

Photos taken 2/02/11 by ChristineMM, not enhanced digitally.


Sparklee said...

Wow--what a neat experience! I think the hawk was curious because you were doing something unusual.

We see red-tailed hawks here, and kestrels too. It's always exciting to watch them!

Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

What a lovely experience for you, Christine. I hope wherever your future takes you that you will always find yourself surrounded by nature; you really do seem to appreciate it.