Monday, May 29, 2006

Big Odds

We went for an early evening walk today, and along the fence bordering our goat-herding neighbors we heard the unmistakable call of a hawk. Repeatedly. Usually you hear just one of the distinctive sounds, but this time we heard it over and over again as we walked, eyes scanning the skies for the source.

Annie spotted it first, perched high in a dead oak tree on the neighbor's property. It was silhouetted beautifully against the azure sky, the sharp angles of the barren limbs a marked contrast to his sleek and powerfully alive body. As we walked closer we saw another, much smaller, form darting in and out of the hawk's. A tiny swallow was dashing to and fro, apparently causing the hawk's continuous calling.

Suddenly the larger bird took off, the swallow constantly dive-bombing him. The hawk must have outweighed that little fellow by ten times, but his tiny oppressor was completely oblivious. Wings spread majestically, the hawk beat as dignified a retreat as he was capable of, soon reaching the safety of another tree on our side of the fence.

The swally did a few final dives to make sure the hawk stayed gone, and high-tailed it back to the tree. We couldn't see a nest there, but I'm sure there was one, filled with tiny, fragile babies. We've got a clutch in the corner of our porch, little down-colored chicks calling piteously for their parents throughout the day.

The hawk might've spotted what he thought was an easy meal, and settled in for dinner, but he reckoned without the powerful protective urge of a parent defending its young. Size doesn't matter in a fight like that, it's primal urge versus primal urge.

And this time, the good guy won.


annie'sbuddie said...

Isn't it amazing how the little guys will defend their nests against the greatest of predators. When I used to live in the city I'd watch with great entertainment the mockingbirds harassing cats & squirrels to keep them away from their nests.
Out here at Bu's Bocage we have resident hawks & they frequently get put in their place by the purple martins that come to nest in the "condo" that my folks gave us several years ago.
When we first put it up there was only one pair for a couple of years & the reading I did indicated that it was necessary to "protect" them from sparrows, starlings, crows, owls, hawks, snakes.
The only thing I've done in terms of protection was to build a predator guard so snakes can't climb the pole. The martins take care of all those others. And now that there are about 8-10 pairs they are a force to be reckoned with!
Time for another house next year.

Jill Phenix Avila said...

Annie's Totem (sp?)... of course she would find it first the hawk is a part of her...

Mario Profaca said...

Hi Jeff!
Greetings from ocean away Zagreb, Croatia!
Just thought you might like to see hawk's nest built at my balcony at 20th floor three years ago. Two squadrons of hawks have been born there on my balcony this so called 'wild birds' chosed for their home.
Obviously, there is no Empty Nest Sindrome here!
(Unfortunately, only in Croatian language so far).

Jeff Hebert said...

Wow, that's an amazing photo Mario! Thank you very much for sharing it. It's incredible that you have those beautiful birds right outside your high-rise, absolutely amazing.