Monday, August 30, 2010
Apology to a Small Creature
Early this morning, within my peripheral vision, something large, silent, and swift descended into one of the hydrangeas near the deck where I sat contemplating the hummingbirds at the feeder. This is the season in which hummingbirds come by twos, threes, and fours, nattering away at each other. I had intended to write about their tiny hanging feet today, but the Cooper's Hawk in the hydrangea instantly changed my focus.
A noisy rustling skirmish in the leaves under the bush indicated the hawk's success at hunting its breakfast, but then---oh terrible then---it abandoned the prey it had only maimed, spread its powerful wings, and flapped twice to perch on the back of a patio chair facing away from me, not ten yards from where I sat. I know not if it was aware of my presence when it first attacked the hapless creature below, but now it turned its head and looked me in the eye. I hadn't moved except to turn my head toward the skirmish. Was I the reason the hawk so cruelly left that poor creature to an agonizing death? I shuddered at the piteous konk-konk-konk-konking in the throat of the small dying thing, whatever it was. I could see the movement of the leaves, and hear the konks, but could not identify it---could have been a bird or a chipmunk hidden in the dry leaf cover.
After a few seconds of eyeing me from the chair, the young hawk, with horizontally striped tail and white splotchy feathers in its back, flapped to a new perch on the fence, where it stayed for several minutes before offing into the woods with only two flaps and a glide. A few minutes later, it startled me again by flap-flap-gliding past my shoulder, low and close enough for me to hear the whir of its wings against the air, though it did not return to the place of its terrible deed. Again it disappeared into the woods. Had it been stalking me to see if it was safe to return to its breakfast? Is this the same young hawk that has watched me garden?
From under the hedge adjacent to the hydrangea, where the maimed prey was somehow able to take refuge, the konking slowly, gradually, terribly, grew weaker and weaker, until it stopped after about ten minutes.
It is not to my credit that I was too squeamish to assist it to a faster death. I have neither the heart nor the stomach for such a task. But now I must live with the aural memory of those diminishing konks, wondering at my responsibility in this event.
The hummingbird feet will keep until a later post. dkm