Thursday, April 5, 2018

Backyard Spectator, Returned

It's been nearly two years since my last post, and I've missed longsitting outside. If this new start takes hold, it will be good for my health.

This morning I'm watching a smallish hawk with a fuzzy brown head and the shorter tail of a recent fledgling. I don't know its gender, but I wish it to be female.

She's perched high in the backyard tulip poplar, spreading and twisting her wing feathers occasionally, but not moving from her spot.  Her mother (or father?) flies overhead, calling to her with a rapid repeated cackle, but she sits on, looking forlorn and vulnerable in her new world. Is she reassured, as I am on her behalf, by the knowledge that her parent is nearby?

For a few days I mistook the parent's distinctive cackle for the call of a pileated woodpecker. I thought it may have had a nest near where I was tilling the first soil of the season, and that it didn't like my presence in the garden.  It probably didn't, but it wasn't a woodpecker.

When the cackler in question flew over the Ya-yas, who were doing yoga on the back deck one morning, we followed it with binoculars to the top of the neighbor's tallest tree, where we discovered it was a hawk. Our search was rewarded with the sighting of another slightly smaller hawk on the branch beneath a large nest. It tottered on the branch for a few minutes before taking a wobbly flight to another tree. The parent hawk led the way, circling back and cackling in a mode of alert protection. We think we were lucky enough to have witnessed the young hawk's moment of fledge. The parent likely had its eye on those four strange yoga practitioners who were threatening the safety of its offspring.

A little more research on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, narrowed our guess to Cooper's hawk, whose cry is indeed similar to a pileated woodpecker's and is seldom heard except in defense of nest. Bingo. In the days since, I've heard the cry often.

Chances are, the young Cooper's hawk in the tulip poplar is our yoga fledgling from earlier in the week, taking backyard spectatorship to new heights. I've been sharing the breath of the universe with her for almost an hour. It's good to be back.    dkm

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