Monday, August 19, 2013

Love and Terror at the Bird Feeder.......

           Cindy Got This Shot of a Red-Tailed Hawk Yesterday

This is a tale of beauty and nature and joy and life and death.  This, I think, is very existential.  It cannot be escaped.  Life must be lived to the fullest because one never knows when one will be face to face with death, whether it comes with a crawl or comes with a pounce.

               Our Goldfinches Love the Thistle in our Feeders

Such are my thoughts today after observing up close and personal the antics around our bird feeders on our back deck.  Over the past 18 months or so, since we put our first feeder up, we have accumulated quite a following in the avian community.  We attract birds of every hue and feather---cardinals, goldfinches, wrens, sparrows, grackles, hummingbirds, doves, cowbirds, catbirds, hairy woodpeckers, red-wing blackbirds, mockingbirds, robins, brown thrashers, etc, etc.  We have even occasionally played host to a crow or two.  The deck teems with birds as they feed.  I get the best seed I can find and they seem to appreciate a gourmet meal several times a day.

   We Love our Hummingbirds.  They Say My Nectar is the Best 

I have often thought that the hundreds of birds we attract live the perfect life.  I mean, they are fed the best food by a doting old man who is dependable in his servings and they are highly protected from predators because they all nest in a dense shrub hedge about 30 feet from their food source.  Plus, we live in a neighborhood that has few---if any---cats.  Oh, I have thought, how I would love to be a bird in this environment!

      Our Red-Tailed Hawk.  He Looks Like He Means Business

Once, about a month or so ago, I was shocked to see a red-tailed hawk sitting on our railing.  Quite a majestic and powerful bird of prey he is, and I noticed that there were no other birds around as he sat there---and for good reason, too, because red-tailed hawks will kill and eat other birds.


When the hawk departed, the other birds came out to play again. 

I did not see the hawk again until yesterday.  He was again sitting on the railing---with no other birds in sight.  As he sat, looking for any movement in our yard that would signal a food source, Cindy quietly moved to the window not 8 feet from the hawk.  She was able to get probably a hundred pictures of this regal creature.

Mr hawk left the railing when he spotted a bird flying about 100 yards away.  I can't describe to you the power and speed he displayed as he took flight.  I would never have believed a bird that big would be so fast going from a sitting position.  I was unable to see whether the hawk caught his intended prey.

Later in the day, several hours after this event, I was sitting in my den when I heard an enormous commotion out back.  I looked out to see scores of birds that were feeding on the deck now airborn with a panicked beating of wings.  Just  then, a huge flash of feathers and talons streaked by the window as the hawk returned.  By some lucky stroke, he came up empty.  He sat on the rail alone and dinnerless. 

I got to thinking about all this later.  Funny, you know, how I thought these birds live the perfect life, with plenty of good food and no worries.  But, I was wrong.  Their lives can be snuffed out in a flash of feathers and talons at any time.  They have worries just like we humans do.