Monday, August 9, 2010


When I was a kid, there were very few hawks around, thanks to DDT. I recall my dad pointing them out to me, excitedly, when we were out driving on the Pike or whatever, but I don't have any specific memories of seeing them until I was maybe 19. I was home from college in my last summer at my parents' house. I remember washing one of my dad's cars out in the back yard, and was crouched down, scrubbing a rocker panel or lower door or something. When I stood up for whatever reason, I was just in time to see a hawk swooping down low, just on the other side of the car, and no higher than my head, checking out the remaining members of the flock of chickens I'd kept as a kid. It immediately climbed up and away over the back field, either because it realized they were too big to carry off, or because of my presence there. It's a great memory.

These days, it seems like I have to elbow hawks out of the way to get out my front door. I see them sitting in trees alongside the highway, while commuting. I see them wheeling overhead, hunting, when I'm out in the yard. I've seen a pair of them, chasing through the trees in my yard, squabbling over a kill (a headless chipmunk, which was dropped in the fracas and recovered by neither party). I've even watched with Juliana as a hawk invaded a bird's nest in a tree alongside the driveway, and made off with a couple of chicks, as the parents protested noisily nearby. Sharp-shinned hawks are common to the area, and apparently do that sort of thing. It was sad to watch (particularly for Juliana), but at the same time, it's probably something neither of us will witness again, and we should count ourselves fortunate to have been there at that moment.

Anyway, hawks appear to have recovered from the decimation (or worse), though I've never researched the subject to see if that's true from a population statistics perspective. Wild turkeys, too, which are also everywhere these days. I saw a peacock out in Lexington next to the on-ramp to Rt 2 a couple of years ago, tail and all, but that was probably more an escapee than anything.

Anyway, even with their comeback, one thing I'd never heard in person before last week is the piercing cry that hawks are credited with in the movies. All of the hawks sounds I've heard around the yard have been sort of pathetic squawky seagull/chicken noises, rather than that noble cry that spikes early and tapers off. I'd sort of assumed that the hawks we have around here were species with lesser voices.

But the other day, I was walking Jake at the local conservation land, and as we were heading up the first hill, I heard that signature hunting cry from overhead. It was a little hoarse, and a little less majestic than the movie version, but close enough. I looked up and saw a hawk wheeling in close, looking for a meal in the pasture. A very cool first, and it made me smile.

All for now,


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