Unlike the South Ranch which has a wide expanse of pasture, the North Ranch, where I live, is full of trees: pine trees, oak trees, pecan trees, magnolia trees, even a mulberry tree. And where there are trees, there are birds. In this case, Red-Tailed hawks.
My first encounter with one of these birds was on a clear day. I was sniffng around one of the oak trees when I hear this screeching sound. I looked up to see something come falling out of the sky. I watched, waiting for whatever it was to hit the ground.; but, instead of hitting the ground, it soared upward again and I could see something hanging from it as it disappeared amid the trees.
“Did you see that, Barkley?” my Mom asked. “That was a red-tailed hawk, and it looks like he just caught his dinner.”
“Wow!” I thought to myself. “So that’s what it was.”
I trotted off in the direction I saw the hawk disappear, hoping to spot it again. But no luck.
A few days later, I saw the hawk again. This time it was sitting on one of the fallen trees (we still have a few of them around: reminders of hurricane Ike.) “Hello,” I called out.
The hawk turned an eye towards me and spread its wings as though to fly off: “Stay away,” it warned. The voice was female.
I stopped in my tracks. “I saw you catch whatever it was you caught the other day. Very impressive.”
“Rat,” the hawk replied. “And thank you.”
“How can you fly through the trees so fast without flying into one?” I asked.
“We see faster than you can. I think humans call it flicker threshold. What is a blurr to you, is slow motion to me so I can fly between the trees and not hit them.”
She remained silent for a moment, then cocking her head said: “I must leave now. I must hunt. My little ones are hungry.”
Withwhat she spread her wings and took off.
I watched her go, wishing I too could fly.
Hawk photographs courtesy of Tony Northrup – www.northrup.org