Monday, July 27, 2020

Goodbye, Red Tail The True Story of why the Mated pair of Red Tail Hawks moved from that Pine Tree in my backyard !

                                                      GOODBYE ,  RED TAIL

   Whenever I saw Red Tail, it seemed as though he was happy. Even when he wasn't soaring so high he was just a speck in the sky. Wheeling about drifting with the winds and circling back to where he started. He seemed happy doing what came naturally , flying high in search of his next dinner.
   It is said that when you see a Hawk in the sky alone it is a message from Spirits and if you believe in Spirits and Divine messages, then this is a story for you.
   My living in the country, farm life if you will, started my Senior year in High School. Moving from the Silver City to Durham and getting a ride back and forth my Senior year certainly made it easier to skip class and go else where, but I did graduate by the fine hairs that my face wasn't ready for yet.  So now I was a country boy, from the big city. Yeah the farm we lived on had all the things you could expect on a farm , cows , pigs , chickens , roosters, Guinea Hens, with the loudest most awful cry that even a loud rooster would be proud of. Geese that made the patrol rounds , that routed the entire 14 acres , only to do it again with the same route the next day and the next, probably several generations later but still the same path.
   I have always been fascinated by Birds of Prey, birds that hunted from on high, diving at incredible speeds and taking there prey in one swift motion, if that motion was going down at 70 m.p.h. or more. Eagles , Hawks, and Falcons had a strange effect on me. I don't know how my brother knew of this fascination and certainly didn't know how he managed to get me  Peregrine Falcon. All I knew before this happened , he told me to come down below the deck and help him build an enclosure. Chicken wire , several branches for perches , a watering and feeding niche, an entrance within an entrance, so that I could go in close the door behind me and then go into the enclosure. Several days later, Malcolm my brother came to me with a split face grin and said follow me. The absolute last thing in the world I would have thought he was going to show me was a Beautiful Blue Grey Peregrine Falcon ( Falco Peregrinus ) sitting on the perch in the enclosure , Mal and I, had built just a few days ago, I was literally speechless, which made my brother laugh to no end. I had never seen my brother happier, there was my Bird of Prey , She had a hood on and a tether loosely  tied to the perch. I couldn't take my eyes off of her but my brother dragged me away telling me I had lots to learn before next week when Mr. Hawk ( that's right, Mr. Hawk ) came here to inspect the enclosure and the Falcon and me. " Me " I asked, "Yeah , you, they have to know you know what your doing to be able to handle a Bird Of Prey properly", " well ain't that something, okay " with that he handed me a manila envelope with the Birth Certificate , its lineage, proper feeding and the proper food, proper handling, he looked at me and gave me one more surprise, a Leather Glove that went clear up to my elbow. We both went down and admired my bird, I was so excited I couldn't think of a name, not just yet. Sleep didn't come easy and when it finally did, I had a dream of hunting with a Falcon. My brother was gone doing what it is brothers do when they are 4 years younger and the older brother doesn't pay much attention, there was a letter from him to me telling me he would see me in a couple of days and to enjoy the moment. I took fresh water and brought a mouse with me to feed , oh I still didn't have a name, well when I see her I'll know. Downstairs and outside , looking at the enclosure, something is wrong, both doors to the enclosure are open. The tether and hood are tangled on the perch, holy shit my Bird is gone !
   Its been many years since I have thought of the Bird, my Peregrine Falcon , I never did figure out what had happened. Now with the sight of Red Tail my Fascination begins again.
 A Red Tail Hawk is a born killer, not for sport , certainly not , but for life, his life and now the life of his mated partner. Red Tail Hawks mate for life and are very family oriented which you can see mostly when building their nest, special care is taken from both the male and female. The Male hawk shares the incubation period with the female, taking turns hunting and caring for the egg or eggs .
   I don't know why Red Tail took the big Pine that was on the border of the yard behind mine. The last really big ice storm left holes in the trees making a clear view of where the Hawks nest was, you couldn't make out the nest , even with a pair of binoculars but you could see then take off and land in the tree , then climb into the branches, disappearing in the camouflage of pine.
   The way the trees were lined up from north to south gave me a perfect view of the pair coming and going, one time especially. I was in the bedroom that lines up perfectly enabling me to see the bushes running north to south, a literal runway coming from the Pine tree in the back yard . I happen to be installing new wooden blinds in the window facing out towards that runway, when I spot the Male, Red Tail swooping down out of the pine tree over the shed and down to about tree feet off of the ground, still gliding from the initial take off he went past the window where I got a first hand look at his wings out stretched ( about 5" across ) while he silently slipped by , in between the house and the 4" tall, meticulously  trimmed ever green shrubs. Then just as effortlessly flapped once twice, then thrice and was going up into the sky without a prey knowing there was a killer coming to find them.
   I had other moments with the pair, sitting on the front peak of my shed, flying over the house dipping down and coming into close view as if just for me to see, but not another moment like that in time and beauty with Red Tail.
   Spring had come and was inching its way towards summer, the days were warmer and getting longer. Most of the Spring born animals were finding their foot holds and learning survival skills in the open world from Momma as it is the usual way in Nature.I am very lucky to have a special spot in this neighborhood , being so close to a wooded area that runs for miles . There is an abundance of wild animals that cross from the wooded area to a well used path that ends up at water and then an open field to more wooded land. I often see baby deer or young fox or hare coming and going but my favorite is my feeder in the big Bay Window at the front of my house. I have a Humming bird sugar feeder and a four section bird feeder. I get many , finches, woodpeckers and occasional Cardinal but for the most part its Sparrows. There are sparrow nests in the Red Maple in the front yard  but the closest and easiest to see a new born hatching is in , one or the two shaped evergreen shrub. The decorative bush to the left side of the entrance to the house has had a nest in it every season as long as I can remember. I had been watching with interest this particular Sparrow family because of the opening that got just big enough to see almost the entire nest after the last winter.
   On one morning not different from any other morning, I looked into the nest hoping to catch a glimpse of newly hatched birds , but to my shock I saw something that didn't  register as anything I could recognize. I kept looking and looking again, then a picture was shaping into what I was truly seeing. I didn't want to believe what I was seeing until Red Tail moved a wing as a Sparrow tried to enter the nest and Red Tail with all the new born Sparrows clutched in its talons and trapped in its beak came flushing out of the small hole to the nest, all wings and  talons showing front, then extending those wings out like a pair of pointed hands separating the opening and blasting out at full speed, up and into the front yard, escaping the shrub with every single baby Sparrow, clutched and biting. As I watched in horrible shock, and amazement while still holding my breath, not truly understanding what it was that i just saw, but seeing and believing all in that terrible instant that it actually took for the whole sequence of escape and flight. Red Tail had waited patiently while the parents went somewhere leaving the nest unguarded for a moment, then like a shadow with no noise or fuss, stole into that seemingly small space and took the lives of a Sparrow family, to feed his own. That is the life of a Hunter
   Now you may think that was the end of the story, I thought so until about two weeks later.
   What I failed to notice or even realize the Red Tail or his mate had not been seen in the skies or anywhere for that matter. Which , all in all isn't something you notice at first. What did happen was that Red Tails mate had had just one egg, which is not something unusual , at times a Hawk may have more than one , but varied from season to season . Some seasons no egg mat come. So seeing either Hawk really didn't register until an extremely fast and hard rain. So hard in fact that the gutters were over flowing down the back of the gutter and coming down the house. Seeing the rain running down the house worried me enough to bring out the aluminum ladder and bring it up to see what is happening. From right to left I checked, the gutter was full, backed up and nothing coming out of the down spout. Moving my ladder so I could reach in and find out what was blocking the down spout. I reached in and to my surprise I pulled out a Hawks egg. It seems a squirrel stole the Hawks egg from the Pine tree and was carrying it back to his Drey ( Nest ) when he lost hold of it as it rolled down the roof landing in the gutter, he was not able to retrieve it so it was left there until this rain and my discovery.. What I believe is that a squirrel saw his chance just like Red Tail, took the chance and ran. The life of a hunter is always hard, every day you must face the fact that if you don't kill , you don't eat and if you don't eat long enough , you will die.
   So this is my Goodbye to Red Tail and his mate, I hope they have a family now but I guess I'll never know, I will miss him in his tree and especially gliding through my yard.
THE WRITER   July 25th, 2020

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