Monday, March 05, 2007

Coop's 1, Dove 0

The afternoon was entirely beautiful for an early March day. About 65 degrees, clear, sunny with a slight breeze that still spoke of northern origins. But still, it was the best part of the day to be outside.

Lillie and I sat on the garden bench under one of the cedar trees talking of her day at school. Her favorite part of the day--me walking her in and dropping her off first thing. Her second favorite part of the day--lunch. You gotta hand it to her, she has her priorities.

She was in the middle of telling me a story about one of her classmates when we heard a ruckus in the cedar above our heads. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something land on the ground nearby. Fully looking through the garden immediately to my right and across the yard, I saw what had caused the commotion.

For the last several years we have been graced with the presence of a Cooper's hawk. A smaller sized hawk that differs from the larger hawks in that they hunt in the tree canopy. A larger hawk isn't able to maneuver through branches to chase prey, so the Coop's is a specialist. They also hunt in the open, but their legacy is in the trees.

I've seen him herd dove around the neighborhood and scatter birds from our neighbor's backyard feeder habitat. I've seen him fly by, not hunting necessarily, but sending up the warning calls from the resident feathered ones nonetheless.

He was perched on the white winged dove. As the Dove struggled, the Hawk had a tough time getting a good foothold. I asked Lillie several times if she saw what was going on. She did.

Finally, the Hawk got the hold that he needed and he proceeded to fly directly behind the house to the treeline. Lillie and I looked at one another, mouths open and eyes wide. We had been privy to something not everyone gets to see.

The we heard them. The Chickadees began telling the story. Then the Titmice joined in. Then the other small birds took up the story telling and gathered in the tree above where the Hawk landed with the Dove. The tiny birds were adamant about the story--they told and retold it. As they became more brave, they moved closer to the ground.

As Lillie and I approached the site, a pile of feathers was all that was left and an amazing spot of energy was fast evaporating. We stood silent mourning the end of one life and smiling at the life that would continue.