Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's a Broad-Winged

Well Mars and I have finally seen the hawks in their nest.
We had sighted them soaring over our property and landing individually on some of our trees.  But – even though their aerie is less than 100 feet from our house and only about 75 feet up – bad timing and bad sightlines had prevented us from actually getting our own first-hand visual evidence that raptors are really taking residence on our real estate.
Most of our information has come from B and M, our across-the-street neighbors who have a second floor office with a clear view of the action.  They have been attempting to identify our tenants – thinking at first Red Tailed, the Red Shouldered, and finally Broad-Winged.  Leading me to believe that in addition to being “masters of the skies” that our hawks were also “masters of disguise”.
Their latest ID was confirmed by a trio of strangers who had gathered on our sidewalk to stare at the birds at the same point in time that Mars and I were heading out for dinner with friends.  As I wandered out to talk to them I looked up and saw the first hawks head and shoulders looming over the nest.  Then the second one swooped down into their twig and branch living quarters.  They are much bigger than I had thought – in my mind too large for the their nest – but obviously not.
“Look, it’s a Broad-Winged”, said one of the onlookers.  “You can see the speckled chest”.  Her companions nodded agreement.  She then went on to say that up the street the other day she saw another, or possibly the same, hawk flying upwards with “something small” clutched in its talon.  She asked if we had any such casualties on our property, which she had noted was pretty busy with small birds, pigeons, and squirrels.
 I had read earlier that many hawks do not hunt within their nesting area.  So I mentioned that.  But I also said that a friend who watches eagles for a local conservation group had pointed out that the squirrels and birds might be safe “until the chick or chicks are hatched, then all bets are off.”  He went on “Food is food, what ever is the easiest to catch or prey upon.” 
 Next day I called the Connecticut Audubon Society to see if they had any advice.  “Just don’t’ bother them.” they told me.  I’d found several news stories on the web about homeowners being attacked by hawks while cutting their grass, so I asked whether mowing the lawn would disturb the birds.  “You’ll have to see if it does.” 
 While I was writing this essay, our spring-cleaning landscaper and his teenage crew of two were leaf-blowing the accumulated debris of winter out of our yard – including some from the hosta bed at the base of the tree which houses the hawk nest.  I had cautioned him about the birds.  He was impressed – “That’s really cool!  They’re so big!” – but not worried for his safety.  He and his workmates kept looking up hoping to see them, but no luck.  Suddenly I realized that the machines had gone silent.  When I looked out I saw their tools placed neatly on my lawn and no indications of hawk versus human hostilities
That’s a good thing.  And I hope it stays this way.  But, as every parent knows, things can really change after the baby arrives.

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