The Red Tail Hawk
As far back as I can remember, seeing a hawk in flight was something that caused people to stop and watch. In the country, without the noise of the city to drown them out, you could hear the shrill sound of the hawk as they glided high on the wind and hunted for food with their super keen eyesight. Then, on occasion, you would see them go into a high speed dive to attack their prey at a dizzying speed. In a moment, they would reappear with a mouse, a rabbit, or maybe a snake in their talons. Dinner is served!
Once in a while, you might see one hawk that seemed to attack another in flight in what looked like a wresting cage match. We learned that this was their mating dance, high in the air. An old take on the mile high club!
Even in the old days there did not seem too many of them. But, by then, DDT had done a lot of damage to a lot of birds and especially these raptor types which also included eagles, osprey, and peregrine falcons. Hawks have been known to live 30 years if left alone.
But, living in the city now, I still can marvel at them. I have had them swoop through my back yard, darting under the trees with a squirrel in their claws! I have had some young ones sitting on my fence for an hour, patiently waiting on a meal to show up.
And, I can occasionally hear them over the noise and the traffic as if to say, “We are still here! We have survived!”
A pair has lived atop a major company’s office building for several years near my home. I don’t know if they have that area set aside for them or if it just happened. I wonder if it’s the same one I saw in Sandy Point those years ago? Surely not. But they have been know to live 30 years, so, who knows?
But, a day or two ago, one of them was just over my house. Beautiful and graceful. By the time I got my camera, it was not as low any more but still there. Still beautiful. It prompted me to write a little poem about them.
The Red Tail Hawk
In a city of concrete and steel, noise and people everywhere
There are some things that you don’t expect to see.
But, sometimes, nature can play some strange tricks here and there
And things are not what we think they would be.
A few blocks out from the Marietta Square
Where a busy street named Whitlock is a major thorough fare
At dark, a large coyote trots across in my headlights glare
Was he coming or going? He did not seem to care.
But he did glance my way, as if to say
What are you doing here? Please get out of the way.
On a highway overpass with unnumbered trucks and cars speeding by, in their haste
An armadillo lies, no longer aware there was a danger, it had met its fate.
A deer stood in the yard as my son looked out at a buck so big it gave him quite a start
But before another thought, in one big leap he did depart across the creek and out of sight
The squirrel scampers up a tree and the crow struts in the yard for all to see
And the angry Copper Head silently slithers away from me.
The beaver sits on a rock in the river and stays just ahead as I wade
The otter swims by so close in the waning light that, for a moment, I am afraid.
The osprey dives down just three feet away for my lure
I nearly had a heart attack, that’s for sure
Yet, somehow, they all seemed to be in their place if even in a city with crowded space
Maybe they have no choice but here to stay, with roads to cross, cars to dodge, and fences to leap
No where to go and no way to get there in the crush of semis, cars, motorcycles and carbon monoxide fumes. Asphalt and concrete.
But, then, there is the red tail hawk. Translucent in the bright sun and clear blue sky
The red tail flared and wings spread wide and plenty of wind on which to glide
Beauty, grace and silence, a lethal killing machine with talons and beak and focused eye
No fence was high enough keep it in
No road too wide for it to cross.
No barrier to keep it penned.
DDT was sprayed and habitat mowed down, and this beauty of flight is living in town
It nests in a place, I will not say where, as some might choose to find it there
But with its speed and grace, no doubt, it likely could live anywhere at all.
On Red Top Mountain, or Brasstown Bald.
On the Appalachian Trail or Grinder’s Switch or Rabun Gap
In a great and big tree, far, far away from it all.
Why does it stay here, year after year?
Raising two chicks that have on my fence appeared
Before finding their own place somewhere hence.
I guess it’s the same for them as it is for me.
This is their home, where they want to be.
© 2016 JC