Budget Hawk Takes Bath

Hawk at home's near birdbath 16 July 2011. Photo by Ben S. PollockThere really was a hawk in our yard, I told My Beloved. She was out of town so this was on the phone. She believed me enough. After all, she’s the one who spotted the high nest this past spring, in an old oak in the back yard of the home next door. We occasionally saw a pair of hawks, and eventually we almost could see a couple of chicks poking their heads above the edge of the nest.

Across the our 1960s residential lane, we learned, a family of owls also had taken residence. We’ve heard their hoots but haven’t seen them. We also can hear hawk screeches.

Part of me thought this was a good thing. Predators would scare away the rabbits and opossums that eat my chard, sunflowers and bush beans to the ground. The latest folk remedy — a tablespoon of Tabasco in a quart of water, sprayed daily  — wasn’t working. Critters around here probably love hot stuff.

Two weeks ago, a doe appeared in our front yard one afternoon. Another deer was a couple of houses up. MB suspects, and she’s likely right, that new construction in formerly undeveloped areas to the west might be driving a variety of animals out.

Hawk alighting for far birdbath 16 July 2011. Photo by Ben S. PollockOne time a couple of weeks ago, I swore I might have seen a hawk perched on one of our two iron birdbaths. It was just as quickly gone, and I thought, that can’t be. But if it was, was it one of the hawk parents next door, or one of its young, grown rather large?

The sighting made me realize that when people swear by gardening fixes, other forces may be at play. My second planting of vegetables was doing OK — but this showed it might not be my garden pepper spray being effective.

Then Saturday, I was walking to the kitchen and through the enclosed sunporch I definitely saw a hawk. On the near birdbath’s rim. I backed up quietly then ran downstairs for the camera.

I shot a few frames through the glass. I had proof and could post here to Brick. Yet maybe I might get lucky and tiptoe through the back door and good one clear shot before it flew away.

Hawk at home's far birdbath 16 July 2011. Photo by Ben S. PollockThe hawk didn’t seem to care. I sat on a lawn chair for 20 minutes, watching and taking a number of shaky photos. These three were clear, though. At one point he flew to the birdbath closer to the back wall and fence. He calmly hung out there for a while, preening? Without better equipment, I had taken the best shots I could. When I stood, he looked around a moment then calmly flew away.

Did the hawk take a bath, like a robin or cardinal? Not that I saw. At one point his (or her) lower torso was fluffed out, but that was all. He may have leaned over for a quick sip of water twice.

I was out there long enough to worry. This guy is easily as big as either of our cats. Science says such sized birds go for very small animals, field mice, lizards and songbirds. But still. We let one cat out, on a harness, every few weeks for about an hour and under our supervision. Except when we go inside for a refill of tea. Now we won’t dare leave Tiki outside alone, even for a minute, tied up.

This hawk was not bathing, apparently, and he was not hunting. They do that from high in the air where the prey can’t see them. Unless the dude was admiring his reflection. War hawks, budget hawks, red-tailed hawks, at base they’re all feathers and fluff. And beaks and talons.

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