Friday, August 27, 2010

Silence in the Tree Tops

Cooper's Hawk
The hawks have disappeared --- there is silence in the treetops. I miss the vibrancy and excitement of their eager, confident, even arrogant screeches as they swooped through the branches. I liked hearing them out there, feeling a bit proprietary as if they were pets, since they made their home here, having been born high in a nest behind our barn and educated in our yard; they also took their meals here---

A little research helped me to identify the young brood as Cooper’s Hawks who, for the most part, migrate south as early as mid-August. I found a wonderful account of these birds in a “web browser-based electronic book collection of Life Histories of North American Birds, by Arthur Cleveland Bent (1866-1954), one of America's greatest ornithologists.” The collection for the E-book is selected and edited by Patricia Query Newforth, © 1996 – 2010. It offers vivid, first-hand accounts taken from the journals of bird watchers, many answering questions about bird behavior that never appear in field guides. It’s delightful and I highly recommend it.

Someone has ceased his visits to the bird feeder as well ---more silence. In wondering about his disappearance, I came to suspect that my young thugs made a meal out of our lovely male Cardinal. The red baron no longer puts in his nightly appearance as the last visitor at the feeder, perching on top of the shepherd’s crook hanger at dusk, calling a haunting goodnight to his compatriots already bedded down. (I always thought he was a bit daring to keep such a predictable schedule.)

Mrs. Cardinal comes alone to the feeder now, no sentinel to protect her or tenderly feed her seeds ---a widow fending for herself. I miss him. I am somewhat consoled to learn, though, that a new male will usually step in to pair with a lone female. I look forward to that. I’m keeping watch for a newcomer.

Note: the reference to the cardinal as red baron refers to his regal bearing, not to his role as an ace pilot, played metaphorically by the hawks of course. I mourn them equally.

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