Letter from the wild side

Red-tailed hawk hunting for dinner among the cattle.A reader emailed me this week to report on some wild goings on around his home. He chose the place, he said, after seeing pheasants and deer on the land, and “too many species of birds … to list.” he said.

Recently he has been meeting a Red-tailed hawk, almost as though each of them arranged the nearly daily coffee break at the edge of the woods. A couple days ago, a second hawk appeared beside the first. Soon the two were performing the spring ritual all young critters perform in furtherance of their mission to keep the world populated.

The writer eventually happened upon the hawks’ nest. He ended his letter with the observation that believed he had witnessed an event few humans get to see.

I hope he has binoculars, and in about a month can find a place far enough to not disturb the new family but close enough to observe the offspring become full members of hawk society.

I suspect he is correct. Most of us do not stand around waiting for a wild thing to do something, er, wild, though clearly they all do it with eager dedication to future generations.

I have, however, noticed that Red-tailed hawks do not often stand around posing. I found an amorous pair near Blue Ridge Summit one day, sitting in a tree in Happel’s Meadow. When I stopped the car, I could tell they were watching, wondering what I would do next. As I dismounted, camera in hand, they both took off, swiftly making their getaway to the far side of the wetland.

I have a long lens, with just enough reach that when I later zoomed the picture on my desk computer screen, I could tell what they were doing.

Meanwhile, back at my backyard, the House sparrows are busy preparing their seasonal digs. A few years ago I was fortunate to spy one chasing another around the trees. Finally both of them lit on the fence, one fluttering atop the other. It made a beautiful picture.

I do not know why we talk about “the birds and the bees,” or how we come by the idea that birds and bees – some of them, anyway – do not find love, or some semblance of it. Many of them even mate for life, which makes me wonder about the psychological chemistry that makes possible that feeling we humans call love, that causes us to form a monogamous bond with another of our species.

As I wander through the forests observing the residents of those realms, I cannot help thinking something similar to the emotional attachment we humans experience must exist as well for our supposedly “wild” co-inhabitants of the planet.

If, for instance, one were to happen upon a herd of deer, peacefully grazing in the corner of a pasture, and sit quietly to watch them in company with each other, one might see a certain female perk up her head, then strut closer beside her mates, sometimes within a few yards of the photographer, and seem to pose, showing her best side to the camera. After a few shots click into the monocular device, she turns and ambles back in the crowd to continue grazing.

And if the photographing human stays awhile longer, the same creature, clearly the matriarch, might return to her posing mark, as though to ask, “What exactly is it you find so interesting.”

There are those who say we should not put human values on wild animals. On the other hand, I wonder whether some of them look occasionally at the moon and wonder where it goes come morning.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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