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Guest Column

An uninvited guest rescued

By JIM BURKETT
Published June 29, 2007


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Last year I was working on my porch when I heard a noise coming from the edge of the roof and thought it was simply squirrels running across the top as normal. When it continued for several minutes, I decided to take a look. Stepping two feet out the door, I looked up and saw the Cooper's hawk looking back at me from a very uncomfortable short distance. The talons, beak and eyes were the only things I could concentrate on. Within a few seconds, the wings expanded and it flew up into the trees behind my home. I would hear it screeching for another week, and then it was gone.

About a month ago, the sound returned, and when I heard it I knew the hawk was back. This time though, along came a mate and offspring. For the past several weeks I have watched them zigzag through the canopy tops, sometimes carrying their meal, other times teaching the offspring survival techniques. They have steadily come closer to my home and have begun to sit on my fence as I work in my back yard. We have eyeballed each other over the course of this time and I have photographed their escapades throughout. We have given each other a respectful distance, never threatening the other's space. I've sometimes wondered if they are sizing me up for their big going-away meal.

Last Thursday, I received a frantic call from my wife, Cathy. One of the hawks had flown into our screened-in porch and could not get out. It was scaring the dog and, more importantly, Cathy didn't want it to hurt itself. She knows my compassion for animals and at times refers to me as Dr. Doolittle. Most men would kill a snake in their back yard; I get accused of going out and just "moving it along."

By the time I arrived, she had already called Animal Control and several wildlife organizations. Only one was willing to assist and walked her through the procedures for helping the hawk find its way out. Having barely entered the house, I was told to wrap my head, put on leather gloves and get out there. Looking at the hawk, then back at my wife, I felt I was safer outside. I slowly approached the outside porch and attempted for the next hour to move the hawk along each section of the screens.

Sometimes this required gently trying to push the talons back in through the netting or walking past to try and get it to follow my direction. After several attempts and failures, it finally moved down to the opening and stopped. I saw Cathy come to the door and peek out. I told her to bounce something behind it and she tossed an empty tennis ball can. The sound jerked the bird forward and out the door. I saw the wings go up and I instinctively grabbed the towel around my head and covered my face with only one eye still watching.

I saw the two mates join together again and fly back up into the trees.

[Last modified June 28, 2007, 08:12:23]


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