Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 13: Mob Scene

As soon as I stepped out the door for my run this morning, I heard them: the yelling mob. Raising my eyes to the curve of Mount Battie--the profile of which seems to echo the arc of the earth's horizon--I saw them: a scattered pattern of darting crows. Just as I was thinking to myself, The red-tailed hawk must be up there, a red-tailed hawk soared up out of the swirl of black forms. As I watched, feeling a smug satisfaction at having so quickly figured out what was going on, another red-tail separated itself from the flock. I hadn't known there were two! For a moment I could see both hawks circling the squalling horde of crows, and then they all dipped behind the rim of the mountain.

I could still hear the crows as I began my run. My rather labored outing was punctuated by birds: cardinal's pip, chickadees, several singing house finches making it seem like spring, downy woodpecker, flock of doves, a herring gull carrying a chunk of bread, black duck flushed on the river, goldfinches, beeping chorus of nuthatches. As I warmed up from the exertion and sun, I allowed myself to feel really excited about spring for the first time and to imagine how I'll soon be hearing more and more birds on my run.

But I was also thinking about the hawks. A pair of hawks. I've been seeing a hawk regularly along the river from my office up the street. But I hadn't realized there was a pair. Two hawks wouldn't be hanging out together unless they were a couple. (I just remembered that Valentine's Day, tomorrow, is the traditional day when birds find their mates, according to Chaucer's Parlement of Foules. The red-tails apparently got a jump start on ritual.) A pair of hawks in the vicinity of Mount Battie has some interesting implications for other resident raptors--including the pair of peregrine falcons that have nested  on Mount Megunticook for the past three years. They should be back in early spring, by April. And I think they'll have something to say about having red-tails as neighbors. Red-tailed hawks might be bigger, bulkier birds, but I'd bet on that avian torpedo, the peregrine, against just about any other raptor out there. So things could get interesting in the 'hood come spring. And the ever-vigilant crows will have even more to get worked up about.

Two hawks mobbed by crows--
the things one has to endure
as a mated pair.

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