Year of the Raptor

2015 has been the Year of the Raptor. No, no velociraptor have been reported stalking the streets (bummer). Instead, hawks, falcons, and the occasional golden eagle have passed through my world.

It began with the marsh hawks/ harriers back in the spring. They began nesting in the area a few years ago, about the time that the rabbits and possums all vanished from that part of the neighborhood. Pure coincidence, I’m sure. At first most of us assumed they were Mississippi Kites, the small, very aggressive raptors common to the area. There may have been a few Mississippi kites, but they decamped, as did the vultures. The vultures moved to a very high rent, older neighborhood, something I certain filled the residents and realtors with overwhelming joy. There’s nothing that shouts “ambiance” like two dozen vultures circling over your block, and leaving their leftovers below the trees around your house, or on your driveway, or roof, or . . .

So the marsh hawks moved in, and I thought they were cute, in a “flying killing machine” sort of way.

That was, until this guy (or one of his cousins/brothers/uncles) followed me around one day. And then dive-bombed me on two different occasions, once brushing my hair with his fisted talons.

And then he decided that the bird feeders in the back yard at Redquarters (and the bird bath) made a lovely harrier-feeder. About once a month it got really, really quiet, or we’d hear the sound of doves flushing, then silence. And a harrier would be methodically plucking a white wing, then noshing. They don’t clean up after themselves, although they do carry off the remains if they are not finished.

Replace the fur with a mass of dove grey feathers, and you have the monthly scene.

Replace the fur with a mass of dove grey feathers, and you have the monthly scene.

The most recent feeding was last week, Saturday. Ever seen a JATO-assist dove? One came through, suddenly noticed the dude on the ground, and sped up like someone had strapped a rocket to his back. The hawk ignored him and continued eating. A pool of feathers remained for several days, until the wind scattered them.

Harriers and an occasional Swainson’s, rough-legged, or larger hawk haunt the tall sedges and thicket of weeds south of the school. We’ve had a mouse-plosion this year, and they’ve done their best to help reduce the population. Golden eagles, too, appeared on the power poles as they migrated through.

It’s been a neat year.