Sunday, September 14, 2014

hawk vs. mouse

This morning I saw a predator in action. I was out running on a bike path and a bird of prey - a raptor - gracefully swooped down, talons first, and landed in a patch of grass on the side of the path. I stopped running, afraid I would scare it away if I got too close. The bird stayed where it had landed, mostly not moving, looking up at me every once in a while, and clawing at the ground. I heard a few desperate squeaks and realized that it had caught something, probably a mouse. I stood there for what must have been five minutes, watching. In the time that I stood there, a runner went by, and a few bikers, but the bird didn't move from its spot, just looking around and occasionally pecking at its now silent (and presumably dead) prey.

Of course since I was out on a run I didn't have a camera or my phone to get a picture. I just watched the bird, and it watched me back. I wish I knew what type of bird I was looking it. Most likely it's a hawk, but a quick online search didn't help me identify which kind. I can tell you that it was brown on top with a white belly and brown specks and that its legs had feathers all the way down to its feet, giving it the appearance of wearing wide pants, sort of the opposite of the "bird leg" stereotype.

How often do you really get a chance to see nature up close like that? I've certainly seen hawks flying overhead, and we've found the occasional dead bunny in the yard (that's always fun) or seen owl pellets in the park. You can find evidence of wild animals all around you if you know where to look. But to witness up close and in person that most basic act of one animal ending the life of another for its own survival is actually a pretty amazing thing.

I felt conscious of my own privilege. Somehow, I was in the right place at the right time to see this basic, carnal act of nature. Somehow, I didn't scare the bird away. Clearly, it was used to seeing humans (the path goes right by a golf course and is heavily used). After a few minutes, I left, figuring I'd seen the most exciting part - the capture and kill - and that what was left to come was just more pecking and clawing and feeding on the part of the bird. I could have stayed longer, waited until it left first, waited to see how long, exactly, it takes for a raptor to eat a mouse in front of a rapt audience. But it would have felt a little intrusive to do so. It was like the hawk or falcon or whatever it was was waiting for me to leave so he/she could finish its meal in peace, thank you.

How about you? Have you seen unexpected moments in nature around you?

1 comment:

Claire said...

We saw a hawk kill a duck in Minnesota during family vacation (it was the summer before I went to Bethel). It just swooped down like a lightening bolt and stood on the duck for like 10-15 minutes before the duck was dead. It didn't care one bit that there was a bunch of people 20 feet from it.

Fascinating.