Friday, July 24, 2015

The Hawk in My Backyard

I've been thinking about abundance lately. 

Unlike other parts of the country, the Pacific Northwest did not receive an abundance of snow last winter. But the unseasonably warm weather gave me a few unusual glimpses of wildlife, and that's one of my favorite forms of abundance.

One surprising glimpse happened back in February, when a hawk landed in my backyard. 

We see hawks all the time in Central Oregon - soaring in the sky and sometimes diving at prey. But I've never seen one perched in my backyard before. It was on what's left of the frame of a small greenhouse that once stood in our yard. Doves like to perch there sometimes in the early evening. 

After gaping at the hawk for a moment, I slipped away, snatched up my camera, and returned to the window. I snapped a few quick shots and then set my camera on the sports setting so that I could take pictures in quick succession. I was hoping to get a shot of it taking off, wings spread. 

Every time it twitched, I fired off a few shots. In this way, I captured some impressive shots of it pooping - which I will spare you.

It was a rainy day, and its feathers were all fluffed out. Had it gotten wet, and was trying to dry them? Had it tussled with some prey? Dived and missed? I had no idea what might ruffle a hawk's feathers.

Recently, I read Helen Macdonald's excellent book H Is for Hawk (which is as much about grief as it is about hawks and hawking). She mentions her hawk fluffing out her front feathers when she is happy or contented. 

Was this hawk happy? Had it just fed? I still have no idea.

After a few minutes, it moved from an angled perch to one that was flatter. It seemed more comfortable there. 

The rain came and went, and the hawk gradually assumed the lean, intimidating form I associate with a bird of prey. 

From poring over the pictures later, we think it may have been a Cooper's Hawk. 

It started focusing more on the smaller birds and critters around it. A chipmunk ran by underneath my window, watched by that fierce eye. You have no idea how lucky you are, chipmunk!

A few times, it seemed to look straight at me.

Here I think it was watching some birds - perhaps flickers? - up on my roof. 

After fifteen or twenty minutes, it took off, flying toward my roof. This was the last picture I got.

Ah well. No action shots after all. It was still a treat to watch it.

A few minutes later, as I went through the dozens of pictures I'd taken, I realized I had an action shot after all. 

When it moved from one perch to the other, my camera had caught what my slow eye and brain hadn't registered: 

the image of the hawk hopping from one perch to another. 

So it's not leaping into the sky. It's still a moment captured of wings and feathers extended, of a bird in motion, a picture I thought I'd missed altogether. I'll take it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bunnies in the Driveway!

This morning I was about to start some laundry when I felt a little nudge to go for a walk instead. The laundry could wait. As I stepped out onto the porch with my camera, I spotted...

Bunnies in the driveway!

I don't think they were very happy to see me.

I snapped a few pictures, 
and then slowly, quietly, eased off the porch 
and circled around the back of the house to the other side. 

I peeked around the corner of the garage . . . 

And one of the rabbits was still there, 
eyeing me over his shoulder.

When I didn't attack,

he turned around to get a proper look at me.
Cute, isn't he?

He was evidently more hungry than frightened, 
because he went back to grazing.

I'd never seen rabbits on our property in the seven years 
I've lived here, although Bill told me they were around.

I've probably passed within yards of them dozens of times.
They have pretty good camo.

He did keep an eye on me . . . 

even while eating!

Check out those huge hind feet!

And that cute little cotton tail.

At this point I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye...

and realized his buddy hadn't fled very far.
He was regarding me with great suspicion 
from behind the nearby trees.

"Can I reach that clump of grass?"


"What? Who's dangerous? What human?"

Here he's pretending he's not planning anything.

Wait for it . . . 

Wait for it . . . 

And he's gone--

right out of the picture!

I think he's trying to hide from me. 

Yup. Now both rabbits are looking at me with suspicion. 
Time to let them be. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Millie without Luna

Millie doesn’t wander the property with me anymore.
She used to. 

When Luna and I rambled around once or twice a day, 
Millie usually followed.

She wasn’t always happy about it.

But she was curious enough, 

or jealous enough, 

or bored or lonely enough, to follow.

Because Luna explored,

Millie explored.

No matter how much I coax her,
she won’t follow me when I’m alone.

She might come as far as the porch step,

or maybe the lumber pile at the back corner of the house.

Then recently, 
Bill and I were outside airing up the tires on a trailer.
Guess who showed up—even though it was snowing just a bit?

Yup, Millie.

She came looking for us, 
yowling with curiosity and petulance.

Pinkies, what are you doing out here? 
Is it really necessary to be out in this wet and cold nastiness?

After posing for her portrait, she jumped the gate and 
stalked down the sidewalk to the front door, 
pausing after each step to shake the water off a hind paw.

So...for Millie, no one person is worth trailing 
through the snow and across the property.

(Curiosity killed the cat, right?)

C. S. Lewis wrote, 
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to [one of Charles’s jokes]. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.”*

He goes on to make some points about friendship and Heaven and God, 
but this quote has been on my mind the last few weeks because of Millie and Luna.

Most of what Luna brought out in Millie, I don’t miss: stinkeye glares, hisses, and swipes.

However, I do miss watching Luna run and sniff and explore the property day after day . . .

and I miss being trailed by a black and white cat

who sometimes galloped across the property, teasing Luna.

And sometimes even almost played with her.

She had fun—in spite of herself, I think.

Her world has shrunk back to what it was before Luna came to us. 

It makes me sad. 

I wonder if we got another dog, 
if that might bring her out again. 
I suppose Ill find out, when the time comes. 

* Quote is from page 234 of The Quotable Lewis, edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, copyright 1989, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL.