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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Cabin fever

I was experiencing a bad case of cabin fever and needed to get out of the house, if only for a short walk. Luckily one of my winter coats has a sleeve big enough to accommodate my cast. After a brief struggle with the coat I strapped on the bulky foam rubber protector I have to wear on my arm. I thought that a short walk over to the hawk nest would be easy and if my arm bothered me I was still pretty close to the house.

As I walked passed the Litchfield Villa I heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker nearby and instinctively grabbed for my binoculars with my right hand. There was nothing around my neck and for a brief moment I was confused. Oh yeah, my arm, I can't use my bins. This was the first time I've been in the park without binoculars since September 2003, when I had my previous wrist surgery. I figured that it wasn't a big deal because I didn't needed bins to check on the hawk nest.

Standing beneath Big Mama and Split-tail's nest I could see some recent additions to the structure. Long strips of bark hung over the side of the nest and flapped in the wind like brown streamers. Last year they began using bark in their nest, presumably as a replacement for the ripped newspapers that Split-tail liked to collect. Neither hawk was near the nest so I decided to take a walk towards the adjacent Sullivan Hill and Battle Pass. I frequently see them hunting in those areas.

Pigeon feather

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I stopped beneath a large oak tree and surveyed the trees to the north of their nest. The bare branches of the winter woods usually makes easy work of locating them, even without binoculars. As I stood in the silent, dimly lit woods a white feather slowly drifted through the air in front of me. It landed in the leaf litter and I bent over for a closer look. I was surprised to find that the tip of the plume was stained red with blood. I looked in the oak above me and spotted a hawk tearing into a pigeon. The lighting was terrible but the silhouette against the gray sky was unmistakably a Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk silhouette

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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