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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Turtle and Hawk

Art Drauglis lives in Washington, DC and was in NYC recently on business. He was visiting Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge during some down time when I ran into him and offered to show him around the refuge. When he returned home he sent me an email which included a link to his Flickr page which included the following, great story:

"Shortly after I started up the Powell Mountain Trail in Shenandoah National Park I noticed some movement off in the brush. At first I thought that I had flushed a Ruffed Grouse, but whatever it was had not gone very far. I moved up the trail a few feet and saw the bird again behind a tree. It was a juvenile Broad-Winged Hawk and it seemed to be injured or stuck. One foot was stuck inside of a trap or can. I took a few steps closer and saw that it was actually wedged into a box turtle. The prey had trapped the predator. The hawk had not yet learned that it was too small to lift something the size of a turtle. It was a Blue Ridge Mountain version of the Mexican Coat of Arms (an eagle battling a rattlesnake in a cactus). I have heard that some hawks will pick up turtles and drop them on rocks until their shells shatter; that was not going to happen today."

"I thought that I might be able to assist the situation so I crouched down and moved to within three feet of the pair."

"In order to free it I would have to use one hand to separate toe and turtle and the other to hold the hawk still. Not a recommended course of action. I thought that if I could go at the hawk from behind that the strategy might work, but if I got closer than three feet the hawk would roll back into a defensive posture. Not being able to get away, it was prepared to slash away with it's free foot and beak. Not only that, but every time it leaned away from me, the wedged toe bent at an unnatural angle."

"I have learned that observing wildlife is much more healthy and satisfying when one pays attention to the cues and body language of the animal being observed and reacts accordingly. I backed away a few feet and then left them to their fate."

"I wondered how long the turtle could keep itself boxed up, particularly if it was wounded. I imagined the toe stuck in there wagging around, stabbing and scratching. If the hawk could not free itself by dusk it was doomed. It would be an easy picking for the first bobcat, coyote, fox, or bear to wander by. I should say a relatively easy picking; it would surely fight, but there would not be a chase."

Check out more of Art's photos here or his great furniture website here.

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