The Survivor

The neighborhood hawk was very busy last summer. With raising a family and decimating the local bird population, this feathered miscreant barely had time to sit on the oak tree by the porch and glare at me with her contempt filled eyes. More than once I chased this hateful, bird snatcher away from my feeder, but I couldn’t keep a constant vigil, so all throughout the summer, the hawk and later, her offspring soared above the community murdering and eating whatever small animal they chose. The titmice, the cardinals, the squirrels, and even the neighbor’s chickens fell prey to this villain’s blood lust, but out of all the creatures that frequented my feeder, the hawk’s preferred meal was the dove.

Doves have always been one of my favorite birds. Watching their slow, sedate movements and the silly bob of their heads as they walk always seems to lighten my spirits and bring a smile to my lips. Coupled with their gentle eyes and soft downy feathers, these traits make them a joy to photograph. Aside from being beautiful, doves have one other distinguishing characteristic. This bird’s intent, but vacant stares tell tales of an empty head. Forgive me for what appears to be condemnation, but when I look out into the yard on a clear day and see a dove sleeping in the sunshine in an open patch of short grass, I can’t help but think that these beautiful birds are as dumb as dirt. When the other birds scream “Cat! Cat!” and fly to the trees, the dove’s delayed reaction is: “Huh?” Rather than land in the feeder, or near the feeder, a dove will choose to land ten to fifteen feet away and walk in across open ground, a move that makes them an easy target for even the laziest hawk.

Last summer began with a flock of 10 to 12 doves visiting my feeder to feast on the cracked corn that I purchased just for them. It ended with a circle of gray feathers scattered about the hawks’ favorite tree. The hawk and her young had annihilated the dove population.

Nature, however, can be merciful as well as cruel. Although spring has always been considered the time of renewal, for small animals living in an area heavily hunted by hawks, winter is the time of peace and of lazy sleeps and freedom. Many of the birds of prey have wandered south in favor of warmer climates. Perhaps the winter air holds a frigid chill, but it is better to shiver while you whistle your morning song than have your song silenced by the unmerciful talons of a hungry hawk.

The traffic to my window feeder has increased three fold as goldfinches, dressed in the olive drab of winter, rummage through the pile of seeds in search of millet. The cardinals, feeling more secure in their bright red cloaks, rest upon the bare branches of the lilac bush. The Carolina Wren, that winters on the back porch, hangs casually from the suet feeder driving her long curved beak into the bacon grease and seed that were blended just for her. The woodpecker announces his arrival with his odd “Quirrrrr,” then peeks over the side of the feeder to see what’s for lunch. The war zone outside my window is enjoying a moment of peace, but the beautiful creature that symbolized peace was no longer present.

I was seated at my desk contemplating my next article when she landed this morning. Her soft gray features and gentle eyes brought an immediate smile to my lips. Before me stood a lone survivor of summer’s tragedy, and in her bright peaceful eyes, I saw the promise of the spring to come.




Filed under Photography, Sue's Corner, Wildlife

18 responses to “The Survivor

  1. Fascinating descriptions of all the birds in your neighborhood. I very much enjoyed this.

    • Thanks! The more I watch them, the more I notice that birds all seem to have their own personalities, even within a species. The titmice are very cautious. They fly in, grab a seed and fly off, but one particular titmouse always lands on the lilac bush first and squawks loudly before he goes to the feeder.

  2. What Bongo said, and very lovely pictures too 🙂

  3. jonesingafter40

    Wow! I’m not sure which I liked more, the photographs or the writing. Beautifully done and I was so glad to see the dove at the end.

  4. Those pictures of birds are amazing! How did you ever do that? When I try to take photos of the birds at our birdfeeder, either the camera doesn’t turn on before they fly away, or I’m too far away because going close will scare them — I’m in awe of your lovely photos.

    And maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I had no idea hawks ate other birds! 😦 So sad. This was a well written, and well illustrated post — I’ll remember your story as I watch all the feathered friends in my own yard.

    • The cats actually help quite a bit. My new feeder is just a board attached to my outer windowsill. The cats spend the day sitting on my desk birdwatching. Because of this most of the birds have become accustomed to movement on the other side of the glass. The woodpeckers and the Carolina wren are a little more skittish. Getting a good photo of them can be a real challenge.

  5. She is a lovely bird. They are sort of the cows of the sky – such big eyes – so peaceful. A little slow to comprehend. Can’t help but feel protective of them.

  6. We get cooper hawks here and every once in a while, one will spend a day on the top of my cherry tree watching (of course there are no birds or wildlife anywhere near my 3 birdfeeders and pond. They get rodents (including my beloved chipmunks!) but anything is game and they do love slow, gray bobbing birds.

  7. Hi Sue,
    I’m letting Bongo speak for me today!
    Well, he said it all . . . wait, you got some great close up shots of the birds and I especially like the red cardinal. Thanks!

  8. weedimageoftheday

    Lovely post. Thank you for sharing your bit of the world and the birds in it. I especially liked the photo and characterization of the dove.

  9. I loved your commentary on nature and what goes on outside the window. Living out in the country… or the boondocks… the wilderness… leads one to see nature up close. I enjoyed reading what you had to say because I can tell you really care about what you are writing. Thanks for the visit to my site!

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