Friday, October 25, 2013

Picking them off

Great Horned Owl

I saw a Cooper's Hawk perched in one of the oak trees as I walked up the trail. Once at the top, I spotted a Great Horned Owl in the small woods that caps the drumlin. Down below at the prairie, there was a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting over the tall patch of plants where most of the Fox Sparrows are foraging. With all the raptors around, I wasn't at all surprised to discover songbirds were keeping comparatively quiet and out of sight. In a way, I felt like I interrupted a story in progress, but I suppose in a universal way I was also a part of it – as much of a participant as everything else out there.

Remains of a Fox Sparrow

And for a small paragraph of that story, it was the end of the line for one particular Fox Sparrow. The long journey is over for this bird, but the hawk lives on. One wonders ... do songbirds ever die from old age? It must be a truly terrifying way to go, even without the sure knowledge of death that we possess. Raw and real, the moment the talons sink in and then the feathers begin to get plucked by that menacing accipiter beak. It's truly a Tennyson moment and one that I've witnessed; they're often still alive when the feeding begins.

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell