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Friday, August 7, 2009

Bathing Beauties

Walking by the backdoor this morning with coffee cup in hand, I took a double-take out at the backyard. In our dog's paddock adjacent to the yard, were three hawks perched up on the rim of River's water trough, sipping the water. Even more entertaining was then watching them take turns jumping in, flapping their big striped wings.... they were BATHING! They seemed giddy, playing as they did so, hopping from side to side on the rim. Mother kept a watchful eye on us during this morning bathing, as she could see my whole family peering through the window at her's, and their antics.

We've identified them as Cooper's Hawks. It's a family that's had a nest in the margin of our forest overlooking the side yard ... basically their pantry. It's a mother and her two fledglings. Besides the barn owls shacked up in the "dog house" (an oversized nesting box my husband built, hoisted, and attached 50 feet up in a large douglas fir), we are also very humbled and honored to have a very private and shy occupant. She's an amazing raptor who's chosen to raise her youngsters in our forest every year. For years we've watched the courtships, the new hatchlings, and like watching one's own children grow and change, watching the hawk's growth and behaviors change, but on an accelerated level. It's exhilerating when anticipating the hatchlings, to look up the tree where sunshine streams through the branches near the tree tops illuminating the nest, and finally seeing little round tufts of fuzz glowing golden in the forest sunlight.

Equally amazing has been watching the mother dismantle the nest stick by stick, to encourage her fledglings to fly and take care of themselves, once they've grown their flight feathers. They flapped and exercised their wings jumping from branch to branch, and now they do so by jumping from tree to tree. They're almost as big as she is, yet daily we still hear them making their demanding "key! key! key! calls for her to bring them their meals... throughout most of the day, every day! She's an excellent mother who takes her job seriously and gives great care to her vivacious brood. Regularly we watch her bring meals back to the exciteable youngsters, she's a perpetual and efficient hunter. However, I suspect she's also anxious for them to become self-sufficient and I'm quite confident that she is one mother who will not experience "empty nest syndrome". Like any good mother, her job is to make them healthy, strong, and independent.

Simple things.

Where the wild winds blow,

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