We connected, the Cooper’s hawk and I. When I spotted it, it was less than 20 feet away, just outside the fence. He had imported the small cottontail he had harvested from somewhere else, and liked this spot to consume his trophy. It is under the eucalyptus tree, partially protected by the fence, and above the nearby roadway.
The feast was well underway, tufts of fur slung into the air floating away on the light breeze, pieces of skin and flesh and bone pulled clear and discarded or devoured. This was clearly a rare prize, one to be finished quickly and as completely as possible to avoid the scavengers. Tearing, ripping the flesh, attacking the limp corpse with careful disregard. The hawk was a victorious hunter; his chest was puffed up, held high between ripping at the inert body, the talons grasping the soft rabbit fur. My camera was silently clicking — film is free with a digital camera so I reminded myself to take lots of photos. The proud bird is partially hidden behind the fence strakes.
Carefully I walked out onto the patio for a better view. The hawk watched me carefully, becoming more alert, but this was much too good a meal to be interrupted by a mere man. The pictures are partially blocked by the fence; I can’t move outside. I take more pictures — film is free. I try some video — still blocked, but the action is good, the dipping of the head, the ripping of the flesh, it is a small scale replica of the Serengeti.
I move to a different part of the patio, I watch the hawk. The hawk watches me. Then, the hawk steps on top of the carcass and faces away from me. He raises his tail high in the air and lowers his beautiful head to the bunny. Suddenly, he is not ripping another piece of flesh, but he ejects a large dollop of liquid that moves in a high arc towards me. His aim is off, the mess misses me, and the hawk quickly looks over his shoulder. His message is clear: leave me alone until I finish this damned rabbit, or the next shot will not miss.
We connected, the Cooper’s hawk and I.
Ron Pickett (blog) is a retired naval aviator. He writes, paints, travels and is an occasional speaker and coach. He has had over 80 articles published in a dozen periodicals. His areas of professional focus include Power and Influence, Organizational Politics, Customer Service, and Selection and Promotion of Management Talent.