Friday, December 7, 2007

For the Birds

This has been the week of the birds. A few days ago I reported on some of the tracks I had observed in the snow, including a bunch of chukar prints. That prompted a comment from Tomme in Iowa saying she had to look the bird up to know what it was. It always surprises me that the beautiful partridge is so little known. I had never heard of them myself until I moved here and witnessed them in the flesh. Most days we have about 50 chukars hanging around in our yard. We feed them in the winter which no doubt accounts for their presence in such high numbers. It also helps that we don't shoot them even though the rumor is they make delicious eating. I really like this photo I took of two of them in the back yard yesterday even though it is a little too dark to fully appreciate the birds. The one on the right looks like he is looking up at the snow and maybe trying to catch it like a child does on his tongue.

Then, as Ken and I took off on our run yesterday, we saw one of the golden eagles circling low over our trail. They spend quite a bit of time visiting in the summer but the winter is when they move onto our place and hunt rabbits daily. I was a little bit ahead of Ken and as I got about 2 miles out from the house the eagle started circling lower and lower overhead. I stopped running and held my breath as he landed in a tree just a few feet away. We both remained motionless, starring at each other until Ken caught up and the eagle decided the pressure of two people was too much. Ken's reaction was great. "What the h--l was that?!" he said. "I thought maybe the eagle thought your hat was a big pink bunny and he was about to swoop down for a meal!" I didn't want to admit that the same thought had entered my head. I was prepared to hit the dirt fast if it looked like the big bird was coming for my head but he obviously had other things in mind. I would love to think he is finally getting used to us after 15 years of co-existence, realizing we are not a threat. It is more likely, however, he was just bored and curious about these strange two legged creatures who move at such a slow pace even when they are trying to go fast.

But today was the best sighting of them all. After lunch, as I went outside to head back over to my studio, a pigeon ran right into the side of the house in front of me. He shook himself off and flew away but I felt guilty, assuming I had startled him from his resting place. Then I rounded the corner and saw this big boy perched in the juniper bush. A Northern Goshawk, pretty rare and an amazing sight to see. They are huge birds, not as big as the eagle of course, but impressive nonetheless at almost two feet tall. He spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the yard, allowing me to take numerous photos of him, then finally flapped his powerful wings and headed elsewhere in search of lunch.

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