Dear Birders, Please read if you'd like:
Are you the Goshawk?
A neighbor called me to say she had “possibly an owl” in her yard and she was sure it wasn’t okay. It had been on the ground for a few hours and not moving. So I grabbed a sewing machine-sized box and a baby-sized light blanket and headed to her house. What I found was this gorgeous predator. We approached very slowly from behind. I didn’t think he could see me well as his behavior didn’t change when he turned to face me. Tough leather gloves gave me little reassurance as I approached him, but he was as docile as a chicken. A trip-to-VINS-later, he was examined and determined to be underweight, “not well for awhile” (bent tail feathers indicated he’d been on the ground a while) and I believe they said “plaque spots” in his eyes. The diagnosis is West Nile Disease and they will do what they can.
All the way to VINS, I thought about this hawk and the many opportunities I’ve had experiencing this species in Huntington. I feel like I know this bird.
Who are you? Are you the Goshawk I sometimes see flying over the Huntington River? Are you a direct descendant, one of the many chicks raised in the forest near “Gail’s Cabin” at the Birds of Vermont Museum? Or maybe you are the parent that nested there. One time a friend of mine was terrified as he was chased through those woods, away from your territory. Do you recall that ever happening? The way my friend described his escape reminded me of an old fashioned cowboy gun fight, with the fleeing cowboy ducking behind a rock and looking ahead for the next place to take cover. Look, choose, run, dive. My friend scrambled on his hands and knees, diving behind berry bushes to avoid your nasty talons. Did you do that, terrify my friend? Perhaps you are the handsome bird that sometimes perches at the edge of my yard, looking to pick up some fast food. If so, remember the time I saw you perched as I drove my car down the driveway? I got out of the car to get a better look...and one look from you told me to get back in the car and close the door. Last year I recorded a father Goshawk calling in the forest in Granville. His chicks responded in the distance. Your tone told me I should not walk any further down the path when out of “no where” you flew over my head and perched in front of me. No, that couldn’t have been you...but I bet a distant relative for sure. Maybe you’re the guy that made the adrenaline shoot through my body one wintry day several years ago as I was snowshoeing down the steep hillside behind my house...your bone chilling calls inspired me to step faster. Or perhaps you’re the offspring of the Goshawk I see circling the skies above Camels Hump State Forest. You know, the southern part of the park off route 17? Most likely you are the same bird I counted on a Christmas Bird Count in the neighborhood just north of where I picked you up today. All these places may just be pins-of-encounters with a male Northern Goshawk, coincidentally in a straight line on a map. A line along the high foothills paralleling the Green Mountain Range’s peaks. Are you one and the same guy? Because I know you. You are my neighbor.
I hope he recovers and I can bring him home.