The Hawk family lived in the trees in our backyard for over a decade. I never paid attention to them until 2014. During 2014, my recovery from spinal surgery meant most days were spent dealing with pain. So getting outside was still a big deal for me. And all that un-busyness gave me more time to notice details. Like the incessant squawking from little birds.
Every spring, the hawks make a terrible racket. But I never looked out my window. That fine day in 2014, I decided to look out the window. And I saw a very large bird on the ground in the backyard. I grabbed the camera and ever so slowly, crept up to the bird. I had no idea that the bird couldn’t fly. Which explains why it didn’t move and let me get very close.
There was some kind of tissue in the bird’s beak so it must have been eating recently.
There was a second baby hawk over on the logs of the wood pile. Like the first one, it didn’t move.
I talked to the hawks, encouraging them to fly, so I could catch photos of those early flights. But the birds didn’t move. The one on the wood pile was silent, but the one in the yard made a lot of noise. I went back in the house in case I made the birds nervous. The one in the yard finally ran across the yard into the trees. But it didn’t get off the ground.
Hours later, I went back out to see where the birds were. One was still on the wood pile. The other one was climbing a tree, making a lot of racket and flapping wings, but not flying.
The hawk then got stuck on some branches. I watched helplessly.
The bird would occasionally stop flapping its wings and just hang from the branches, wing extended. It looks so awkward, painful and frustrating!
I really related to that bird. So much pain and it seemed that I would never recover from surgery. It was over a year and a half since surgery. Why was I still in so much pain and so immobile? I spent weeks and weeks sitting still against a heating pad, pacing around the house, impatient to mend. But there was absolutely nothing I could do to hasten the healing. It just had to take time.
Looking through the camera lens was sometimes difficult, since I couldn’t look up very well. My eyes blurred with pain a lot.
I heard a very small squawk high in the trees, pointed my lens and took a picture. It had to be the mother. She stayed close and watched her babies like… well, like a hawk. She never took her eyes off them.
When I looked at the photos later, I discovered that the mother hawk was holding a snake! That explained the shreds of tissue in the baby’s beak.
I imagined the birds were making such a racket that the mother pushed them out of the nest mid-meal. “If you two don’t shut up, I’m kicking you out!” I imagined her saying. But she cared enough about them that she didn’t take her eyes off them, especially when they were on the ground, unable to fly.
All day long I frequently looked out the kitchen window, hoping to capture the first flight. But the birds took their time. One chattered incessantly, the other was mostly silent. At one point, the silent one was up in a tree and I was glad to see it had successfully gotten off the ground. It sat on the limb with one leg up. For a long time, one leg in the air, perfectly still.
The mother hawk ate more snake. But she didn’t come down from her high perch, where she kept an eye on the two.
Evening came and I checked the hawks again. The one that spent so much time stuck on a branch was no longer there. There was one on a favorite old tree, its head tucked tight under its wing for the night.
I prayed for the hawks, that the missing hawk didn’t get eaten by some wild critter in the woods.
The next morning, the mother hawk was in her high perch, watching closely over her babies.
Both the baby hawks were in their favorite tree. How glad I was to see them safe!
They still must not have been good at flying or hunting. One hawk kept crying loudly all day long. I could just picture the conversation..
“I’m STARVING! I’m gonna die!!!” said the noisy hawk.
“Well, you shouldn’t have gotten us kicked out of the nest. We were right in the middle of breakfast!” said the other.
“We’re GONNA die. I know it! I’m Starved! STARVED, I tell you! I’m GOING TO DIE!!” said the noisy one.
“Oh shut up,” said the quiet one.
Birds are so dramatic.
I marvelled over the hawks, and felt a keen gratitude that they let me into their special time of life. What an honor!
I wasn’t able to check on the birds again till the third day. High in the sky I saw one fly. Birds always learn to fly. It just takes time. And there are branches to get stuck in and a bit of hunger while learning to hunt. But birds always learn to fly.
The hawks built their nest in a new location the next year, high in the trees right near my bedroom window. They had never lived so close to the house. Even though the crazy squawking of the new peeps in spring was so annoying, I felt a warm kinship to these strong creatures.
It’s 2016, over three years since my surgery. I can now lightly jog short distances and can look up better. Things take time but time always changes things. Birds always learn to fly.