Even before I clipped on Millie’s leash to venture out into the still-sweltering August afternoon, I knew that my usual tallying of this summer’s baby-boomer robin, starling, cardinal, catbird, mockingbird and sparrow fledglings would, once again, be hijacked by my recollection of a stunning bird sighting from back in July.
Right outside the front door, Millie looks up at me with her corgi-glare, “Really? What are you thinking to abbreviate my afternoon nap for this heat? At least you’ll give me dinner when we go back in.” Reflexively,I look up, trying to re-create the July morning when two birds high overhead, with long broad wings grandly down-stroking in unison,stiltlegs trailing out behind, circled twice then headed east. Two Great Blue Herons! Wow. Exclamation-point-worthy new West Village Bird #85 for me!That’s even a hijack of my own hijacking. It gets better.
Another late Monday afternoon, like today, around this time, also looking up immediately outside my front door, a Red-tailed Hawk soared up Washington Street (I hadn’t seen hawks in the neighborhood since the pair in January who seemed like they might have been real-estate-shopping), and just beyond, a Peregrine Falcon, briefly flapping, then stooping (I hadn’t seen a falcon here in over a year). Those two flyovers would have been blood-rushing enough for an afternoon, or a week for that matter, but there was more.
When we reached Hudson River Park at Charles Street, after zigging around the cars pawing into the crosswalk and zagging across the gauntlet of the bike path, Millie could finally pause to thumb through her inbox of canine communiqués along the promenade. I noticed the hawk again,now poised on the corner of the southern Meier tower. Camera up. Snap. Snap. Cool.
Then the hawk took one plunging arc down behind the trees, almost immediately swooped back up into the park, and alighted with hercatchon a lamppost right beside the newly re-opened Pier 46. It wasn’t completely clear whether the Rattus norvegicuswas already dead, because there was some reorganization of it – talons to beak to talons.
The hawk stayed for several minutes, giving me time to race around for some better close-ups, and time for the spectacle to gather quite a crowd. One animal killinganother is disarminglypersonal, even if the killee is a brown rat which is not high on anyone’s cute and cuddly list. There was a whole soundtrack of animated narration by the rubberneckers – a claw by claw, flap by flap account – squeals of surprise, delight and horror, including one loudly screaming child (which I’m not surewas connected to the theatre-macabre, but it certainly underscored the atmosphere). Finally, the hawk, a sleekred-tailed adult, flew off for a more secluded dinner or to make a delivery to her family at home. A different perspective on take-out dining. Quite an evening.
Millie barks, “How about dinner for me?”
Maybe I’ll be able to count the fledglings tomorrow.
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Keith Michael has just published his first collection of writing and photographs Once Around the Block: A Birder’s Year in the West Village. To find out how to preview the book and get your copy go to www.keithmichaelnyc.com.