Hunting season has slowed down and yesterday Dusty, Bear and I were able to return to our favorite spot along the Rio Grande to take a short hike. All of us felt excited about it. Not that the golf course isn’t great — it is and it’s close, and our fox lives there — but the slough is a place where one is more likely to see wild birds and maybe even a big mammal or two (hasn’t happened yet).

I love birds. I don’t love all birds equally, but I love birds. Back in my “I’m-looking-for-my-spirit-guide” days (the late 1980s/early 1990s) I was sure the red tail hawk was my spirit guide. I don’t know about spirit guide, ultimately, but I learned something about bird behavior and I could take a lesson from that. The reality – one could call it the science – behind what they do and why turned out to be more interesting than gaining spiritual lessons. I’m ALWAYS glad to see them. And, I get a little heart-lift when they are around.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the wildlife area yesterday, a red tail was sitting on the highest point of the nearest bare cottonwood. My heart went, “Yes!”

Dusty was wearing his neon-orange hunting vest with its two reflective stripes. He would be off leash and on the off chance there were shotguns out there, I wanted him to be safe plus I’d bought it and not used it and damn! That is not to be born!  Bear is always leashed.

We took off. I was happy to see lots of footprints in the snow — people. That meant people had been enjoying the beauty of the place. I always think the wild places near towns and cities are very vulnerable, and unless people know about them and enjoy them, they are even less safe.

About half-way, I heard a screech high up, and looked up to see two red tails play-fighting in the sky. I think they were a mated pair. Male red tails are smaller than females and red tail hawks mate for life. I have been lucky to get to see this often on hikes, so I enjoyed the air show. Then they said “Ciao!” and went off to do what they each needed to do; hunting.  A little while later, both Bear and Dusty became very alert and stared meaningfully across the field. I couldn’t see what they were smelling, but it turned out to be a family on a walk. Long before I saw the family, they startled the female hawk from whatever prey she had been pursuing? had captured? She took flight very low and very close and very suddenly, scaring the bejeesus out of Dusty who jumped straight up in the air as the bird swooped by.

It was pretty funny.

Soon after, the family marched by. I held back a madly barking Dusty, said the usual, “He’s friendly even though he doesn’t sound like it. Have a great day!” One of them held a madly barking Pomeranian in her arms.

Because I didn’t want to intersect their path on the way out, we hurried along, but happy we’d been back and eager to return.



“Don’t take my picture!”


White Sangre de Cristos in the distance

17 thoughts on “

  1. There is something about hawks. I don’t see them often, but I do understand that feeling you described. I have a friendly barker. He rarely responds to aggressive barking in other dogs. He usually barks to say “let’s play”. – That looks like a beautiful place. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

    • Thank you, Robin! Dusty is at least half-Doberman so even his friendly bark sounds like “Death to all strangers!” but if he’s off leash and free, he’ll go up to people to get pets and play with their dogs — but he barks first. 😦 I hope you have a lovely New Years weekend also!

  2. Sounds like a great walk, must tell Tabby – I think she is a little jealous of the flashy clawproof vest that Dusty is wearing. I am not sure about my spirit guide, but I think it might be a vampire bat. Now and again bats fly around in summer, but are too quick to capture on a camera. Hope you are feeling fine, glad you manage a walk

    • I’m feeling much better, I’d say about 85% with a sinking spell now and then. I think I was attacked by an intestinal bug when my resistance was down because of the flu. Anyway, the walk was wonderful and I’m going again today but just with Bear so we can have some silence as it is a holiday week and people are not at work. I believe it would be possible for Tabby to find a similar vest in her size, though it would be in the dog section of the store. Maybe you don’t have to tell her. 🙂

  3. What a wonderful walk you had and how well you described it and your response to it for us. Those are the sorts of simple excursions into unpaved and unhoused territory that I need to refresh my spirit. I try to get one four or five times a week; they keep me balanced. But I don’t always succeed. Right now there isn’t enough snow for cross country skis or snowshoes, but just enough frozen in clumps to make walking difficult. Like you, I don’t mind the presence of people and their pets; I tell myself that someday they might join the effort to protect the natural bits that surround my town. I felt I was inside my own mind as I read your post, Martha.

    • I’ll tell you the part I didn’t write. Once I’d left my spirit-guide-seeking days and began appreciating hawks for what they are, I was watching one fly and suddenly remembered Hopkins’ poem, “The Windhover.” I often recited from hilltops it to hovering and swooping hawks and yesterday I did, too, as I watched the pair dive and feint and play on the light breeze and sunlight. So I guess that approaching family probably heard some lady in the distance calling out, “I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin…” I didn’t get it right. I have favorite lines, and somehow the favorite lines have squeezed out those that are less memorable to me, but…

      • I’m unfamiliar with the poem and will have to google it. But the visual of you declaiming a jumbled version of it from hilltops to the wonderment of others is quite amusing.

      • I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
        dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
        Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
        High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
        In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, 5
        As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
        Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
        Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

        Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
        Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 10
        Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

        No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
        Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
        Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

  4. I love birds too and we have red tails here, too … and American eagles sometimes. Lots of small hawks and some very large ones, too. The more birds I see, the more I hope our planet will survive. If the birds are there, there must be something for them to hunt and eat.

    • Yep. When I get down about things I remember how, when I was in high school, eagles were on the verge of extinction and now they’re thriving. In a month, I expect to see and hear the two screech owls who seem to pass through. I love my nesting robins in June, too. ❤

  5. I madly barking Pom…the little dogs who go out on attack always crack me up. Your walk sounds glorious, Martha, and I am glad to hear that you are feeling so much better.

    • Thank you! I decided that as this thing is exacerbated by stress, that means I should do things that make me happy and relax me. I went back to this lovely place today with a couple of friends, and we had a wonderful time. I still have some pain, but less. Learning that the most likely cause is not deadly, but has no cure or treatment, I will just have to live with it. After the holidays I’ll go get my test. Anyway, I do feel better. 🙂

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