Bittersweet Wonders of the World.
July 1, 2010 landed in the middle of the week. Steve, Sam and I went camping at Conestoga Family Campgrounds with Steve's parents, his sister Michelle, her husband Craig and their three boys - very handsome boys - Shaun, Ian and Kyle.
Wednesday was a very cold night; Sam woke up at 5:30am with little icicles for hands. Steve made a bottle of warm milk then Sam and I lay quietly in the tent while Sam drank. We both became lost and enamored by the sounds of nature around us.
There were birds chirping everywhere and Sam was fascinated by it. Amongst the singsong of birds there were distinct shrieks of what seemed to be a much bigger bird, but groggy and trying to stay warm, we thought nothing of it.
A short while later, Sam and I emerged from the tent and were greeted by Steve. He'd had his own early morning adventure trying to find a washroom. After going the wrong direction twice, he finally found one, but not before he discovered something really cool. He had wandered into the pine forest directly across from our campsite and had identified the location of the large birds Sam and I had heard in the tent. He described the nest of a Hawk with babies in it, that stood 20 feet up in a tree. Steve said he had seen the mother and she was really big! "No way" I said, "How neat"! With Sam needing attention and fellow campers waking from their chilly slumber, my mind changed gears and went for the coffee.
Early in the afternoon I found myself - with Steve's dad, Ed - making our way into the forest. Steve was not the only one who had seen the Hawk that morning, so now it was our turn to take a peek. Just a couple hundred feet in, Ed pointed up and said "There it is, there is the nest". I didn't see it at first but then, 15-20 feet up in a 40 foot pine tree, there it was, a massive bird nest, but there was nothing in it. No mom, no babies, but that didn't stop me from imagining the size of whatever must live in it. Ed and I slowly walked up to the base of the tree - there was quite a bit of 'droppings' all around. Then we made a new discovery. At the bottom of the tree, directly under the nest lay a young hawk - dead. I refrain from calling it a baby because it was a little smaller than a basketball but I guess he wasn't old enough to fly yet. We studied it as much as we could without touching it and Ed took a picture of the talons to compare them to the size of Ed's own fingers - boy did they look deadly!
We looked around for a couple of minutes until I saw a man and woman entering the forest from another direction but only about 50 feet away from us. It seemed strange because the man was holding a big stick out in front him and was walking very slowly while he spoke to the woman. I called Ed over to look - low and behold, there was a hawk on the end the of the stick! I was starting to get excited, and in the background I realized that so was the mother Hawk - somewhere in the woods she was shrieking loudly. The man was walking towards the sound of the mother but Ed and I spoke out - "The nest is over here"! The man turned around, acknowledging us for the first time, and slowly changed his direction.
The man said the bird was young and didn't have it's flight feathers yet. As he got closer the bird's size surprised us. It lost it's balance and spun around on the stick holding on - upside down) with one big sharp talon. Carefully, the man helped the baby hawk onto the stick (trying very hard not to touch it). He brought the hawk back over to the tree and set it down on the ground. Ed took several photos while I walked excitedly back to the campsite and called out to Steve then I scooped up my nephew Ian - they had to see this! We all watched the baby and he watched us but he seemed rather dazed and docile - uncharacteristic of such a wild animal. The distant shrieking had stopped and we left the bird - knowing that the mother would likely not return for him but hoping none the less. There were no more sounds from the forest that afternoon.
Early in the evening I walked back into the forest alone. I wasn't sure what I would find but I had to know what happened. I approached the tree and from 10 feet away I spotted the first dead hawk we'd seen earlier that day, then to my dismay, I saw the other hawk, right under it's nest where we'd left him, dead. I couldn't bring myself to get any closer, I just walked away sadly to inform the others of my heartbreaking discovery.
I know that it's all part of natural selection, that a large percentage of a mother hawk's fledglings don't survive, and I understand that the mother herself likely didn't feel the sadness of losing two of her babies, but it's not irrational for us to be touched and saddened by the bittersweet beauty of this natural process.Thank you so much for this report of your Hawk sighting - yes, it is sad when young animals die, but we can only hope that enough of them survive to perpetuate their species.
By the way, if you have a picture of the bird or the nest, we would love to add it to your submission - just send it in and I will add it to this report.