Monday, June 6, 2011


We've been having Red-tailed Hawk drama in our backyard this spring. It began in late March as we became aware that a pair of hawks was refurbishing an old nest in one of the skinny, tall pines in our west grove of woods. Years ago a pair tried to rear a hawk here and we think the nest failed that summer. But a beautiful, big Red-tailed Hawk seems to like our woods and when the boys were little they named her Odyssey.

In April I was home alone one afternoon when our new neighbor to the south pulled in and asked for my help in rescuing a hawk that was hit on the road just in front of our house. We gloved up, armed ourselves with an old blanket and a dog kennel, and foraged into our south grove to capture the injured hawk. We think he was the male and that he is Odyssey's mate. Rob took the hawk up to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. Holding a bird of prey in your hands like that is a pretty awesome experience. We have since learned that the hawk had a badly fractured wing, underwent surgery, is now in physical therapy, and if able to fly well enough to survive, will be released on our property.

We never thought the egg(s) would hatch, especially given the cold, wet spring and only one parent on the nest. But during the second week of May, it was apparent that a hawkling was in the nest. We kept track and kept the woods loaded with squirrels and birds by putting corn cakes out on stumps to make for easier hunting for the single-parent hawk. (There is no shortage of squirrels or birds on our ten acres!) We were treated to many amazing views of this fuzzy, awkward hawk living in the nest over the next couple of weeks.

Memorial Day weekend there was a terrific wind storm an the nest blew down. We were sure this would be the end of the little hawk. But then we found it clinging to lower branches in the trees under the nest location. It is very good at being extremely quiet and still, and blinking at you with one eye closing at a time, all the while  Odyssey shrieking warning from above.

On Sunday of this week we heard a racket in the woods and Arthur and I went out to explore, having seen and heard no sign of either hawk for a few days. Nessie, the Jack Russel Terrorist, spotted the hawkling on the ground and rushed at him. She pulled up short when he rolled on his back, thrusting some powerful talons toward her face. We corraled the dog, took some pictures, convened the rest of the family and called the Raptor Center.

Bronwyn: "Hi, Joey, this is the family of hawk case #XXX and the mate hatched the egg and now the hawk looks like it can't really fly but looks fine otherwise. The only problem is that it's on the ground. What should we do?"

Joey: "Capture it using a blanket and a cardboard box and put it in some branches at least six feet above the ground so the parent won't abandon it. What? You have a platform built near the nest 20 feet up? Awesome! That's ideal. Relocate him and see what happens. You guys are doing great work with these hawks. Let me know how it goes."

Next scene: four Skovs, two cell phone cameras, one Mexican blanket, two sets of leather gloves, and a cardboard box. I think the pictures tell the rest of the story.

The platform is in the Bandit Camp on our property. The young hawk is now named Tenacious H. Bandit. He has already left the platform and we can hear him in the woods. We truly hope he makes it.

We might be friends for life.