Magic in the wild (and not-quite-wild)

The last couple of posts have been long and boring, so I shall keep this one short: I had the most astonishing afternoon yesterday.

Having spent too much time in North Dakota, dear readers (all two or three of you), we’ve seen a lot of red-tailed hawks. From a distance: on a fencepost, high in a tree, atop a telephone pole, riding a thermal overhead.

Today, I held in my hands—my hands!—a young female red-tail. Marveled that she didn’t kick or struggle when her hood was removed. She seemed so light for her size. I looked her in the eye, which was still yellow (evidently they darken in adulthood). At once alien and familiar, her gaze seemed to go straight through me and out the other side, as if she were peering at something six miles behind me. I watched her breast rise and fall with her breathing. Her feathers ruffle slightly in a quick breeze. Such soft feathers on such a fierce creature.

And I tossed her up into the sky to make her way in the world.

How many people actually get to do that? Hold a living hawk in their own two hands? Feel the power in the bird as it soars away?

Not many, I’d guess. I feel blessed. And awed.

This enchanting event occurred courtesy of my still-pretty-new friend Bud Anderson, who’s a world-class raptor biologist and has the stories to prove it. I’d gone down there to get out of the house and away from stupid people and work misery, and I wound up having a transcendent experience. Wow. Just wow.

Earlier, the hawk had been hooded and wrapped up in a cocoon-like thing whose name escapes me, in which she remained utterly still. I’d watched him tag her so that he can track her (along with the other 64 of her predecessors) and find out where she sets up housekeeping.

As if that weren’t enough, a bit later I had sitting on my fist an American kestrel, a beautiful little bird with piercing black eyes. Having as a wee chick imprinted on people, he’s stuck with us; he stays in the house or in his cage outside. Contrary to expectations, he didn’t try to bite me. Instead, he fluffed up, groomed himself, and took a poop (certain bird language appears to be the same for parrots and at least this one kestrel—I moved in plenty of time for him to drop it on the paper towel). We watched each other at length, he turning his head from side to side, and I looking at him from the corner of my eye. That’s proper etiquette when you meet a new parrot, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I’ll swear he was flirting with me. (If he’d been a parrot, I’d be quite certain of that.)

And people say there’s no magic in the world.

Posted by wordsmith

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