We have known there were hawks in the neighborhood. I saw one posing on the utility pole across the street the first month we moved here. Who am I kidding? I think there have been hawks in every California neighborhood I have ever lived in. Certainly, they have always been close by on the fence posts and telephone poles. Though I feel familiar with hawks in general, these two have captured my heart.
At least I think there are two. I am attempting to identify my new friends. Once, briefly, we found two of them together and I was able to take a couple blurry photos. It was over quickly, though, and I haven’t had a chance to study their markings or follow their activities. Are they truly a pair, as I hope? Or are there more hawks in the area, and are they jockeying for space – wanting their own bedrooms in the large house of neighborhood trees? I simply don’t yet know.
Stanley, with his keen hawk-like sensitivities is essential to my task. I am learning to identify the hawks’ call thanks to him. He stops on our morning walks and points to the tall trees whenever one calls out. It seems that when one flies to a new post, it calls out its location to the other(s). It’s a clue to us, also, to look up and search.
“Two of them. There,” says Stanley, stopping and pointing to the eucalyptus trees in the clearing next to the dunes.
“Two? Where? Which tree?” I ask.
“There, right there. Can’t you see?”
“High or low? Which tree?”
“Right there. Right there. Together.”
The mass of leaves and branches and the distance between us and them complicate my view. How can Stanley see through all this? And they haven’t even sounded off yet this morning.
“You just see them right in the middle of all that greenery?” I ask. The foliage looks tumbled together to me, a mass of nature designed to hide wonderful creatures from me, while to Stanley, everything is revealed.
“On the big branch. Together,” he says. “Right there. Right in front of you.”
I look around and see tree, leaves and branches, not hawks. We walk closer. And closer.
“Are they still there?” I ask.
Stanley looks up and nods as if it is the simplest thing in the world to see what nature wants to hide.
Finally, two hawks sitting together on a tree branch. I see them. I make my way to the nearby bench, sit and snap as many photos as I can. Too soon, one flies off. Which is it? Male or female? At least now, I can begin to know that these are truly a pair, possibly readying a nest somewhere close, getting prepared for parenthood, if all goes well.
And I certainly hope all does go well for them. With Stanley’s hawk-like senses and my camera, we will be marking their progress this spring.
“There. Up in the sky. It’s hunting.”
“Where? I’m looking right there. I don’t see anything.”
“It’s circling. Probably the male.”
“I want to see.”
“Now over by the tree. There.”
“Which tree? Where?” I ask, then..
“Oh. I see it.”
“No, that’s a vulture,” says Stanley.
I have already snapped a picture. ‘Are you sure? It looks like it might be a hawk.”
Stanley shakes his head, certain. “Vulture. Look at the wing span. See how it soars?”
I look back to the photo, thinking he might be wrong. It looked to me like it might be a hawk. I had aimed the camera in the direction he pointed, sort-of at the same time. While I am engrossed in the camera, Stanley continues to scan the area.
“There they are. In that tall tree. Across the street.”
“The cedar? Where? Over there?”
When I get home, I think about the scene we make, Stanley and I. A thought occurs to me. What if the hawks were observing us? Two humans, one stumbling along with a camera waggling from the neck, one stopping and pointing hawk-ward with precision. Are we as entertaining as they?