Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hawk or Dove

Author's Note: I apologize for the length of this, but I couldn't think of anything else to say.  Also for the title, since it isn't about military/political leanings and only has one insignificant mention of doves.  Poetic license.

I’m not an avid birdwatcher, probably because I couldn’t pick an avid bird out of a lineup.  Where I grew up, we had pigeons and that’s about it.  Many an idle minute was spent in my youth taunting them with any inedible object I could find.  I’d toss it near a herd of them (or bevy or coven or whatever) and then watch them compete for who could be first to find out that it tastes like a cigarette butt (later I would find out that this works great with seagulls, too.)  Also, you could run toward a pride of pigeons (or warren or whatever) and see how many would just run and how many would actually fly (six is the answer).  I never figured out what their purpose was, although I suspect they filled a critical need for pigeon poop.

I’ve lived in the country now for over 27 years and have seen hundreds of different species in that time.  Okay, maybe it’s only ten or twenty, but it’s a lot more than one.  I bought feeders and a birdbath, I bought “The North American Field Guide to Birds” and  out of the thousands of different species I’ve seen, I can easily now recognize at least six or eight of them.  As I write this, I’m thinking that book wasn’t a very good investment.  My birds almost never look exactly like the picture.  Sometimes you have to narrow it down within a broader class like brown ones, then use size and the fact that they’re only found in Arizona to whittle it down.  I settle for close enough.

So we have grackles, crows, blue jays, finches (gold and not), cardinals, mourning doves, pileated woodpeckers (absolute positive id on these), “Woody”-type woodpeckers, robins, wrens, hummingbirds and those little bastards that won’t stand still long enough to get a good look at them.  I don’t see well enough to pick up the features that would confirm a species, like bands on the legs, spots on the underside or a third wing.  So I get close with the book’s help, but then I realize that mine has a yellow beak and the book shows a black one, or mine is about 5 inches long and the book says 36.  Close enough, I tell myself.  Maybe it’s a female, I tell myself.  I can talk myself into just about anything.

I’m just now realizing that I haven’t gotten to the point of all of this, but please know that most of what of I’ve already told you is totally irrelevant to the central theme, which by now the sleuths among you have probably figured out.  I just saw a bird up fairly close that I’ve never seen before! 

But before I get to the point, which I didn’t really do in the last paragraph, I must digress a little.  In my earlier list I intentionally failed to mention turkeys and vultures (the turkey kind of vulture as well as the dead body kind of vulture) because these birds show up on my deck or in the backyard trees exactly never and almost never, respectively.  So why bring them up now, you ask?  Because I see them all the time as I move about my town and the surrounding area.  Quite often while driving, I’ll spot a large bird soaring high above, and again owing to my remarkable vision, I don’t know if they’re vultures or falcons or hawks.  Which gets me finally back to the point.

I was sitting in my kitchen enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee from our brand new Keurig Vue coffee maker, which we bought to replace a regular Keurig coffee maker.  We bought the Vue version for several very sound reasons.  The Vue cups are recyclable – you just peel back the foil and the little pod comes with it sometimes.  Sometimes the pod breaks and wet coffee grinds go all over the floor, which I have to clean up right away because my wife just vacuumed.  Also the Vue cups don’t come in as many varieties as regular K-cups, but they cost a lot more.  I think it’s cool.  It takes up more counter space than the old one, and it’s a lot noisier.  These two factors alone will enable our guests to very quickly see just how cool we are.  I digress again.

Okay, so I’m sitting there and this massive bird lands on a large branch of a tree right there in my back yard.  It has to be close to two feet tall, has a golden breast and black, brown and white wings.  It doesn’t have a large beak and the beak is yellowish, but it kind of looks like a hawk to me (what do I know?)  So Google it is.  I go to Images and type “hawk”.  I’ve found that you don’t need to capitalize, but you do need the correct spelling, since a one-letter mistake will get you tons of pictures that will get you arrested should you save any of them.  This is true regardless of what you’re searching for.  The best thing you can do is to Google “dictionary” first and check the spelling (print this and save it, since I already verified the correct spelling of “dictionary”).  But I digress.

Among the images is one picture that is very, very close.  It’s a “Red Shouldered Hawk” common to the Northeast, the right size and coloring (except for the beak) and since it didn’t make any noise in the almost 6 minutes it hung around, I couldn’t verify that is made a “kee-aah” noise (all of this identifying information came from the page that came up when I clicked on the picture.  Strangely, when I clicked on a sound clip of this hawk’s call, it didn’t sound much like “kee-aah” at all, it was more like a bird noise.)  I just needed to clear up the beak color thing.  Scrolling through about a thousand more pictures, I finally found another picture and this one had a yellowish beak.  Ta-Da!  By the way, I couldn't find the book without actually getting up.

I just saw a Red Shouldered Hawk.  I am cool.

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