Friday, December 12, 2008

Hawkish gaze

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 2:42 PM

Juvenile red tail hawk

Juvenile red tail hawk

The stare

The stare

While walking my dog Chuck in the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary yesterday afternoon around 4, we nearly walked smack into this juvenile red tail hawk, which appeared to have a broken wing. It was perched on a fallen branch, staring at first me, then Chuck but not moving an inch. I sat cross-legged not four feet from the beautiful creature and stared right back.

I spent the next hour trying to reach someone via cellphone who could come to the poor raptor's aid, to no avail. Two messages left at the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center were not returned. A friendly woman working dispatch for the APD tried to find someone at HSU who could assist, but no one had shown by 5, at which point it was starting to get dark.

Eventually, the bird got tired of staring at me and Chuck and the assortment of astonished passers-by who had gathered, and he (I think it was a he) started hopping down the trail. By jumping awkwardly from branch to branch, he made his way up into a tree, then flew/fell into the underbrush. Dusk had settled, and I could no longer see him.

I'm not sure why it was so difficult to get help for injured wildlife while sitting in a wildlife sanctuary in one of the country's most eco-friendly communities. I'd been warned against handling it myself, though he sure would have been easy to catch.

When I got back to the office, I searched for the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center Web site and came across this , which appears to be a Japanese site advertising dental implants. According to Babel Fish, it offers "in plant remedy the artificial dental root of titanium ... on that of the pad in the bone of the jaw which is inside the gum."

Doesn't help the hawk much. I'm not sure what will become of him, though imminent death is probably a good bet. For my part, it was an amazing hour. Birds, unlike mammals, don't seem to communicate much with their eyes -- to me, at any rate. The hawk didn't appear to be attempting to communicate with me telepathically, and I don't think we connected on a soul level or anything like that. But the fact that he sat so close to me for so long -- that's clearly not normal behavior for a hawk, and I couldn't help interpreting that as a call for help.

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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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