Birds of prey have been appearing and soaring and flapping around me so much this past week that I have to think they’re trying to make a point. I searched ‘significance of birds of prey’ on the internet (this site was the most interesting I found) and what’s been happening recently definitely feels meaningful. Tell me these encounters in my city of over 90,000 people aren’t wild!
Yesterday, within an hours time from when I took Rufus on an early afternoon walk, I had 4 raptor sightings. I watched one hawk hovering in the same spot high up in the sky. A few blocks later I spotted another one sitting in a tree near the river. I filmed the video above catching this red tail hawk fly from one branch to another. About 10 minutes later, as I neared the house, I saw another huge hawk – more than 18 inches long sitting in the big sycamore tree across from our house. Shortly afterwards, Molly and I sat talking in the living room over coffee when her gaze shifted outside. Balanced atop our hedge was what we think is a sparrow hawk. We watched it eyeing the bird feeder and Molly spotted two squirrels flattened against the trunk of the maple tree looking very nervous. It hung around for minutes, moving on to a branch not far from the squirrels before moving on.
Yesterday was incredible but not quite as amazing as my two experiences with another recent visitor(s?) earlier in the week.
It was still dark when I heard Rufus’s muffled bark summon me for a dawn walk. I got out of bed reluctantly and bundled up in a sweater over my pjs, a scarf looped around my neck, a wooly hat and a puffy coat. In the breezeway I shuffled out of my slippers into ugly old clogs I only wear for short dog walks. I opened the door and Rufus pulled, hoping to catch sight of a squirrel or the resident rabbit so he could bark and wake all the neighbors.
No barking this morning. We meandered down to the end of the driveway, me carefully stepping between rotting crabapples. The sky bloomed pink in the east and the blurry softness of grays and blacks of the small wooded area came into focus. I was mid-yawn as a large bird flapped by so close I could hear a whoosh of wings. It landed on a low branch not ten feet away from where it sat and stared at me.
Holding my breath, I stared back. An owl! Rufus was quiet. I whispered – hello you gorgeous creature, almost feeling an impulse to bow to its magnificence! My heart beating double pace with the thrill, I tried not to blink lest I miss a moment, my vision and mind still fuzzy in the dawn light. After what felt like minutes but still too short, the owl lifted off and flew a few yards to the mulberry tree, attention back to its hunt, head turned towards a scrubby corner of my yard. But for those few minutes it had stared directly at me. I felt like it wanted to tell me something. I watched until it lifted off and out of sight, marveling how such a large body can be moved through the air on wings.
The next day at dusk, still early by the clock, maybe 5 PM but in December that’s almost dark, Rufus pulled on the blanket I cuddled under with my book, an insistent request for a walk. So we repeated the ritual – this time dressed slightly more acceptably to be seen in public. We made it to the middle of the driveway when I looked to the left and froze. An owl was watching me. Again, I gazed back as if we were picking up on an unknown conversation. The same owl? I don’t know! Molly was working up in her room and I looked down long enough to text her to come out quickly. She quietly crept out of the house and joined me. The owl stared at us both and we whispered our wonder back and forth. She captured the photo above.
Meeting wildlife in my city neighborhood can feel like gentle prods into a spiritual place but these recent ones are like more substantial kicks! What am I missing? What should I know? Pay attention to? Face-to-face with owls twice in two days? And all those other raptors practically following me around? Magical and uncanny. I’ve had other creature encounters – like my morning meet-ups with a fox a few years ago that I wrote about here. And this is Molly’s second owl visit this year – her previous one in LA that I wrote about here. Maybe Neil is checking in on us again? I can’t yet report on any insight from these extraordinary visits other than an incredible joy and awe. What do you think? I’ll claim them as harbingers of a rich and wise new year. And I wish the same to you!