Wednesday evening, I was sitting at my desk composing a sentence in my head and idly watching the ducks dancing the jut-neck huffy, when I became aware of this odd whistling sound and then a frantic, high-pitched scream. I muted the television, on for background noise only, and listened–and heard it again.
I returned my attention to the scene outside in time to see this huge bird land in the pine tree. I grabbed the binoculars and ran to the patio.
It was too early for the owls to be out, and that blob of feathers sitting on the limb was a red-tailed hawk. Just as I found him through the glasses, the bird left its perch and flew over the pond, circled back and swooped low toward my ducks.
It was an amazing sight. Tail fanned, broad wings cupped to slow his speed, legs outstretched with talons at the ready–all aimed at Downy’s innocent back.
Not knowing what to do, I stood frozen in place, a large redheaded statue watching in terror as the claws neared the beige feathers of the brood’s youngest duck.
Then he saw me and veered up. The sound of his wings slapping the air was audible as he rose in front of me and swept toward the sweetgum tree by the road.
I saw where he landed and fixed my binoculars on him. Below him, and several feet away from me, the ducks seemed to have forgotten their near tragedy. They nipped each other playfully, huffed amicably and nibbled their way down to the pond. Hidden in the leaves of the gum tree, the raptor watched, cocking his head as if sizing up his prey.
He watched them; I watched him and wondered, what was he afraid of? What considered him prey or easy pickings? What could scare a predator that size?
A crass call to my right answered my question.
A male bluejay landed above the bird, eyeing him. It was almost comical watching this three-ounce bundle of color stare fearlessly down at a bird that must’ve outweighed him by eight to ten pounds. Then, in a flurry of motion, the jay fluttered upward, turned, and dove at the larger bird.
I expected a fuss, a ruckus, an aerial dogfight which would end with the jay turning tail and running on the wind. But to my amazement, it was the hawk that took flight without even a peck or a jab. Just a long scream as he flew over the pond, over the forest and away from my sight.
And my sweet little idiot ducks splashed in the water, taking their evening baths, without a word of thanks or a second thought to how close they’d come to being another bird’s supper.