With the quieting of our city streets, I’ve been noticing the intensive activity of our urban bird neighbors, who have been courting, homebuilding and generally flying about with abandon as us humans slow down. Pigeons and robins abound, but twenty-five years ago Cooper’s Hawks began colonizing urban and suburban landscapes throughout the US, developing a tolerance for living in proximity to humans, including here in Seattle. Since 2012 Seattle’s Urban Raptor Conservancy has monitored the local Cooper’s Hawk population nesting density and annual nest productivity.
Earlier this year the Capitol Hill Library received a visit from one Ms. 7-R, a young Cooper’s Hawk who, in an encounter with some unruly crows, stunned herself against one of the large windows. Fearing for her life we contacted the Seattle Cooper’s Hawk Project and learned more details. Ms. 7-R was hatched and fledged from a nest in nearby Volunteer Park, and was likely to be now out exploring for mate and home of her own. Fortunately, she was only slightly stunned and soon flew off on her own. We later heard she had been sighted in March near Frink Park in Leschi still looking for Mr. Right. To hear the cry of the Cooper’s Hawk, and see more helpful ID and life history information check out The Cornell Lab All About Birds Website.
While I’ve been homebound, I’ve turned to reading obsessively about hawks, raptors and some of the other bird life around us. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve found in the library collection.
Falcon Thief: A true Tale of Adventure, Treachery and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer. The story of Jeffrey Lendrum, an obsessive birder who later turned to a darker pursuit – robbing the nests of endangered raptors of their eggs and selling the eggs and chicks on the black market to middle eastern falcon racers. You can catch a visual glimpse of this world of competitive falconry in The Challenge an elegant documentary by Yuri Ancarani, streaming on Kanopy.
In H Is for Hawk: A New Chapter available on streaming video, author Helen Macdonald seeks out and trains a new hawk after her Goshawk Mabel dies. These fierce hawks almost became extinct in Britain, but are now on the rebound. Readers flocked to her book H is for Hawk in 2014, and will now want to have her upcoming title, Vesper Flights on their “for later” shelf.
Read more generally about the birds around us in Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife by John M Marzluff. Many readers know Marzluff for his work with Crows and other Corvids, this book focuses our attention on how birds adapt to the human impacts of our crowded city environments.
World travel appears to be out of the picture for the time being, but you can read about it in Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, A Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World, by Noah K. Strycker. Try one of three raptor standards, Peregrine Spring: A Master Falconer’s Extraordinary Life With Birds of Prey by Nancy Cowan, chronicles the authors long involvement in falconry and raptor rescue.
Master storyteller T.H. White (of Once and Future King fame) recounts his intimate experience with “Gos”, a Goshawk he acquires and attempts to train to falconry in The Goshawk, or The Peregrine by J. A. Baker, a classic of British nature writing first published in 1967. Or watch, The Last Eagle Hunters on Streaming Video and follow the ancient tradition of the Kazakh golden eagle hunters.
Or if you like your falcons as metaphor, try The Maltese Falcon, the noir detective tale by Dashiell Hammett, rumbling with human greed and avarice, although the falcon here is only a decorative artifact not a living creature. Or The Falconer by Dana Czapnik, the coming of age story of a teenage basketball player growing up in the New York City of the 1990’s. Her falconer is a statue in Central Park, but also much more; a symbol of freedom, flight and return, something I appreciate in these earthbound days.
~ Posted by Kay K.