Sage and I were walking toward the refuge. Only a mile from the farm, the distance is just enough for the dog and I to have worked the kinks out of the legs before settling in for a good walk—that is saying more about me than Sage who is not quite of two years yet. We were a quarter mile from the farm, walking along our neighbor’s cornfield, when visited.
The harrier is not one of the largest hawks in the valley, but for its size it has a rather impressive wingspan. Males, gray in color, have a rounded shape tail with an unmistakable black band. Unlike many other birds, it is the female who is more colorful and attractive—to my eyes not the birds. Common to the farm, harriers like the low vegetation landscape that allows for a weaving pattern of low flight hunting. They are a great benefit to managing the vole population in the hay fields.
We walked the cornfield’s west end keeping fifteen feet between the nearest corn stalk and us. An early cool morning, the distance allowed us to walk in sunlight dropping off the cornfield’s edge. Sage kept her nose to ground picking up scents of last night’s nocturnal critters. She dashed in and out of cornrows, returning now and again questioning why I would not join in on the fun of following scent.
It was during one of those visits when a harrier dove off the cornfield edge and almost ran into us. Sweeping hard to the south, the hawk was close enough to detail feathers on its gray belly. I don’t know if hawks jump, but the waggle it made in it tough southerly turn seemed akin to the jump Sage and I made.
He quickly leveled out a few feet from the ground. Sage watched him for the full length of a moment and then ran off nose to ground. I took a breath.
In seconds the hawk was over the wild area it would take our non-flight legs to make. Banking to the west he circled to the north, crossing the winter feeding ground of a neighbor and a disced wheat field before heading south. Keeping five feet above the ground, he flew by a few feet off our right. As he slid by, there was the slightest twist of his owlish face. Perhaps it is a stretch, but I think not, we looked each other in the eye. Meanwhile, with nose to ground Sage was busy checking out a pile of crusted over coyote crap—with little less wonder than my own.
Dave, I really enjoy your writing. So close to the earth.
Bill P. NHCC
Thank you Bill!