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A while back I came up on a hawk who appeared to have caught something. Then suddenly there was a blur, some thrashing, and here’s what I saw when I got to it. In wrestling, we would call that a reversal. Who’s the boss now? I decided to break it up for the good of the hawk. Both of those guys help keep the rodent population down and the snake couldn’t eat the hawk. It seemed a needless death to me.
This is just a re-visitation of a much older post someone recently asked me to find. Click the photo for the link.
Some thoughts occurred recently while looking through some of my wildlife photos. Especially how so many creatures really “fit” in their surroundings.
I realize it is mostly for defense (or sometime offense) but it just makes more apparent how poorly most of us humans seems to fit our surroundings. We want to distance ourselves from dirt and sand and smells of nature and cover our scents with industrial chemicals and our flesh with cheap, poorly made clothes.
I currently live in a fairly harsh place; a marginal land overrun with industrial agriculture. A land of extremes where creatures are in constant struggle for water or food. Yet we survive, and hopefully learn to harmonize and not run counter to the way of the earth.
Our second week on the Portland area was primarily spent north of the Columbia River in Washington State. Battle Ground, Vancouver, and a trip to Mount St Helen’s. Although it was hot and dry most of the time, it was a relief after spending months in the Southwest on archaeological excavations.
I was fortunate enough to see an amazing wildlife battle yesterday evening. It was life at its rawest on the Llano Estacado. I wanted to be an impartial observer but, being human, I stepped in and intervened. I live in a rural area with a lot of wildlife including many raptors and snakes. It is not uncommon to see a hawk swoop down and catch a rabbit, rat, mouse, or lizard. I was heading home to eat so I wasn’t too concerned with watching when a large hawk landed hunched over some prey out in the scrub. I went past to check our back gate and came back the same way a minute later. I saw the hawk was hopping around and it looked like it was fighting something. Due to the brush and growing darkness I couldn’t tell what it was fighting with but wanted to have a closer look. There was a split second of frenzied activity and suddenly the hawk was flipped onto its back on the ground. Luckily, I had a camera so I was able to snap off this shot.
She looks shocked! I would have had a hard time believing it had I not seen it. A relatively small snake was all over the hawk and choking the life out of it. It was dark and my initial thought was that it had been bit by a prairie rattler. The hawk’s beak was open, eyes bulging and obviously gasping for air. Closer inspection showed the snake to be a gopher snake, and net even a very big one.
My presence was obviously upsetting everybody and there was more thrashing. The snake was able to hide under the feathers pretty effectively. I wanted to just grab the snake and unwind it but images of being bitten or clawed by a frightened hawk kept me at a little distance. Not sure what to do next I was able to call someone down to give me hand.
Can you see terror in her eyes? At this point I was pretty sure the hawk was done for as the snake had three coils around its neck. So, I could let it die and have one less chicken killer around or save her to help keep down the rodent population.
Anyway, it was a wordy story. I have spent a lot of time outdoors and seen many interesting animal behaviors but nothing like this before.
I took this photo last week. I didn’t have a telephoto and I was just shooting some wider overviews. This was mid-afternoon with the sun at her back.
Not that dramatic with the world of exciting media but I was glad to get this. I had to walk up on her slowly and hoped to not spook her out. Not as sharp as I would wish but I had nothing to brace against an she was farther than it looks here. I was using a 18-55 mm zoom on a digital SLR.
I took this photo about two years ago. It is an amazing and enormous caterpillar on a willow shoot. It was longer than my finger and I think it is a Luna Moth.