Where has 2011 gone? I know, I know, for a big piece of it I was in a drug-induced stupor, more intense than my normal stupor. Looking back, there was a long time when holding a thought in my brain for more than a minute was impossible. And trying to hold two thoughts was even more impossible. But we're through that now, and I'm back to my normal bumbling self.
This past Saturday, I went out with my usual birding buddies at the Plains Center, and it was a spectacular morning. Because we have so many prairie dogs at the Center, we have lots of raptors. During the summer, raptors are busy building nests and feeding their nestlings and teaching the fledglings how to fly and hunt. And they defend a territory and drive off other competing raptors.
For instance a nesting pair of red-tailed hawks will drive off other red tails and any Swainson's or ferruginous hawks that wander through the area. It's fun to see them dive on each other and scream at them. But in the fall and winter, no one is nesting, so they tolerate other birds in their area.
As another example, bald eagles will defend an area roughly a mile in radius around their nest. At Barr Lake, where I used to volunteer, the nesting pair kept all other bald eagles off the lake during nesting season. This past month, someone counted 72 bald eagles on the lake. But, come February, the eagle pair will start their nest and mating activities and drive the other 70 off the lake.
So we counted three northern harriers, 7 red-tailed hawks, and 17 ferruginous hawks. In addition, we found four great-horned owls--we normally have only two in the area except when we have fledglings--and we were treated to five bald eagles, two white-headed adults and three mostly brown immature eagles with white markings on their underwings. And we were treated to watching one of the immature land in a cottonwood and munch on a prairie dog for his Sunday brunch. Nature's cycle in action.
Wow!! What a wonderful morning. Raptors are such strong fliers that they are beautiful to watch. And unlike sparrows and horned larks, they stay in sight much longer to allow one to admire them. I got home and was inspired to write a haiku about the birds:
masters of the knife-edged dive
stealthy silent death
I promise to write more poetry this year and share it with you here in my blog. I had a poem accepted by a brand new online poetry journal, Open Window. Here it is:
Last night, half an hour after sunset,
my dog barked me into the yard to play.
I looked up to see if bats were flying yet.
A few fluttered by in ones and twos.
I watched for a bit before I recognized
the loveliness of the evening light.
The sky shimmered, the luminescent sheen
of blue silk surrounding a Madonna's face,
wrapping her in a vibrant, holy light.
The sky held for a few moments, then
faded into a duller, sadder blue, finally
eclipsed by the gray of coming night.
I was reminded that beauty and sadness
are intertwined. Beauty awakens the soul
with wonder, but sadness must follow.
For the soul cannot bear for long
beauty's exquisite flood of joy.
I think I've gone on long enough now, so I'll close. A very happy new year to any and all of you who happen on my blog.