On a beautiful not-to-long-ago evening I took a short walk to the river where I perched myself on the bridge to catch the sunset. Even on the river with his ever-moving water the surface was quiet, the evening sun washee the water and sky alike in pinks, lavenders and oranges. Somewhere along the shore of darkening tag alders and birch brush the frogs had started to serenade their hopeful mates, a lone Blue Heron patiently fished in the shallows, reflecting a perfect image in the mirror-like water and beneath me the swallows gathered in a silent assault of the new hatched insects. A lovely spot to recharge myself to a peaceful place.
Then I became distracted.
I was watching those aerial acrobats dancing to the music of the Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs as they caught those bugs, one after another, with such ease. A sudden dip. A sharp updraft with a port swing. Skimming an inch above the water then cruising up, only to reverse direction and snatch another unsuspecting insect as it drifted into the swallow’s radar. They veered left and right, up and down, close together or far apart. The mastery of the hunt was mind-boggling. Beautiful little flits of dark blue swimming in the sky so in tune with their environment they seemed not to be part of it but the sky itself. They were the hunters and they tracked down big bugs, little bugs, bugs on the water, bugs in the air; all caught with such ease it seems to not be a hunt at all.
One of those bugs, a mosquito garnered my attention as it bit me on the forearm, completely destroying my sunset induced nirvana, so I smacked it. But I missed. I couldn’t even hit one of those bugs that was just sitting still on my arm! Not moving! And Swallow made it look so easy.
I would like to be that good at something...anything. And while I was standing on that bridge I tried to think of something I was as good at as Swallow was dancing with bugs.
I’m still thinking…..
For birds of prey, spring is a time of bounty. The owls, hawks and eagle’s prey are at a disadvantage because leaves have not yet leafed and cover for is scarce. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year for guardians of small animal companions to keep an eye skyward.
There has been an increase in Hawks and owls taking small dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs due to a number of factors such as scarcity of natural prey, but also some raptors consider companion animals an easy target and as the raptors assimilate to the growing number of humans, they become less wary. It can also not be discounted that small companion animals may, from the bird’s perspective, be seen as a threat to the nesting site and chicks. Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk pose the biggest threat, though they are not the only ones.
Companions less than 20 lbs. are most at risk and there are several things one can do to protect them.
Do not let your companion unsupervised outside. This will stop some hunting attacks but not all. A Hawk, for example, has excellent eyesight, but not a very wide field of vision so once she has ‘painted’ a target she does not necessarily see an object 10 feet from the target.
Use the buddy system if you have more than one companion. Send the out in mass. Raptors of all kinds are less likely to be interested in a group of barking dogs.
Provide cover. Natural elements, such as bushes and shrubs, or manmade like a run with a covered roof, are deterrents for hunting raptors as they gage angles and success vs. injury.
Be aware of raptors in your area. Nesting sites are prime areas of concern for guardians, especially large birds of prey.
Yes, the little ones are in danger but try to remember raptors are not specifically after your beloved. They are only looking for a meal and, unfortunately, 10-15 lbs. that obliviously runs about in plain site is an attractive meal. In general, only 1 out of 10 hunts are successful for raptors. Owls and Hawks fall prey to guns, loss of habitat and poisoned by proxy by eating other animals that have been poisoned themselves.
While we all want to keep our companions safe, that doesn’t mean the birds are the enemies. They are just trying to make a living and keep their beloveds safe; so be vigilant when the little ones are outside and if there is an aggressive raptor in your area, call your local wildlife rehab center or DNR to find a solution.