Here in Tennessee the redbuds are in bloom. I saw some toothwort and trillium. I need to walk in the woods, for I am certain the the bloodroot and trout lily have flowered. The dogwoods see about to pop.
Epiphany of Angel Wings
Two days after the Equinox I walked the circuit at Coolidge Park and saw the mundane transformed. I stopped to look out over the Tennessee River and hear the waves lap the shore.
As a flock of pigeons flew from the bridge to the trees above, I noticed another bird moving fast behind them. The thought of hawk surfaced in my mind. Then I thought of how many people mistake doves for hawks, I have witnessed them do so, and the bird seemed too small for a hawk, both Red-tailed Hawk and Red -shouldered Hawks would be larger.
My usually present binoculars were in the car, and so I thought I would wait to
make a definite call. The bird flew straight at me, always a difficult angle to judge shape and size for identification.
The creature lifted toward the trees. Viewed from below, it revealed the short wings, long tail, and light underparts of a young cooper’s hawk. It alighted in a tree and sat for several minutes, surveying the land below.
Unlike the Red-tailed Hawk, the Coopers is not designed for soaring over field and farm in search of mice, or even working the water lowlands like a Red-shouldered Hawk. These two belong to the family of hawks known as Buteos. (For details on hawk identification, see the web page of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary http://www.hawkmountain.org/raptorpedia/how-to-identify-hawks/page.aspx?id=353)
The Coopers Hawk is an Accipiter, related to the Sharp-shined Hawk and that magnificent bird of prey, the Goshawk, recently brought to public attention by Helen McDonald’ book H is for Hawk .
The Coopers Hawk is designed for short bursts of flight through forests and between tree branches in pursuit of other birds. Its presence explains the hurried flight of the doves.
Soon the bird was off, flying parallel to the shore before a change in course took it back over the water. The change in course left the bird indelibly imprinted in my mind.
First, the wings beat faster and it seemed to hover in place. I have heard hawks call when undertaking such a maneuver, but this one remained silent. Then the wings, backlit by the sun became translucent.
March has turned cool and blustery here in Chattanooga. The Redbuds bloomed early and now the petals seem to shiver on the branches. The toothwort and trillium cover the ground and likewise seem to shiver. These blossoms respond more to day length than to temperature, hence the noted cold snaps with plants in bloom known respectively as Dogwood Winter and Blackberry Winter. Cold enough and the blossoms fade without seed or fruit, but usually they hang on through cold and wind. Now the dogwoods are opening.