Harris hawk

We had a visitor yesterday morning. The animals were nearly finished and we were going outside to see to our pig and chickens. My husband spotted him first, perched on a low branch of a tall tree by the old coach road. He was looking in our direction and initially I thought he was one of the local buzzards that we see flying over on a regular basis. He looked different though and later, from the photographs that I took, I was able to identify him as a Harris hawk. From what remained of the jesses on his legs, an escape artist into the bargain.

I handed hubby the pitchfork and jug of corn I had been carrying before rushing indoors to grab my camera. Heart pounding, I knew the chances of  him still being there when I got back were slim. However, it seemed to be my lucky day, as I crept back as unobtrusively as possible and took a few shots from over my husband’s left shoulder. I don’t have a long lens for wildlife and I could see the images were small and lacking in detail, but I would have been proud of them if it had all ended there.

I decided to risk spooking him and walked a bit closer, taking photographs every few yards. He didn’t seem to mind, so I pushed my luck and eventually reached the edge of the lawn. The pictures were looking a lot better now, but he was still higher than me. I needed a better viewpoint and I found one in the remains of the muck heap that was in the process of being cleared.

All the trips with the wheelbarrow had left the area ankle-deep in mud and very slippery. In spite of the bird being only a few yards away by now, I had to keep flapping my arms around to keep my balance. He didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Eventually I found myself on top of the heap and only six feet from his branch. I looked up and couldn’t quite believe that he was still there. I raised the camera and rattled off some more shots and he never even blinked. After that, I was able to take my time and wait for better poses. At one point he flew down to the ground before returning to his perch.

Later on I was sorting through the RAW files when I spotted the straps around his legs. I rang the local wildlife rescue centre, who sent someone out almost immediately. She arrived about an hour later, armed with a bowl full of frozen day old chicks. By that time there was no sign of our visitor on his original branch, although a large bird of prey could be seen soaring over the fields next door. This morning I put the now thawed chicks out in our fields and soon I must go and see if they have been eaten. I’m hoping Tweedy will be back again one day, but if not, we know he stands a good chance of doing well in the wild. He also left us with some wonderful memories and a few stunning photographs.


Harris Hawk1

Harris Hawk2

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