I was hard at work this morning on my latest story when I heard a noise, a loud bang against a window screen. This happens sometimes when a bird flies into a window. The noise was repeated, which is unusual, because the birds usually figure the screen thing out pretty quickly. Bhikku (the dog) heard it too and we went downstairs to investigate. On the front porch, right in the middle, as if it might be waiting to be invited inside, was a hawk. It didn’t appear injured – its wing wasn’t dangling awkwardly – but what do I know about hawks? I opened the door to get a better look (the storm door was still between us and the hawk), and at the sight of my big brown Labrador retriever the hawk hopped off the porch and into the bushes. Yes, hopped. So something was wrong.
I left the house to go to the post office to mail off my latest futile submission to a magazine and when I returned, the hawk was perched on the porch railing. I came into the house through the garage and peeked out at the bird through the window, causing it to hop back into the bushes, where it stayed – visible, but out of reach. With my handy bird book I determined that this was a red-shouldered hawk, but that didn’t explain what it was doing on my porch.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley we have a wonderful resource: The Virginia Wildlife Center. It has a worldwide reputation and one of its tasks is to rescue wild animals. I gave them a call and they gave me a list of volunteers in my area who might be able to help. None of those people could do it. It was beginning to look like I might have to figure out how to do it myself and the woman who answered the phones started to explain to me how I might go about it. But then she thought of another volunteer I might call and when I reached him he came right over.
By this time the hawk had hopped further into the bushes. As we approached, it took off on a low, short flight onto my side porch, then turned another corner and went under my back porch. (What is this thing with porches?) We chased him out of there but when the volunteer tried to net the bird it headed back under the porch. Clearly it was a two-man job, so I wielded the net and Bob did the coaxing. Sure enough, the hawk ran right into the net.
The next step was to immobilize the bird and put it into a carrier for transportation to the Center. Since this had all happened fast, Bob did not yet have his gloves on, but he managed to do that while still holding the bird in the net, except the bird managed to snag his hand and Bob started bleeding. Furthermore, the hawk’s talons were caught in the net and it was my job to untangle things, which reminded me of old fishing trips when teeth and hooks would get caught in the net requiring careful extraction, with the risk of being barbed both. We got the bird out of the net and the next thing to do was to slip a nylon footie over its head and body, which also wasn’t easy. Bob then cut the foot off the footie to free the bird’s head, at which point the talons landed on Bob’s stomach. Ouch. Then we wrapped a bandanna over the bird’s head and body and secured it with gauze, which was handy because Bob was then able to use a bit of gauze to wrap his hand. Then we got the bird in the cage and the rescue was complete.
Apparently I will be hearing from the Center on Red Hawk’s progress and will be notified of his release back into the wild, which will be good news. Thanks to the Wildlife Center and to Bob!
Update 1/17/08: It turns out that Red Hawk, also known as Patient #08-036, is NOT a red-shouldered hawk but a Coopers Hawk, which is smaller and a whole other species.