I worked 35 years in the weekly newspaper business, 10 in Coushatta and 25 here in Winnfield. It was only during the last four and a half years that I wrote my “Window on Main Street” column. I enjoyed it as much as anything I’d done in my newspaper career and got more reader feedback for it. I credit longtime parish librarian Mary Doherty for encouraging me to write a personal column, one about observations and people rather than issues and politics. The first was April 7, 2004, the day after Diane and I marked our 40th anniversary. The final, entitled “Closing the Drapes,” was October 1, 2008, when I retired. I’ve been silent since but thought that our local community might enjoy as an alternate to their steady media diet of COVID-19 updates. Here we go again:
Here’s a little report we’ll call “Hawks.” One of the aspects we enjoy about our home is the back patio, especially after recently investing in re-grouting the 50-year-old brick area then sealing it. When you look skywards, an open canopy of pines forms a round frame for the blue above. The towering trees are like a circle of sentinels who have set up guard around us. Some time back I thought it would be neat to name these massive pines for our family members. The grandkids are in the back yard for our direct viewing from the patio. When the weather is good, Diane and I will go sit by the wrought iron table out there with some chips and salsa or homemade hummus. Or we just sit in the tranquility while Diane works crosswords. There will be Adam and Caleb and Lydia and Silas pines, as strong as ever. Over by Chris’ room we see Chris with Sarah right behind. Straight out of Laura’s room is Laura, with Jason off to the left between two oaks. Now politically speaking, Jason should have been a tree to the right of Laura but none was available. Bob and Diane plus the World War II generation are on the front side of the house, completing the family circle.
That’s the background. This story concerns the Laura pine. For several weeks now, we have been enjoying watching as a pair of red-tailed hawks is nesting, working on their spring brood, not in the least bit concerned about the current virus that has the world’s attention. I don’t know that we noticed any of the nest-building activity. Apparently, red-tailed hawks may build several nests and not necessarily return to the same one each year. It appeared that a brood that hatched in our neighborhood last spring came from the tallest pine in the back of Shirley Walsh’s yard across the creek. The young birds were noisy as they worked to figure out this flying thing (“fledgling”) on their early outings from the nest. Back to this season, I watched one afternoon as three hawks circled over Ellen Russell’s house, sometimes in close encounters. I’m not sure if that might have been two male suitors, the loser heading elsewhere, the winner coming to our yard. While we always hear hawk activity in the neighborhood, it seemed as if we were hearing, then seeing more in the uppermost fork in Laura’s trunk. We looked more carefully and finally determined that a group of sticks and limbs was the visible portion of the nest. Once in a while we’d see a little motion, a head or a wing, confirming this as the hawk nest. Activity has increased as the family progresses. Quieter hawk talk from the nest. Bolder hawk response from afar. Then closer. Then the male arrives, sometimes with an obvious meal like a snake in his beak. Now the female is more active, sometimes standing on the edge of the nest with her head focused on what’s inside. I can’t say if she’s turning eggs over or taking care of eyas (new word for me). According to the internet, incubation takes a month so I’m guessing we’re still seeing the egg stage. Once the chicks arrive, it’ll be another 48 days of patio-watching before the young venture out. That will be some entertainment when they do.
We’d like believe that we’ll be past this virus-watch before we wrap up our hawk-watch. We hope everyone is getting along as well as possible during this historic stay-at-home episode of history.