Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 6, 2011

Eyed by two Red-tails

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:59 pm
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Red-tailed Hawk (google image)

“Keeeeeeeer!”  The Red-tailed Hawk’s descending cry pierced my marrow and made my neck hairs stand on end. A gorgeous female and male circled directly above me, and I didn’t even need my binoculars to see their heads peering (glaring?) downward at us as we tried to sneak up the sandy wash. We froze and waited for them to move on, but I knew we were in their sights.

We had seen the female with nesting material in her beak twice in the previous 45 minutes; they like to adorn the existing nests with fresh greenery. This pair had co-opted a stick nest occupied last year by Great Horned Owls, and she was now adding her own personal touches to it. I had the privilege of watching her fly directly into the cliff hole with the branchlet, so I knew that had to be her address.

Trying to locate nesting hawks is a hit-and-miss proposition. Timing is everything, and patience is everything else. The red-tails are incubating this month, with hatches coming soon, so you have to be in the right place at the right time. It’s difficult to find a vantage point high enough to see into the nest cavity, but far enough away not to disturb them. I feel like a raptor spy.

This is one happy wildlife intern. Snow-capped La Sal Mtns in background, adding to happiness.

You know, the day couldn’t have been much finer. Sue and I never saw another human being, but a Scott’s Oriole sang to us at lunch and posed at the top of a near juniper. Pinyon Jays, the local avian gossips, followed our every move. Pieces of the finest chert, flakes discarded in the making of stone points, lay everywhere — as if to distract our eyes from the sky-gazing task. And the pair of Red-tails filling my binocular lenses? That’s what I get up for in the mornings.

April 8, 2011

RMVP

Chartreuse leaves have popped out on the sunny sides of the canyons!

“Resource Management & Visitor Protection” is such a mouthful that we’re often called just “RMVP.” Anything to do with keeping the park safe from the people, or the people safe in the park, falls within our department’s jurisdiction. This is different from “Interpretation,” the department for which I worked the past two seasons, whose job is to assist visitors to make intellectual and emotional connections with the resource. That job used skills that come very naturally to me. As I begin this new one, I am learning a lot of new skills all at once. It’s a wonderful feeling of being stretched.

The other day we monitored some riparian (“along a waterway”) trails and then hiked farther into the backcountry to look at historic nest sites of Golden Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and Red-Tailed Hawks. Of course, this is done while shouldering binoculars, camera, GPS, map, spotting scope, tripod, lunch, water, more water, bird book, sunscreen, field note folders, extra clothing layers, first aid kit, radio, and spare battery — at a minimum. I honestly feel as if I need a sherpa, but it is part of the Lean Mean Hiking Machine training regimen.

I’m typing this from the comfort of my bed at 6 a.m. the following day, knowing that I should be springing into action but finding that today my body doesn’t spring as readily as I had hoped. That will come… that will come.

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