Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 10, 2011

Tempus fugit

It happens — relentlessly, incessantly, without end, amen. Time flies. If you say it in Latin instead of English, it adds mystery to the already-inscrutable reality. Every good thing comes to a close.

A sigh escapes as I shake my head and wonder how it can even be possible. Only a few days remain in my assignment, and there are so many more raptor nests to visit. Dozens of remote locations to survey. More miles to hike. I’ll not come close to finishing it all, even if I had another month.

I’ve learned how to leave almost no trace when I hike in the backcountry. I’ve lost my fear of (and confusion about) using a GPS. I’ve found out how fully alive I feel when the cry of a Red-tailed Hawk pierces the sky above me. I’ve added a couple dozen bird songs to my ID repertoire. I’ve confronted my apprehensions about getting lost in the wilderness, and added “finding my way out” to my list of accomplishments. I’ve tracked the phenology of the seasons, from earliest spring blooms to midsummer barrenness. I’ve followed the life-and-death drama of a heron rookery, from nest-building through fledging. Too often to count, I’ve gone where I had never set foot before.

I am changed… and I am grateful.

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.

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