Raptor

Snowy_woodsA stormy sky morning, following a night of sleet, snow, and freezing rain. Now the temperature has risen above freezing so the trip to the office should be passable.

Mornings come much earlier now. We’ve gained more than 90 minutes of morning daylight since the solstice. Soon sap will begin rising in the maple trees and sugaring season will be upon us.

All winter we have noticed the remains of raptors alongside the highway; this is unusual. On Sunday we drove home from a visit with family. In the late afternoon, as we drove west, a large raptor swooped down and across the highway. It successfully negotiated the two southbound lanes, narrowly missed a collision with a car in the first northbound lane, then was struck broadside by the car ahead of us. Traffic was flowing along at about 70 MPH, and there was nothing anyone could do to avoid the collision.

The raptor crumbled into a ball of feathers with wings, tumbled through space, and crashed onto the roadway; then we were past it. We watched helplessly as these events unfolded, our hearts aching for all concerned.

Highways are marvelous hunting grounds for raptors and other predictors. We frequently notice hawks, and occasionally owls, sitting in trees, watching the landscape along the roadway. Broad highways provide an almost ideal interface between ecotones and are given to an abundance of small mammals, the preferred prey of many overwintering carnivores. They also come with very real hazards.

Driving the remaining miles home, we were reminded that whether we wish to, or not, and for better or worse, we humans have a great and lasting impact on our cousins in the natural world. Now that we have entered an age of chaos, in which the dark forces within humanity threaten to destroy much that nurtures and supports us, these impacts seem destined to increase.

In the few minutes I have been writing the sky has turned darker and more threatening, the early morning descending into a roiling mass of gray. The forecast is for clearing, but at the moment this change in weather seems distant.

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10 thoughts on “Raptor

  1. Very sad for the raptor, Michael. Yes, we humans destroy much for our natural living families. There are invented many great and useful things in our world, as cars etc. Unfortunately many animals pay with their lives for this.
    In Denmark, they have a problem with dead swans every day in a field. There are power lines for high voltage hanging over the field and the swans don’t fly to high, when they wake up, so they hit these power lines and fall down. Some need help to die after this. Very sad too. At least people talk about doing something to avoid this mass death, after the news have been writing about it.
    Enjoy your day!

    • Andy, there is something surreal in living here just now. It is as though there is no shared understanding of the world, as though we are two or more populations living in open conflict. We can’t even agree that the world is round. Change there will be, but what they will look and feel like is anyone’s guess.

  2. I have often seen raptors on highway edges, but only once seen merely one’s remains. I am amazed I don’t see more crow remains because they are often right in the middle of the road picking on some other roadkill. Here’s something I saw in my backyard a few days ago: a white tail deer with a missing tail. And a buck with only one antler.

    • Priscilla, I do see the occasional dead crow, but they are smart and do not depend on swooping for their carrion. There are good reasons so many Native people believe them, and ravens, to be sacred. Sounds like you were blessed by the deer, who had their own life stories to share!

  3. Hello Micheal, whenever I see an Owl sitting on a fencepost near the highway I know it will die. They wait for night and when a mouse is caught in the headlights they swoop. In Canada it is illegal to keep an Owl, Hawk or Eagle that has been killed by a vehicle. It must be turned over to the government and they are then passed on to First Nation communities for ceremonial or traditional dress purposes. It is sad, the highways have become the killing spots for such magnificent birds, and likewise, such a proud culture must accept them as gratuity. You wrote about entering into an age of chaos. I would say we entered into it long ago and must prepare to accept what it dealt. The highways have become common, we must get used to hunting on blacktop. Take care. Bob

    • Bob, thank you for this thoughtful comment. Yes, we have long been in chaos, although I was thinking primarily of the present phase of the 60 year cycle. So odd that the current government in the US makes your Conservatives look relatively sane.

      There are a few raptors who live near us, and have made a good living from our local highway for years. I wonder whether there is a steep learning curve. Anyway, such gifts as highways are always too sided. As to hunting on blacktop, that has long been a survival tactic in my extended family.

      It is illegal to keep raptor feathers here as well. I give them to enrolled friends when I can, knowing they will be put to healing uses. Yes, it is sad they become a gratuity. As I am not enrolled, it is best to send them along, after thanking them for their generosity.

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