Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Visitor From Mother Nature

We recently had an unexpected visitor who caused quite a stir.  Turns out it had a story.

While feeding the horses one day, our neighbor came walking over and told me about a small hawk attacking him that morning.  As he was walking to his  mail box,  the hawk swooped down and hoovered over his head.

A sparrow hawk pays us a visit

My neighbor, alarmed of course, waved the bird off, but it kept coming back again and again as though attacking his head.   These "attacks" happened every time he walked through the pasture and also in and around his barn.

A few days later, I was walking through the pasture near my  neighbors fence, looking for a shoe my horse had thrown.  I walked along, scanning the grass with my head down.  Suddenly, I felt something grab my hair.  I immediately guessed what it was and instinctively waved my arms over my head to shoo away the "attacker".

When I ventured a look, I saw a small hawk fly away and land onto a nearby tree-top, staring back at me intently.  As I watched him, he prepared for another descent, straight at me.  I ducked and waved as he came over me, only inches away from my head.

This "attack" continued until I beat a retreat back to the barn and away from the fence.  The bird  flew away into a clump of trees over in my neighbors yard.

The hawk continued his daily attacks on my neighbor as he made his customary trip down through his pasture to check the mail box.  It was a puzzle.  Was the bird protecting a nest?  It's late fall and nesting season is long past.

My neighbor called the Florida Fish and Wildlife office to get some help and information. The agent was baffled and said he'd never heard of hawks attacking humans repeatedly, unless there was a nest. He said it was possible for young hawks to get confused and try to build a nest in the fall.  The behavior described sounded like nest protection, so this seems the only logical explanation.

The agent, using a photo emailed to him, identified the bird as a Kestrel Hawk (or Sparrow Hawk). The birds are protected and we wouldn't want to kill it anyway, but something had to be done.  I could avoid the area, but my neighbors were being attacked in their barn as well as out in the pasture.

The agent said the options were limited.  If they picked up the bird and relocated it, it would just come back.  We could look for a nest and get permission to remove it and hopefully solve the behavior problem.

When the bird attacked while the neighbor's wife was holding her new-born baby, that was the final straw.  Something had to be done.

Sparrow Hawks don't build nests.  They use tree hollows, abandoned nests, and they even lay eggs on the ground.  There's an old horse trailer in my pasture near the area of the bird attacks, so we thought we should check to see if the nest was in it.

What happens next?.....

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