Tuesday, February 8, 2011
R is for RAPTOR
The Rogue Speaks:
Well, it's Thursday already somewhere in the world, and time for Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday. Since the weather is beginning to warm, and my dog-children are anxious to get out back and lie in the sun, I thought I would treat you to one of the hazards of desert life--raptors!
You will note that I said "raptor" and not "rapture." I'm not quite ready for that just yet. And this isn't Jurassic Park, either--no velociraptors--just plan old everyday birds of prey.
Arizona boasts the most diverse selection of raptors in the continental United States. We have hawks, eagles, falcons, kites, owls, vultures, condors, and host an occasional visit by other birds of prey that just pass through on their way to their home in Mexico.
In Honey Bee Canyon, less than five miles from our house, one can find petroglyphs depicting Great Horned Owls who have made the canyon their home for hundreds of years. They are a little camera-shy, so I don't have many photographs of them, but they are there, nevertheless.
I frequently see hawks on our golf course. It's a virtual Hometown Buffet for them! The rabbit population explodes every spring, and the hawks get fat and sassy over the summer. Hawks also love Gambel Quail, whose babies are the size of walnuts--only an appetizer for a hungry hawk. I have seen hawks sitting on a branch working on a fresh kill. The Great Horned Owls like to take their catch to a nearby roof-top to dine.
The Red-tail Hawk in the painting above has an interesting story. She lives in the care of Raptors, Inc., a non-profit that rescues birds of prey that have been injured, with the goal of eventually setting them free and back into the wild. This particular lady lives with them permanently because she is blind in one eye. Birds frequently have mites in their feathers, and when they scratch with their talons, occasionally they will put their own eyes out.
No small animal is safe from the grasp of a raptor, and pet owners have to be very careful about letting their animal children outside. I kept finding owl feathers in our ramada, and convinced Rod that we should screen it in to protect our Precious girl, who was very small and very vulnerable. He readily agreed when we went out to have our coffee in the ramada one morning, and found a juvenile Great Horned Owl sitting up in one corner. He stayed with us while we drank our coffee, and Rod realized just how vulnerable Precious really was. Little Lizzy is even smaller, weighing in at only 4 pounds, and we have to stay close by her when she goes outside the screened area.
Only this week, I was sitting outside with one of our dogs, Mulligan, when a large Red-tail Hawk came flying in from the west, across our pool. He had seen only Mulligan's head peeking around the corner of our house and was heading straight for it until Mulligan stepped out and revealed his true size. The hawk pulled up short and flew up and over our wall. Had it been Little Liz out there, I shudder to think what might have happened.
The Arizona Sonoran Desert is certainly a beautiful and peaceful place to live, but you have to be very careful. Between the cacti, the snakes, and the raptors, someone just might get hurt!!!