Monday, June 20, 2011

Wild Wildlife: Urban Predation Remembered

In June of 2009, when I was still living in Boston, I was walking to the Forest Hills T station when I saw a red-tailed hawk (one of several in the area) perched on a streetlight and devouring a newly-caught pigeon. It was a gruesome but impressive sight, and since I had my camera with me…

[sepia-toned to reduce the ickiness]

Much as I love pigeons, I can’t help but like the hawks too—just as I like any bird that has managed to adapt itself to the surroundings we’ve created out of its habitat. Mind you, the hawks spent a lot of time in the nearby Arnold Arboretum, perching majestically on the branches of tall trees, plunging like bolts of lightning into the brush after squirrels, and swooping through the reeds of the marsh, making the song sparrows and redwings pause in their territorial trilling. But they also spent a lot of time atop the weathervane on the T station, or hanging out on lampposts as if they were waiting for a bus, keeping a sharp eye on the flocks of pigeons that gathered to enjoy the delights of dropped commuter breakfasts and snacks.

I liked to see them there, even if it meant occasionally seeing them disembowel a pigeon. It reminded me that an urban landscape is still a landscape and that it’s navigated by more than just humans. It’s fun to feel you’re part of a larger ecological community—especially, I should stress, when you know that nothing else in it is capable of preying on you.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Tara Steffen Fotos said...

I have blog spot as well for my photography site. I would love to see your pictures enlarged. I downloaded the new blog editor and now I can blow mine up quite nicely.


biobabbler said...

yes, yes. LOVE that reminder that, oh, yeah, we're on a planet. And paved or not, some of it is still LIVING, irrespective or our to do lists and cars and clothing stores. That's a reason I love wacky, amazing, scary weather. Reminder that we = small.

Years ago I was walking along the San Diego River (will NOT call it a "flood control channel"--it's a RIVER, at times cement-sided, or not) with my husband. There was a row of pigeons perching on the chain link fence on our right, on our left was the river & ducks & shorebirds, straight ahead was a bridge crossing the river.

ANYhow, too-dle-oo, dee-tee-dum walking, looking at ducks to the left, the ground, etc., and SWOOP! A PEREGRINE FALCON BUZZES us from left to right, flies mere FEET in front of us (so I could CLEARLY see the yellow skin around its eyes) and BAM, HITS a pigeon in an EXPLOSION of feathers (and panicked pigeons), and arcs back to its (apparent) perch/starting position, the side of the bridge, quarry in talons.

THOUGHT I'd have a heart attack. Much feather plucking and downy flurries then ensued.

One of the best wildlife moments of my entire life. AWEsome. Suck to be that pigeon, but WOW.

WOW! ps that was SO sweet of you to go sepia! =)

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