A few years ago during the dove season I called the game warden about a confused young female hawk. There is a meadow were Sulfur Creek and Barton Creek join and dove hunters gather there every year to shoot the small birds. Now I don’t hunt, but I understand why we need hunters and know that lots of people enjoy hunting. It takes quite a bit of skill to hit a fast flying dove with a shotgun blast.
This particular spring, a pair of young red-tailed hawks had picked the big walnut tree on Sulfur Creek to build their first nest. Now I am speculating that one of the pair was the young hawk we had seen with its parents the season before or that they were a pair just setting up housekeeping, but humor me please. We really enjoyed watching the pair of them soaring around the trees along Barton Creek. There was also a decline in the number of rat sightings at the old dump up the road. One afternoon one of the crew got chased away from the nest tree by one of the hawks so we speculated that they were sitting on eggs.
The day the hunter were out, the hawks were too. The female didn’t realize what the hunters were up to and when she saw a dove obviously in trouble, she went after it. The hunter let her have one, but when she went for a second dove, he shot at her and winged her. One of the neighbors had been watching them also and saw the male escort her back to a large nest up the creek. Hawks mate for life and seem to care for each other. She could fly a little, but was obviously hurt. I was very angry because I had seen the bird shot so I called the game warden.
Grover Simpson was warden for this area then. He came out and sat on my porch to watch the hunters. He went down later to talk to them, but of course the hawks stayed away so no one else got shot. He was interested in checking their guns since it sounded like too many shots too close together, but it was just several hunters shooting. They denied shooting the hawk and since the bird had flown away, he had to take their word on it.
In case you weren’t aware of it, all predatory birds are protected. Hawks eat lots of rabbits, rats and snakes so they are a valuable critter to have around. Yes, I know they will occasionally eat a chicken or a kitten, but the mainstay of their diet is wild critters. I saw one once over by the Hill Ranch with a very large rattlesnake in its claws. It had killed the snake and was having quite a time carrying it off. Shooting a hawk and getting caught can cost your quite a few dollars.
I have a special fondness for hawks. I don’t really know why except for when I hear a hawk cry on the wing, I get goose bumps all over. If any sound could be described as free, that to me is the sound of freedom, the cry of a hawk on the wing.
Lots of things make noise here along Sulfur Creek. We had problems with the crew when we first moved out because of the night birds, but that’s another story.