juvenile coopers hawk in the grass The Saga
Rufous and Henrietta Hawk

Chapter 14

The Predator-in-Training

July 16

Just when we think Slats is gone for good, he shows up again. This morning we could hear him calling "Peee-yuuu" from the cypress tree. Jay and I went outside and talked to him. He hopped about in the tree, while we snapped some more photos. When Jay walked away, Slats peered through the branches to see where he had gone.

Slats in the Cypress Tree
Slats in the Cypress Tree.

A few minutes later, as I was leaving for the office, I could hear Slats crying pitifully. "Peee-yuuu! Peee-yuuu!" He had flown up to the nest and was begging for one more hand-out. Will he get another free meal? Or will Rufous and Henrietta decide it’s time for “tough love?”

July 18

Our new next-door neighbors are Italian. Nicole and Antonio have a beautiful little two-year-old named Gianna. Nicole tied a bird feeder in the cypress tree to entertain the little girl, and I watched from the loft window, thinking maybe Slats was watching it too. So far, the feeder has attracted only squirrels, as the bird population in this part of the neighborhood has been pretty much zeroed out by Rufous’ and Henrietta’s hunting over the past few months.

I noticed two squirrels chasing each other around the base of the tree. Then, out of nowhere, Slats swooped down and almost caught one of the squirrels! He surely does seem to have an appetite for squirrel! If only he would wait until one of the agile creatures is hanging upside down siphoning seed out of the bird feeder, then maybe he would have a better chance.

July 23

This morning I received an email from Bob, a neighbor who lives across the canal from us. Jay and I have known Bob through three generations of dogs, the latest being a fluffy white dog named Marshall. Bob, who has also been interested in the progress of the hawks, reported that the P.I.T. (predator-in-training) was wreaking havoc all along the canal. He observed Slats pursuing two birds into a tree; then the birds flew out again and one dropped down into the canal. Go for it, Slats!

As I arrived home from work, I saw Bob across the canal, and he was waving his arms and pointing skyward. I looked up, and there was Slats, perched on top of our chimney.

July 27

This evening I saw Peter and Sprocket sitting on the canal wall, so I went over to chat with them. Peter, in his delightful Scots accent, said that he had seen Slats go after a squirrel. "I think 'e got 'im. I'm pretty sure 'e 'ad 'im." What a hunter!

August 1

All is quiet in Valley Ranch. Slats is gone. At ten weeks, he is big enough and has the skills to make it on his own. Now, in search of food, he has flown far from the familiar surrounds of his nest tree.

As for Rufous and Henrietta, having finished their job, they moved on weeks ago to find better hunting. Mates for life, the hawk couple may return next year to once again raise a family in the diverse, urban community of Valley Ranch.

I listen once again for the cry of a young hawk, and hear only cicadas. But wait… I hear another sound that I haven’t heard for awhile – the song of a mockingbird.

The End