In the pre-dawn hours, a violent storm washed across Dallas. Strong winds, whipping rain, and lightning slashed mercilessly through the countryside. At first light, I lay awake, wondering what has become of my hawk neighbors during the night. Is it possible that brave Henrietta has managed to cling to the nest and protect her family through such a tumult?
As soon as the coffee was brewing, I went out to survey the damage. Blue jays were screaming, and limbs were strewn across the lawn. In a small cypress tree, the one closest to the hawk nest, I spotted the menacing, hulking form of Rufous, challenging the jays. With binoculars in hand, I walked out to a point on the canal bridge where the nest is best viewed. There was no movement in the nest. Circling about the live oak tree, I could still see nothing. Rufous successfully routed the jays, and then -- silence.
But my concerns were all for naught. When I returned home in the afternoon, there was the great tail of Henrietta sticking out of the nest, and a bit of her head turning down to make sure some great new threat was not about to assail her.
It’s Saturday, and Jay and I were at the office working on mini-diplomas when Christi called. "Are you all right?" she cried. “"I just heard the Cowboys’ practice building was destroyed by a tornado!" She was pretty much right. We headed out in our truck to assess the damage, and their practice "bubble" was on the ground. The entire block surrounding Cowboy’s facilities was cordoned off, and media and emergency vehicles were everywhere. We would later learn that a microburst of winds about 75 mph had hit the facility, destroying it in seconds. Rookie training camp was taking place when the winds hit, and many people were inside the facility. It’s a miracle no one was killed, and only a few were seriously injured.
All around the Cowboys’ facility, trees were down, and large branches broken. Now, the big question for us was: What about the hawk nest?? Only about a mile away, our hawks had to weather this storm, tougher than any they had experienced before. As we drove up to survey the damage, we could see a large limb broken out of the hawk tree, but the nest was still intact. We could not see a hawk on the nest, but maybe one was hunkered down inside??
First thing, I walked out onto the canal bridge to take a look at the hawk nest. And there was Rufous, standing on the side of the nest! Henrietta’s head was peeking up out of the nest. Her handsome mate must have brought her breakfast. These are two tough birds, to weather such a storm!
Jay and I drove up together on Monday afternoon and slowed to get a view of the nest. Willie, one of the Valley Ranch maintenance chiefs, was across the street, looking up at the nest. We are encouraged to see that others in Valley Ranch think having hawk neighbors is really cool. While the three of us were talking about the hawks, Rufous flew up to the nest, and we watched to see what would happen. Rufous stalked about, and eventually Henrietta got up and flew out. We could see Rufous settling himself on the nest. While I have read that both male and female hawks share the duty of incubating the eggs, it was still gratifying to actually witness the changing of the guard. I wonder which one was on the nest during the big storm. Somehow I think it must have been stalwart Henrietta.
Continue to Chapter 6: Baby Chicks Hatch
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