Close Call #1 of 2009. HAWK!!!

Copyright: S.Halpin/

Last nights temperatures dipped into the 30’s and all day today the highs did not reach the 60’s. Though these temperatures are not anything to cause concern, South Florida Purple Martins still face thier own set of challenges. Today was a prime example.

The 7+ birds that I estimate are here so far, were subdued and quiet. All morning, till about noon, they sat on the gourd rack with feathers fluffed and wings hanging low. Backs to the sun and beaks to the wind. They seemed to know better than to waste energy foraging for insects that would not be found. Even the Mockingbirds were eating berries off of the Sabal Palms. The Purple Martins are not so lucky to have such an option. So instead they sat, and sat, and waited. Eventually they ventured out but by 4PM they were already making their way back as if giving up in defeat to resume the same posture they had adopted in the morning hours. The few pair bonds that have formed, were huddled close at times. At other times they would enter the gourds together, as if to seek a warmer spot within. Eventually many of them just sat on the gourd rack. Waiting patiently for the day to end and the next challenge in their lives to begin. Little did they know the next challenge would take form of a feathered predator.

Being a typical South Floridian, the temperatures outside curbed my usual observations of my colony. Instead I took up the hunkered over posture that had my husband offering me Geritol. We happened to be talking about the birds and we both looked out just in time to see all the martins fly off in alert mode. A large red-tailed hawk followed in pursuit. Just as fast, I was out the door. Taking on the role of Purple Martin flock member, I ran out into the backyard and saw the hawk land in a tall pine tree next to my property, about 60 feet or so away from the Purple Martin housing. The martins were flying about, yet quiet in their concern, saving energy perhaps? Maybe they were just watching to see what the strange human that ventures so close to them was doing. I could not let them down. They were all watching me. The hawk included. So I did what any red blooded Purple Martin Landlord would do. I ran out to the tree in a clumsy lumbering gait. Semi- disabled by the frigid 56 degree temperatures. Partially twisting my ankle, I ran towards the tree and the hawk flew off in partial disgust, and partial amusement. The martins circled over me. A quiet nod of understanding and new found appreciation, I think I sensed. Then they landed. Backs to the sun and beaks to the wind, feathers fluffed and wings hanging low. Waiting for the next challenge.

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