Sunday, February 17, 2013

On the wings of love

Sometimes, by pure chance, we have the opportunity to witness moments of utter beauty and wildness. Today I saw something that will live in my memory forever.

I was heading home after having treated myself to a little scenic drive following my morning singing and errands. My route took me through a large agricultural area, where I often scan the fields for raptors and grassland birds. Today was bitterly cold and very windy, forcing most of the birds into whatever cover they could find. I spotted a handful of Field Sparrows in the roadside vegetation, but that was about it.

I had pulled the truck off the side of the road, into the snow that still lies more than a foot deep. Though there were no birds in sight, I enjoyed looking at the scenes that unfolded to my right….

.... and straight ahead...

…and especially to my left.

There had been a little wintry sun earlier in the day, but now the sky had that lead-pewter color that we see only in winter, and the distant hills added notes of grey, purple, and deep brown. A very subtle beauty for those who appreciate subtlety.

But oh, there was a Red-tailed Hawk, streaming across the sky on the wind, before the wind, part of the wind. Its dark grey back and chestnut tail were of the same palette of colors that lay before me. When the bird wheeled, it displayed unusually white wing linings and belly; the unexpected contrast of this silvery white with the dark grey sky just took my breath away.

The hawk swirled across the field, never flapping its wings, but by the merest adjustment of wingtip or tail, rising and falling, and curling in the wind.

I was not surprised to see a second Red-tail join the first; I’ve been watching this pair for about five years, here in their own territory. And Red-tailed Hawks across the country are beginning their spring breeding displays, as I described here:

The two hawks danced in the wind, rising so high that I almost lost sight of them, then plummeting toward the earth, then sweeping up again ahead of the wind.

Soon one of them lit in an old dead oak, clinging to the topmost branch as the never-ceasing wind streamed and streamed. The other hawk circled overhead, rising and falling on the wind. I opened my window a bit and heard them calling, calling.

The wind rose again, filling the air with curtains of snow swept from the fields.

Then. Oh, then.

The flying hawk swooped down towards its mate in the tree.

The hawk in the tree, never even opening its wings, merely loosed its hold on the tree, and the wind lifted it and flung it into the snow-filled air.

Slowly opening its wings, it rose up into the sky, meeting its mate wingtip to wingtip, on the wings of love.

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