Memorial Day weekend brought two huge crows with their cacophonous cackling to our yard. They’d visited before, but this weekend they remained close to our home, alighting on a nearby utility pole constantly calling to each other. Their noise grew annoying as we worked in the yard, and I wished they would be quiet.
Later that day I discovered them in our bird bath located at the top of our avocado orchard. One sat on the chain link fence looking soaked while the other sat in the bird bath dipping its food into the water.
“Don, look at these crows in the bird bath. I think Heckle and Jeckle (two cartoon crows from our childhoods) have arrived,” I said to my husband.
“It looks that way,” he said. “They seem to have taken over and scared the smaller birds away.”
Living in the hills of Southern California, I viewed the crows as representatives of the diverse wildlife that calls our neighborhood home. We’ve seen a bobcat, a mountain lion, coyotes, roadrunners, skunks, rabbits, lizards, a variety of birds, hawks, rats, mice, and a number of different snakes. When you live on the edge of wilderness, you learn to coexist with its first inhabitants.
Despite this knowledge, I was startled when I spotted a huge red-tailed hawk swooping over our orchard as I opened the window shade a few days later. I had never seen a hawk so close to our home. I stood at the window transfixed by its aerial aerobics and said, “Don, look at this hawk. It’s magnificent.”
My husband ran into the room to see the large raptor repeatedly circle our property. “That’s unusual,” he remarked. “We don’t often see hawks in the morning and rarely this close to the yard. It’s hunting.”
We both thought nature had given us a great show to start our day and never thought about its prey.
The next morning I discovered the hawk’s true mission. When I made my morning outside rounds of the yard, I peered into our once-thriving orchard that bore fewer avocado trees since the drought began. There I spotted a black object lying in the dirt. At first I thought a plastic trash bag had been tossed over the fence. As I moved closer, I realized that this was not a trash bag but an animal’s carcass. Could it be a neighbor’s cat? It looked too large.
I opened the gate, descending the railroad-tie steps down the orchard’s steep slope unsure of what I’d find. (to be continued)