Observations on birding and life, from a novice at both
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Raptors have an other-worldly quality: Finely tuned hunting machines, they have skills that are so foreign to me as a human. I saw the White-tailed Kite just as we pulled up at Stratford Point late one day this week. It was flying right above us, and as I jumped out of the car, it began hovering high over the tall grass. To me, it was a beautiful display of raptor skill. To an unsuspecting vole, it was a Very Bad Thing Indeed. The bird scooped its wings back and forth oh so quickly through the air, staring at the ground, then swoop, it plummeted down like an arrow . . . and shot back into the air, a limp vole clutched in its talons.
It looked like a precision tracking and killing machine for whom this was no effort at all. When I looked at its ghostly charcoal-rimmed eyes through my binoculars after it ate the rodent in the top of a tree, I could impart all kinds of perceptions, skills, talents to that bird. But these were just human fantasies that say more about the qualities I wish I had: It turned out that other people had been watching the bird hunting unsuccessfully for hours, lucklessly scouring the fields for prey. We just happened to arrive at its moment of glory. To the kite, catching a vole was no spectacular aerobatic feat, just an act of basic survival. It just looked so much more impressive than when I cruise the aisles of the supermarket.