Sunday, December 18, 2005

run, run home.

1...2...3

and all the chickens run as fast as they can for the shelter of the chicken tractor.

Somethings up. (I guess that’s an unintended pun).

I’m standing out in the field right next to the chicken pasture and I look. Maybe there’s a raccoon in the bushes.

Or a red fox?

But I don’t see anything.

This, the birds suddenly running for cover, has been going on for several weeks now. I’ll be out doing my chores. Hauling firewood, feeding the chickens and on days like today, getting on the tractor and scraping the remaining snow off the drive.

I’ll be outside, doing my chores when all of a sudden, as if someone said something, or possibly, if there was an alarm siren that I can’t hear, the chickens will let out in one voice a cry and then..

RUN!!!

And, instantly, all of the chickens make a mad dash for the shelter of the chicken tractor. Chickens over by the feeder turn and scurry the 15 yards to the shelter. Ones standing around the swimming pool, drinking, stop and without hesitating turn and dart home.

Even the chickens in the far corners of the pasture, far away from the shelter quickly look around and without hesitating run as fast as they can. All the way home.

And its not just the chickens.

The Turkeys, all dozen of them, let out a long gobble and stop their constant bickering and fighting long enough to waddle back to the shelter.

Everything runs for shelter. Everything, that is, except for the geese.

Whatever it is, whatever has scared the other birds doesn’t seem concern the geese.. They don’t even let out a squawk but continue doing what they were doing before the silent alarm went up.

Now every time I’ve seen this phenomena, and this has been going on for several weeks now, I look around.
Obviously, there’s something out there that’s of concern and I doubt if its chicken little announcing the sky is falling.

It’s more imminent.

And real.

Even chickens, can’t be fooled that many times. They obviously know there’s a danger out there.

Somewhere.

No doubt a predator.

But what? I’ve looked. I don’t see anything inside the fence. And there hasn’t been any sign of a struggle. No pile of feathers where a fox dispatched chicken little.

Whatever it is swoops down and carries off its prey in one fell swoop.

A raptor! Or maybe an owl.

An eagle, or hawk, a falcon.

Whatever it is, it has to be large. To swoop down and nab a full grown chicken and then jump back into the air hauling its catch in its claws takes strength.

More strength and size than the red tail hawks I usually see on the side of the road waiting for a wayward rodent.

And then I saw it this morning.

I was looking out my office window when there it was. Out of the sky it dropped and landed at the very top of a pine tree at the edge of the chicken pasture.

It was huge.

And when I saw it, the birds must have seen it.

Instantly, all the chickens start running.

One moment they are spread out to the four corners of their pasture. The next, the field is empty. Nothing moves. All the chickens are hiding under the shelter. So have the guineas. Even the turkeys have climbed inside.

I reach up on my shelf and retrieve the binoculars. It’s still there. Right in the very top of the old scrawny pine. It must be two, maybe three feet tall.

It’s beak is slightly hooked but really sort of fat looking. In fact, the bird is sort of fat. At least heavy. And its coloring is brown and white. It looks like someone threw splotches of brown paint. Not a regular marking.

I quickly take down our bird identification guides. I have two. The person’s field guide and the Sibley.

I quickly shuffle through the pages.

Of course I don’t see it. I look through the binoculars again, and then back at the pictures in the book.

It sort of looks like the picture of juvinile Goshawk. But the book says they are rare.

I pick up the binoculars again, point them at the old pine tree and.

And, whatever it was, is gone. I quickly look down at the pasture. Is that it down there in the corner?

And then I see it, Its flying off back toward the forest, carrying in its claws one of my chickens.

I guess the chickens have a reason to run and hide. I guess, also, one of the chickens was less competent than the other chickens at hiding.

Oh well.

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