Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A world without hawks

Late this afternoon, I drove home in the unsettled weather typical of a foothill spring. The storm that blew through today was breaking up. It was raining, then sunny, then misting, then gray again. Heavy hailstorms often intervene on days like this, but today saw a gentler storm-end.

The grass, shrubs, and trees were every possible shade of green. The vernal pools were ringed in yellow -- some playing host to ducks fattening up on fairy shrimp. The swales were washed in color. Blue dicks bloomed at the lower elevations, orange bush monkeyflowers joining in as I headed east. Calves' faces were the bright white that marks them as newly born.

All along the way, at the even intervals their territorial imperative requires, red-wing blackbirds clung to reeds, sat on fence wires, perched on fence posts, trilled their spring song and flashed their bright epaulets.

The late afternoon light was enveloping, warm, shifting, breaking through clouds, creating faint wide rainbow-ends in the distance. They faded in and out as the storm moved on and I drove toward home.

As I headed up out of Amador City, I saw the groups of Chinese houses that grow back in the east-facing shade along the now-old highway, and I asked myself -- how long do you have to live here to know where the Chinese houses bloom each year? or where to find the globe lilies? or when the blue penstemon blooms? or that the leopard lilies are nearly the last flower to show? and how many people go through life here without knowing any of these things, or even caring to know?

The sun was out again as I descended into Sutter Creek. The hills were glowing and the air had that washed-clean, post-storm clarity. The rainbow east of town was getting brighter and coming into focus. And I saw a large hawk, probably a red tail, floating over town.

I couldn't help but wonder how long the hawks will soar over Sutter Creek. Buteo hawks like red tails depend on prey that live in fields -- rodents, snakes, and such. The hawks' prey is not welcome on manicured golf courses or carefully tended landscapes, and the hawks likely cannot hunt in the dense chaparral that may serve as the leftover "open space" of development projects like Gold Rush.

The hawks have been here longer than any local residents, even native people. But through bad planning choices, we may yet drive them away.

I did not grow up in a place where hawks were abundant. Even after 28 years of country life, I find joy in every one I see. And I would hate to know the day when, driving down into Sutter Creek, one could not even hope to see a soaring hawk.

Photos of flowers, hawks, and such

1 comment:

Keith said...

Don't believe I have ever seen a Chinese House flower. Guess I have not lived here long enough. Pretty even in a picture. Keith