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I've Got the Hawk and the Hawk's Got Me

Thursday, November 28, 2019

As I ran, I repeated: Boltcutters. Cat carrier. Towels. Gloves. Boltcutters. Cat carrier. Towels. Gloves. Boltcutters. Cat carrier. Towels. Gloves.

I didn't want to forget anything. But first to find boltcutters. Did we have them? I'd need them. 
I scuttled around the garage, looking in the dim recesses for anything that might cut double-strand barbed wire. Pruners weren't gonna do it. And there on the wall, hanging from a nail, a brand-new pair of wire cutters. Incredible. Tag still on them, still zip tied so you couldn't use them. OK. Damn. I had boltcutters. Sure beats a hacksaw (my next option).

Grabbed the cat carrier. It looked small. In too much of a hurry to figure something else out.

Grabbed a couple of towels and my rose-pruning gloves from Foxgloves. I knew they wouldn't be thick enough, but I needed maneuverability. I couldn't handle her in gauntlets, even if I had 'em.

Threw it all in the car and sped out the driveway. Curtis was just returning from his little hunt, tracking me home, and I stopped and opened the door so he could jump in.  We drove right into the hayfield because: Subaru. 
I  unloaded all my stuff and assessed the situation. 

First, I threw a couple towels over her so I could contain her. She tore them off in a lightning flash of talons.

OK, that didn't work. I went to grab her ankles and she struck even faster. Bam! like a snake. That didn't work, either. I covered her head with towels. She threw the towels off. By now she was ready for anything. Man. This hawk. 

I decided I would have to just cut her down off the wire and try to contain her afterward. Two cuts and she was on the ground, on the other side of the fence from me. 
She was so shocked to no longer be hanging that I managed to throw towels on her again and sort of semi-bundle her up and feed her through the wire to my side. I wasn't about to try to get that section of wire out of her patagium; she could just wear it until she got into surgery. 


I knew I had to contain her for both our safety. I lifted her and took one photo before all the fun started. She was simply monstrous! In retrospect, I should have headed for home right then.


I started to put her head-first into the cat carrier until I realized that it was a horribly small space and that wouldn't be right. I didn't think I could even close the door! This was one HUGE redtail. 

So, against my better judgement, I backed her out of the carrier. Thinking on it, I probably should have left her in it, headfirst, for transport, open door or no. Yeah, that would have been the smart thing to do, but I wanted to do the kind thing.

Painstakingly, I backed her out. And when her head came free and she could see what was going on, she nailed me. Her foot clenched on my right index and middle finger, and bore down with a viselike grip that took my breath away. 

The glove helped, but it didn't help as much as I'd have liked.

I was now in a most curious position. I was squatting in a hayfield, out of sight of the road, and even my car was out of sight, thanks to a rise in the field. 

I was in a lot of pain. My hand was pinned by a very angry hawk. Trying to loosen her talons with my left hand only made her bear down harder. I knew that would be the case, but you try anyway. I thought, "Right index finger. Who needs that?" I allowed myself a humorless chuckle, but the gravity of my situation was not lost on me.

I knew that she could maintain this grip for hours. Well @#$#@$#. What do I do now? I can't walk with a hawk dangling from my hand. I can't do anything with a hawk locked onto my hand.  I couldn't drive or walk or crawl or do anything but pray she'd let me go.  Curtis was waiting in the car, and I was not about to get in the car with my precious dog and a flapping, unsecured hawk! What a mess that would be. I couldn't have driven it anyway!


The only thing that I could think to do was to face completely away from her and get my body and face as far away from her as possible. I curled up in the grass, my captive arm extended, and tried to forget that I was utterly helpless. I hoped the hawk would forget that I was there and relax her grip.
It was unholy strong.


And ever so slowly, she did let up. Moving like a slug, I grasped the fingertip of the trapped glove with my left hand, and started to wiggle and back my smashed fingers out of it. Thank God I'd been wearing gloves. 

My thoroughly dented but unhurt index finger. Note that she still has a death grip on the glove!

Finally, I was free, sort of. I wadded toweling around both of her wicked feet and picked her up by her feet. This should have been a one-handed maneuver, but because I was afraid she'd foot me again, there was so much toweling in the way that I had to hold the great wad around her feet with both hands. So off we went to walk the half mile home, me holding the towel-wadded hawk aloft like some kind of medieval standard. My mind was racing. What was I going to do with her when I got home? Both my hands were fully engaged. I couldn't open the basement or garage doors, because they have doorknobs, and I have yet to figure out how to open a doorknob with my foot or knee. 

As I walked up the sidewalk I saw that in my hurry, I had failed to close the main house door. And the glass storm door had a lever on it! Maybe I could get inside! 

No dice opening it with my knee or elbow. Can't be done, at least not while holding a hawk. The only appendage I had available was my chin. I have a substantial chin. Bill always said our kids owe their chins to me, since he didn't have one. My giant chin X his receding chin= normal-chinned offspring. Warily, I leaned down, holding the angry bird as far away from my face as I could, which isn't far enough. I depressed and pulled the door lever with my chin, and after a few tries was able to hook my right toe on the bottom of the barely-opened door and open it enough to admit me and my furious bundle of feathers and talons. OK. I was inside, in an enclosed space with an angry hawk. At least she wouldn't be able to get away from me while badly injured, which were the stakes out in the middle of that hayfield. 

I tottered down the basement steps, holding the hawk high. Kicked the lid off a large, blessedly empty Rubbermaid tub. Lowered the hawk and all her toweling into the tub. Grabbed the lid and latched it on. Then, and only then, did I exhale. 

Better times are coming, my love. I promise you.


And now a word from your blogger. I decided to post this on Thanksgiving because I am feeling very grateful  for all that I have been given: an interesting life in a beautiful place; the ability to share it here, with photos; and the best, sweetest, most thoughtful readers anyone could ask for. I create multi-part cliff-hangers not to torture or tease you, but because it takes me most of a day to do each one. I write them for you, and I write them for me, because making them helps me put together and process the things that happen to me as I wander through this world. Sometimes you can't grasp the gravity of a thing until you think about it long enough to wrap it up and present it to others. Knowing what is special, unrepeatable and flabbergasting; thinking outside the box of assumption; drawing connecting lines of significance, is a skill I am developing.

Nearly every day, I get shot through by bolts of grace and wonder and a kind of spiritual exaltation that I can only find outdoors, in the company of wild things. I feel my connection to birds and animals deepening and expanding into orbitals that have nothing to do with coincidence; that seem somehow ordained; and stumbling upon this hawk on an ordinary gray Friday and being charged with her rescue (and gifted with her story) is just another instance of that expansion. I don't take these bolts of grace for granted. I believe they seek me out, like those people who just seem to attract lightning. I get struck like a tentpole. It's not fun. It's hard.  Each time it happens I panic and think why me? and what am I supposed to do here? and sometimes ow, ow, ow!! even as a much older voice inside me whispers, 
"You know what to do here." 

Happy Thanksgiving. Read to your babies**, and help the wild things.




**I love you, Agnes!




































18 comments:

You find them because you look and you listen! Today I am thankful I know you.

Dear Julie, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope this story has a happy ending. I didn't realize critters get hung up in barbed wire so often. What a lucky hawk to have been found by you.

The beauty you manage to see in this life which is often very difficult. We are all there with you, inspired, awed. Thank you. I am thankful for you.

Julie, Your blogposts are one of the true highlights of my life.

I hope you and the hawk have recovered from your traumatic experience. Well done.
Happy Thanksgiving and may you have many more blessings.

Gripping story--in more ways than one, I guess. I admire you so much more than I can adequately convey. Happy Thanksgiving to you & your loved ones, and hope the Red-tail has a happy ending coming to her, too. (I'm assuming "her" by the size.)

I did not realize how harrowing this rescue would be! Clearly, saving wildlife is not for the faint of heart. Julie, you have courage and empathy in spades.

Thank all the gods for you! She would have been doomed! There is such a nobility to someone willing to waltz into those death talons knowing all the ways it can go horribly wrong and go anyway. I cant wait to read about both of your recouperations. Happy Thanksgiving!

I love the phrase "bolts of grace." Gonna ponder that one for a bit. Sending hugs.

Beautiful story Julie!! I hang on every word and am so hoping for a happy ending. I can relate to being taloned. It does take your breath away. I rescued a beautiful red shouldered hawk one frigid winter night a few years back. Poor thing was nearly frozen, sitting beside the road. I had no problem getting her bundled into a towel and then into the Rubbermaid tote. Next morning when I got her to OWC and was holding her for the vet to check, she got one leg free and jammed it down inside my elbow high gloves!!! That grip deserves one heck of a lot of respect. Still have a war wound.

We rescued a juvenile red shouldered hawk (full grown) from two of our young roosters. We threw towels over him and by some miracle or dumb luck....we got him into a carrier and to a wildlife rehab center. I'm glad in retrospect he didn't get US, after your ordeal.

OW OW OW indeed! Reminds me of the time - early in my volunteering life at The Wildlife Center of Virginia - when I accidentally let a golden eagle (!!!) grab my leg just above the knee. O.M.G. She's a wonderful bird, your hawk! I'm glad you still have your index finger.

I am thankful to live under the same moon, Luna as you Julie. You are the Earth mother and caretaker of wild things and I am thankful for that.

Wow, what a thrilling story and I'm so glad your were there to find her. I've never seen such a beautiful Red Tail. I've always heard their feet are strong, but I never knew how strong until your story.
I understand your desire to tell these stories - you have a wonderful, nature-connected life to share. Can't wait to read the rest! Thank you for sharing, Julie!

Three cheers for having all your digits after that escapade! She's a beauty. And you are tough as nails and amazingly flexible and fit, it sounds like. Brava. Kim in PA

Man! I was hyperventilating there for a while! When really... why? Obviously you escaped her death grip and got the door open, or I would not be reading this post. Nevertheless, you have the ability to make me think that I am right there. Wow!

Posted by mimimanderly November 29, 2019 at 3:52 AM

I have this picture in my mind of so many creatures large and small, many of them now departed, gathered together giving thanks for crossing paths with this amazing human named Julie. Too many to count or name. Love you.

Once some years ago I found a young deer caught upside down in a barbed wire fence. I ran home for wire cutters, not a half mile, thank goodness. I was afraid to get too close so with a neighbors help, cut the wire uphill from her. As soon as the wire was slack she was free and bounded off. I know she had injuries, but she didn’t limp as she left. Thanks for you posts. I love them all. Take care of the wild things.

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