Full disclosure — I took none of the photos in this post. They are all submissions from our In The Wild Hood photo contest.
Like the rest of our magazine staff, I've been teleworking since mid-March. Our group is small and geographically scattered along a 100-mile stretch of IH35. Still, we are used to seeing each other in the office every weekday. Now we converse using virtual meeting and chat tools. An unforeseen benefit of this is that, thanks to TEAMS, I know precisely when the hawks first starting hanging out in my backyard.
Wildlife in my yard is no new phenomenon. While I am one of the 86 percent of Texans who live in an urban area, a greenbelt trails through my subdivision — heavily wooded, full of hidden karst and threaded by a dry, limestone creek bed that fills with water during heavy rains. One finger of it sits directly behind my house, and to fully benefit from it's beauty, we long-ago removed a privacy fence and gate.
Over the years we've had the full array of urban wildlife; the occasional deer, cute little bunnies, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it ringtail, the ubiquitous possums, raccoons and armadillos, and the more thrilling foxes and coyotes. And birds of course — many, many different birds. You'd think then that I'd be immune to the allure of a gliding hawk, but you'd be wrong.
There are two of them, a nesting pair I assume, and my first view of them was June 16 when one flew across my deck at the exact eye-level of my office chair. It was so close that, had a window not been between us, I could have reached out to touch it's gleaming feathers. Since then we have seen or heard them several times a day. Occasionally, as was the case this morning, I see them catch their prey and settle with it on a tree branch. All of these sightings I exuberantly (as much as that's possible in writing) share with my work friends on chat.
There's some debate in my neighborhood as to whether they are red-tailed hawks or red-shouldered hawks. I tend to think the latter based on a rather distinct call they make to each other. But I am not an ornithologist.
What I do know is that they are here, in my backyard, every day. The squirrel population, which was abundant and very loud at the start of my teleworking adventure, is suddenly suspiciously absent. My cats no longer cry to go outside in the day time: one in fact was diagnosed with anxiety by his vet, and the timeline of symptoms matches the appearance of the hawks exactly. And each time I see them swoop down into my yard, I grab wildly for my phone but never quite get that perfect photo I long for.
It's possible that there have always been hawks in my backyard. After all, I have 5 large live oaks, a small ornamental pond and the beauty of forested green space a stone's throw from my deck. So maybe it's not that they are new, but rather that my being at home every day to experience them is what is new.
It's a beautiful thought, really, that majestic wild creatures can be there every single day if you just look for them. Even in your own backyard.
And many of you seem to agree judging from all the fabulous entries in our In The Wild Hood summer photo contest. You don't have to go far to find and capture (on film) the beauty of nature. Sometimes it comes to you. Now, if I could only get a photo...
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