Sunday, November 18, 2007

There's a New Sheriff in My Backyard

I was tossing some old bread out into my backyard in Ballston today (my first-floor apartment has a back door) to my usual customers of sparrows, starlings, and squirrels. As soon as the weather turns colder business picks up considerably, so this afternoon dozens of them had gathered.

All of the sudden every single one of them scattered. Not just their usual, "A person's coming, let's hang back for a minute, but I still got dibs on that piece of crust." They took off like their lives depended on it.

Then I saw why. The tall bushes across the parking lot shook and out flew a hawk.

We'll call him Mordecai. He landed on a utility line above the parking lot. Not particularly large for a hawk, but he still had a wingspan of close to four feet. If Mordecai had been in a better and less noisy position, I'm sure any of the birds or squirrels that had been in my backyard would've made a tasty dinner.

I've spotted several hawks in Arlington, usually in Rosslyn where the local parks make a good habitat, the tall buildings provide places to perch, and the urban setting serves up plenty of prey. My closest encounter came on Roosevelt Island during the 2006 ACE Hike & Happy Hour, though it wasn't as close as the meetup vividly described by Herb of DC.

I'd like to think the sighting isn't completely unrelated to Arlington's ongoing environmental efforts and its certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat, wouldn't you?
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