Birders Journal: Attack of the Flying Goshawk

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When she veered away, I had to admire her courage. Without hesitation, she challenged me, an intruder more than three times her height. I admired the audacious pack of blue jays, too. Goshawks are deft killers capable of snatching a blue jay out of the air, but this one had lost the crucial element of surprise.

In southern New England, early summer is fledging time for the goshawk's brood. This female was probably guarding one or two young goshawks nearby. Perhaps the unseen father was preparing to join the battle.

A human being's large size and vertical stance do not deter the goshawk. Neither does a hiker's innocence. That I meant no harm was irrelevant. As a member of a predatory species, I had to be challenged.

Not wishing to cause the family further anxiety, or provoke the wrath of the male, I withdrew as the female's call signaled another attack. I must have crossed the perimeter of the defended area, because this attack never came.

I was elated when I reached my car. I'd found a rare nesting goshawk and faced nature at its wildest. I turned up the stereo on the way home. I noticed a runner and a cyclist, but fought off the urge to stop and tell them about the goshawk.

Robert Winkler's book of essays on his adventures with birds of the "suburban wilderness" will be published in 2003 by National Geographic Books.

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