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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Joseph Ceravolo: Red-tailed Hawk


A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) harasses a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Sussex County Landfill, Lafayette, New Jersey: photo by Tom Smith, 4 March 2009

January 17, 1987

I saw a red-tailed hawk
flying inland today. My son
pointed him out flying around the tree tops
in our town over the highway
resting in the branches
of the highest trees, then disappearing.

O hawk of our inner brain and vision
powerful as a microbe invading life,
beautiful as a comet in the night
subtle as the weak force
curving the universe left,

painful as the spark that gives us life.

Joseph Ceravolo (1934-1988): January 17, 1987 from Collected Poems, 2012

A mature Red-tailed Hawk landing on a windbreak tree in farm country, Alpha, New Jersey: photo by Dah Professor, 22 December 2009


ACravan said...

It's impossible not to read this poem in relation to yesterday's Williams poem, if only because each of them so accurately reflects the local weather, flora and fauna. For all its "cosmic" significance in the final lines, the Ceravolo is so deeply, affectively human. To quote the popular magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown (an unlikely visitor here, I suppose, but she had a very good sense of authorial tone, reach and grasp), "it sits down and visits," especially in the way it involves the poet's son in the process. It's great living in a place where we see these hawks all the time. Obviously, we tend to see only the beautiful flight, not the savagery. I love the top caption and I guess I'll have to take the writer's word about how the birds were dealing with each other. Curtis

TC said...


The fellow is a wildlife photographer of some experience and prowess, and from his notes, and from seeing the sequence of which this photo is the first shot, I take him at his word.

As to the present shot, he says: "Red-tailed hawks often harass eagles. This photo is an example of this behavior in progress."

In subsequent shots the action unfolds as follows:

"Now the eagle and the hawk that was harassing it appear to be soaring in tandem."

And then:

"Apparently the eagle has had enough of being bothered and has decided to bare some claw."

ACravan said...

Obviously, I wouldn't tangle with either of them. After reading this today, I did some research and found a wonderful Audubon illustration of a red-tailed hawk "at work." I've only seen a bald eagle up close once, but it was unforgettable, like this poem, actually. Curtis

TC said...


A curious development on Easter Sunday to be watching a good deal of video footage of Red-tailed Hawks making life miserable for Bald Eagles -- particularly the older, weaker of Bald Eagles.

Nature red in talon & claw of course, little sentiment shown in these violent aerial combats.

One clip that settles for showing us mere harrying, stopping short of outright bloody nastiness:

Bald Eagle harassed by Red-tailed Hawk, Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Mose23 said...

I've seen crows mobbing the old heron by the Edgbaston Reservoir; ugly and fascinating to watch.

painful as the spark that gives us life

There's always a wrench to begin with and here we are to harry or be harried.

ACravan said...

That's nasty indeed. It seems personal. Sorry to say, it reminds me of how I behave in certain situations. Curtis

Lally said...

Ceravolo...always you Tom...

Nin Andrews said...

I am traveling and was visiting a friend in VA who had a hawk specialist on her farm. He was releasing young hawks. Evidently the young hawks can be quite vulnerable--sometimes the squirrels get the better of them, chomping a piece of a talon and it's not easy for the hawk to recover. I'd never imagined that--there are so many red-tailed hawks in Ohio, but again, someone raised and released a lot of them. Or so I read.
As to crows, they are crazy-smart. I've watched them dive-bomb owls mostly. And owls are crazy, too. I have had one go for my ponytail when I was running. And then swoop away.

TC said...

Many thanks to Duncan, Curtis again, Michael (of Joisey, yet!), and Nin.

From the available video footage it appears that for nesting Bald Eagles, the attentions of Red-tailed Hawks must rank very near the bottom of the list of desiderata.

There's a very interesting ongoing record of the behaviour of the big birds made by the Hays Bald Eagle video project in Pittsburgh.

Way up at treetop, while traffic whizzes past far below, a nesting female Bald Eagle shrieks in alarm as Red-tailed Hawks dive-bomb the nest.

Her mate arrives to sort the situation.

(By the by, this video is mis-titled -- it's the female in the nest doing the spirited calling, the male conducting the subsequent vigorous defense -- as the project volunteers make plain in the attendant comments.)

TC said...

And I get the feeling that just about everybody has seen birds aggressing and defending and nurturing and doing the things birds do, even in cities -- as here, where the nonstop rush hour traffic out front not only fails to intimidate the big, bossy crows, but seems to inspire them to competitive feats of noise-making. The racket is terrific, even as I hunt-and-peck these old-crowish words.

The crows do however have the good sense not to attempt to dive-bomb the afternoon commuters, who know no mercy and will stop at nothing (I have paid a steep price to acquire this knowledge).

The morning commuters on the other hand can be made to flinch by a properly contrived crow sortie.

'Twould be a far fairer contest were the crows equipped with some form of small but lethal "stealth" weaponry, including metal-penetrating capability... though it can be truly said, they are bold creatures and ask for no quarter.

ACravan said...

It's great that you're examining crows. Perhaps it sounds obvious, but they're really worth close observation and consideration. Curtis

TC said...

Well, you know, Curtis, they're always the ones doing the real examining. It's after all their territory, sort of (when and as they decide it is). And the looking out for your territory takes acuity, an active intelligence.

We're, on the other hand, merely -- and hopefully always as well out of their way as possible -- here.