Wednesday, November 15, 2017
MORE PERILS OF THE URBAN-FOREST INTERFACE
Lesson from a recent trip to “The Sea Ranch”
Sonoma County’s Sea Ranch was formed, in part, from the expanse of Rancho Del Mar – Spanish, by the way, for “The Sea Ranch.” In the late 1800s, acreage used by cattle ranchers and lumbermen proved to be a gold mine of a different sort as they profiteered from the building and feeding of a burgeoning and youthful post-Gold-Rush San Francisco. The cattlemen felt it would aid grazing were the prairie above the coastal bluffs transected by rows of cypress trees planted to serve as windbreaks against the forces of prevailing northerly gusts. A century passed and the land fell to development. Development, it is claimed, where residents respect the natural environment and support endeavors to protect the not-necessarily-native plantings by dotting expensive homes in and about those human-engineered windrows.
The Sea Ranch is also the land of a little eaves. Truthfully: big houses – we’d just rented one for the weekend – little eaves. Eave-less-ness, along with wood-toned exterior siding, are elements of the community’s CC&Rs. Admittedly, this makes for a nice visual effect and, not coincidentally, a bit of a Mother Nature inspired manufactured-urban/manufactured-forest interface. Today, then, we observe the normal, yet enchanting, interaction of foxes, squirrels, deer, humans and dogs – on leash – from our picture windows.
The first evening of our visit, just as dusk was about to settle, a noticeable clunk – the report of an accidental collision – was heard at the window just above the sink.
“What was that?” we all exclaimed.
I ventured out onto the deck. A young hawk lay – what's the word for it? – spread-eagled on the deck. He had crashed into the window and knocked himself out. Apparently, he was drawn to the light from the kitchen through a window whose light glowed from the interior of a house that, if designed by any other architect or under any other CC&Rs, might not have been so attractive to such an inexperienced hunter of the night.
Perhaps, if there had been eaves…
The grandkids had followed me out to investigate. The young hawk lay face down on the deck panting and panting and panting. I stretched an arm to hold the youngsters at an appropriate distance. Were this some Warner Brothers cartoon of the middle 1950s, I'm sure I'd have made out little stars orbiting the stunned harrier’s head. I reached for the Sony pocket camera that I always carry with me, the new one; the one I don't quite know how to operate yet. As I fumbled to turn it on and activate the lens, the young raptor hopped to its feet, bounced twice or maybe three times, recovered its senses and took flight to the windrow of cypress trees perhaps 50 yards away.
Where he had lain rested the body of a tiny gray and yellow-bellied bird. Moments earlier I suppose, this little guy was simply grazing for fleas or ticks or seeds or grubs when down swept the predator. Now, it seemed as if the poor fella was dead on my deck and not destined to be dinner for the dumb-struck hawk. But then, the slightest movement told me otherwise. The little gray bird with a yellow belly lay faintly panting; faintly but faster than that of his mortal nemesis, the young hawk. Should I simply step on the little critter and put him out of his misery? I shooed the grandchildren back into the house.
I chose to save my makeshift Vibram® executioner’s tool for a bit later on. I followed the grandkids in.
After a time, I came out and the little gray and yellow bird still lay on the deck still shivering and pulsing. Mercy, or some similar compelling factor, commanded me to rescue-and-recover rather than squash. Retrieving a “clean” bandana from my hip pocket, I gently wrapped the little guy up and carried him to a bush maybe 20 feet away. Laying Tweetie-Pie in a soft mattress of dried grass, hopefully out of view of the hawk, I went inside.
Ten minutes later, when I checked back, the little bird was gone. What possibly could've happened? I tried not to think about it, as I re-entered our rental and dined on oven-baked chicken drenched in a delightful honey mustard sauce.
It is said that when a bird crashes into a window and later flies away, that it is a harbinger of bad luck to follow.
I don't know about that. However, as I was readying for bed that night, while flossing my teeth, I busted the top off a molar and somehow swallowed its remains.
Church of the Open Road Press