I like to garden without distraction. I can commune with plants, hear the animals and listen to the sounds of nature as my fingers touch the earth. Swainson hawks have returned; they are extending their range south of the San Gabriel Mountains. I wholeheartedly embrace their presence despite the local crows. They see a hawk and hound it, sometimes six to one hawk.
I chase the crows from the trees in the yard, and I believe the hawks know I am their friend. On Saturday in early March I was weeding in the afternoon – nose to earth, bucket, weeds and roots, and hawks. I heard a hawk scretch continually, five minutes, but I knew no crows caused it because they weren’t squawking themselves. The hawk was close, so I looked into a hundred foot pine, and realized, she’s a screamer.
She was hanging firmly onto the breach, and a male was hanging onto her. They were mating. I’ve been told that eagles do it airborne without parachutes, but hawks: Now I know among the claws, feathers and breaks . He seemed at it a while, so long that I looked at the weeding and resumed. When I looked up they were side by side, collecting their thoughts, watching me, and long enough for the male to have a cigarette.
Male Hawk: The guy’s doing a good job weeding.
Female: It’s time for you to get your butt in gear.
Male: What are you yapping about? I just put my butt in gear, and you chirped through out.
Female: It’s time for you to build a nest!
The male did what every self-righteous-respecting member of his sex would do. He left.
Female: That’s didn’t go very well. I have to kick his butt!
FIVE WEEKS LATER, elsewhere in the yard, I was using a pole-cutter to trim bushes growing along a rim of a canyon. They had grown to ten feet and were competing with the planted shrubbery. At most I needed 15 minutes to finish the work. I made three cuts, and a large bird, a hawk landed in a Palos Verde tree [Cercidium] above my target area. From the lack of coloring, I figured it was the female. That tree grows like a pyrcantha, a thorn grows into a limb producing more thorns and branches as it lengthens. It is a drought plant.
If due north was 12:00 o’clock, the bird landed at 2:30. I stood at 9:00. As I made multiple cuts, the hawk bounced north and west – 1:00 o’clock. Twelve, eleven. I didn’t like the way she was looking at me. I stopped and thought, time to pick up my cuttings and go. I could complete the work in August. She had an interest other than my fair humor and good looks. She was ready to kick my butt, because she was likely guarding a nearby nest.