Hunting for a Meal–Herons on the Trail and Red-tailed Hawks in the Yard


This Red-tailed Hawk spotted a sparrow gorging on my blueberry bushes. Clearly hoping for an easy meal, the hawk waited.

We love to spot wildlife on our outings, walking or biking. We often spy great blue herons on our travels, and we try to stop to watch.


Great Blue Heron hunting next to an old mill in Coventry, RI, right off the Coventry Greenway

Sometimes I simply have to look out my window to spot a real life drama developing. We have blueberry bushes in our backyard that are quite attractive to birds. So much so that we have to net them to permit us a share of what the bushes produce.

This netting comes with a price. Earlier this summer I found a female oriole simultaneously gobbling blueberries and crashing into the netting that had imprisoned her. Moving quickly, I opened up one side of the netting and walked deep into the bushes, hoping she would fly away from me toward the opening, which she did. Yes, she had left some berries on the bushes for us.


Waiting, watching for the sparrow that was just there

Some branches of the blueberries have poked up through the top and out the side of the netting, attracting squirrels and sparrows. I check each morning when I wake, hoping the wildlife remain the outside of the netting, which I have worked to secure more carefully.

I looked out one morning to see a sparrow was busily seeking berries on the branches outside the netting, when suddenly a Red-tailed Hawk swooped into the clearing. For the next ten minutes the raptor soared back and forth across the opening in the trees, hunting for its next meal.


Atop the blueberry bush netting, checking to be sure the sparrow was not there

Repeatedly, it flew onto the top of the netting, hoping to spot the elusive sparrow.

Finally accepting defeat, the hunter moved on in hopes of surprising a less alert prey. I never spotted the sparrow. Either it had slipped away before the hawk had even arrived, or it had found a safe hiding place amongst my blackberries or other scrubby bushes on the edge of the yard. What a humbling reminder of the difficult life these hunters live, with success being the exception, not the norm.


beech cliffs 2018Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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