Talons Tested



A little drama played itself out one Sunday morning. I had gone for a walk and found myself near the creek beside Moses Springer Park. Cozy bench. Tree overhang. Shade from the sun. Quiet. Book in hand.

Then the shrill but seemingly distant shriek of a hawk. The little black squirrel on the tree ahead looked up, tail twitching alertly. In half-dead branches of another tree I could see the pale brown predator, neck craning.

As he took a short glide down to the the other trunk, the squirrel scampered around to the reverse side and then up a distance of about fifteen feet. Bird had lost the elevation advantage. Squirrel had used the tree as a "pick". Empty talons flexing. Bird flew higher up to adjacent branch.

The cycle repeated itself about three times, but then I noticed the squirrel checking out the ground beneath for an escape route. I wished then that I had the means to say in squirrel jargon, "Don't do it little fellow. As soon as you touch the ground you become an easy pounce."

Time and again I watched the squirrel execute the roundabout manoeuvre, but still looking to the ground, haunches tensed as if to drop. I found myself becoming more objective. Bird's gotta eat. Perhaps my telepathic message finally got through. Squirrel went way up in the tree, hugging the trunk. This time he chattered abusively at his adversary.

Bird dropped to a much lower branch and looked disinterestedly out to the sun-lit field. Squirrel one. Hawk zero. With a louder shriek the hunter pumped past my bench and out to where mice scampered.

The whole episode had held me spell-bound for twenty minutes. Life and death battle, six blocks from home. Enjoy my walks.

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