Well here is another story from our home and our interactions with nature and animals. This was an amazing encounter and shows the crueler but necessary side of nature.

We have  a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) living in our area and often see it hunting in the fields near the house. Seeing a Hawk in flight is an incredible sight. I love to stand and watch the hawk have fun with the air currents, soaring and gliding with an occasional dip to the ground. When soaring it will typically travels from 20 to 40 mph (64 km/h) and can exceed 120 mph (190 km/h) when diving.

The large barn on our property is no longer for farm use but offers a refuge for birds and rodents year round. Our free-range chickens like to use the barn so it is a regular spot to check for eggs. Yesterday morning our check turned up more than eggs!

The Red-tailed Hawk is an opportunistic feeder and a carnivore. It dines mainly on small mammals but will eat birds and reptiles. Prey varies between regions and seasons but usually centers on rodents which make up about 85% of the hawk’s diet. The Red-tailed Hawk primarily hunts from an elevated perch site, swooping down to seize prey, catching birds while flying, or pursuing prey on the ground from a low flight.

The Red-tailed Hawk was spotted  in the barn dining on an unfortunate Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) and was so intent on the meal that it didn’t seem to mind the quiet observation or a few photos being snapped. I have carried my camera on many occasions trying to get shots of the hawk as it sits on a post or tree on the laneway, but it always disappears before the lens cover is off. This opportunity was an amazing one for photos as the bird was so intent on its meal that it would not leave its perch and risk losing the meal it had worked hard to catch. The hawk was vulnerable while eating, but a risk it needed to take for it’s own survival.

This was fascinating to observe and sad at the same time. Nature has a cruel side with all the dependencies between species. The pigeon had to give up its life to help the hawk survive the cold winter ahead. This was possibly the same pigeon one of my hens had been picking (or pecking) on last week when she decided the barn wasn’t big enough for both of them.

The interdependencies of organisms is a fascinating subject and one we all try to teach our children to help them learn a respect for all things in nature. They learn that even the tiniest bug can help another organism survive. Visit The Frogger Club on our website for a printable version of the dependency web games from The Digital Field Trip to The Rainforest and The Digital Field Trip to The Wetlands to help reinforce this learning with your children or students. Check back for some video footage of this as soon as we can get it web ready.