Friday, February 1, 2013

Corralitas Drive: Backyard Hawk Rescue

Photo: Diane Edwardson, January 31, 2013.  Maybe it's because I'm always taking their picture, but hawks in trouble always seem to find me.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Thursday afternoon, I'd just headed out the backdoor, when I heard & caught a glimpse of a mid-sized animal frantically running back and forth along the fence below.  Because the trees were obscuring my view, I thought it was an injured skunk or raccoon (the dog and cats were in the house).
Photo: Diane Edwardson, January 31, 2013.
It was a hawk, rolling & tumbling, stuck in the 8-inch x 20-foot space between the plastic mesh, 3' tall, temporary fence & the Damnboo bamboo* (we didn't plant it, it came with the house).  I ran back inside to get K and a camera.  I shot a few frames as K tried to figure out how we were going to get a towel over & around the panicked raptor.  It could not have been trapped in a more difficult place.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, January 31, 2013.
Its survival instinct was to splay out its wings and legs and make itself as big and unwieldy as possible.  It was surprisingly strong for a less than 2-pound bird. It just kept trying to roll, jump, flap, get away, but it was getting tangled in the fencing & stuck in the Damnboo. 
It must have been a young hawk hunting squirrels along the fence line, en route to the palm tree, above.  (My dog chases squirrels there all the time.)  Lately, we've seen the young Red Tails making all kinds of poor hunting choices (flying low through dense branches, walking around on the ground while hunting gophers).
Photo: Diane Edwardson, January 31, 2013. 
We made the decision to rescue the bird because we've rescued injured Red Tailed Hawks in the past with the guidance of trained raptor rescuers. The bird may have been trapped for over an hour; was at risk for breaking a wing or leg & was clearly stressed. 
After a thorough visual examination each time the bird stopped moving, we could see the hawk was alert, not bleeding; did not appear to have broken legs or wings; just a few broken feathers.  It was freaked out and panting heavily. 
K covered its head with a towel, while we both gently tried to scoop up the hawk.  After several attempts, gently trying to fold its wings or legs naturally to get it out of the Damnboo, we gave up & tried angling & passing the stiffly splayed out bird between the Damnboo.  At which point, the hawk seemed to understand we were trying to help.  We must have given it enough clearance to flap it's wings free of the Damnboo.  It flapped free & hopped up to the terrace a few feet behind us. 
It stood the on edge of the wall for a moment, eye level with us, mouth agape, still panting.  The three of us just stood there in shock for a moment.  Then the hawk quickly took flight right between us.  We both had to move aside quickly as it flew low through the Damnboo toward the safety of the trees on the 2 Freeway.  Aside from a wobbly first 40 feet, it seemed to fly just fine.  I couldn't find it with a search with binoculars, but there are a lot of trees it could have been resting in.  We were just happy it flew normally.
Learn more about Red Tail Hawks: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Visit the Audubon Center in nearby Deb's Park
Make a contribution to Ojai Raptor Center, where they rehabilitated and released one of our earlier Red Tailed Hawks rescues
*Loyal readers know of my hatred of non-native, invasive, highly combustible bamboo & its cousin, Arundo.  This incident is just one more reason NOT to plant bamboo in hillside areas.