Sunday, January 21, 2007


We drove along the edge of the reservoir. I looked out across the open water, frozen only here and there in patches along the shore, at the monochrome bare woods on the other side. We passed the abandoned steel trestle of a railway that no longer exists. A few dozen small waterbirds, in uniform black and white, rested in the shallows, heads aligned in the same direction.

We turned off the main road and into a grove of pines, then turned again, ascending against the flow of a small stream that snaked through the woods. A mile or so on I saw the dark hawk rise from the ground and settle on a branch, and, instantly, its pure white companion, an albino redtail, which came to rest on another tree nearby, both just a few yards in from the road.

We pulled over and watched. The white hawk clutched a kill with its talons, bent down to tear off a piece. One of the pair — I couldn't tell which — let out a high-pitched screech, and the other answered with a deeper, more raucous note. We watched them for five minutes or so, until our presence seemed to spook them and they flew off together, but not far, just up the hill a bit on the other side of the road.

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