Hawk Release

Recovered from my ancient blog:

[First entry: Thursday, July 24, 2008]

A really amazing thing happened to me yesterday. While exiting the freeway (520) at 4:00 PM I noticed a large hawk sitting on the side of the exit ramp. I didn’t figure out what it was until I had whipped past, but kept it in mind and went on my way to pick up my oldest from school.

On the way back, I told the kids what I had seen and asked if they wanted to go see if it was still there. I expected that it had just caught a vole or mouse and was about to fly up to a perch to have a snack, but after a three-exit, rush hour-turn around, so I could exit up the same ramp, it was still there!

I pulled out of traffic, ahead of the bird and pulled off my sweatshirt. I walked toward it and noticed that it looked completely intact, no broken wing or injury, but its eyes were closed. It had dark brown stripes across its back, a dark head, golden ivory neck and chest, and yellow feet with dark, sharp talons. My kids looked out the back window of the car. I slowly slid the sweatshirt over its back and anticipated it flying off. When it didn’t, I slipped the sweatshirt over it’s head, wings and talons and scooped it up under my left arm, tail hanging out behind my left elbow. It flapped only briefly, then rested, almost contentedly under the weight of my arm.

I walked back to the truck and exposed its head to let the kids see. They were completely enthralled. We were rescuing a hawk! It was no small hawk either. About the size of a house cat with yellow eyes almost as big. I called a friend who gave me the location of an avian recovery center right in my neighborhood (go figure) and we ended up there after a bit of trial and traffic, 90 minutes later. The bird was under my left arm, in a sweatshirt, on the freeway, through town all that time, and remained calm, fluttering only occasionally to let me know it was still alive.

The clinic graciously took it in and sent it up to no other than my favorite wildlife clinic. They are the ones who identified that jawbone I found last October. So the bird made yet another car ride up to the specialty clinic and rehab center last night. I called this morning to see if they knew how it was doing.

“The one found on 520 and 148th?”
“Yes, how is it doing?”
“She’s a yearling female Harlan’s Redtail Hawk, and she is fat and sassy and just has a little swelling around one eye. We cleaned out her crop for something nasty she ate, so we’ll have to re-hydrate her and over the next few days test her wings to see that she is releasable, but it looks good so far.”
My heart soared. I had never done this before! How wonderful. Then it got better.
“Do you want to release her yourself, if she is releasable?”
“What? Yes!… What is your procedure for that? Yes!”

She spelled out the days and requirements, collected my contact info and gave me a case number. Sometime next week, I will be driving to Arlington to collect her, name her and set her free, myself, in Marymoor Park. Anyone who wants to accompany me is welcome.

[Next entry: Friday July 25, 2008]

I talked to the clinic again today and she continues to improve. They said in nine years, they have only seen one other Harlan’s come in. They are a pretty rare sub species of red tail. The gal I talked to has completely taken this bird under her wing (pun intended) and is almost as excited about her as I am. “Oh, the Harlan’s… that’s MY baby!”

Today she will get her first food since she arrived and more hydration. Tomorrow she may be able to fly their grounds to test her physical strength. But they are really careful not to release a possibly-still-damaged bird back out. So it will be Thursday or Friday next week, at the earliest that this little saga gets its happy ending.

[Next entry: Tuesday July 29, 2008]


That’s the hawk’s name! I am having a series of epiphanies recently, so it must be the hawk’s fault, right? So her name is Epiphany. Well, it is if everything goes well. I called again yesterday and everyone knows “the Harlan’s” that is at the recovery center. They said she took a step or two backwards and isn’t eating well. So they have to re-hydrate and do another set of tests on her to make sure she is okay internally. I guess birds are “really good at acting perfectly fine until they drop dead,” according to one of the gals there.

So I didn’t call today because I am not a pest… I am not a pest… I am not a pest… but it sounds like it may be next week before she is ready to release, and it just so happens that we are leaving for Utah next week. So, yet another bit of waiting, wondering, chomping at the bit (or pulling on the tethers). More soon.

[Next entry: August 8, 2008]

Free Bird

(sing the song all day…)

But what this is really about is Epiphany… my hawk. Last Monday (Aug 4) I got to go retrieve her and set her free. It was a great experience. The hour long drive up to get her was, well, long and full of anticipation. The lady, Sue, had to go catch her from the flying grounds that she was in, and put her in a pet carrier that I supplied. The kids and I looked around the “recovering birds display” while we waited. There were bald eagles, all sorts of owls, hawks and falcons, most of whom were beyond total repair and thus, permanent “exhibits” of the center. My favorite was the snowy owl. She was huge and spunky, with a bit of attitude. She’d hiss at us every time we moved. Once back, and on location at the park, this is what unfolded…


Peeking in


Looking out


Helping out (She didn’t need help, I just really wanted to hold her for a second, again…)


First Wingbeat of Freedom


And in a second…


She was gone…


Full Wingspread (notice how tiny Erik is here!!)


And up to her first perch


Where she sat for several minutes to catch her breath. There was already a pair of resident Coopers hawks, who immediately pestered her (though they were much smaller). So once she got her bearings and a bit of a breath… she said “thank you.” This is her looking right at ME, and I’m quite sure she opened her mouth to say it …


Freedom Again