April 24, 2013, Valley Falls, OR -
Against the towering backdrop of the Abert Rim, the hawk soared on rising thermals of air, created by the warmth of the midday sun. The attitude of his body allowed the air on top of his wings to flow faster than the air on the underside. This created a lower static pressure above the wings, which transformed the differential pressure to “Lift”, the magic used to keep him gliding effortlessly over the grasslands of the Oregon Outback.
Nearing the horse paddock, a large flock of starlings, redwing blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds attracted the hawk’s attention. As he flew closer, I could tell by the black wing tips that he was a Northern Harrier.
Threatened by his presence, the flock of blackbirds rose and flew to the safety of a nearby grove of cottonwood trees, all except for one. A solitary starling was wholly engrossed in picking undigested oats from a pile of fresh manure. So intent was he on his search for seed, he failed to notice the harrier gliding quietly out of the sun.
Reaching a point twenty feet directly over his inattentive prey he pulled up into a stall. No longer blessed with the magic of lift, the hawk plummeted from the sky, his talons extending towards the quarry. At the last moment the blackbird realized his peril and attempted to flee, but was unable to escape being snagged by the harrier.
Without ever touching the ground, the harrier rose with heavily flapping wings, intent on carrying the now dead starling back to his nest. He had scarcely risen fifty feet when he spied the close approach of a competitive harrier, attempting to intrude on the territory of the successful hunter. The intrusion had to be immediately dealt with. His now-forgotten catch plummeted to the ground as he rose and gave chase to the rival bird.
Yet another day in the land under the Abert Rim.