QUAIL MUTTERINGS #6. A Special Hawk – April 3, 2011
Our three Nubian baby goats are a year old now. Lily is so named for her long, beautiful white ears which hang down framing her cute little brown face. Lap Goat is a solid brown doe, with black highlights, who would constantly climb into my lap whenever I’d sit down in their pen. And Buddy is the dark brown little runt who’s lucky to be alive. He’s positively adorable. He somehow injured his frail little back, early on, and I had to give him injections of Prednisone after visiting the veterinarian. We almost lost him, but those shots everyday, then every other day, and then twice a week and so on, saved him. Of course, we’d have to spend the most time and money on the one we weren’t even planning to keep.
When the kid goats were about a month old our friends, Mark and Helen, came over to see them. When we headed over to the animals we noticed a very large bird perched in a tree up on our south mountain. That thing was huge and not colored like a raven, buzzard or hawk so we thought it might be an eagle. Mark went to his car to get his monocular so we could study it up close. The device is small and he keeps it handy for such occasions.
This avian was massive. Its whole breast area was white which was probably why we noticed it in the first place, sitting way up on top of an oak tree. We passed the monocular around quickly so that we each would get a chance to see it, but we needn’t have worried. It stayed there a long time. We even stopped looking after a while to play with the baby goats. When someone looked up again, it was gone. Kent researched it later and decided that it was a Ferruginous hawk. They’re much bigger than other hawks, have the white breast, like to perch up high in the tops of trees, and stay there a while looking out over their domain. It met all these criteria so I guess that’s what it was and they do live in this area.
In December, the day of the Dance Centre’s Ramona performance of The Nutcracker, I saw it again. It was a nice sunny, warm day and I took my lunch out on the porch to enjoy some time outside. The last few weeks had been hectic directing rehearsals and getting costumes and props ready for the concerts. I was about to take a bite of my feta and sorrel quesadilla when I noticed the large bird on top of an oak tree on the north ridge. I went inside to fetch my binoculars. It was the highlight of my day – sharing time and space with that beautiful, majestic creature. And once again, he stayed a while. For the whole time I ate my lunch.
The Nutcracker performances went well that season. Everyone seemed to enjoy participating and/or spectating. We also performed the ballet in Julian. That day was much warmer than when we had taken the troupe up there two years before and the cold wind whipped ice and sleet through town.
A couple months ago, during my morning run, I glanced up the north hill and saw that Ferruginous hawk again. I stopped for a minute to admire him. This time his oak perch was at the Tree Cave on the south slope of the north mountain. We call it the Tree Cave simply because there is a large live oak growing up through the center of the cave. When you walk through the natural shelter you sink to your knees in loose leaves. At least I did as a kid, back when I spent more time in there. Anyway, my large hawk friend stayed put during most of my laps so I got to see him several times.
There are a string of seven caves on that mountainside, not counting the Tree Cave. I discovered them one day as a kid when I was hiking around. They start with the Bat Cave. Yes, so named because bats live in there. From that cave you climb upward heading northeast, sometimes crawling through small openings between rocks or bushwhacking through the dense buckwheat, sumac, lilac and chemise which make up our Ramona chaparral.
As a teenager, I found a cave up above the Saddle which was stacked full of clay. The local Indians must have wanted to store some of the precious red mud out of the weather. The clay pit is nearby. It is rimmed with large quartz rocks and is a very special place. The area is littered with pottery shards. My mom had worked some of this clay, carefully preparing it by sifting and rinsing. She sculpted a woman’s bust from this rustic, red powder and fired it at cone ten, which is stoneware. Not all clay can be fired that hot and be preserved this well. Mom gave her work of art to my dad as a gift, a long time ago. Years later, she used the foundry at Palomar College to pour bronze replicas of her sculpture. I now have the original clay bust. Dad had given it to me after Mom’s passing and I’ll cherish it always.