Urban wildlife a life reminder

A hawk gets ready to take off as a nearby nest of baby finches beckons in the Denver, Colorado area on July 2, 2017. (Photo by Mike McKibbin)
A hawk gets ready to take off as a nearby nest of baby finches beckons in the Denver, Colorado area on July 2, 2017. (Photo by Mike McKibbin)

It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?

You live in a small town, where fewer people should mean more wildlife, right?

Well, I’m often witness to situations or just animal sightings here in the Denver, Colorado, area that I never saw in my two decades or so of living in a city of around 10,000.

Case in point happened the other day. Finches have made their nests in hanging baskets on the patio here for many years. It’s a chance to witness the building of the nests, the arrival of a handful of small, fragile eggs. Then the eggs crack and out come little finches.

They are fed by mom, guarded by both parents and eventually flutter to the top of the nest and – I presume, since I haven’t been a witness to this step, so far – fly off to what I hope is whatever type of life a finch lives.

Over the course of every spring and summer, that cycle happens several times. It’s become almost common place, although always notable in my more observant moments. The circle of life, or at least part of it, I guess.

So when a hawk flew up and landed on the patio railing the other day, anxiously eyeing a nest holding what it considered a nice, tasty meal, I paid attention. Mom and dad finch were raising a ruckus, chirping loudly and often from a nearby spruce tree. This is something I had not seen in my previous small town life and the fact it was playing out in front of me in a city of millions seemed incongruous.

This hawk eyes a nearby nest of baby finches on July 2, 2017. (Photo by Mike McKibbin)
This hawk eyes a nearby nest of baby finches on July 2, 2017. (Photo by Mike McKibbin)

When the hawk flew over to and landed on the nest, covered by chicken wire to protect the finches and their babies, I reacted instinctively and opened the screen door onto the patio. The hawk flew a short distance away and soon returned to a nearby clothesline, again eyeing the nest. Apparently deciding my presence was a little too much to deal with, the big bird flew first to another nearby tree, then up and over the roof to its next resting place.

Later, I realized that my intrusion into the scene before me had likely interrupted the natural order of life. The bigger animal removes the smaller, weaker animal to ensure survival of the fittest. I wondered if my prevention of the hawk’s likely imminent meal might have had some negative ramification.

But the hawk appeared to be a healthy size and obviously knew what prey it wanted. There are many rabbits and squirrels, other birds and who knows what other types of prey a hawk relies upon to grow and prosper. Which, BTW, is another wildlife situation that seems out-of-place. In Rifle, I didn’t see rabbits and squirrels very often, at least where my home was located.

At any rate, it was a thought-provoking encounter and incident. To this point, and as far as I know, the baby finches are either still being fed by mom or may have managed to learn to fly. It appears a different pair of finches may be eyeing a second hanging basket for their next family. It had hosted baby finches earlier this spring, so the nest is still present.

And I did catch a glimpse of what I assume was the same hawk a day after my encounter. He or she swooped by the nest, likely sizing things up for another meal. So far, I haven’t seen any further action along those lines. But as I’ve long believed, Mother Nature has a way of showing who’s in charge, so if it’s meant to be that the hawk enjoys a meal of finch, it will happen.

If millions of people didn’t drive the hawk away, I doubt my own presence will make that much of a difference.

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