Thursday, February 4, 2010

If a tree falls, would a hawk notice?

If an old, dead tree along the highway was cut down would anyone notice? Well, I did, and I wonder about the red tailed hawk pair who used it as their perch.

On the north bound side of Route 95 in Danvers, MA - just north of the Center Street overpass and before route 62 - there was an old, dead tree that stood twice as tall as anything around it. I doubt anyone would have taken notice of this tree unless you were a birder or had an inclination towards the natural world. Most people probably drove past it everyday while on their cell phones or sipping their lattes and never knew it was there. But I knew it, and every time I passed I'd look to see if the hawks were there. And they almost always were.

Sometime this past fall it was suddenly gone, just a clean-cut stump and a hole in the space it occupied in the sky. I assume State highway workers removed it to prevent it falling over in a storm and blocking one of the most traveled routes through northern Massachusetts. I can see their reasoning, but did they think of the hawks?

I thought about the tree again this morning, as I always do, when I drive past the stump. And I thought about it even more because I saw both of the hawks, perched a few hundred yards apart, one on a highway sign and one in another not-so-nice dead tree. Do they miss their old tree? Do they even remember it? Do they fly towards it expecting it to reappear as mysteriously and suddenly as it disappeared?

If I could be another species for just five minutes I've always wanted to be a hawk or an eagle -I know, you're surprised not a dolphin or a whale? It's true. I would love to see through their amazing eyes, feel what it would feel like to fly, and find out if they miss their tree. What sets humans apart from most other animals is our ability to feel empathy for others. And I feel sad for these hawks even though I'd like to think that they don't mind their tree being gone and have found other perches that suit them just as well. Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing a bit too much, but I am only human.


  1. That's too bad. Hopefully they don't miss it and will find a new perch that's just as suitable for them. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  2. Wow. I loved this post - very reflective and it has a good point. I know as a naturalist and birder I notice things like that too and I have observed bird behavior that alters when something in their immediate territory alters - so I think they would notice. If the hummingbirds know to buzz at me outside the window when their feeder is empty and crows can recognize individual people - I'm sure a pair of hawks would notice their preferred perch dissapearing. Birds are creatures of habit in their own right and just like humans they can get used to things the way they are.

    Kate, I highly suggest you submit this post to the next Festival of Trees Blog Carnival - it's perfect!

    Here's a link to the last one with links to the next one:

  3. Oh I love this. I am the same same. When you wrote "do they fly toward it, expecting it to reappear" my stomach did one of those kinds of flips when you read something true and poetic.
    I bet that is just what they do do.
    Sad to lose the tree.
    Nice for you to remember it though.
    Give it a voice for the hawks.

  4. That is sad. I wonder those kind of things too. I worry about the birds and animals losing their natural habitat and homes to us pathetic human beings that don't appreciate nature and wildlife. You have written a very beautiful piece. I think it would be wonderful to fly like an eagle or hawk too.

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  6. Love this post and the message. I'm sure they noticed and miss it. Animals have an amazing ability to adapt but that still doesn't make it OK for us to force that onto them.

  7. Yes, I also think they miss their tree. And the natural habitat for our wild things is shrinking every day. I really appreciate your musings, we think alike in many ways. I have recently learned to love raptors, even if they eat my little birdies. They are magnificent creatures.

  8. Green Gal: like you, I'm hoping they're fine

    Maurie: you are probably right, they're smart birds. thanks for the link, I checked it out and am still figuring out the site.

    Bethany: thanks for the compliments! I'm not that great at poetry, glad you liked my words. I hope you're doing OK with your sad errand today.

    Rae: the reason why I love my town is we try really hard to preserve nature, but nature doesn't always win.

    squirrel: I hope you're right that they adapted, I'm sure they did, but like you said: it doesn't make it OK.

    DJan: we do think alike don't we? :) my mom once called me a panic when she saw a red tailed take a mourning dove off her feeder. I laughed and said "circle of life, Mom!" she was horrified! I thought it was cool.

    thanks for reading everyone and sharing my experience.

  9. Aww Kate, I know how you feel. Yes these hawks has feelings too and I know for sure they miss their old trees very much and they're longing for it. I have seen hawks here and they intrigue me, I watched them fly, glide and hover gracefully around the lilies at the lakeside.

  10. I keep leaving a comment and it keeps disappearing.

  11. AL: I would love to see what hawks are in your country! I still owe you a turtle ID...

    RT: how weird?!? I'm glad your last comment seemed to stick, I have no idea where your other ones went, I never even got an email with them like usual. I hope it never happens again! thanks for letting me know :)

  12. L'arbre va tomber ... sigh. Tree cutting people are often the ones that think Avatar is a film with pretty blue people in it... Animals go by instinct - they'll sort themselves out quickly enough as they live in the moment - remember!

  13. Kate. I loved this. I know you have not heard from me... as I am an infrequent blogger... but I love trees and nature and this struck me. I know the hawks noticed and must miss their perch. I miss trees as well... even those most consider no longer worthy of their spot in nature, even a dead tree has majesty and beauty.


  14. It is very sad because I know they will miss their favorite perch, but raptors are intelligent birds and will adapt. We have a very large tree at the back of our property overlooking a huge wheat field, it is one of the favorite perches for our hawk population. Fortunately it is very healthy and in no danger.

  15. Ange: I really need to go see Avatar! I've heard such good things about it and I have a feeling it's right up my alley, just need to find a babysitter....

    Sandi: Hi there! you're actually one of my earliest followers :) I feel like you about dead trees, they really are beautiful, thanks for reading!

    SQ: I know you are right that they will adapt, they seem to have already adapted since I see them perching elsewhere. I envy your tree, our yard is too small for trees, but i like my neighbors, saw a goshawk in one the other day :)


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