THIS beautiful May morning, the twelfth, the falls were simply glorious. The recent heavy rain had filled the mountain brook with a rushing torrent which took its fifty-foot leap into the dark rocky gorge with an unusual roar. Thence it thundered down a series of cascades to join the river below, past the dark hemlock forest on both sides which added its dignified whisperings to the tumult of the waters. Here and there among the dark green of the hemlocks showed the pale yellows of the oaks, chestnuts, and birches, which were just beginning to unfold their verdure.
It was warbler-time, and as I scrambled along half-way up the steep declivity, following up the stream on the left bank, I was watching a little company of warblers, among which were several of the beautiful Blackburnians, ceaselessly active in the upper branches of the hemlocks. Just then I caught sight of something which made me lose the warblers. Not far away from me was an oak, in whose second crotch, forty feet up, was a sizable nest of sticks, from which projected, with an upward slant, a stubby thing which looked like a hawk’s tail. Was it really that? It is easy to see what one wants to see, and sometimes an old stick will prove deceptive. I do not like the feeling of the collapse of one’s hopes, but I do enjoy exciting anticipation. My powerful Zeiss glasses showed me that it was surely a hawk and so I stood there awhile enjoying the sight. Now I cautiously advanced and came nearly to the tree before the hawk heard my steps above the din of the waters. She stood up in the nest, and away she went, with a shrill, high-pitched scream”whe-e-e,” and alighted upon a tall tree a hundred feet away, where she continued to squeal her displeasure.
“Broad-wing! Fine!” I ejaculated. Not our commonest hawk by any means ! And an obliging Broad-wing! I had no climbing irons with me, but as I examined the situation, it seemed as though the bird had had my convenience in mind in selecting the site for her nest. About fifteen feet away was a rather large hemlock, with step-ladder branches beginning about fifteen feet up, and close beside it a young hem-lock, making another step-ladder up to the first branch of the big tree. To run upstairs was the simplest thing in the world, if one did not mind elevation, and very soon I was overlooking the nest with its two sizable dirty white eggs blotched with brown, lying on a bed of bark, dry leaves and twigs, with a few green hemlock sprays on the side for ornament. It was too nice up there to hurry down. The tree was on the edge of quite a steep declivity, and far below I could see the swirling water, which roared away unceasingly, almost loud enough to drown the angry screams of the hawk, which was now making dashes at my head, sheering off just out of reach.
But it would not do to stay there longer and lose the golden moments, so I descended, crossed the brook on some projecting rocks, and entered an extensive and beautiful hemlock grove. Within a few rods of the great fall I recalled that there was an old hawk’s nest high in a hemlock, which I had examined year by year, hoping to find it again occupied, as hawks often return to their old nest, or else it is taken by other hawks even after the tenement has had years of disuse. Seven springs successively I had looked at it, but I was not hopeless, so long as it held together. This time it certainly looked large and fresh, as though it had been added to. Under it were freshly-broken sticks and one hawk’s feather. Though no one answered to my stormy knocks at the door, I went upstairs without invitation, and looking into the airy bedroom I found three plain bluish-white eggs characteristic of the Cooper’s Hawk, laid, as is usual with this species, on scales or chunks of hard, rough bark without any other lining to the big stick nest. And now, seeing that the game was up, Mrs. Cooper announced her displeasure by an angry demand as to what business I had up there without her permission” cack-cack-cack-tack-caskc.ack!” “Oh, none at all; your humble servant,” I said, meekly descending, when I had looked her home over to my satisfaction. “But what made you desert me in all these eight years?”
Wasn’t this great to find two hawks’ nests in the same woods not a quarter of a mile apart! Here was fun enough laid out for Ned and me. But it will be dangerous for other birds and squirrels and rabbits which live here. These falls will witness many a tragedy. Little do the picnic parties which come here almost daily realize that four savage robbers are watching them from the tree tops. How blind the average people seem, for I can hardly imagine myself not discovering at least this nest right in the picnic grove before I had been there an hour.
It will seem strange if these robber families which make their living by killing every smaller creature that comes in their way manage not to disagree among themselves and have some terrible fights. But the probability is that each pair will stay on its own side of the brook and attend strictly to its own business. If either is the aggressor, I think it will be the Cooper’s Hawks, for they are bold, pestilent fellows, the worst nuisance of the whole tribe to the farmers, like their smaller relative the Sharp-shinned Hawk, while the Broad-wing is a slow-moving, sedate sort of bird, con-tenting itself mostly with the humbler sorts of prey and seldom troubling poultry.
I am wondering another thing, too, whether these numerous mountain brooks of this hilly country, with their falls and deep rocky gorges, do not all have their robbers. Only two days before this I was descending the gorge of another similar mountain stream hardly two miles from here, when I noticed a hawk’s nest in an oak tree over the water. It was an old one, not occupied, and presently, as I went on, I came to an-other in the top of a tall dead birch tree, also right over the stream. It was evidently not occupied, but I clapped my hands loudly to inquire, and was surprised to see a Broad-wing fly away from somewhere lower down, though not from the nest. Innocently assuming that she was preparing to use this nest and had been perching silently near it, I was about to go on without climbing, as I had no irons with me, and to return later, when I happened to espy a neat new nest in a low hem-lock, not half as high as the nest in the birch, well concealed in the branches. White down clung to the twigs all about it and there was now no question as to where the hawk had flown from. It was only thirty feet up, with branches all the way, and I was quickly examining the two eggs, similar to those of the broad-winged robber of the other falls. Growing beside this tree, at just the right distance to set a camera, was a slender but strong young oak. I had never photographed the Broad-wing Hawk from life, and now, with these two nicely situated nests, certainly there was a fine chance.
My friend Ned was as yet inexperienced in the joys and triumphs of hawking and I had him with me a few days later when I made the first try at snapping the Broad-wings, selecting the nest at the big falls.
Meanwhile, one afternoon, I had gone the rounds again, and by each of the three raptores’ nests”‘raptores,” meaning robbers, is the Latin scientific name of the order of hawks, owls, and the likeI had tied up a small cereal box with a round hole in one end, to represent a camera and lens, with a piece of burlap or sacking pinned over it, like a focusing cloth, placing this in the hemlock tree just where I planned to set the camera. The hawks generally get used to the novelty after awhile, and, when the real camera is set there, they do not mind it at all. The main trouble is to make them believe you have left the woods, for they will not go to the nest as long as they think anyone is near.
The hawk was at home, having become used to my dummy camera. With my own 4×5 camera slung over my shoulder in its case and other necessary instruments in my pocket, I began to climb and told Ned to come up after me. By the time he was halfway up the tree he hesitated, for it seemed a long way down to that roaring brook. I told him to keep his eyes on a level and not mind the rocks below, because there were plenty of strong branches and he could not fall. So he got up where he could look into the nest and watched me fix the camera.
It took me quite a while to rig it up, screwing it with a bolt and ball-and-socket clamp to the right hand side of the trunk, so it could point toward the nest and nothing be in the way of the plate-holder. I took off the back lens of the doublet and used the single front member, of eighteen inches focus, which gave a good large image of the nest even from that distance. When it was focused and everything ready I tied the end of the spool of strong black linen thread to the shutter, dropped the spool to the ground, set the shutter, and then we climbed carefully down, so as not to pull the thread and spoil the plate.
The next thing was to find a good hiding place from which to watch for the return of the hawk. About a gunshot away, up the hill, a large chestnut tree had fallen, and under it seemed a good chance to hide. Ned held the thread so the shutter would not be re-leased, while I further unwound it and laid it out carefully, to avoid tangling, to the old trunk. Crawling in under, I called Ned, and he hurried up and came in too. From a peek hole I could just see the nest through the leaves and branches. The only thing to do now was to watch when the hawk came back to the nest, and then pull the thread carefully so as not to jar the camera while the shutter opened for the required half second. The bellows were so long that in the woods this was none too much, even with the lens at full opening.
We lay perfectly still and listened to the hawk music. Both of the pair were flying around and screaming away like good ones. It seemed as though they surely would stop in a few minutes and get to work at housekeeping again, but they kept right at it. In half an hour we felt pretty well cramped. Ned complained that his neck ached like fury, and mine was in the same condition. The hawks were still alarmed and something was evidently wrong.
“I don’t believe it’s the camera that disturbs them,” I said to Ned. “I think they know we have not gone. What do you say to going off out of sight, making plenty of racket as you go, and see if the birds can count and remember there was another fellow?”
“All right,” he replied, and he left me, secretly glad, I am sure, to straighten out the kinks in his persecuted neck.
He had not been gone two minutes before the yelling ceased. There was dead silence awhile, and then I saw a hawk alight in a tree near the nest. Next she flew to another branch, and then glided right on to the nest and stood erect, looking and listening. This was my chance, and steadily and slowly I pulled the thread taut. The hawk gave no sign of having heard the shutter and settled down to brood. I gave her ten minutes to get over her alarm and watched her through my field glass. Now and then she would turn her head and then would settle back with a sleepy air, just like an old sitting hen.
The exciting question now was whether or not the shutter had sprung, or had the thread got tangled. Quietly I crawled out from my retreat and away from it, so as not to show the hawk where I had hidden. As soon as I walked boldly, she flew, and I hurried to climb the tree and was overjoyed to find the shutter closed.
“Good work!” I shouted to Ned. “I’ve got a picture, and we’ll try for another.” So I changed the plate, set the shutter again, and this time walked off noisily beyond the log and to one side of it. Then I dropped to the ground and crept silently to it on my hands and knees. The hawk did not see or hear me. She was silent, after a few moments, and seemed to go off somewhere. But in a quarter of an hour I suddenly saw a shadow and something glided swiftly through the woods, and almost immediately she was on the nest. This time I let her settle down to incubate before I pulled, and I “got” her sidewise, a fine clear picture.
The hawk was becoming accustomed to my approaches, and, anyhow, Broad-wings are the tamest of the hawks. As I changed the plate I called to Ned, for he was anxious to be in the game, and I thought that our robber friend would now give us. permission. We both hid, and this time she thought the coast was clear and soon came back. She flew straight toward the nest and seemed to go to it, yet absolutely disappeared.
“Where is she? whispered Ned excitedly. “I can’t see her at all.” “I think,” I hurriedly answered, “that she is close to the nest behind that big branch. Anyhow I’m going to try it.” So I pulled the thread and the hawk flew from just where I thought. What luck that I pulled then ! This picture was a wonder. The hawk stands on the stub, in the act of entering the nest with a chunk of bark. Why did she bring it? Others can answer as well as I I have seen other hawks bring things, too. They carry in fresh green sprays or leaves each day, apparently for ornament, just as we have our house plants, but it is not so clear why they bring lining when the nest has long been built. Possibly it is because the nest keeps breaking down, or the rotten sticks crumble, so they have to keep adding to it, and get in the habit of bringing something each time they return not otherwise laden, so as to save steps, just as the farmer’s boys are told to bring in an armful of wood every time they come to the kitchen.
We got three more good shots that day, six in all, the best day’s hawking I ever had, for every one of them was good. I let Ned pull the thread once, so that he could say that he had taken a picture of a wild hawk from life.
I was alone when I photographed the other Broadwing and Ned missed one of the times of his life! The hawk would not go near the nest while I was in the woods and I had no one with me to go away, so next time I brought my little brown umbrella tent and pitched it down the stream, where I could just see if the hawk went to the nest, though I could not see her upon it. It was no fun rigging the camera in that slender oak, with nothing but the trunk to hold on to, one foot in a small crotch, the other supported by the iron spur. There were sharp rocks beneath and I had to be exceedingly careful. Indeed one could not be enough so, having to use both hands at times to adjust the camera. It was awkward, nerve-trying work, and took a long time, but it was finally done, the thread cable laid, and I crawled into the tent. The hawk was suspicious, and it was only after hours of waiting with eyes at the peek hole and neck almost paralyzed, that I secured two shots at her on the nest, and then, with the precious plates, I followed the path back to the “rig.”
I had driven the horse up a rocky wood road until the ascent became too steep and rough for further progress, and hitched to a tree in a little opening. It was two o’clock when I drove down, and, as I had not brought much lunch, I was hungry. Just then I remembered an apple in my pocket which a boy whom I met had given me. It proved quite hard, so I opened my knife to cut it and let the horse climb unguided down the declivity. I only looked off for a moment, but it was a moment too long. The horse swerved slightly and made the wheel on the right strike a steep rock projecting close to the trail. As quick as a flash the buggy was overturned and I was pitched out into the bushes, knife in hand. Fortunately I was not cut, but I lost the reins and the frightened horse ran away, galloping down the rocky trail, the buggy bottom-sideup, camera, plates, tripod, everything, being scattered to the winds. Then with a flying leap down a steep pitch, where there was a sharp turn in the road, the horse and buggy disappeared and all was still.
My state of mind may be imagined as I hurried after the flying apparition. Rather singularly, the first thought that came to me was that after working nearly all day for those hawk pictures, they were all smashed to pieces. But I passed the plates and camera where they had fallen and rushed on to see what had become of the horse. When I came to the pitch and bend in the road I saw the sight of a lifetime. There was the overturned buggy and a capsized horse entangled in the harness, helpless from lying with her legs uphill. These members were feebly waving in the air, as though set on a derelict for signals of distress.
A man in the field below had seen the final catastrophe and hurried to the rescue. Together we managed to unhitch the “fool” animal and drag away the buggy with its two dished wheels. But the horse could not get up, though I could see no injury save a slight cut on one leg. I suggested that it only needed to turn turtle and roll down hill, but, as it would not do this, we must do the little trick for it ourselves. It seemed rather ungracious to ask the farmer to take the business end of the animal, so I had him grasp the front legs, while I gingerly laid hold of the “kickers,” and we bent our backs. Presto! The horse rolled over and then struggled to its feet, where it stood taking in the situation. Then its head drooped. Was it going to die? It was a young and valuable horse which I had recently bought, and I felt anxious. What do you think it did? The strongest instinct asserted itself, even in the hour of trial. The horse was even hungrier than I. Grazing, as I live ! We men looked at one another and laughed.
Then I hurried to take further account of stock. The camera was unbroken; the precious plates were sound, and produced two good pictures after all. We pushed the spokes back into the hub and in a quarter of an hour I was driving home as though nothing had happened, slowly though, for the wheels might break down again, and actually, the horse for the next week seemed afraid to “step lively,” evidently fearing lest it should again fall down!
When I met Ned and told him the story, the first question he asked was”Did you photograph the wreck?” Well, I never! What a brilliant idea and what a stupid omission to be so concerned about a horse as to overlook this wonderful opportunity. I almost wanted to go back and try it over again. But it was not to be. “Next time, Ned,” I replied regretfully, “such a bright boy as you must surely be along when anything interesting happens.” “You can count on me, if I know it,” he said.
The young hawks hatched in due time, one only in the great falls nest, but both in the other. The evening before Ned’s birthday, the second of June, as we climbed to the latter, we could hear a “cheep, cheep, as, from under a mother hen. What was our surprise to find eggs still in the nest. But each one had a hole in it and a yellow hooked bill sticking through. “Your birthday will be the Broadwings’ birthday, I said to Ned.
From time to time we came and photographed the young in both nests until they were ready to leave, in early July, and also the young Cooper’s Hawks, only two of which hatched. Thad placed a dummy camera six feet away in the next hemlock, after the young hatched, but I did not get time to experiment on the mother. She was a shy rascal and one could hardly get a glimpse at her, even by stealing toward the nest on tip-toe. One day I went to the nest, leaving Ned at the foot of the great fall sailing chip boats. This time Mrs. Cooper came to meet me and, perched on a low branch quite near, gave me a terrible scolding. Ned could not hear my yells above the roar of the cataract, so I went to summon him for the fine sight, but when I returned with him the hawk had gotten over her sudden streak of boldness and taken herself off.
By far the best way to get familiar with hawks is to find their nests and then from time to time visit them at home and study their habits. At other times one can get only occasional glimpses at them, as they soar overhead, or dive into the poultry yard, or dash upon one in the woods, or perch upon some tree by the road-side. But one can learn more of hawks in a season by finding a few of their nests than would be possible otherwise in years. They are such fine, large, spirited birds, their nests big, in big trees, in big woods, and there is a peculiar fascination in hunting for them. The boy who catches the hawk fever will find it almost impossible to cure. I had a severe attack of this fever when about fifteen years old, and there is no sign yet of my getting over it. I fear that Ned has caught it from me and will be in for it for life.
During the late fall and winter I usually have some fine tramps exploring the groves or woodland tracts where there is the tallest timber, looking up likely nesting places and old nests which may be occupied another year. Hawk’s nests are built entirely of sticks; those built wholly or in part of leaves belong to squirrels. Then there are crow’s nests, which cannot always be distinguished from those of hawks.
In the nesting season the signs of a new, occupied nest are these : the ends of the sticks in the nest appearing a lighter color, freshly broken; similar sticks on the ground beneath the nest; bits of white down clinging to the nest or to twigs near it. The question is often settled by seeing the hawk fly off as we approach.
It is great fun to hunt up the nests of the big “Hen Hawks”Red-tails and Red-shouldersin the first of the season, during April. The temperature is fine for vigorous tramping and climbing, and it is splendid, exhilarating sport. Each pair of these birds stay in the same woods year after year, and either use the same nest, or another not far from it. Sometimes they alternate between two or three nests, which remain as landmarks for years.
This was the case with a pair of Redtails about four miles from- my home. About every other year they would go off to some nest which I did not succeed in locating, but the next year they would be in either of two nests about two hundred yards apart. One was a big affair, sixty feet up a giant oak which grew from the foot of quite a precipice. From the top of this ledge, by climbing a sapling, one could see into the nest. It was a hard matter, though, to climb the old oak to the nest, the trunk was so thick and the bark so loose. But Ned did it with the help of a rope, and photographed the nest and eggs very successfully.
The other nest was in a chestnut stub, forty feet up. Back from it the hill sloped up quite abruptly. There was a thick hemlock tree with branches down to the ground on this slope near the nest. One day I pitched my umbrella tent under the hemlock, and the next afternoon when she had become accustomed to it, I had Ned leave me hidden in it and took’ three pictures with my high-powered telephoto lens of the mother hawk as she returned to the nest.
This last season the pair occupied a new nest in the same woods, in a chestnut tree which grew near a hemlock. There was one young hawk in the nest, hatched about the twenty-seventh of April. Up in the hemlock I rigged a dummy camera which was so well concealed by the evergreen foliage that the wary hawks paid no attention to it. Down the side hill, as far off as I could see the nest through the woods, I pitched my brown tent and left it there indefinitely. By rigging my camera in place of the dummy, connecting it with the tent by a thread and hiding there, I secured some interesting pictures, after a number of attempts, and long vigils. The mother hawk would perch on a distant hemlock on the ridge of the mountain and silently watch for over an hour. Then she would fly off and be gone a couple of hours longer before returning to the nest. One afternoon after watching steadily for four hours from the peek hole in the tent, I fell asleep the only time I ever did such a thing afield. I only dozed for a few minutes, but it was just at the critical time, for the old hawk came and fed her young one and flew off just as I had awakened and was in the act of pulling the thread. The day was wasted, and I felt unutterable things. However I tried again and again. Another time the shutter stuck and made useless a long vigil. But finally, after some rather poor exposures, I snapped the keen and wary creature standing quietly by her chick, enjoying its societya beautiful picture. Another day, as I watched, the old bird came with a snake dangling from her claws. She circled around three times, then hastily deposited the snake and was off before I dared to pull, as I had set the shutter for half a second. I watched for her return for several hours, and then she came and proceeded to tear up the snake for her young one, and the camera this time caught her in the act. On the sixth of June I photographed the youngster, fully fledged, about to leave the nest, at the ripe age of forty days.
Sometimes hawks betray the locations of their own nests. Usually they are pretty careful about approaching them, but the Red-tails and Red-shoulders are often noisy in the woods near the nest, and can be seen circling over it. Noticing this, people living or working near the woods can often put one on the track of a nest. The Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks often cackle angrily when one comes near the treasure, and thus betray their secret. Whenever a small hawk sets up a “cack-cack-cack” in the woods in nesting time, one may be confident that a nest is close by.
A Cooper’s Hawk which I once photographed on the nest used to build every year in the same tract of woods. A friend of mine was unfortunate enough to live near these woods and was trying to raise chickens. Though he had ropes stretched all about hung with bottles and rags, and every corner had its scarecrowor “scarehawk!”neighbor Cooper was accustomed to visit him on friendly errands several times a day and each time had to have a chicken. So I told him I would break up the nest for him, and went in there one after-noon. After exploring nearly the whole woods in vain, I came back and entered a grove of tall trees so near his house that I had no idea that a hawk would build there. Immediately the hawks set up a prodigious cackling. It took but a little time to find the nest in the tip-top crotch of a chestnut, forty feet from the ground, the twigs all around fairly bristling with down. This was the twenty-first of May, and the amount of down indicated that incubation was well under way. Strapping on my climbing irons, I went up, and brought down the four eggs to give to an egg collector. This stopped the raids on the chickens, for the hawks forthwith disappeared.
Later that same season Ned and I found a nice nest of the closely related Sharp-shinned Hawk, the second one of this bird I have found on the fourth of July. We were exploring a very wild mountainous region, in a swampy tract of black spruce woods. We entered it after skirting a typical wet sphagnum swamp, and about the first thing I saw was a nest of sticks in a small spruce, fifteen feet up. Ned and I climbed the tree, and we stayed up there some time, enjoying the interesting sight. Three little Sharp-shinned Hawks in white down, and two unhatched eggs were our prize in the neatly built nest of small sticks. As we studied them, the old hawk came dashing up, and from trees near by made a great ado. The wind up there on the mountains was blowing almost a gale, and the trees were swaying like so many reeds. By waiting patiently for momentary lulls in the wind, I finally accomplished it.
These five species of hawks are the only ones that we are liable to find in our woods in the nesting time. The Bald Eagle is only a big hawk, but it is scarce and seldom nests in this region. I have seen many nests in the South, and it is probable that most of those we see have wandered up thence after the nesting season. The small Pigeon Hawk is a common migrant.
The Osprey breeds in colonies in a few places along the seacoast. They are beloved and protected, and build on isolated trees on farms, often right in the door-yard of a house. I only wish they would build in a tree on my front lawn! Any person who tried to molest them would find me looking for trouble. The nests are as big as haycocks and look out of place up in the trees. They are made of large sticks and all sorts of rubbish. One that I examined had an old umbrella woven into it, another an old dried dead hen! I sat in the nest myself, though, and found it very comfortable. But it is hard getting there. You come up underneath, and the thing bulges out beyond you like a balloon, and there seems no easy way to get up on top.
Hunting Marsh Hawks’ nests is very different from this other “hawking.” They build on the ground in a bushy swamp or wet pasture, and one has to tramp around at random until he comes within a few steps of the sitting bird. She will fly up and go through an astonishing performance of diving at one’s head and screaming, but I never knew one to actually strike.
Then there is the little Sparrow Hawk which stays with us only in small numbers, nesting in hollow trees or in Flickers’ holes along the borders of farms, or in pastures. He is a harmless and useful little fellow, feeding on mice, moles, and insects.
Most of the hawks appear only infrequently in winter, but I have seen about all of them, at rare. intervals, even the little Sparrow Hawk. On a bitter cold day, the tenth of February, a neighbor caught one in his barn, where the poor little thing hoped to catch a mouse to keep itself from starving. Red-tails are the commonest, and frequently I meet them perched on a large tree by the edge of the woods or by the roadside. One had better look sharply at the supposed Red-tail, for it might prove to be the rarer American Rough-legged Hawk from the North, a large bird of the same size, but with feathered legs like the Golden Eagle.
At long intervals there is a winter when the fierce Goshawk is common, following unusual migrations of northern birds. The winter of 19067 was such a one, and these hawks were frequently seen well down into the Middle States, or further. Sometimes they came almost in flocksloose, straggling, companies. I saw one Goshawk from the window of a train as it hovered over a river. In the town where I live a boy shot one sitting on his henyard fence. Its crop was stuffed full of the flesh of a fowl which it had just killed and was in the act of eating. In the next town a friend of mine shot one of these hawks as it perched on a fence at the edge of some woods. The snow was deep, and, as he picked up the dead hawk, a Ruffed Grouse darted from the snow close at his feet. Evidently the hawk had been in pursuit of it and the poor bird had dived headlong into the snow to escape its fury. The hawk had then alighted on the fence and waited for it to come out. As I write this, he looks down on me reproachfully with glass eyes from the top of my case. Ah, you rascal, you will kill no more grouse ! Yet, after all, who has a better right? I am not so sure that we, out of our luxurious, abundance, had better make the claim.
Ned and I are so fond of hunting hawks with the camera and studying these bold, breezy people of the forest, that we fairly mourn to see them exterminated. Of course we do not blame those for killing them whose property they devastate, yet we wish that people would in justice discriminate between the pestiferous and the harmless or useful kinds, and cultivate enough of the modern “outdoor” spirit to make them enjoy seeing wild life in nature and get away from the ignorant, worn-out notion that the only good hawk is a dead one.
The Biological Survey, of the IT. S. Department of Agriculture has shown that only the Accipitrine hawks Cooper’s, Sharp-shin, and Goshawkare injurious. The so-called “Hen Hawks” only occasionally attack poultry, especially in the winter, when driven to it by starvation, but by killing the smaller varmints and insects do more good than harm. Now and then an individual, like the tiger, acquires a taste for the wrong sort of meat, and may properly be suppressed. So, kind reader, I beg of you, do, please, not shoot a hawk because he is a hawk, but only if you are sure he is the culprit. Learn from a handbook of birds to distinguish the different kinds. You will enjoy their acquaintance and then will not be in danger of mistaking your friend and helper for a murderer.
Now and then we shall probably see a large black bird with enormous spread of wing soaring on almost motionless pinions, drifting easily along with the breeze, It is the Turkey Vulture, or Turkey Buzzard, which is classed in this group of raptorial birds. Though from afar it would seem a beautiful creature, so graceful in flight, it is distance which lends the enchantment, for at close quarters it is a foul-smelling carrion-monger, with an ugly, featherless red head and neck. Yet for all that it is a useful scavenger and an interesting bird, and I wish we had more of them in the northern districts to give us exhibitions of graceful, easy flight. They are accidental in New England, where I have seen only two, but are more frequent in the Middle States, and, of course, abundant in the South. They build no nest, but lay their two large handsomely marked eggs on the ground under a bush, or in a hollow log or stump.