I forced myself to slow down this morning, a deep sense pouring over me that I had fallen into the habit of failing to appreciate the forest on account of the trees.
In my quasi-defense, the holiday season is the busiest time of year for me with my day job. I sell antiques and collectibles for Orion’s Attic, the estate liquidation company that Won-ok and I run together. I wake up each morning and hear my internal clock screaming at me to race to the basement. Time to start putting more cool finds up for sale in our eBay store, it implores. Time is running out.
I’ll venture into the woods at Sligo Creek later, I tell myself — knowing that I’m not being honest with myself … that our Eye On Sligo Creek passion project is likely to again take the back seat for the day.
Not this morning.
The surreal December sun was just too inviting. “Let’s take the cameras this time,” Won-ok said. Once we decide to pick up our gear — multiple cameras, sound recorders, binoculars and more — we know that we’re going to slow down and give ourselves time to soak in the awe of Sligo Creek.
The creek rewarded our choice instantly.
The piercing, inviting call of killdeer bellowed out from seemingly every direction as we snaked our way down the trail from Channing Drive toward the stormwater retention ponds by the Kemp Mill Shopping Center. A few white-throated sparrows stuck their cute little heads out from trailside shrubbery. Mallards awaited us at the ponds. They were getting their Sunday morning off to a fine start with repeated head-over-tailfeathers dips into the water — shaking their buttocks in the air. Cracks me up every time.
Won-ok clicked away with her Canon camera while I just used my actual eye lenses to capture the scene. A female kingfisher perched herself atop her favorite snag and surveyed the water for a bite to eat. She made several passes around the ponds but no dives. Kitchen cupboards bare, I guess. A bunch of other birds skirted around the bushes by the ponds’ edges.
A flash of dark red, white and blue zipped across the top of my line of sight. I looked up in time to catch what I thought at first was a Cooper’s hawk landing on a tree branch. (Several hawk experts commenting on our iNaturalist page would later confirm it was a red-shouldered hawk. He or she (I’m still too novice of a naturalist to know the hawk’s gender) sat there for a while and gave us one of the best looks at the bird that we’ve ever had. Several ravens dropped onto nearby branches.
Tension filled the air.
The hawk stared at them before some kind of predator and prey contest began. Maybe it was just a scuffle about territory rights; I don’t know. I wasn’t sure who was chasing whom, or even if I had the grammar right, but they all leaped toward each other several times before seeming to agree on going their separate ways.
Won-ok smiled as she showed me the LCD screen on her camera: The hawk’s red eyes lit up the whole panel.
I didn’t want to leave but I couldn’t wait to get home, either. It was time to get back to sharing our love of Sligo Creek with people not lucky enough to hang out with a red-shouldered hawk on a Sunday morning.