The return of large tracts of mature forest in the eastern United States has meant the resurgence of two fierce creatures: the Fisher and Northern Goshawk. I wrote about the Fisher here. I have had the distinction of having been seriously threatened by both animals, although neither made contact.
I wrote about my encounter with the Goshawk for Moon Books Blog back in 2018, but the pictures got messed up when they changed the website. Here is another one.
To be fair, I’ve had plenty of encounters with Goshawks and Fishers where I did not feel threatened. Fishers, especially, have snarled at me from their perches in the lower branches of trees, but I stepped away to relieve their distress, not because I was in danger.
The Goshawk is a favorite falconry bird, because she is large and agile. Whenever I encounter a hawk or falcon in meditation, I feel an overpowering urge to take up falconry. Then I come out of my trance and realize I don’t have what it takes to commit to a feathered familiar. They require a great deal of time and attention, and most raptors are long-lived. So I continue cultivating my relationship on a metaphysical plane.
When I hear that ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki in the forest, however, I respectfully back away. That encounter with the Goshawk was the most frightening experience I have had, worse even than meeting that Mountain Lion that refused to back off. I have a theory that an aggressive encounter with an animal can transfer power, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time. Certainly there are some encounters that change a person forever.
Well, the goshawks, reportedly, have flown the nest. The trail is open and people report traveling unmolested. Not sure when I’ll walk that path alone again.
I heard reports last month of two other trails in the county where Northern Goshawks were threatening mountain bikers. The prevalence of goshawks in the Adirondacks has been a matter of speculation for years, with one theory being that they are too shy to give an accurate count. But now it seems that for one month out of the year they are more than willing to make their presence known. I wonder if numbers are recovering or if we’re having an irruption. Time will tell.
Here are some fun facts I learned about the Northern Goshawk.
1) They have such strong talons and are so aggressive that they’ve been known to pierce bicycle helmets in attack.
2) They hunt starlings, which is a major point in their favor. While starlings are famous for their accomplished singing skills, in North America they are an invasive species. Starlings are loud and obnoxious in large groups.
3) Goshawks kill a lot of Blue Jays and keep that native species in check.
4) They like to consume their prey on the ground and don’t have a lot of enemies (unsurprisingly).
5) People are more likely to be attacked when hiking solitary, although this year groups, including groups with dogs, have been attacked.
Things are returning to normal in the village. People are reporting nuisance bears who have learned to open garage doors, but that’s an ongoing problem, and at least the bears run away when they’re confronted.