My Teacher the Hawk

I have previously used the hawk that started visiting us in July as an illustration of some lessons we can all use. Since his visitation is continuing, I wanted to share an update (and a few ways his story applies to us.)

Hawk at Pool.jpg

If you haven’t been following the story, a hawk showed up in our backyard on July 5th, 2011. He has been hanging around, showing up every day or two (or three). At first he was very interested in the water in our pool (but couldn’t figure out how to get a drink from it without falling in.) Once he finally found the birdbath, he lost interest in the pool.

Lesson: There may be big, splashy things that catch our attention, but they are seldom the things that sustain us day-to-day.

He was also quite interested in our chickens (which we kept locked in a large, predator-proof pen.) Over time, however, he has ignored them completely, even when they have been out of the pen. (The chickens have been spooked enough to stay under cover whenever he is around… even if they are locked in their pen.)

By the way, I am calling the hawk “he”. I really haven’t got a clue as to the gender of the hawk but I have a hard time calling something with a formidable body, steely gaze, and viscous beak a “she”. And I don’t know the distinguishing marks between a male and female hawk.

Hawk in Backyard.jpg

There are some things I am more sure about, though. He appears to be a Swainson’s Hawk. And we think he is an adolescent. (The hawk expert calls him a “fledgling” and the bird field-guides use the term “juvenile”. He seems to be just past the awkward stage that our 5 month old chickens are at and *they* are right on the edge of becoming adult chickens.)

I don’t normally confer with hawk experts, but last Friday afternoon the hawk showed up with a damaged wing. It droops down when he is at rest. We have no idea what happened to cause this. He still has limited flight capabilities but doesn’t seem to have long range flight abilities. He is hanging around our yard and the neighboring fields… a very reduced area… presumably while he is recuperating.

Lesson: Sometimes things happen that you have little (or no) control over… but you still have to live with the results (such as the economy, the legislature, or someone sideswiping your car while you were in the store.) Make sure you don’t expend all your resources (physical, mental, emotional, and monetary) so that you have some reserves for those times when you need them.

Hawk eating with wing drooping.jpg

In trying to find out what options were open to us, I was referred to a federally licensed hawk rehabilitation person. (Hawks are a protected species in the U.S. and may not be killed, captured, possessed, harassed, etc. This is true even if the hawks are preying upon your livestock or pets. (Keep your small children inside when hawks are around, please.) In fact, it is a federal offense to even possess their feathers. Only the rehabilitation licensees are allowed to handle, treat, care for, or otherwise have direct contact with the birds.)

Lesson: Sometimes your competitors may have a built-in advantage. Rather than rage against an unlevel playing field, you may be better served to figure out how to outsmart it… or capitalize on the areas where they are weaker.

The results of the conversation with the raptor rehabilitator is that there is nothing we can do at this stage. The hawk must either get better on his own or get bad enough that we can capture it in order to deliver it to her. (Handling an injured hawk is not my idea of fun… especially after seeing those talons and that beak up close.)

Lesson: No coach, counselor, business advisor, or other leader can do it for you. You are ultimately responsible for how you deal with your situation.

Hawk in field, heading for food.jpgIn the meantime, we have seen the hawk eat grasshoppers and cicadas. (We are in an extreme drought and extreme heat right now. As a result, foraging is more difficult for all animals.) When we saw he was injured, we tossed some raw hamburger meatballs his way. (I didn’t really think he would eat them since I understood they wanted to kill the prey themselves.) However, he walked right over to them, tore them apart, and ate them.)

Lesson: If your normal source of sustenance becomes scarce (such as losing a big customer), don’t give up! Keep looking and accept the smaller things that become available while you work to snag that bigger one.

Our main thought in feeding him was to help provide him with some extra protein to speed the healing of his wing. It may have helped, too. Over the next three days he hung around on the low branches of the trees next door, sometimes moving and gliding awkwardly. However, today he showed up with increased mobility and flight capability. His wing still hangs down at rest, but he is much more active and flying higher than he had been.

Lesson: When you are damaged or worn down, don’t keep flailing away. Get some rest and come back with renewed vigor.

While sharing your backyard with a predator is a mixed blessing, I do appreciate that few people get the opportunity that we are having. It is a wonderful experience on many levels and I am grateful.

What about you? What lessons do you find for you life and your business? Please use the comments box and share your thoughts.

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