[Tweeters] Lunch with Ms. Goshawk

Andy Papadatos apmf at msn.com
Sat Nov 15 23:51:17 PST 2008

Yesterday, while bird hunting in eastern
Washington, I spent an amazing two hours with a young female goshawk. I
wrote a long story about it tonight and pasted it into this email for
tweeters. For those who might be interested please read on. I posted a video on youtube as well. Please check it out! I will be posting more videos and photos soon:


This year appears to be one that will produce a
lot of northern birds for us. In George where I hunt, I've already seen
more northern shrikes, gyrfalcons, and bohemian waxwings then I would
normally expect to see by early January, and in greater numbers!.
Although I see a couple Goshawks every hunting season, this bird is
also an unusually early arrival. Thanks.


In the spring of 1993 I was in Umatilla NWR trying to
photograph long-eared owls. While I hiked, I regularly flushed California Quail
which attracted a pair of Goshawks that followed me for the afternoon. They
were often close to me, within 10 yards at times, picking off unsuspecting
quail. I was the catalyst for the quail’s demise, and that bothered me a bit.
But the show was spectacular. I remained indifferent. That’s just nature I
thought. I could have been a coyote. I have never since had such an encounter
with any hawk, until yesterday…

Biofuel has induced an increase in corn production, which in
turn causes an increase

in pheasants and other game birds. At sunrise yesterday I
arrived in George, WA at 7:15 AM. By 9:20 AM I had my limit of three pheasants
and 10 quail (and my very first collared dove!) bagged, and I had the rare
luxury to actually birdwatch with binoculars for the remainder of the day,
although a 6-bird bag limit of Hungarian Partridge (huns) was still available
to me, and the hunting trip was more for my labs than for me (they never did
produce a hun). At around 10:30 AM I noticed a young harrier dive-bombing a much
larger raptor, perched on a metal pipe. I suspected a red-tail but to my
surprise and joy was a young goshawk, likely a female. I got great looks from
about 75 yards and enjoyed the interaction between the two hawks. The goshawk
eventually flew off and since the dogs were antsy to hunt, we got out and
searched for huns. It wasn’t five minutes when my dogs flushed another rooster pheasant,
a very lucky rooster indeed, because I had my limit of three. But not that

Out of nowhere this Goshawk was in hot pursuit up the sage
brush hill, and I soon lost site of both birds. A few minutes later I crested
the hill and spotted the hawk perched on a sage, routinely jumping and
fluttering and landing, again and again, as if trying to flush something. I
made my way through the sage brush and got within 12 yards of the hawk, my dogs even
closer. The hawk held her ground and didn’t seem to even notice me. She was a huge young
goshawk, and probably starving. I backed off and waited for something to
happen. The rooster must have survived the attack, and since the brush was
quite thick, it was safe from the hawk. I decided a photo/video opportunity was
at hand and turned around and bee-lined it to my car. This whole time my labs
were overwhelmed with scent and hunting frantically, at times within feet of
the hawk. Half way to my car my dogs caught up to me, one with a very live
rooster pheasant in his mouth. My instinct is to kill all cripples immediately
after the retrieve, to end the trauma. I found myself thinking about Umatilla
and the poor little quail that in mid-air became a puff of feathers as those
large accipiters picked them off, right in front of me, one by one, then
probably eaten alive. I wondered if this Goshawk would take this dead pheasant
from me, since it was presumably hers anyway.

So I drove my Subaru up the dirt road at the edge of
the sage, along side telephone poles. On top of the hill my hawk had relocated
to a superior vantage point, the ever resourceful telephone pole. I parked the
car and left the dogs in. I grabbed the rooster by the legs, held is above my
head and shook it, then tossed it to the edge of the sage, 15 feet from me. I
thought the hawk was thinking to itself, “Yeah, right buddy”. But in just three
seconds she descended upon it, utterly unconcerned of what I might do. I spent
the next 45 minutes with her while she feasted. My Gig of card memory was
quickly depleted with video clips and photos, and I found myself a little bored
and hungry too. I grabbed some delicious multi-grain bread (which I baked
myself at my bakery- plug :-)), and did lunch with her. A surreal lunch to be
sure. By now she was completely at ease with me, even at an 8 foot distance.
For most of the time she had her tail fanned and wings drooped, cloaking the
kill from above. At least that was my interpretation. I had time to edit the
photos and clear up memory on the camera card. The mood was quite social and I
even asked Ms. Goshawk for her opinion, showing her the images on the LCD
screen (yes, this really happened). She had consumed the entire breast to my
three slices of multi-grain, when her eating pace began to slow down. I got up
to stretch. She took a few more bites then began to drag the rooster into the
brush. I pursued her in video mode. She soon flew and perched once again on a
sage. I took the opportunity to take some wonderful portraits. I removed the
tail from the rooster as a souvenir. I bid farewell to my friend with hopes to
see her again. With a taste for bio-fuel-corn-fed pheasant, she should have an
easy winter here. And if she can learn to count to three, it could be even

Andy Papadatos

Snohomish, WA

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