Saturday, July 16, 2005

Nothing on top but a bucket and a mop... and an illustrated book about birds.

We took an excursion to join Costco last night. I didn't bring the camera, because it was just a recon mission. We had strict orders to obtain a membership and to secure the perimeter, then pop smoke and wait for extraction. We followed orders, because that's what we do. Later, readers, later, I will obtain photographic evidence of the fabled 10 pound can of tuna and the Yard 'O Beef.

Since it was in the same complex, we headed from Costco over to Borders. (To those who read this and know that I vowed to join the library to feed my nasty reading habit: This trip was strictly for purchase of reference books.) I needed a reference book with hiking trails in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. My dad is coming out for a visit on Friday and we will be heading down through Yellowstone to Jackson and Grand Teton. I needed to pick some hikes we can do together, and some hikes that we can do separately. Found a dandy of a book. (I was also weak, and purchased a few fiction books... so sue me.)

I also wanted to learn a little bit about the adversary that I match wits with on a daily basis, so I bought a book about birds. "The hawk" and "the owl" now have names, and I have photographs for you, taken by professionals.

The hawk and his mate who buzz my head, dive-bomb me and shriek "KI-KI-KI-KI!" at me is a Northern Harrier Hawk. His body is 16-24 inches, and his wingspan is 3 1/2 to 4 feet. Now, sitting with your cup of coffee in your jammies, reading this blog, you may think... "Hmmm. That's not that big." Trust me, when you are running along peacefully, see a fleeting shadow on the ground and glance up to see a pissed off Northern Harrier Hawk four feet from your head, a 16-24 inch body and 3 1/2 to 4 foot wingspan positively blots out the sun.

Here are some photos of this bad boy:

Actually, after reading about this guy, I have even more admiration for him...
Harriers get their name from their hunting method of flying low over the surface of fields in measured patterns. They will pounce upon rodents, frogs, lizards, and snakes. Small birds which make the mistake of flying at a Harrier's approach will be taken by the hawk flipping upside down in flight and impaling the bird's soft belly.

Britain's Royal Air Force was so impressed by this guy's maneuverability that it named its Harrier Jet after him. To impress the ladies, he climbs almost vertically, then goes into a reckless dive (usually at my head), and saves himself at the last second. They hunt in wetlands, marshes and prairies, like the wet prairie through which I run.

The owl is a Short Earred Owl. 13-17 inch body and a 3-4 inch wingspan. She is a bit more reclusive, because he is primarily nocturnal, and probably wants little to do with insane Northern Harrier Hawks. They also hunt in marshes, wetlands and prairies like the one across the street, and they nest on the ground, which explains why she rises from the tall grasses suddenly and silently when I run past. She's cool, though. She leaves me alone.

Here are some photos:

With that in mind, I am off for a run. For self-preservation, I will try to act a little less like a vole, mouse, shrew, ground squirrel, a small hare, or a small bird that makes the mistake of taking flight at the Harrier's approach.

Those of you who know me are aware of my shy, retiring personality, and quick, darting way of moving. I am sure the Harrier thinks I am a ground squirrel.