Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Hawk Channel

The past week or so has been an emotional roller coaster, ever since my friend L'il JC introduced me to my newest bird cam obsession: the Hawk Channel. The main characters on the Hawk Channel are a red-tailed hawk named Violet, her frequently-absent mate Bobby (you could do better, Violet...), and her fluffy, ridiculously adorable baby, born 8 days ago, the only one of her three eggs that turned out to be viable. Violet and the gang live on Washington Square Park, and their preferred cuisine is rats, which works out well for them because there are plenty to be found in that vicinity.

The emotional roller coaster part stems from a bizarre injury that Violet has. She was banded some time ago, and somehow the band rode up on her leg like a badly fitted brassiere. It eventually rode up so high that it started to cut off circulation, and the leg is now swollen and difficult for Violet to stand on.

As a bird owner, I know how perilous such leg injuries can be. Lovebirds sometimes lose their leg because of something as delicate as a human hair getting wrapped around it. But lovebirds can survive just fine with only one leg, partly because they have humans to wait on them hand and foot. Violet relies on her talons to catch rats, and she and her baby both risk death if the injury is too severe.

At first, the plan was for two bird experts affiliated with NYU to catch her and check her out, but they warned that catching her would be like threading a needle while riding a horse, and that even if they did manage to catch her it would be unlikely that they could save her leg. Then for a few days, there was a respite when it was decided that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would take over the decision-making.

After several days, they decided to act. On Thursday, they planned to catch Violet and see if they could remove the band and quickly fix her leg. They thought, however, that she would probably need more medical treatment than that, in which case she and her baby would both be removed to the Bronx Zoo -- and separated FOREVER, because once removed from the nest her maternal instincts would vanish and she might try to eat her baby. Only Bobby would be left behind to fend for himself (good riddance), and once captured, the baby would have to live its entire life in captivity.

This was enough to break me down to tears. On Wednesday, I watched Violet feeding her baby, and thought about how it would be their last dinner together and they had no idea how their lives were about to take such a tragic turn, even though all the thousands of people watching knew. I thought about how sad life is sometimes, and how the baby had only lived for a few short days and was already having such sad things happen to him.

I tuned in on Thursday during my lunch break, and then again after school, but there were no updates and Violet and the baby seemed to be continuing their lives peacefully. Finally, late in the day on Friday it was announced that after observing Violet for the day, the experts had decided that she is fine and it's better not to intervene. WHEW. I sure hope they're right, cause sometimes it seems like these experts don't actually know all that much. Also I don't know how much more of these changes of plans I can live through without getting an ulcer.

Nature, man. It's better than fiction every time.

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