Hawk and Hare.

I headed out on my electric scooter yesterday, a quick trip to the shops, and as I passed my hay paddock a movement caught my eyes. There was a young hare running for his life, while behind him about ten feet up and to the rear cruised a hawk in hungry pursuit. The hawk wasn’t exerting himself, he was gliding, apparently certain that he could get the hare without having to try too hard.
I was motionless, half obscured by the shelterbelt trees and neither noticed me. The hare suddenly jinked, crossing the hawk’s flight path and coming straight for me. The hawk almost visibly shrugged, He’d reach dinner before the dinner reached safety under the trees. They were closing in when he discovered how wrong he was.
Half a dozen White-Backed Magpies exploded from the shelterbelt. The hawk dropped a wing-tip, spun, and in about a body-length was going in the opposite direction at much higher acceleration. The magpies followed screaming – if I translate correctly – definitions of “territory,” “family protection,” and “general agreement on the definition of unwanted visitors.”
They came back a few minutes later, settled back into some of the many nests with which they fill my farm trees at this time of the year, and muttered quietly amongst themselves about hawks that don’t know their proper place in the scheme of thing. The hawk had vanished and didn’t appear to be returning – somehow I think he does know his place.
The idea that made me look thoughtful as I continued my ride to the shops was, just how aware had that hare been of the possibilies? When he jinked to run directly for the trees, was he merely hoping for shelter, or did he know that at this season the nesting white-backed magpies are very very territorial?
Perhaps the female hare that I’ve often seen in that paddock over some years is carefully teaching each new litter of babies that trees don’t just provide shelter from a hawk overhead, they can also produce a number of black and white fighter-bombers to drive a hawk right out of the area. If so, then it seems to be working.
(The white-backed “magpies” in my area are actually the Australian Currawong and described in my bird book as ‘voluntary migrants’. They are said to be aggressive although I’ve never had a problem and dozens live here. In fact a few years ago a wild juvenile approached me for help and I became his friend for a couple of years until he was killed. By then he’d grown up, found a mate, nested, and had fledgelings but still trusted me – and any of my friends. His story is in my book – Rural daze and (K)nights.)

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