I named him Barnabus. Probably not the best name for one so majestic and regal. He appeared larger than most of his species and darker in color, with a rounded, brownish-gray streaked chest and banding on the tail. These physical characteristics and the artful way he soared low through the forest canopy identified Barnabus as a juvenile Broad-Winged Hawk. I first caught sight of him while sitting on my back deck in Georgia one late spring day. He perched on the gate of my wooden fence just beyond the treeline, watching me as curiously as I watched him. Spring turned into summer, and visits from Barnabus became a daily occurrence. We would sit “together” and gaze at each other for 20 minutes at a time — he on the gate, me on the deck. No more than 10 yards separated us. This was unusual behavior for such a raptor, as they are known to avoid human interaction. His magnificence entranced me. I often wondered what he thought of me? On occasion, he brought a girlfriend. I named her Angelique. Both would rest on the gate until, by some unspoken agreement, they would turn to the woods and fly off together through the trees. To me, we felt like old friends by the time summer passed. When autumn arrived, Barnabus and Angelique disappeared, I feared forever. But when the warmth of summer returned, so did my glorious hawks. Our gazing sessions resumed, just as before.
Many times I was tempted to photograph one or both of them. I did so only once, though, and that image is shown here. It felt like a violation of trust, somehow, so I didn’t attempt it again.
Soon it will be summer once more, and I will be there on my deck, waiting and watching for my two special friends. But even if they don’t return, they have left me with a sense of peace and gratitude for nature in all her grace.