Birds On the Windward Shore

Birds On the Windward Shore

It was early summer the purple martins had fully fledged and were testing their skills on the windward shore of Lake Okabena on Sailboard Beach.

Being new to the air they would flutter off the freshening breeze that was building on the shoreline. They were catching the breeze that mounted above tree top level.

It was the elementary school for learning how to fly in concert with their fellow purple martins.

They were novice enough that they were not completely adept at their skills and would flutter as they learned how to surf the breeze that confronted them.

They would flap, they would flutter and then they would try to level out their glide.

All was going well as they flapped and fluttered learning the skill of gliding.

The “flutter” was very distinctive of a newly fledged Purple Martin.

It signaled to the world that it was a new comer to the “lighter than air” world of avian species.

It was the playing field of all purple martins that had used a windward shore to manifest its proficiency in learning how to fly.

It was so common place that nobody paid attention to the new comers in the world of flight.

Except a Sharp Shinned Hawk.

The hawk frequented our back yard, a yard with mature ash trees, balsam fir trees and assorted arborvitae.

He was a regular that tormented the English Sparrows at the bird feeder during the spring and fall. The Arborvitae provided them cover.

Tonight was a night like none other that I’ve witnessed.

The Sharp Shinned Hawk had practiced its concealment maneuvers, it positioned itself about ten or fifteen feet above and behind the newly fledged Purple Martins and slowly glided toward them.

He emulated the exact same wing flapping that a newly fledged purple Martin would flap.  The wing flap was a very distinctive “twittering” that is often observed in sub adult martins.

We watched as it slowly approached the dozen or so newly fledged martins.

He approached approximately three feet above their flight position.

With the exact same wing beat and wing “flutter” he caused no concern to these newly fledged birds.

He quietly and silently joined their flock without causing any alarm. He was still two or three feet above the flock fluttering the exact pattern that they were “fluttering”.

When he was a foot above the flock he reached down with his talons and delicately extricated one of the birds from the flock and made a 180 degree turn and headed back to our ash tree which was 75 yards away.

The change in his direction was the only thing that caused alarm in the newly fledged birds and when they heard the cry of one of their own they new something was amiss.

It was over in an instant they gave little chase to the Sharpy and the Sharp Shinned hawk had his supper which he finished within ten minutes.

The young purple martins continued to learn how to fly.

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