The Green Integer Blog supplements our Green Integer website with essays on various cultural topics by editor/publisher Douglas Messerli, along with a listing of Green Integer titles and information on our new books. Please note that all essays and commentary are copyrighted by the author, Douglas Messerli, and may not be republished without permission.
An Eagle on the Roof (on wild nature in a urban landscape)
an eagle on the
Our condominium is situated facing the
pool and hot tub, which are themselves surrounded by a series of large trees,
flowers, and other plants. One of our own pot-bound palms (so the gardener
described it), transferred into the soil outside our bedroom window, has grown
in a towering monster, and a nearby pear tree, which I dubbed Betty, is growing
larger every year—without yet producing any edible fruit. Another large tree beside
our terrace needs to be cut back every year because of its overgrowth.
Pets are not allowed into this tropical paradise, except for our shy cat,
Lily, who quietly creeps through the jungle—only occasionally coming out for a
lap of water from the swimming pool. Unlike our previous, long-lived feline,
Kiwi, Lily has never touched a mourning dove, who rule the gardens about the
pool, moaning out their love to one another beginning about 4:00 in the morning
for a few hours. Only an occasional crow, tiny hummingbirds, and twits dare to
enter, although we once spotted what seemed to be a hawk spiraling down into a
dove’s nest to carry away the hatchling within. One afternoon, as Howard was
dressing for an event,Kiwi, brought a snake, a California racer,
into the bedroom and placed it at his feet. And for one summer, a
mockingbird—imitating what was clearly a jackhammer and the rush of a
bus—greeted us each morning from across the street as we left our building. On
my one block trek to my office, I am often greeted by the howls of seagulls and
other seabirds who have inexplicably made their way here from the ocean,
settling into mid-city life. For several months a family of wild ducks took
over the fountain of the high-rise across from our house. But other animals,
except for pet dogs and an occasional rat or squirrel scampering across the
side of the condo wall, are rare.
The other morning, however, seemed to be
an exceptional one. Lily was out (as she grows older she enters this paradisiacal
world only for a few minutes each day), and suddenly the crows were making a
huge racket, louder than we had ever heard them caw before. They were
apparently fighting or, perhaps, in a territorial stand-off, simply complaining
to one another. At first Howard and I ignored the ruckus, but when it soon
began all over again, I became a bit worried. Some of the crows are so large
that they could, possibly, if provoked, hurt our now scrawny and wasting pet.
When I walked out, however, I could neither spot her or the crow, as if they
had all suddenly gone into hiding.
A few moments, later, however, came a loud kind of scratching voice that
called up a coughing beast rather than the disapproving caws of crows. Walking
a bit further out to see where the noise was coming from, I discovered on the
roof of our building, the head and a beak of what was clearly an eagle staring
down at me in distaste—clearly the source of the new commotion. I called out
Howard, and, despite his immediate disbelief, he confirmed that it certainly
looked like an eagle.
The bird seemed completely disoriented, scolding everything about him
for even having been there, surely he or she was not happy with what it saw
below. Now I was truly worried for the cat, and tried to spot her among the
various bushes and plants. Not far from our window, where the pool fence runs
along the side of our building, stood a crow, equally displeased by something.
I soon discerned the cause the crow’s distress, for a hummingbird was
continually buzzing about its head, spinning in and out of the crow’s vision, somewhat
like a police helicopter, refusing to abandon its apparent quarry. The eagle
squawked, the crow cawed, and the tiny flower-sucking bird spun for what seemed
like forever, until another crow came its fellow being’s defense, the
hummingbird finally retreating from its torturous dives. A few seconds later,
the eagle proudly flew off. The cat soon came in without even needing to be
asked. For the rest of the day, I did not see or hear a dove.