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Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Eagle on the Roof (on wild nature in a urban landscape)

an eagle on the roof


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.

Los Angeles, July 6, 2013


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