The best sign of spring for us at Applewood Manor Inn B&B is the sound of our favorite chicken hawk family. They soar over the area and their wing spans cast shadows on the ground. They are very protective of our entire yard and this year we observed then picking grubs out of our lawn along with scaring off crows! They tolerate us with distinctive calls when we disturb their morning vigilance for food. They do not bother our Silky Terriers, as they are too large to be of food interest with all the other choices this quiet Montford Historic District has to offer.
This year rather than nesting in our front pine tree as they have for the last 8 years, they decided to move their nest to our back side yard. They have made a very large nest in one of our Oak trees! That was a problem for me, once the leaves branch out it will be almost impossible to view the rapid growth of their little white fuzzy chicks. Alas, it would have been a perfect nest to photograph off the York Imperial balcony!
One morning we found a dead baby chick on the ground beneath the huge Oak tree. I do not know if they did not secure the nest well, or maybe there was a chick born with deformities, or may be they only hatched one egg rather than the usual three, but the nest was short one future Chicken Hawk-Coopers Hawk.
The back yard suddenly became very quiet. No hawks protecting a nest. No large brown winged and white broad chested bird hopping around the grass looking for fat juicy grubs. Just lots of other birds nesting and singing in the morning.
Mother nature can be cruel and the hardiest of a species is destined hopefully to survive. I pray our faithful Hawk family will come back next year announcing the beginning of Spring with their loud calls and swooping winged shadows flowing over the yard. But I also pray they will return to the front yard and the safety of the large White Pines sitting majestically in our front island.
We have been blessed with the same Spring guests for the last 6 years. They arrive about the end of February to the first of March. They are rather noisy so you cannot miss their arrival. They are such a large presence that they take over our acre and a half in the Montford Historic District of Asheville, and are very hard to miss. They are not intimidated by our daily activities, Spring clean up or even supervising my Silkies (Maggie and Lila) in the back yard. If I make too much noise they will yell at me; a daily occurrence since I am always directing my little stubborn dogs around the yard.
They cannot be rushed, they are very particular about their lodging and always select the same location to call their own. In fact they are so particular that they insist on completely rearranging, adding furniture and reinforcing their bed. This is a bit annoying as they are so particular about structural adjustments and constantly voicing their opinions loudly. This continues daily until they settle down and finally are satisfied.
We are not a child proof Bed and Breakfast but our guests always sneak in their off spring after they settle in. Actually, we are not that bothered by the unauthorized addition of family members but they do add excitement to our usually sedate and quiet location. Though they are very attentive parents, there is still a constant concern in providing sufficient food to keep their brood satisfied.
The most honored visitors are a pair of Red Tailed Hawks or Chicken Hawks. They have been using the same nest in the same white pine that sits in our front yard for six years. This particular pine had it’s center stalk broken so as the tree grows, it does so with its branching limbs. The center is perfect for a huge nest that these birds of prey require. They usually lay 3 eggs, and patiently sit on the eggs spreading their huge wings if there is sunlight to warm up the nest. I have observed them exchanging egg sitting time so that each gets a break and can feed. They are carnivores and have seen them bring food to the chicks that look like large fuzzy white kittens when they hatch. The attached photo is one of the hawks being badgered by a curious squirrel.
We must not be a threat to them as they watch us from tree limbs tilting their heads in concentration. I have been able to approach withing 10 feet of one that likes to sit on the top of one of our umbrellas in the back yard. Even the babies will look at our guests peaking over the edge of the nest quietly or squawking for food. The parents are large handsome regal birds, with white and brown tufted broad chest, large curved beak and a wing span the definitely leaves a sun blocking shadow if they fly over you. The balcony off the Granny Smith room has the most perfect view for bird lovers. I will keep taking photographs of the progress of the parent hawks to post on my blog.
The next time you stay with us, make sure you bring your camera!