Last week I was in downtown Atlanta attending the America’s Mart trade show. I go to this event every year to buy new product lines for the store, but I also try to do a little bird watching while I am there. Years ago, I discovered a great place to go bird watching within walking distance of my hotel — Piedmont Park.
This year I was able to go birding for about an hour and a half one day, but it was not enough. I would have loved to have birded for several hours, but work was calling.
Most years I have the park to myself. After all, it is usually downright freezing in Atlanta in January. This year, however, the weather was the best I have ever experienced in Atlanta in January. Apparently, all of the locals felt the same way. There were scores of people in the park — people walking, running, fishing, walking their dogs, teenagers doing volunteer work, and one crazy birder — me!
I have to admit, I get a little indignant at these shows when these are the bird images used on practically every product. It is a struggle to find products with western birds on them.
But I digress; back to Piedmont Park. I had an experience in the park that reinforced earlier observations how animals become tolerant and comfortable with human interactions due to repeated experiences where they did not feel threatened or experienced any harm.
For example, when I am out in nature and come across a cottontail rabbit, if I resist the urge to look directly at it, it will usually stay put, adopting that philosophy that perhaps it is better to remain motionless rather than fleeing and calling attention to itself because it moved.
I have had many encounters with wildlife where, even though I knew they were there, I didn’t look directly at them but continued to walk and look forward. I am sure you have had this experience as well. The moment you stop and look directly at the animal, it knows it has been discovered and it immediately flees. However, if you had never stopped and looked directly at the animal, chances are it would have stayed put.
I had this experience again this past week. I watched as a red-tailed hawk came up from the ground with a squirrel in its talons, a fresh catch. It flew up into a tree and landed on a branch that was maybe 12 feet above a busy walking and jogging trail.
I was a good distance from the hawk, maybe 150 feet, but with binoculars I could see the action really well as the hawk began to devour its prey. I knew that if I walked closer and stopped, the hawk would have perceived me as a source of danger, and it would have flown away.
However, I watched joggers, who were oblivious to the hawk’s presence, run right under the hawk. They were easily within 12 feet of it, and it never even flinched. The hawk saw them approaching, sensed that it hadn’t been seen, and that the joggers posed no threat to him whatsoever.
Maybe I should take up jogging. Until next week, Happy Birding!