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The Condor/Volume 1/Number 3/A Successful Day with the Duck Hawks

A Successful Day with the Duck Hawks.


[Read before the Northern Division of the Cooper Orn. Club, May 6, 1899.]

DURING May 1898 I happened to be riding mnong the foothills of the West Mountains in Utah, when, in circling the base of a precipitous cliff some eighty feet in height, a hawk of some kind suddenly launched into the air from a projecting point of rock. My friend pulled up his home with the exclamation, "Duck Hawks!" A moment later we had tied the animals and flushed the female from her nest. Such an outcry did the old birds make and such a scramble did I have to reach the nest, as the face of the cliff was perpendicular and the trap reck was dangerously insecure for a foothold. Looking over the top of the ledge I saw three youngsters huddled together in a shallow cave under the over-hanging rock. This was enough and we left the locality with a mental memorandum that the nest would not be neglected by us in '99.

Thus it happened that Rollin and the writer might have been observed leaving town on two good mountain ponies on the 30th of March last. In circling Utah Lake we passed ponds on which were a goodly number of ducks of various species and Long-billed Curlew wading around after food. But Ducks and Curlew had no temptations for us on this particular day. When in sight of the ledge I pointed it out to Rollin who was making his first trip to the locality. He remarked: "Pshaw, is that your great cliff: I will jump from the top when we get there." I advised him to remember that the altitude makes a slight difference in the appearance of objects. Another hour of steady climbing and we neared the foot of the precipice, where Rollin postponed his jump as he did not think it possible to reach the top of the cliff!

No birds were visible but we tied up the horses and a stone thrown from where we stood, brought the female off the nest. The male also jumped from a projecting rock and we were greatly interested in watching the birds. They had the ability of remaining apparently stationary in mid-air without flapping their wings. Suddenly, however, one or the other would make a dash for us, just missing one's head in passing; no vonder, we thought, were they locally known as "Bullet Hawks." Rollin made the ascent and reported five fine eggs. Of course they had to be unpacked again when he got safely down and to us they looked much handsomer than they ever would in a large series, to the owner of which they would simply be known as a dark typical set. The eggs were laid in a little shallow on the ledge, without a straw near them and no nest was constructed. Again on horseback we plodded the weary miles homeward, with the crickets and frogs piping a march to which the Bittern furnished bass and of which the whistle of Wilson's Snipe overhead was treble.