Saturday, September 13, 2003

The visitor

There's a chipmunk that lives under the stoop of our apartment building. Along with the neighboring chippies and a zillion local squirrels, he has been very active lately harvesting the fall of acorns. The apartment complex grounds are swarming with industrious rodents. The racket is amazing with all their chirps and assorted strident calls. Especially the stoop chippie. This fall, another chippie has been making forays into his territory, clearly interested in using that prime piece of protected chippie real estate. The result is periodic shrills of territorial "chip chip chip chip" - and stone-scattering darts and dashes as the intruder is indignantly driven back. Then the stoop chippie sits up on the top step and gives his rhythmic chips of triumph. Another battle won. I'm top chippie round here.
This morning, however, it was silent outside. No chippie or squirrel was to be seen. Nothing moved. Strange. Eerie.
Until one saw the red-tailed hawk, huge and hungry, sitting on the bough of one of the oaks.
Waiting patiently. Alert for the slightest motion on the ground.
I stepped onto the balcony and had words with him. He locked eyes with me - and must have decided that I outranked him, since he flew to another tree.
Wrong tree. Suddenly an army of bluejays swooped down, screeching, squawking, rushing at him. A cacophony of kerfuffle. The hawk tried to hold his ground on the bough. But the jays seemed to have a plan. They dive-bombed him from above and from below and from one side - leaving an exit open. And, finally, the hawk realised that if he wanted to pursue some quiet hunting, this was not going to be the place. And he took the one opening left by the jays and flew off, flanked by victorious bluejays.
Perchance the jays were defending their own bit of territory - but it encompassed that of the chippies and the squirrels, too. And, moments later, they were back on the grass gathering, nibbling and burying acorns. And the stoop chippie was back to hurling abuse at that persistent little invader.

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