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July 19, 2013

Hawk's life is saved by youngster

The Daily Star

---- — Last weekend, I visited some folks I know in Delaware County. Their son is 7 or 8 and couldn’t wait to show me something.

“I have a hawk,” he said excitedly.

I informed his mother that it was illegal to have a hawk. In fact, it’s a federal offense. Within a few minutes they told me the entire story.

The boy has a little black-and-white pony that he rides quite often. The other day his mother told him to pull out the hose and fill the pony’s water tank. When he got to the trough he saw a bird floating in the tank. The bird was still alive but unable to get out of the water, so the boy picked him up. He noticed the remains of a dragon fly in its small beak.

Quickly, he carried the nearly drowned creature to the house to show his mother. By the time he got there the little feathered creature started to recover but barely moved in the little boy’s hands. With a towel from near the kitchen sink he carefully dried the little bird the best he could. 

The boy nor his mother knew if the young hawk would live, but they decided to try to save it. There was an empty rabbit cage in the shed so the young raptor was put inside it on some hay while the boy finished filling the pony’s watering trough. 

When the boy returned to the cage several minutes later the bird was sitting up. He watched him for several minutes before going back into the house. Later that day he fed it a couple worms and stuck a small branch through the cage so his little friend had a perch.

The next morning the young hawk was very alert and sitting on the branch. Johnny and his mother found a mouse in the horse barn and put it in the cage. The hawk left his perch and ate the small rodent. 

On the third day the little boy stuck his hand into the cage and the young hawk actually climbed up on his finger as he handed him a piece of raw meat. 

Little Johnny was so proud that he had saved the young raptor’s life and told me that he was going to release him back to the wild. A few minutes later the hawk rode on the little boy’s hand back to the watering trough area. With an upward motion he urged the young hawk to fly, and that he did. On steady wings the small hawk rose into the sky to live in the wild as nature intended. 

Finding the dragon fly in the hawk’s mouth the first day made them think that when the small hawk tried to catch the large insect it crashed into the water and maybe even hit the side of the tank, stunning it. But by then it was too weak to get out of the water and would have died if Johnny hadn’t been there to fill the tank that morning.

I know the little lad was sad when he released the hawk. He would have like to keep it as a pet, but he also knew that wild things should not be caged. As the hawk flew off across the pasture Johnny had a big smile knowing that he had done something wonderful and right.

What’s happening?

On July 27, the Balsam Lake Mountain Volunteer Crew will host a Children’s Day at the summit. We will have a special visit from Smokey the Bear who will stop by (unless he is called away on an emergency). Smokey the Bear items will be available for all young visitors. We will have several children oriented activities such as scavenger hunts, tree ring counting, wildlife matching, animal tracking, forest fire spotting, bark rubbings or leaf rubbings, bird song ID’s, Leave No Trace puzzles, and target practice with Indian Tanks! 

We will also have some un”bear”ably good refreshments for our young visitors (gummy bears, chocolate chip bears, cinnamon bears and teddy bear juice).

Events will take place at the summit between noon and 2 p.m. Heavy rain or thunderstorms will move the events to July 28. 

Please allow plenty of time for hiking with children, bring plenty of water and be sure they have sunscreen, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes and a backpack that is not too heavy! 

I’d like to thank NYSDEC Forest Ranger Kenny Gierloff for making this event possible.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at