A Welcome Surprise

If you have been following my posts on Caring Bridge, you know that my cherished wife Mary died of lymphoma on March 21st. The days since then have been filled with grief, joy at remembering our great love for one another, and details of planning. The wonderful memorial service is over, the house filled with family and friends is getting quiet, and I am looking at what lies ahead for my life as a widower.

Having an exercise-needy dog helps get me out in the brisk air and yesterday afternoon, we took a long walk up in the forest land that surrounds us. It was cold and spitting snow, I had binoculars and walking poles, and we had a nice workout climbing up into the pine woods and revisiting some trails we haven’t been on in four months. My hands were freezing in my work gloves and the birds were few but it was a good outing.

Then, as we neared the house, a large raptor flew through the pines toward me calling loudly at Penny who was up ahead. It perched very close to me, continuing its “kak, kak, kak, kak” call as I watched it through the binoculars.  Light grey breast, yellow talons, broad white stripe of the eye, long tail — big bird. It sat there focused on the dog, until she moved back towards me, and off it flew, still calling. Wow.

A Northern Goshawk - photo credit Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

A Northern Goshawk – photo credit Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I hoped it might be a Northern Goshawk, having eliminated a lot of the others raptors, but had to wait until I got home to check the bird book and iPhone. The image was convincing and then when I played the call, it was definite.  Life bird #434.

It’s fitting since last Fall I got a “Goshawk” license plate for my truck. At the time, I’d never seen a Northern Goshawk but thought the plate might bring me luck. Well, whatever the reason, our paths crossed and the wonderful bird gave me a nice lift in spirits after a long journey with my beloved Mary.

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4 Responses to A Welcome Surprise

  1. Judith Davis says:

    Wow, you really needed that Goshawk. I always look for signs when I lose a dear loved one, and maybe this bird is Mary’s way of saying, “now you get out there and get those lifers, Dick, and I’ll be like one of them on your shoulder always.” Dick, I wanted so much to be with you on Saturday and couldn’t make it happen. My spirit was there and my love. Blessings to you, my birder friend.

  2. Martha Hubbard says:

    What a beautiful wild gift of grace in this new terrain of your life! God bless you as you journey forward.

  3. Lisa Ransom says:

    Scott and I both in tears. We love you Dick Mansfield.

  4. Will Lange says:

    Lovely that you and Penny are getting out. Thanks for the story. A goshawk nested near a piece of Appalachian Trail I used to maintain near Hanover, and took to attacking hikers as they passed. Great entries in the log book. Another one in the Canadian Arctic gravely mistook our intentions as we portaged painfully through a really tough canyon. Besides swooping and screaming, it started bombing us. Luckily, its aim was amiss. Disagreeable, territorial birds.

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