The aliens in the hay pad­dock

The hay pad­dock has some un­gainly in­hab­i­tants, quite un­like their el­e­gant par­ents.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words & im­ages Jayne Bet­ter­ton

Acou­ple of years ago we got a con­trac­tor in to cut our hay pad­dock. He cut and ted­ded the large pad­dock that we had set aside that year, a large flat pas­ture next to a small stream.

Later that day my hus­band walked down to the pad­dock to check on some trees that we had planted. That’s when he found a cou­ple of funny-look­ing fluffy birds, per­haps chicks of some sort. They were out in the mid­dle of the field and he was con­cerned that they might be run over by the trac­tor when the con­trac­tor went in to bale the hay.

He was run­ning late for work so it was left to me to check things out. I armed my­self with a pair of gloves and a small tar­pau­lin. I thought gloves were ap­pro­pri­ate so that I didn’t put my scent on the ba­bies and put the mother off com­ing back to them to feed them. I nor­mally wouldn’t move baby birds if they were not in any dan­ger.

These turned out to be not-so-small balls of fluff, and they were not only in dan­ger of be­com­ing part of a hay bale, but were now very ex­posed to the sun. The only thing to do was to don the gloves, put them on the tar­pau­lin and carry them over to a wil­low tree that still had a lot of long grass around it. I placed them un­der it and hoped that the mother bird would find them.

These chicks were quite in­dig­nant, shuf­fling off the tarp and crouch­ing down to­gether in the grass, hiss­ing at me for my trou­ble.

They weren’t ducks and the only other large birds that were per­ma­nently around our prop­erty were the har­rier or swamp hawks. How­ever we were still baf­fled as to how the chicks had ended up in the mid­dle of a field, let alone ob­vi­ously man­ag­ing to avoid be­ing run over by the trac­tor, not once but twice.

Af­ter a bit of googling, we were sur­prised to learn har­rier hawks don’t nest in trees, but in long grass down on the ground. We were thrilled to see that the mother did find them and fed them

very well on hare. The fam­ily stayed around that wil­low tree and I took pho­to­graphs each week to record their progress.

It was a priv­i­lege to watch them take their first flights and listen to them call­ing to one another as they soared high over the coun­try­side. I like to think they are still around but not know­ing how hawks di­vide up their ter­ri­tory, they may have had to move on to hatch their own chicks in some­one else’s hay pad­dock.

I took photos each week to record their progress. It was a priv­i­lege to watch them take their first flights.

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