My dad is a retired mechanical engineer. When he retired, he and Mom moved to central Florida. Where they built their retirement home. They installed an above ground pool with a wonderful deck around it and the pool was enjoyed by children and grandchildren for quite a few years. When mom passed, dad kept the pool up for a few more years then decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble of keeping it up just so it would be used a couple times a year. So he decided to give a new purpose…wildlife habitat.
My dad has long had a fascination with nature, in his usual unique way. He seems to lack a fear of things in the wild, although he still has maintained respect for creatures in their natural habitats. I remember one summer were we went to Silver Springs near where dad lives now. Mom worried over dad the entire day. Why? Because he’d decided that then was the perfect time to get some great photographs of the abundant alligators at the springs. He wasn’t quite content with shots from a distance, but kept creeping closer and closer to the large reptiles before he snapped the photo. It was almost like he was hoping to catch the remains of dinner stuck between the teeth of the gator. Fortunately for all of us, those alligators were quite well fed and too lethargic to chase any shutterbugs with more daring then sense. At least that’s what we told ourselves.
For dad to end up turning the backyard pool into a nature pond was not really a surprise to us kids. He’d gotten some water hyacinths from one of the local rivers, and the eggs stuck to the bottom of the plants soon hatched little frogs and fish. Eventually other wildlife found themselves attracted to this created habitat and visited Dad’s pool in hopes of catching a snack. One of them was a hawk.
One day dad was outside sitting by the pool/pond and a hawk landed on the deck railing at the far end from where dad sat. The two watched each other for a few minutes before the hawk flew off. To dad’s surprise, the hawk returned a few days later. Over the next few days, the hawk would show up, so dad decided to see if he could make friends with the visiting bird. One evening he He got a piece of meat from his refrigerator and set it on the deck railing then sat to see what would happen. For awhile nothing, but eventually the hawk flew down from a branch nearby and snatched the meat off the railing. Then over the course of several months, dad put a piece of meat closer and closer to his vantage point to see what would happen. During that time the bird would take her treat closer to closer to where the human sat.
Then one day, Dad decided to see if he could get the bird really close. He sat on a bench and put a piece of meat on the empty space next to him. Sure enough the hawk, now named Henrietta, swooped down and took her treat. Now it was time for the next phase of this man\bird training, to see if he could hand feed Henrietta. It took several more months but eventually Henrietta would fly over and snatch her meat right off of dad’s heavily gloved fist.
Dad has a wonderful photograph of the hawk picking up her treat right off of dad’s upraised hand, but I’d never seen this event in action. Last week I was in Florida to stay with dad. He’s recovering from bypass surgery and was still in the hospital until a couple of days after I arrived. We were all sitting at the table eating dinner the second night he was home when I happened to look out the back window over to where the pool deck was. There on the far railing sat a hawk. “Dad,” I said. “I see Henrietta.”
Sure enough it was the hawk. We went outside, and I grabbed my camera in hopes of getting some video. Dad, who’s recovery is nothing short of miraculous, grabbed a piece of chicken from dinner to see if he and Henrietta could put on a show. Sure enough the hawk grabbed her treat right out of my Dad’s hand. Sadly my camera didn’t capture that first session. It always helps to check the batteries before trying to capture amazing footage. It took another day to catch Henrietta and my Dad in action, and the brief video shows this unique relationship between man and nature.