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The Goalkeeper

A few weeks ago I was roaming around Tom Sawyer Park as I often do, but it was so hot and humid that there didn't seem to be anything presenting itself to be photographed. All the plants were either brown and dry or wet and weedy. No butterflies, no deer, just gnats and hot air.

Having given up any hope of seeing anything interesting, I left the woods for the walking track where all the wannabe skinny people were walking as usual. Off to the side I noticed the familiar group of soccer fields and that the grass on those fields had grown quite high and was very dry like everything else. Then I saw there was something sitting on one of the goal cross posts. It was a large bird, a red-tailed hawk, and I was there without my long lens!! Apparently I had not made the appropriate offerings to the gods of Canon that week to ensure that the Force would be with me.

Well, I know these hawk guys can count the pores in your skin at 100 yards so there wasn't much hope in sneaking up on this fellow. I figured if I walked slow enough he (she?) would not feel threatened and, since it was so hot, maybe it would just sit there and "chill". I got close enough to be in range with my inadequate 200mm lens when it flew off before I had a chance to take my first photo! Arghhhhhh! Why is nature being so camera shy today?

But then I noticed that it had reappeared on the opposite goal but I didn't see how it had gotten there. It was like it jumped off of one goal one second and teleported to the other goal, a soccer field away, a second later. And then it was magically back on the goal near me and I was able to document what was going on.

If you look at the series of photos below, you will see what I saw. The goalkeeper was actually hunting at high speed between the goals. It would dive off of the close goal, beat its wings once or twice, and then ride the wind like a bullet, hovering just a wingspan above the ground, or less, as it made its high speed, guided missile-like run across the field looking for small rodents, rabbits, squirrels, etc. Though the hawk didn't catch anything while I was there, I caught my few photos and felt privileged to have been invited to watch.

(Each thumbnail will get displayed in the larger image area when you click on it and that photo can be enlarged, even more, if you click on it again. Clicking the super-sized photo will toggle it between large size and regular size.)