"Red Rover, Red Rover,"
"Send Robin On Over!"
I hated that game. Played on hot summer nights with neighborhood kids, I always felt like I was on the wrong side. Helpless, tossed, given up; I felt like a loser. I don't remember what the rules were, something about being called out of a group to physically break through a line of opposing kids. I distinctly recall the red-faced panicky feeling. I could never break through the line which was why I was always called. My head swam and my heart raced as I was flung from one side to the other, kids shouting, me nearly falling down when whipped across the line. I was not an athletic child. I was scrawny with tangled hair and huge, chipped beaverish front teeth. I didn't get breasts or my first period until I was nearly forty. I was a geek before there were geeks!
I liked science and could name the organisms floating in pond water under the microscope, a gift from my father. Knowing things was how I got a charge and often times, was how I was used by other kids. I was rarely invited to birthday parties or sleep overs but regularly asked to give the answers to tests or homework assignments. Knowing the answers to things was the one thing I could do that gave me an edge. But these days, when I see something like this hawk, I feel like a winner. Seeing it was exhilarating! I was driving home from the post office when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this beast on the utility line. I conducted a U turn on Route 209, camera on the passenger's seat, at the ready, and wound down the window. I knew right away that this was not a hawk I was familiar with.
At first, when I looked at the photos, I couldn't believe that what it looked like could possibly be true. My palms started to sweat. I recognized right away what it was, but then did not trust my gut. I'm not the most experienced birder, plus I lack confidence in what I do know. I second guess myself. When it comes to hawks especially, I've fallen and I can't get up! In the world of birding it's important to pay attention to details and not jump the gun on identification; credibility is at stake. After all, when making bird identifications there's rarely DNA available. It's what the birder sees that counts. In my case, I'm a photographer as well, which gives me an edge, but not proof positive. When and where the photo was taken is as important as the subject itself.
I poured through The Sibley Guide To Birds, The Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Birds, Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide To Birds East Of The Rockies, then consulted the web sites Whatbird and Allaboutbirds. My head was spinning! "Red Rover, Red Rover........." I could hear them screaming and feel myself falling as I churned the pages. Still not confident, I sent the photos to CHIT, my top secret, crack, hawk identification team. When I e mailed the photos, I held my breath and committed that I thought it was a juvenile, Red-shouldered hawk, highly unusual in Maine in winter. I gulped, pulling the neck of my shirt away from my throat. "Oh God, I'm going to look like a total idiot," I feared. I thought I was going to pass out! Give me a mean spirited kids game over birding any day! At least kids grow out of it.
Red-shouldered hawk with suicidal Chickadee Juvenile, Red-shouldered hawk - I broke through the line!
All photographs used in this blog are the work of Robin R Robinson.