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Urban Jungle
A hawk pounces on a pigeon and Fred Etheridge is reminded that even a city is part for nature.

By Fred Etheridge

I was poring over a stack of documents at my desk in downtown Oakland -- just another day at the office -- when a dark blur shot past my window. I turned to see a hawk, just landed on the roof outside, a pigeon held tightly in its talons. Puffs of down were swirling in the air, being carried in a little whirlwind about the roof.

This hit just happened. Seconds ago this pigeon was one of thousands downtown. Now it was dead, clutched tightly by the hawk.

What struck me most about the hawk were its eyes: they were burnt orange, with large black pupils, so very bright and alive. The hawk was fresh from the hunt, adrenaline electrifying its every cell, its head in constant movement in short, rapid pivots as it checked for anything that might steal its meal. It looked right at me, and I felt a vague sense of threat. I knew this was only a small hawk, but deep in my mind there was some primal remnant of fear; to be looked at directly by a predator is an odd experience in today's urbanized world.

The hawk was beautiful: rusty streaks on it breast, a black and gray banded tail, thick yellow talons. It looked like a Cooper's hawk, a type of hawk that eats other birds, catching them on the fly in the forest. Some of them have adapted to hunting in the forests of our cities, diving and turning amongst office towers.

I slowly reached for the phone so as not to disturb the hawk. I hoped to call a coworker to look out the window to see this. But even my gradual, deliberate movement was too much; the hawk was quickly gone, taking its meal to a safer location.

I feel as though I caught a glimpse into the natural world from my perch in this most urban of landscapes. We're oblivious to that world most of the time as we go through our daily tasks of checking e-mails, attending meetings and writing memos. But we remain part of a natural world, however ensconced in concrete, steel and glass we may be. Every once in a while we are reminded of that.

With a Perspective, I'm Fred Etheridge.

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