Birthday gifts from the sky.

I had a lovely birthday today yesterday, which included a lot of writing, some quality time with Ogre, fried ice cream, and a long walk with my dog, on the first summery late-afternoon of the year. (It was sunny and in the 80s.)

No one in our little family makes a big deal out of birthdays, especially now that the kids are pretty much grown. (You know how I hate holidays.) We might have a cake this weekend, when everyone is home from work, and that will about do it.

We don’t worry about specific birthday presents much. We prefer to give each other gifts throughout the year, whenever we see something that’s just right for someone else. I think none of us are good at delayed gratification. We’d rather give the right thing, at the right moment, whenever that may be.

Today, then, I was surprised to receive TWO gifts:

birthday gifts

The stick is from a Cooper’s hawk and the “helicopter” seed is from a gray squirrel.

Years ago, I spent a couple of seasons doing observations for a raptor conservation program. I was given a territory to survey for hawks and eagles, and I was lucky enough to find a pair of nesting Cooper’s hawks on my parcel of land … in a damp, tangled thicket of underbrush and old, storm-damaged trees, half a mile off the nearest path. It was beautiful.

I visited the pair weekly through the spring and summer, and was privileged to see them court, mate, (yes, actually do the deed,) build a nest, and raise two healthy and boisterous young. For years afterward, I was immune to the effects of mosquito bites.

Today, as I was pleasure-strolling with my dog, along a perfectly spotless sidewalk, in a high-end neighborhood of White Bear Lake, wearing a sundress and strappy sandals, I heard a familiar call.

(I found this youtube video so you can see and hear a Cooper’s. You’ll have to turn up the volume to hear what I heard.)

I stopped dead and started to scan the branches above me. Sure enough, there was a pair of Cooper’s occupying the highest branches of one of the big old trees that line the avenue.

All I had was my cell phone so I snapped this pic:

Cooper's Hawk blob

The vaguely bird-shaped blob in the Y is the male. I know this because he was hunting for proper nest-building twigs. I watched him break one off, and expected him to take flight, but he chose to drop it instead … right at my feet. Then he broke off another and carried it down the block.

Of course I picked up and kept the one he left for me.

A few blocks later, as I was walking down the middle of a little-used side-street, I noticed a chunky, noisy, gray squirrel above and ahead of us, perched on a high branch that overhung the road. He chattered at my dog and me as we approached, then fled toward the tree’s trunk. When he skittered away, he dislodged a single helicopter seed which began to spin its way toward the ground, 10 or 15 paces in front of me.

I swear to you, I don’t think I altered my stride at all, yet–when I stretched out my hand at the appropriate moment–the damn thing landed in my palm.

(Hey, the paranormal isn’t always dark and scary.)

Right now, both objects are in a place of honor in my writing “office” (otherwise known as a big closet.) I have my own theories about what each gift (and each giver) means, but I’d be interested to hear your ideas.