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August 25, 2012 / Rae Spencer

A Busy Evening in the Yard

Yesterday evening started out calm and quiet, with little visible activity in the yard. Then my husband phoned from the driveway. He didn’t want to get out of his car because there was a hawk in the front yard, one that was having trouble subduing a rat. He didn’t want to frighten it away.

This area has a growing roof rat population. Our shed is constantly under siege. We clear nests as we find them, keep our birdseed in a sealed container in the garage, and never fill the feeders with more seed than the birds can eat in a day. Rats still invade the shed. Recently, one has left an unmistakable trail of new evidence. We’ve been considering a more aggressive policy for our rat, one that will involve traps, but it seems such drastic measures won’t be necessary.

I believe this is a young Cooper’s Hawk. It eventually killed the rat, then carried its prize into the back yard.

We weren’t thrilled with the hawk’s decision to dine on our deck railing. Even so, we hope it will come back, the next time it craves a rat. (Just to be clear… that’s RAT. Not RABBIT.)

After the hawk left, a rabbit emerged from her hiding place under the deck and began digging a new nest. (The above photo was taken on August 16th. I believe it is the same rabbit.) I was skeptical of her efforts. I let myself get too excited, during construction of the last nest, which doubled my disappointment when the rabbit abandoned the site before finishing the nest.

Maybe this time? I didn’t want to watch too closely, so I turned my attention to the ginger lilies.

Each fall, I become obsessed with sphinx moths. This year the moths are a few weeks early, but as long as the ginger lilies keep blooming, the moths will keep coming. We typically see Pink-spotted hawkmoths, though the last few nights have brought mostly Carolina sphinx moths. My earlier photos were underexposed (except the one that was badly overexposed…), so I was happy to have another chance to practice with my camera’s flash.

After it grew too dark to see moths, I checked the rabbit’s progress. She had completed the nest and was nowhere in sight. I feared it would be another false-start. Another abandoned nest. But a closer look showed several tufts of hair around the nest, which seemed a good sign. (In the final stage before birth, rabbits pluck their own fur for the nest’s innermost lining.) I was tempted to look inside the nest, but forced myself to leave everything untouched.

Can you see the nest? The disturbed area in the foreground is where she harvested grass to line the nest. The smaller spot is the actual nest.

This morning, I couldn’t resist the temptation to check for babies. Success! Inside the nest, the babies are snug in a water-tight pocket of hair, which is surrounded by a thick pocket of dry grass, which is all cleverly buried and nearly invisible.

Now comes the hard part. As much as I want “our” rabbits to thrive, I know the odds are against them. The world is a dangerous place for baby rabbits. It teems with stray cats and hawks.

For that matter, the world is a dangerous place for all of us. Take away cats and hawks, and the world would be no safer. It would only be less beautiful.


  1. kathrynmartins1 / Aug 25 2012 6:08 PM

    Busy indeed, Rae…I love that haunting photo with the cat and the glass. And the hawk’s eyes are so intense.

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 25 2012 6:43 PM

      Thank you! The hawk must be very young. It has been in the yard twice today, both times making unsuccessful attempts to catch doves. It seems clumsy and uncertain, when it misses, and has to perch on the fence for a few minutes to get its bearings. I’m enjoying its antics, though I fear for the rabbits…

  2. jeanryan1 / Aug 25 2012 6:14 PM

    Beautiful, Rae. Loved the photos as well as the last line.

  3. jeaniemac100 / Aug 25 2012 6:25 PM

    How GLORIOUS! Even the demise of the roof rat was right. I pray your baby bunnies survive.

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 25 2012 6:46 PM

      They have safely survived their first day!

  4. lynnwyvill / Aug 25 2012 7:06 PM

    Lovely post with terrific pictures. I love hawks. No matter how many times I see them, it’s still a thrill. Although, like you, not sure I would have wanted them using my deck railing as a dining room! Hope the bunnies survive, too.

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 26 2012 6:30 PM

      Thank you! I am completely in awe of hawks, even when they mess up my deck railing…

      (And the bunnies seem to be doing fine!)

      • lynnwyvill / Aug 28 2012 7:32 AM

        Glad to hear the bunnies are doing fine!

  5. jackie376 / Aug 25 2012 9:24 PM

    I’ve nominated you for a “Seven Things About Me” Award. I greatly admire your writings and photos!
    Please visit this link on my blog to accept.
    ~ Jackie

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 26 2012 6:31 PM

      Thank you! I am honored that you thought of me!

  6. Trileigh / Aug 27 2012 10:59 AM

    Rae, I particularly enjoyed this blog entry. It was so interesting learning about rabbit nests and seeing those terrific photos of the Coop – and especially the one of the moth sipping from the flower!

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 27 2012 12:16 PM

      Thank you! I hope to have more on the rabbit nest in the next few weeks. And more moths.

  7. bardessdmdenton / Sep 5 2012 3:06 PM

    How very interesting and beautifully written and photographed, Rae. I always enjoy the observational and reflective journeys you offer here!

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