Sunday, August 08, 2010

Nature At Her Most Tenacious

When Julia Fletcher . . . moved from West Virginia to Washington, D.C., to attend George Washington University, she operated a refreshment cart at the Kennedy Center and sometimes took it to the roof terrace, where she found the view of the Potomac Rover calming. Early one evening, she noticed a man there with his two young children. The girl and the boy were paying close attention to their father, who was watching a circling raptor.

"It's not a turkey vulture," he said, "but you're close. What else could it be?" The kids looked heavenward again.

"A hawk," pronounced the boy.

"Warmer," replied Dad, but what kind of hawk?"

"A white-headed hawk?" inquired the daughter. [Yeah, some sexism here. Boys pronounce and girls inquire.]

"Nope. What kinds of hawks are near the water?"

As Julia tells this story, she was about to burst with the answer when the son said:

"One that eats fish?"

"Exactly. It's an osprey," their father said. "Now, how can you identify it next time?"

At this point, Julia moved on with her work, but continued to think about the conversation. Because her mother took time to explore nature with her, she identified with the children and their questions. "And I was heartened that even in a city like Washington, there were other children who would grow up like I did," she says. "Until that moment, all evidence of this had been to the contrary, since no one I know at the university can identify an osprey. Nature in the city is nature at her most tenacious -- in some ways that makes it my favorite kind of nature.

~Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Are there ospreys where you live? What is the most common raptor in your area? When you call the Elements, can you announce yourself to them as "The Witch of This Place"?

Picture found here.


BrinyDeep said...

Oh, we have ospreys. I tell my students that they are the ones with the white armpits. The turkey vultures wobble and have white fingertips, the marsh hawks have white butts and the kites act like, well, kites. And the Cooper's hawks have stripey long tails.

Now, if I could only get all the lil brown ones straight, I'd be a bird-teaching menace.

Hecate said...


Thanks so much for the info on how to identify. I keep a copy of "Birds of Virginia" on my screen porch table. It could use good, simple identifiers such as yours.

Wild Runner said...

While I have seen these birds where I live, this reminded me of the other week when I was vacationing in N. Idaho. I saw a bird perched near the lake while we crossed the bridge and my first though was "Gee, that's the biggest darn osprey I've ever seen" (since ospreys are pretty common there). Well, when we got closer, it turned out to be a bald eagle! I always love seeing them in the wild.