LJWorld.com weblogs Spandrel

Attack of the Northern Goshawk


On June 27, 2008, I found myself in the Snowy Range portion of the Medecine Bow National Forest in southeast Wyoming. I am fairly familiar with the area. On this particular Friday, I was looking for a secluded campsite where my guitar playing and singing wouldn't likely bother anyone else. So after considerable searching, I found a road that was technically off-limits for motor vehicles, but the road had been driven-on so much that it was essentially a two-track. So I tucked back in there among the conifers and found a perfect campsite complete with firewood, a hearth, and seats around the hearth. And there was a good place for a small tent. So I pitched my tent and decided to look for kindling to start my fire.As I was walking back towards my camp with an arm-full of small sticks and branches, a bird literally dive-bombed me. It didn't make contact, but it was close enough for me to feel the wind from its wings. It flew back up into the trees and began squawking at me. The area where I was had obviously experienced a recent forest fire, since there really was no undergrowth, save for grouse whortleberry. This resulted in a fairly heavy canopy, but a relatively open underbrush. My first thought was, 'Holy crap, that's a big falcon!' I spent the remainder of the evening at my camp with the bird squawking in the background.The next day, I awoke and broke down my camp. I went driving around the area and ended up deciding to camp at the same spot that Saturday night. The bird didn't show up until just before dusk that night. The only reason I knew it was around was the squawking noise it kept making. Now, I have seen raptors being aggressive before, but I have never actually seen one make physical contact with its source of distress. I am not a large animal, but I might be placed in the mountain lion category, due to my small size and the dreadlocks hanging down to my waistline.On that Sunday, I had been sitting around all morning just enjoying myself. I ate lunch and decided to walk around a little. I was walking down that same 2-track road back towards my camp when it happened. Now the incident occurred in less than five seconds, but I will attempt to narrate my thought processes during the attack.I was walking and, suddenly, I saw something approaching me with a good deal of speed at head-level. Seeing this, my reflexes allowed me to begin turn to the left slightly before the impact occurred. Prior to the impact, I didn't know what was going on; I thought someone might have thrown a log at me or something. But then I heard the rustling of feathers and saw the stupid bird flying away from me making that same squawking sound.Immediately, I put my right hand to my right temple, where it had made contact. I pulled my hand away to see if I was bleeding. Sure enough, my hand was dripping with blood, so I put my left hand against my head with quite a bit of pressure and made my way to my car where I had a roll of paper towels. By this time, blood was cascading down my face. After I stopped the bleeding and had a look in the mirror to make sure that part of me was still intact, I went back out with the slingshot that I had with me. Now, I consider myself an expert marksman with a slingshot. The bird was still around squawking, so I took the slingshot out and began shooting rocks in its direction. I didn't have the heart to actually hit the bird, but I did send plenty of screaming rocks past it without phasing the bird. These birds have all of my respect.I drove back to civilization and called an ask-a-nurse number to see what, if anything, I should do about the injury. I ended up going to the ER and getting cleaned up there. The doctor who saw me said it was his 2nd raptor injury during his 30-year career. The other one happened when a golden eagle failed to get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. In other words, I was the only raptor attack during his career as a physician. Yay, me.Anyway, I've been back to the spot since then, and I did find a nest near where I was camped. But seriously, bird, I didn't mean any harm!And sorry to whoever read this post, as it is probably not as entertaining to read as it was to write.If you want to hear that insidious squawking sound, go to: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/audio/Northern_Goshawk.html. I think this link requires Quicktime.Otherwise, check out: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Northern_Goshawk.html.


Linda Hanney 9 years, 7 months ago

Great narrative. Do you think there were babies or was the bird defending his territory?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the personal insights, Redwood... even if the raptor remains a mystery.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.