I looked to the scream of a hawk. My attention had been on the searing heat, which seemed to come not only from the sky but also from the tub of slickrock and sand in the wash that I descended above the Colorado River. I caught the bird as it back-pedaled—despite the pale orange that shown through its tail from the higher, sharp light of the sun—it was a flutter of white, standing back from harassing a Golden Eagle. As the hawk backed, the eagle rolled. The sound was immense, high above me: WHUUP—the rolling eagle’s wings swept the sky. Out of the roll, the eagle wheeled, and the hawk had flown on a tangent but turned back for a second attack. It came fast till just above the eagle, where it pulled back, holding its wings as sails, just out of range of the eagle’s roll: WHUUP—the long wings pushed around the air. As the eagle righted, the hawk was with it—they flew together into the sun—which blinded me, and I turned away, squinting, but heard then the eagle’s evasion as the force of its wings turned sky to wind: WHUUP.
As I had tea on my deck, the ravens and magpies were in an uproar. A raven, launched from a tree, became a black projectile, till just short of my neighbor’s roof, wings flapping to slow its motion, it pulled back, squawking and pushing its claws forward. The raven held stationary—except its beating wings and loud screams—for a moment. A Great Horned Owl sat on the edge of the roof just before the raven’s claws—it ruffled, then roiled its wings, a flutter, the arched wings flapped. The owl was quiet. The raven returned to its tree and continued to squawk loudly, along with the magpies, through the rest of the evening while the owl, which moved to the top of the house’s chimney, sat quietly, turning slowly, repeatedly its head.
The next evening the Great Horned Owl returned, but the ravens remained quiet. The magpies clattered but hid. The owl called: reeeek . . . . . reeeek . . .And that’s the sound to which I settled that night—the shrill imploring of a Great Horned Owl, my lullaby.