The hawk on our patio must have been hunting voles. Perched on a treated timber of the retaining wall, he eyed a bed of wood chips just below his talons, punctuated by burrows and traces of the little gray foragers. Voles are small, yet the predator was small for its race–a Coopers hawk, perhaps–so a couple of voles would make an adequate meal.

I dared not countenance other prey the hawk may have been stalking. A pair of mischievous chipmunks that skittered across the mulch every morning, their paintbrush tails straight up. Scarlet finches, titmice, and chickadees that dine at a feeder hung from a wrought-iron shepherd’s hook. (I went out later to check the wood chips for feathers, just to satisfy myself that he hadn’t ambushed them.) He must want voles, I kept telling myself. I feel no kinship to voles and would not feel my life lessened by losing a few.

The hawk spotted me standing at the kitchen sink, so I froze. No movement, not even to bat an eyelash, lest I frighten him away. Beady raptor eyes scrutinized me. Turning this way and that, thrusting forward and back, the sleek-feathered head appraised my distance and size before he turned and flew away.

Disappointment and relief. My wild friends had been spared and, though I had just a glimpse of its lethal beauty, the predator could find other prey–out of sight and out of mind.